Image: President Donald Trump speaks with Vice President Mike Pence as they arrive for a Fox News Channel virtual town hall with the Chinese coronavirus task force, at the White House, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, Austin, and Washington, D.C., March 25 – Montgomery County, Texas, currently has 23 cases of Chinese coronavirus, up from 19 the previous day. With the slow growth rate in Montgomery County and the careful management of the situation from the community – both private and public sectors – as a whole, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” has express great reluctance about a “lockdown” order.
President Trump hoping to see US economy reopened by Easter amid virus
Trump’s optimism contradicted the warnings of some public health officials who called for stricter — not looser — restrictions on public interactions. But federal officials suggested that advisories could be loosened in areas not experiencing widespread infection.
With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall. Easter is just over two weeks away — Apr. 12.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full?” Trump said in a subsequent interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”
And as scientists warned the worst is yet to come — with hospital systems tested beyond their capacity and health workers sidelined by exposure — Trump addressed the nation, saying he was beginning “to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Trump’s comments came even as White House officials urged people who have left New York City amid the outbreak to self-quarantine for 14 days after their departure, owing to the widespread rate of infection in the metro area. It also follows on the president encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package — estimated at roughly $6 trillion once the Federal Reserve’s actions are included — to ease the financial pain for Americans and hard-hit industries.
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The guidelines, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are voluntary, but many state and local leaders have issued mandatory restrictions in line with, or even tighter than, those issued by the CDC.
On Monday, the U.S. saw its biggest jump yet in the death toll from the virus, with more than 650 American deaths now attributed to COVID-19. Trump’s comments come after dire warnings by officials in hard-hit areas. New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s hospital system will soon hit a breaking point — resulting in avoidable deaths — even with the restrictions already in place.
“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from the seasonal flu and in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”
When the 15-day period ends next Monday, he said, “We’ll assess at that time and we’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up.” He added, “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”
Trump’s Easter target was not immediately embraced by Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House task force, who indicated any move would have to be guided by data still being collected. She suggested that public health professionals could recommend a general easing, while pushing for local restrictions to remain in the hardest-hit areas.
Trump acknowledged that some want the guidance to continue, but claimed without providing evidence that keeping the guidance in place would lead to deaths from suicide and depression.
“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said.
During a press briefing Tuesday evening, Trump said public health officials and economists were “working to develop a sophisticated plan to open the economy as soon as the time is right — based on the best science, the best modeling and the best medical research there is anywhere on earth.”
Trump’s enthusiasm for getting people back to work comes as he takes stock of the political toll the outbreak is taking. It sets up a potential conflict with medical professionals, including many within his government, who have called for more social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, not fewer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, did not appear at the virtual town hall, but Trump denied there were any tensions between the two men.
“I will be guided very much by Dr. Fauci and Deborah,” Trump said.
At the press briefing later, Fauci said, “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.” But he suggested he would be willing to examine the potential for easing the CDC advisories in areas that have been less affected by the outbreak.
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters Tuesday that “public health includes economic health.”
“That’s the key point. And it’s not either-or. It’s not either-or, and that’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it,” he said.
During a private conference call with roughly 30 conservative leaders on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence reinforced Trump’s eagerness to lift coronavirus-related work and travel restrictions “in a matter of weeks, not months.”
When pressed on a specific timeline for lifting restrictions, Pence said there would be no formal decisions made until the current 15-day period of social distancing was complete, according to a conference call participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private discussion.
Pence told the group that accommodations would need to be made for the highest-risk populations if and when restrictions begin to be lifted.
Despite Trump’s rosy talk, other elements of the government were digging in for the long haul. Top defense and military leaders on Tuesday warned department personnel that the virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or even into the summer.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Defense Department town hall meeting that restrictions could go into late May or June, possibly even July. He said there are a variety of models from other countries, so the exact length of the virus and necessary restrictions are not yet clear.
Montgomery County Judge Keough stands for liberty against Chinese coronavirus invasion
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough discussed why Montgomery County will not be under a “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order at this time. The effects of those orders already in place or recently announced in counties across Texas exempt major industries and critical businesses that need to remain open in order to sustain life and provide critical services to the public. Those exemptions have left hundreds of industries, from retail, banking, food service, commercial, and other deemed critical businesses open and allow the public to patron those open.
“What Montgomery County has done, is put in place an order that closes public gatherings, limits places open to 10 or less persons at a time, closes down businesses of amusement, gyms, and other places recommended by the CDC with exceptions for grocery stores, pharmacies, and other critical businesses that would be exempt. ” said Judge Keough.
“Our current orders have been in effect for five days now, and the public has been complying for the most part. We have performed compliance checks on businesses who should be closed or restricted and so far everyone has been doing their part. I cannot stress enough the importance for everyone to do their part by taking personal responsibility for their actions and follow the CDC guidelines for hand hygiene and social distancing,” continued Keough.
Keough concluded, “Montgomery County is full of good virtuous people who will do their part to help a fellow neighbor, I am encouraged from what I have seen, and will continue to monitor updates from the CDC and our local health authority before amending or changing orders.”
Montgomery County’s 23 cases of Chinese coronavirus
State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe, provided this list of the 23 Chinese coronavirus cases in Montgomery County.
Updated Montgomery County Cases
Case # 1 – A man in his 40s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County, is still hospitalized. He remains in critical condition, but he is stable. As a result of our investigation, we do believe he contracted the virus as a result of community spread.
Case # 2 – A woman, in her 40s, who resides in Southeast Montgomery County. She remains in a hospital in Harris County, in critical condition. Her only travel was to New Orleans.
Case # 3 – A man, in his 40s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County. He is at home, recovering well. His only travel was to Florida.
Case # 4 – A woman, in her 40s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County. She remains at home, doing well. Her case is connected to Case # 3.
Case # 5 – A man, in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation in his home. The man has recently traveled to California.
Case # 6 – A man, in his 40s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. At this time, he is in isolation in his home. The man has recently traveled to California.
Case # 7 – A woman, in her 60s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County. At this time, she is in isolation in her home. She has no recent travel history, and no known contact with other patients.
Case # 8 – A woman, in her 40s, who resides in Southeast Montgomery County. At the time, she is in isolation in her home. She has recently traveled to Germany.
Case # 9 – A man, in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is currently hospitalized in critical but stable condition. His travel history is under investigation.
Case # 10 – A woman in her 50s, who resides in Southeast Montgomery County. She is in isolation at home. She attended the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo on March 8th.
Case # 11 – A man in his 90s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is currently hospitalized. He has no recent travel history.
Case # 12 – A man in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation at home. He recently traveled to Brazil.
Case # 13 – A woman in her 30s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County. She is in isolation at home. She has no recent travel history.
Case # 14 – A woman in her 40s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. Her case is connected to a Smith County, Texas case, where she recently traveled. She at currently at home in isolation.
Case # 15 – A man in his 40s, who has been in Northeast Montgomery County for a work-related purpose. He is currently in insolation at his residence. His only recent travel is to Houston.
Case # 16 – A female teenager, 13-19 years old, who resides in Southeast Montgomery County. She is in isolation at her home. She has recent travel to New Orleans.
Case # 17 – A woman in her 20s, who resides in Northwest Montgomery County. She is in isolation at her home. This is believed to be a case of community spread because she was in close contact with a suspected case.
Case # 18 – A man in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation at his home. He has recent travel to Chicago, Illinois.
Case # 19 – A man in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation at his home. He has recent travel to California.
Case # 20 – A man in his 30s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation at his home. He has recent travel New York.
Case # 21 – A woman in her 60s, who resides in Northeast Montgomery County. She is hospitalized. No recent travel.
Case # 22 – A woman in her 30s, who resides in Northeast Montgomery County. She is in isolation at home. The only recent travel is to Houston.
Case # 23 – A man in his 50s, who resides in Southwest Montgomery County. He is in isolation at home. He has recent travel to France, Germany and Spain.