HOUSTON - A City of more than 2 million and just 26 COVID-19 deaths after weeks of shutdown.
A major hospital system with two-thirds of its ICU beds still empty.
A metropolitan area with better than 75 percent of its ventilators still unused.
All published facts related to Houston triggering an ongoing debate over two fundamental questions – Is the worst behind us? When should Texas begin the gradual process of getting back to work?
Houston City Councilmember Martha Castex Tatum urged caution and continuing patience.
“The peak is not the end of the game, it's like half-time and I think that is important to reiterate to people, that once we finally reach the peak of this virus, it's not the end of the game, but more like halftime,” said Castex Tatum.
But other leaders, like State Representative Steve Toth believe an extended statewide shutdown will create more collateral human damage in Montgomery County then the contagion itself.
“We are seeing upwards of two times the number of suicides than we would normally see. We are seeing upwards of two times the number of COVID suicides relative to COVID deaths,” said Toth who has worked for years with veterans battling post-traumatic stress.
Toth is among a growing number of leaders who believe isolating the most clearly at-risk populations while phasing in a return of dormant business activity is a prudent course.
“This was never about stopping the spread of COVID-19. Dr. John Hellerstedt of the Texas Department of State Health Services said this is only about slowing it, it’s about broadening out the curve. We are doing that. It’s working. We can get back to work,” said Toth.
Competing message Texans are certain to hear more and more with both lives and livelihoods in the balance.