Aren’t you glad you’re not Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills, Rockport Mayor Patrick Rios, or Fulton Mayor Kelli Cole?
They collectively have to bear the brunt of the ceaseless criticisms that show up on social media (aka – “platforms” that have no legal liability for anything that’s “published”).
Therefore, some of the vile crap that is thrown their way is just there … free to flow.
Unfortunately (or actually, fortunately) I don’t have the ability to operate under that same special “carve out” in the law, which is going to eventually jump up and bite every American on the butt.
We’ve all read the reckless airing of opinions on social media since the day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, and it continues today.
Some posts are mean-spirited, some or downright gutter talk, and some actually offer solutions to problems we collectively face.
One of the biggest complaints I hear/read today is about the inaccurate numbers being published on local government entity websites, and by this newspaper, regarding COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
I’m going to try to help everyone out today regarding that issue.
First, our local officials, without the help of a local health department - like the ones serving larger cities and counties - have to rely solely on the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for COVID-19 statistics.
We should all know (especially after living through Hurricane Harvey) that a government agency being overwhelmed with data and reports is not the most accurate, or productive operation in the world. They are doing the best they can, with human beings who face the same daily challenges we all face.
In regard to the numbers, we all absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt there have been many, many more COVID-19 cases in Aransas County than the 92 “officially” reported through Monday, July 20.
The numbers reported in this newspaper come straight from Judge Mills’ office. And his office gets its information straight from the DSHS.
He can’t put an addendum at the end of the report saying, “And I heard …”
That would be irresponsible, and it would not be 100% accurate.
The judge and mayors can’t “make up” figures even though they know, as well as we all know, the case count is much higher.
I know Judge Mills spends a lot of time bugging the DSHS about the numbers, and lack of information received quickly, but in reality, that’s all he can do, even though he gets hammered daily for something he does not control.
More importantly, that’s all you could do if you were in his position.
When it comes to local deaths due to COVID-19, other problems arise.
I don’t profess to know all the reporting procedures following a death, but the best I understand it, if an Aransas County resident dies from complications of COVID-19, or even “with” COVID-19, in a hospital or emergency room, of which we have none in Aransas County, then that person is reported to have died in whatever city/county that hospital or ER is located. With that understanding, it is highly likely the DSHS, which we must rely on for statistics, will not know when a person from Aransas County actually passes away outside our county’s boundaries.
I imagine that would involve a lot of investigating and shuffling paperwork, and take time that is simply not available under the DSHS’s current workload.
If someone dies from COVID-19 inside the county, a justice of the peace pronounces him or her dead.
Did the deceased die of COVID-19? Was he or she actually tested?
This is an ugly virus with ugly consequences, the worst of which is the death of a human being.
Every one of us either knows of someone who has or has had COVID-19, and/or knows or has heard of someone who has died from the virus, or with the virus.
The second worst thing is the physical suffering one might encounter.
We could wrap all the other consequences of this virus into a big group, including lost jobs, lost businesses, lost classroom time for our children, lost human-to-human contact, and viral condemnation of local officials who are doing the best job they can, making tough decisions that ultimately affect everyone in some way, with the best information to which they have access.
This is a difficult time for everyone, and we might need to take a step back, take an extra breath, and maybe not open our mouths, or “send” that message into the atmosphere during a time of rage.
Since March (at the latest), we all should have known this bug was bad. We also know, or should know, that washing our hands with soap and/or using disinfectants, not touching our face, social distancing, wearing a face covering when one can’t practice social distancing, and staying home when possible, are our best defenses.
There’s nothing more, and nothing less.
This bug will die out some day, but even when a vaccine is developed, there will be those who refuse to get it, just as there are those who now refuse to practice those things, which are suggested.
Fear will not make COVID-19 go away.
Fear will not make you well if the virus infects you.
Fear can kill, just as the virus can kill. A death due directly to COVID-19, or a death due to the myriad of consequences brought about due to the pandemic … is one death.
All deaths are bad.
Each death equals one.
Until next week, have a good week … and pause when agitated.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.