#HoustonSafe: City Can Survive Another Crisis if We Are Smart

This city and its residents have been underwater before
This city and its residents have been underwater before Photo by Abrahán Garza

In 2017, the world got its first glimpse of the resilience of Houstonians when Hurricane Harvey deluged the region with rainfall. They witnessed neighbors helping neighbors and everyday residents handling an impossible situation with toughness and kindness.

Today, we face a completely different challenge. Instead of banding together, we need to separate, if only for a little while, to prevent a sizable outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus in Houston. So far, there have been 17 cases reported in the Houston area with no fatalities, but as Mayor Sylvester Turner, County Judge Lina Hidalgo and members of the health community throughout the area have pointed out, the only way we stop this virus is by not spreading it.

This is why the city and county have suspended city functions and recommended cancellation or postponement of large gatherings and even smaller, more intimate ones, for a few weeks. They believe that even two weeks of prevention will keep us from having to face the fate of places like Seattle and San Francisco.

In truth, it doesn't take much. Putting some simple distance between you and your fellow Houstonians is the key. This virus is transmitted primarily through the air. If you can avoid being breathed on by a sick person, you stand a much better chance of avoiding infection. In a region as large as ours that is easier said than done, but we have to try.

Even if some of us may not feel the impact of COVID-19 directly, others will and many will undoubtedly be those who are at greater risk of serious complications. Those who are most vulnerable among us must be protected and we have the ability to help them just like we did during Harvey.

No, we can't pull out our jon boats and rescue them from flood waters. It might not be as dramatic to see quiet streets as flooded ones. But better to close schools, work from home, avoid crowded places and do whatever you can to mitigate the virus's spread than see hospitals overwhelmed and the poorest among us suffer the consequences.

If you want to be more proactive, buy gift cards from restaurants, which will suffer losses during this time. Help out friends and family members with donations or dropping off food for them (from a distance, of course). Check in regularly with elderly or those with health problems by calling, texting or teleconferencing.

And, above all else, do what we Houstonians do best: be nice. Understand we are all facing this challenge together. It may not be raging flood waters and soggy messes to clean up after it recedes, but we all need to take care of one another. We've been Houston Strong. It's now time to be Houston Safe. If anyone can do it, we can.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke