There is a good bit of turmoil in our society. Together as Texans, our companies and our government entities charged with protecting us are plotting a path to emerge from the science-driven lockdown imposed in response to a deadly virus. Whether in the news, on social media, or in private conversation, one can detect a stronger desire to win the debate than to listen and consider the realities of the situation and the impacts on real humans. If we’re going to work our way out of this situation, we’re going to need some compassion, thoughtful dialogue, and a reasonable bit of compromise.
There is no question that the coronavirus is deadly. As of this morning, more than 23,000 Texans have been diagnosed with the disease and 623 have died from it. Had we not followed Governor Abbott’s executive orders and withdrawn into our homes, the science tells us that the numbers would have been much worse. I’m encouraged that nearly 10,000 Texans have recovered. But hovering on the other end of the scale is the fact that, as of Friday, more than 365,000 Texans filed for unemployment. By the end of that same week, more than 1.4 million Texans had filed a jobless claim since the COVID-19 response began.
While we are doing what we can to stem the spread of coronavirus and tamp down the associated fatalities, the economic peril has the potential to create its own public health crisis. I read a preliminary study from Meadows Mental Health in which their experts projected a likely increase in suicides, substance abuse, and depression based on loss of jobs and income. Based on their studies of past recessions and disasters like Hurricane Harvey, it is projected that every five percentage point increase in unemployment in Texas during the COVID recession across a year could lead to an additional 725 Texans dying each year from suicide (300) and drug overdose (425). Add in the projected rise in domestic violence like the recent incident that resulted in the death of a responding San Marcos police officer and it’s likely our efforts to protect life could be offset by the potential death toll of despair from economic hardship and isolation.
So, today, as we hopefully pause from the stresses of the workweek and connect with our families, let’s take a minute to think of those people who are suffering from the disease’s impact, both in terms of their health and in terms of their economic stability. Both ends of the spectrum are frightening in their own regard, so let’s take time today to pray for them. Let’s take time to consider the validity of arguments from both ends of that spectrum and commit to finding nuanced solutions somewhere on the timeline between them both.
Emerging from our current state will require a delicate, continual recalibration with a measure of grace for all involved, be they decision-makers, business owners, or doctors. When we get it right, our economy will rebound, public health will improve and the fabric of our society that is being torn by angry arguments will be woven more tightly. Let’s pray that happens.