Texas’ Worst Reactions to the Coronavirus

Sen. John Cornyn blames the Chinese for coronavirus.
Sen. John Cornyn blames the Chinese for coronavirus. Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons
How's everybody doing?

We are, collectively, about a week into a unique experience. The sun's still — when it isn't raining at least — coming out. Dallas' crappy infrastructure is still crappy, but it hasn't fallen apart. We're still walking our dogs and getting our kids outside as often as we can, but nothing's actually normal.

Your family are now your co-workers. The service industry is decimated. There's ground beef at the grocery but not toilet paper or paper towels. Thousands of Dallas residents and Texans are streaming onto the unemployment rolls every day, and all the weekend means is more time cooped up inside your house, just like you've been all week.

Some of us are handling it better than others. We're heading to our favorite restaurants, buying takeout and tipping the workers the best we can. We're getting out — at a safe social distance of course — on Dallas trails and at Dallas parks and trying to take our minds off as much as we can. Many in Dallas are helping the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, running errands and grabbing groceries for senior citizens.

Most of us are trying our best to get through this together. Most of us. Not everyone. This list is about those people.

Here are Texas' worst responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

1. John Cornyn goes all 19th century: Wednesday afternoon, John Cornyn said something that should probably haunt him for the rest of his career. It's fair, Cornyn said, to blame China for the pandemic because of all that strange food they eat.

"China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that, these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people and that's why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the Swine Flu," the senator said, according to The Hill. It was like something out of a trashy handbill from a different era. "Those people are weird," the senator may as well have said. "They're dangerous."

2. John Cornyn, again: It's weird to think about now, but Cornyn is usually Texas' more normal-seeming senator. Saturday, just as it was becoming clear what everybody was in for, Cornyn made light of the situation at a bar. He could have at least found a bigger glass.

3. Robert Jeffress brings a crowd: Among the first restriction trotted out by Dallas' local governments was a county limit on gatherings of more than 500 people, issued last week. In response to the edict, many houses of worship elected to stream their services and ban parishioners from their sanctuaries. They got the message.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, did not. Instead of following the spirit of the new regulations, Jeffress followed their letter, splitting his huge congregation into smaller, but still big, groups.

A week later and Dallas has banned congregations from meeting in groups of more than 50.

4. David Blewett knows best: In the midst of the Dallas City Council's nine-hour, all-coronavirus meeting Wednesday, City Council member David Blewett has this exchange with Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

"What's the material difference between the regular flu and this version of the flu?" Blewett asked Huang.

"The difference in terms of significance? I mean the mortality rate..." Huang said, before Blewett cut him off.

"I haven't read that there's a huge difference in mortality," Blewett said.

"Oh no, it's about 13 times more on the conservative end to 34 times more," Huang said.

"That's what I read about Italy, which has an older population. I haven't read about that in the States," Blewett replied.

5. Dammit Frisco! As city after city in North Texas shuttered their bars and restaurants, Frisco held fast.

"While many are looking to government entities for all the answers, we must take personal responsibility to help solve this issue," Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney wrote in a letter to the city on March 18. "This includes individuals taking extreme precautions by self-isolating if sick, washing hands and surfaces, and practicing social distancing. It also calls on private business to take these same measures and create an environment where people can feel safe. In fact, some businesses are already offering special shopping hours for seniors only."

A day later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made the decision for Cheney, shutting down bars and dining rooms across the state.

6. Louie Gohmert is invincible: East Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert was part of a pack of members of Congress exposed to the coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month. Rather than quarantine himself, as colleagues like Ted Cruz opted to do, Gohmert went right back to work, going so far as leading tours of schoolkids around the U.S. Capitol last week.

We shouldn't have expected any better from Rep. Gohmert, but still.

7. Spring breakers: Anyone who thinks millennials or baby boomers are the worst generation may want to take a long, hard look at Generation Z.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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