Let’s just file this one in the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category. The medical community has consistently told us that in order to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, everyone must remain home as much as possible and stringently social distance from friends and loved ones to save lives.
Well, that was then and this is now. The Peace March in downtown Houston Tuesday in memory of George Floyd brought out an estimated crowd of 60,000 people. I’m pleased to say that it was, in fact, mostly peaceful but what about the sheer size of the crowd in attendance? Was no one concerned about the coronavirus that is still with us and its potential to spread among the protesters? There is one lone voice who spoke out about public health safety while all the other public officials in Houston were front and center to get recognition for participating. I’ll get to that in a minute.
The march in Houston began at Discovery Green – an 11-acre public park – and ended at City Hall. Speeches were made by public officials from Mayor Turner, Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee and Al Green. The event was organized by the Houston Chapter of Black Lives Matter and local rapper Trae tha Truth (given name Frazier Thompson III). As I said, it was mostly peaceful with only some sporadic moments of discord between police (including Police Chief Acevedo) and protesters. Bricks and rocks were removed by city workers earlier in the day along the route. Despite what the media narrative is from the left, Black Lives Matter protests often turn very violent and apparently plans for this one to do the same was stopped before it started.
I watched some of the coverage on television and I listened to NPR’s coverage of the march in the car as I ran some errands, mostly to monitor any violent outbreaks. The moderator on the radio asked a reasonable question – what about social distancing and personal safety measures due to the coronavirus? The reporter at the scene noted that about 80% of the protesters he was seeing were wearing facial masks. Some groups were handing out masks to those who didn’t have them. But there was no way for the crowd to do any kind of social distancing.
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world. It consists of 54 medicine-related institutions, including 21 hospitals and four medical schools, seven nursing schools. You get the picture – it’s huge. So, many voices mean many personal opinions. In this case, many of the medical professionals decided to side with the protesters over public health concerns. What happened to “First, do no harm”? For months they have been busy putting the fear of God into us over the seriousness of the coronavirus. Lives have been ruined because the city shut down, following orders from elected officials.
Apparently social justice trumps public health when push comes to shove for some in the medical community. Suddenly everyone is quiet on the subject of social distancing and bending over backward to prove how woke they are about the protests.
“The concern that public health departments across the country have is as we are in the midst of fighting this pandemic, we now have protests that are occurring where the very messages we’ve been putting out about social distancing, wearing facial coverings and doing all the preventative measures are in contrast to how people are coming together,” said Dr. Umair Shah, Harris County’s health director. “We also recognize the right of individuals to express themselves.”
But a number of Texas Medical Center leaders who have led the push for social distancing were quiet about it Tuesday amid what seemed a more important cause.
Dr. Marc Boom, president of Houston Methodist, declined an interview request about the march’s impact on COVID-19, a day after he emailed employees and tweeted that “we can’t allow our privilege to continue to blind us as to what’s happening around us. And we certainly can’t continue to stand idly by in the face of so much injustice. Enough is enough!”
And in an email to the campus community Tuesday, Baylor College of Medicine President Dr. Paul Klotman wrote that the school “supports individuals speaking their conscience” and noted many students, trainees, faculty and staff are participating “to demonstrate against racism, violence, and the devaluing of African-American lives.” Said Klotman later Tuesday: “Just hope people wear masks!”
Got that? It’s guilt about privilege and the right of individuals to express themselves that pop up. What about the right to earn a living and support your family? To worship in church? To surround yourself with family and friends? All of that was discouraged during mitigation at the orders of public officials because of recommendations from the medical professionals. Now none of those professionals want to be caught on the wrong side of the social justice movement. You can’t make this stuff up.
Tuesday’s demonstrations included one at the Hermann Park Reflection Pool — called White Coats for Black Lives — where Texas Medical Center students, faculty and staff stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd was restrained.
Only one elected official, that I’ve seen, has spoken out about the risk of huge protests while the coronavirus is still with us, and cases continue to rise in Houston. Tuesday, the day of the march, Houston recorded the largest daily increase since the outbreak began in the state in March, a figure that represents those who tested positive in the last two weeks. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, whom I have little confidence in as the county’s CEO, actually spoke up. She didn’t attend the protest. She encouraged people to protest online. At least she is being consistent. The spokeswoman for Mayor Turner actually said the death of a black man in police custody is “a public health crisis.”
Hidalgo said public protests, in-person graduation ceremonies and the reopening of bars, restaurants and churches put the county at risk of a spike in cases. Continuing community spread and limited testing have hampered the ability of the epidemiologists to identify virus hot spots here.
“In many ways, we’re blind,” said Hidalgo, who did not attend Tuesday’s rally. “We’re on the verge of an outbreak at any given time.”
I’ll end with this observation – as I said, I monitored a lot of the coverage of the march and the speeches. I had to turn it off, though, when Tamika Mallory was speaking. She was brought down from NYC for the rally. You may recognize the name – she’s a co-founder of The Women’s March and a strident socialist. When she started railing against capitalism and turning her speech into one that blamed the bad Orange Man and his election for all the evils in the world, it was time for me to change the radio station. Spare me the talking points of the Bernie Bros.