HOUSTON — The phased plans to reopen Texas are being factored into the latest modeling for projected coronavirus cases and deaths.
World-renowned vaccine and infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez, with Baylor College of Medicine, says the data shows Texas is not ready to reopen.
"We did everything right and want to make sure we don't reverse our gains," he said.
Hotez said Gov. Greg Abbott's economic recovery plans are sound, but the measures in place to protect public health are lacking.
"The problem so far (is that) they've been mostly oblivious that the whole thing is going to fall apart in a few weeks or months," Hotez said. "We are doing it ahead of when the models say we can do it safely, which says, 'Wait until June.'"
Ready or not, Texas will make a big step Friday when restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and malls can reopen at limited capacity. Those establishments will be able to serve 25 percent of their occupancy for the time being.
After Abbott announced he's lifting the state's stay-home order, the IHME model shot expected deaths back up for Texas.
The projected death toll now stands at 1,657 through August -- almost doubling since last week.
"I understand that we're going to 'open 'er up,' as they say, and I accept that," Hotez said. "But my only concern and warning is: Do it in a smart way."
Hotez said the health infrastructure systems we need in place to safely open are not there.
"Whether you work at a law firm or Buc-ee's or Target, if you want to know if your fellow employees have (coronavirus), we don't have a system in place for that.
The model suggests Texas' peak is Saturday.
Any suggestion that COVID-19 is behind us, Hotez said, is just not rooted in the data.
"The virus is not tuning into press conferences," he said. "We still have transmission going on. We still have patients going to hospitals. ... We'll see how transmission goes in the coming weeks and months."
Hotez suggested that older people and people with underlying health conditions refrain from flocking to open restaurants and malls just yet.
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