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A Texas Mayor Implores Residents To 'Only Go Out If You Have To' As Virus Cases Spike

A health care worker organizes coronavirus tests that were administered at a United Memorial Medical Center testing site in Houston on June 25.
Mark Felix
AFP via Getty Images
A health care worker organizes coronavirus tests that were administered at a United Memorial Medical Center testing site in Houston on June 25.

The number of coronavirus cases is soaring in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott recently rolled back some of his reopening plan. It's a move the mayor of League City, Texas, welcomes.

"I realize people have to work and I know we don't want the economy to shut down, but what good is the economy if there's nobody around to spend money?" Mayor Pat Hallisey told Morning Edition host David Greene. "So it's a practical matter."

At the end of June, Abbott began ordering bars and restaurants to close or reduce seating capacity again as new cases began surging.

"I think that there's been some resistance to how serious we're going to take this. And at the end of the day, personal responsibility to your own actions is really the bottom line of this," Hallisey said. "We can have all the rules and laws but people have to wake up and realize this is a serious threat to their personal health and nobody seems to be exclusive."

League City, which sits about 30 minutes outside Houston, is the largest city in Galveston County. In the county, COVID-19 cases have more than doubled over the past month, and many of the new cases are affecting people ages 20 to 40, according to Hallisey.

"We were really happy that the governor came in and shut down the bars," he said. "Not that they were the whole problem, but they were a contributing factor to it. We see a lot more young people coming down with this."

Dr. Joseph Varon, a pulmonologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, said most of the patients he sees tell the same story: They didn't take the virus seriously enough.

"Everybody wants to be out, and it's funny because then you see them in the hospital sick, almost connected to a respirator, and then they tell you, 'Yes, I screwed up. I didn't wear my mask. I didn't keep my social distancing. I was in a big meeting,'" Varon said. "We see that every single day. If you come around with me and spend some time just looking at the patients, every patient has the same story."

Hallisey said he agreed with Varon, adding that the spread of the virus is "out of control." He's encouraging everyone to "take every precaution that we can take to keep this contained." But he also said he's seeing more people wearing masks — not only in League City, but also in Houston.

"We're seeing it in Houston because what happens in Houston happens to us," Hallisey said. "We have probably one of the greatest medical centers in the world but they're almost at capacity. So we're imploring people please, take this serious, wear your mask, continue to social distance, and only go out if you have to."

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