Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room, shall we?
In many circles in the African American community, there has been lots of chatter about whether African Americans are immune to the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) virus.
While many have made it a joking matter, it is FAR from a joke and African Americans should take heed to every alert and adhere to every precautionary measure to protect themselves from the community spread of this contagious virus. Black people are NOT immune!
This past Monday, popular actor Idris Elba announced on Twitter that he tested positive for COVID-19. The 47-year-old Elba sent out the following Tweet and a subsequent video, stating: “This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic.”
Elba isn’t the only public figure of African descent who has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
One of the NBA’s elite All-Star guards, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for COVID-19 after his interaction with teammate Rudy Gobert, who also contracted the virus. Another NBA All-Star, Kevin Durant, and four of his teammates tested positive as well.
New York Assemblyman Charles Barron, 69, also tested positive for COVID-19.
All of the aforementioned individuals have chosen to self-quarantine themselves to deal with overcoming this epidemic, which is great, but there was more that needed to be done to address the community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The NBA announced their entire season would be suspended until further notice. Other professional sports leagues, including the MLS, NHL, and MLB followed suit, suspending and postponing their seasons. The NCAA canceled their annual March Madness basketball tournament, along with multiple other sports seasons.
The state of Louisiana even announced that it was postponing their
From the federal level, President Trump declared a national emergency this past Friday to address the COVID-19 outbreak. During his White House briefing, the President said he was making available $50 billion in emergency funds. The President also noted that he would be waiving interest on student loans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the April 15th tax filing deadline was being delayed by 90 days, allowing individuals and businesses that extra time to meet their obligations to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Every day, there has been more and more legislation introduced and several executive recommendations that have been made to try and deal with this nationwide epidemic.
Things got real on March 13th here in Texas when Governor Greg Abbott declared a State of Disaster across the state due to the COVID-19 virus, declaring:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, do hereby certify that COVID-19 poses an imminent threat of disaster. In accordance with the authority vested in me by Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code, I hereby declare a state of disaster for all counties in Texas. Pursuant to Section 418.017 of the code, I authorize the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with this disaster.
The decision by Governor Abbott to declare a state of disaster due to the COVID-19 virus showed us just how serious the impact this virus has been having on people all across the country, especially in Texas. Governor Abbott also activated the Texas National Guard to be prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19.
Governor Abbott announced that he was directing nursing homes, state-supported living centers, hospitals, daycare facilities, prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities to limit visitations and ordering state employees to work from home, where possible. He also said San Antonio was opening the first state drive-through with testing capabilities, which would initially prioritize health care workers and high-risk patients, but that Houston, Dallas and Austin should expect similar testing sites to open really soon. Elderly people and sick people are the most vulnerable.
Governor Abbott announced that he was waiving the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year, and is requesting that the Department of Education (DOE) waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. Governor Abbott also announced that Texas is waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities, and titling to aid the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard and slow the spread of COVID-19.
From a local perspective, many school districts, colleges and universities have canceled in-person classes for several weeks. Stores have had to modify their store hours in order to restock their merchandise and ensure people have an opportunity to purchase essential items. Governor Abbott reassured the public that stockpiling supplies is not necessary and emphasized that the State has been working closely with grocers and retailers to ensure shelves are replenished and that Texans have access to the goods and supplies they need.
So many industries have taken a beaten due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but one industry that has truly been significantly impacted in the Greater Houston area has been the restaurant industry.
Things got even more challenging for the restaurant industry this past Monday, especially as it relates to Black-owned restaurants.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference this past Monday, where they announced that all restaurants were being asked to suspend in-person dining and only provide take-out, delivery or drive-thru options for customers. They also gave an order for all bars and clubs to close for the next 15 days at least, starting at 8 a.m. this past Tuesday.
“What we are attempting to do is slow down the progression and not burden our healthcare system,” said Mayor Turner. “This is not a city lockdown, but measured steps we are implementing. Every time we take a step, it does affect people’s lives.”
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting so many local businesses, especially restaurants, and they are seeking ways to cope and maintain in the midst of a storm that seemingly has no absolute and certain end in sight.
Kerrick Henny, owner of Wing Quarter Daiquiris & Creole Kitchen, says that the impact of COVID-19 on his business has been substantial.
“We’ve noticed a 30% decline,” said Henny. “With the new guidelines from the local government, we’re now operating as a take-out and delivery-only establishment, which forces us to make some tough decisions. We have always been committed to making certain our employees and customers have a safe environment to work and dine at. I’m also committed to making certain my employees, many who live paycheck-to-paycheck, remain whole during these trying times. I encourage the neighborhood to support the locally owned businesses with take-out orders.”
Nationally-recognized restaurateur Marcus Davis, owner of the breakfast klub, Reggae Hut, Kulture Restaurant and the Alley Kat Bar & Lounge, says that the COVID-19 epidemic is impacting his businesses in a major way as well.
“The same way it (COVID-19) is causing ailment in the body is the same way it’s causing ailment in all of our businesses,” said Davis. “The health of our businesses is being threatened just as the health of all humanity is being threatened.”
Everyone is being encouraged to follow all the guidelines and orders that have been put in place.
So, the million dollar question is, how do people become infected with COVID-19?
COVID-19 would most likely spread from one infected person to others through: coughing and sneezing; close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; and touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
The other million dollar question is, how can you avoid being infected with COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), while the immediate health risk of COVID-19 to the American public is low, we can all play a part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 by doing the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Social distancing, to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Eat and sleep separately from your family members and use different utensils and dishes
Lastly, there have been many instances of price-gouging, particular in Black neighborhoods, which is why everyone in Texas who suspects a case of price-gouging in connection to the COVID-19 epidemic should file a consumer complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the OAG or call the hotline at 1-800-621-0508.
The Houston Forward Times will continue to monitor this unprecedented epidemic that has rocked our nation, as well as the Black community nationwide. Stay vigilant!