A message to Houston on the coronavirus from Space City Weather

Space City Weather is, and always will be, a weather site. We have no pretensions beyond providing the most reliable forecasts we can, and to help greater Houston residents make decisions about what is best for themselves and their families in times of inclement weather. With that said, we have received numerous questions about the coronavirus, and requests for a site similar to Space City Weather to provide health information for this epidemic. Alas, neither Matt nor I are biologists, physicians, epidemiologists, or even medical journalists, so we are not going to do that. However, in this post, I want to provide some general thoughts about this issue from the perspective of someone well versed in crises (i.e. hurricanes) and public reactions.

We are taking this serious, and so should you.

Social Distancing—the time is now

This is probably the best proven tool we have at this time to fight the coronavirus—and the only one you can take personal control of. This is why schools are canceled, and likely will be for awhile. This is why sports have been suspended, and the rodeo canceled. These are absolutely the right decisions, and the earlier they are enacted, the better it will be for our ability to control the spread of the coronavirus, and give our health care system the time and resources to help those who fall severely ill.

But we need to go further than canceling mass gatherings. Practicing social distancing in your own life means staying home as much as possible, and maintaining a gap of six feet or more between yourself and others outside the home. Fewer interactions and added distance when you must go into public spaces lowers the chance of exposure. Moreover, if you do get infected, social distancing lowers the chance of spreading the virus.

Practically, this means you should not go to bars or restaurants if possible—take-out or cooking at home are better options. Church services should be temporarily moved online. None of this is popular or economical palatable, but the more of this we do, the more we slow the spread of coronavirus. (If you want to support a favorite business, buy a gift certificate to use for later). A combination of social distancing and aggressive testing by South Korea has provided a model for how democracies can control this disease. We must emulate this, or face drastic consequences.

Hoarding

Every time a significant tropical event threatens Houston, we see runs on the grocery stores—bottled water being the highest priority item. With coronavirus, toilet paper has emerged as the highest priority item. It is not clear why this is, but for goodness sake there is no toilet paper shortage in the United States and panic buying and hoarding only increases the anxieties of everyone else. If you’re buying cases of toilet paper when you already have an adequate supply, you are—I have vowed never to curse on this web site as children read it, so I won’t here—a scoundrel, dastard, villain and worse. Do not do this.

The coronavirus outbreak will be vastly different than a hurricane. And while we do not know what to expect, it is clear that we are not going to see the kinds of natural barriers (like wind and flooding) that will prevent trucks from driving, and grocery stores from remaining open.

Be good neighbors

As is the case during a hurricane, check on neighbors (while practicing social distancing!) If they need help, help them with supplies. Basically, look out for more than yourself.

Coronaviruses have a halo, or crown-like appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. (CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy)

The fact is, with this virus and disease, we are all in this together. The virus spread quickly from China, to the rest of Asia and Europe, and it is now circulating widely in the United States because we have a global culture. We humans travel everywhere. And we are all in this together. It is not us versus them, or one political party versus another. We are all humans, sharing the same world, with a limited set of resources, facing this. We are better together.

Appreciation

During severe weather, countless people in this region express their appreciation for our efforts. So in this time of need, let Matt and I do the same for everyone who is working to keep the region going—that means those people who are stocking grocery shelves, driving delivery trucks, working in pharmacies, preparing take-out meals in restaurants, picking up the trash, keeping the lights turned on, farmers, and more. The list of those providing essential services goes on, and on. Thank you. And then there are the health care providers and first responders, preparing for disaster, facing the uncertainty, and putting themselves directly in harm’s way. Your sacrifice and dedication are admirable. Thank you so very, very much.

More information

If you have more questions about coronavirus, this comprehensive, continually updated guide by my colleague at Ars Technica, Beth Mole, is a great place to start. She’s a microbiologist and fine writer, and seeks to take the same calm but prudent approach to this issue that we do to weather.

We’ll be back with a full forecast tomorrow morning.

48 thoughts on “A message to Houston on the coronavirus from Space City Weather

  1. LeeAnn Hickman

    You can safely use the words, ” piece of excrement” when referring to a person that you find repulsive.

      1. Jay

        Eric, I honestly felt your use in the article of the other descriptors was more appropriate. While ‘excrement’ may not be a curse word, it evokes imagery every bit as bad as cursing – people – even dastardly villains – should virtually never be equated to such.

  2. Susie

    An excellent, thoughtful, common-sense post (as always!) from the Space City Weather team.

  3. Becky

    Thank you so much for this! We need the voice to reason and calm. Thank you for all you do!!!

  4. Kris Volk

    Eric as always you and Matt provide the rational prudent perspective that seems to be a endangered thing anymore. Thanks to you both and keep the flickering light of sanity alive with all you guys do.

  5. Robert Conachey

    Thank you Space City Weather Team for this special update. I’m 63 and not fearful of catching the virus; I’m more fearful of the hoarding behavior of people (and why TP?) and not being able to find the limited food selection I can eat due to a chronic medical issue.

  6. Andrew DeSimone

    Appreciate everything yall do. As a PD Dispatcher its comforting to me to have you all here making sense of this as well as natural Disasters. Keep up the fine work guys

    Sincerely
    A DeSimone

  7. Mary Kemick

    Thank you for your sensible approach to both weather and the corona virus. 🙂

  8. Scott

    I love your suggestion that we might have a web site devoted to health info that has the same focus on data and rationality as you bring to weather reporting. It all starts with data, so we need health departments to make detailed statistics publicly available.

  9. Lynn

    Thank you for doing your best and more to calm the situation and for your attitude of gratitude. Lynn McCue

  10. Stella Elaine Wikstrom

    A sane voice in the wilderness, greatly needed. Thanks also for the link at the bottom.

  11. Juan S.

    Common sense… usually the least common of the senses! Thanks for helping Houston remain informed and stay healthy. Glad I got my Space City Weather t-shirt!

  12. Boone

    I’m not going to be rude, but just want to make sure anyone who reads R. Allen’s comment is aware that every single “fact” he claims about the coronavirus is false. Please don’t let this man’s ignorance influence your decision-making.

  13. Patricia Deckert

    Thank you for this well thought, sensible approach to a huge problem and most of all deferring on the medical aspects to the medical people. This increases my confidence in your weather reports as well simply because I know that rational minds remain rational in a crisis.

  14. Lorraine Van De Brook

    Excellent commentary!! You covered everything important – thank you!!

  15. Emma Nicely

    Thank You Guys for printing this article.We all know by now that there isn’t any need to panick
    We are just praying that our Elders and our Children will be safe.As a person that also works outside of the home in Public places I am a Residential as well as a Commercial Cleaner and we too have to be extra careful.I would also like to share a few tips to others.Whenever you return home from cleaning make sure you take your shoes off at the door because everything that you have walked in is probably still attached to your shoes.If you can stand it wear at least two shirts or blouses whenever you are working so therefore if you should have to make a stop on your way home you cam take the outer shirt off especially if you are exposed to other people’s germs.Always sanitize your hands before leaving your place of work because you will be touching your steering wheel in your car and you want to make sure it’s safe to do so at all times
    Lastly try to stay away from your phone unless it is really necessary try to leave it in your car if possible because we all know if it rings you are going to answer without thinking and then there you have it all the germs that you are working with are directly in your face from your gloves unless you have on your ear piece.I wish everyone safe luck and good health during these trying times.We got this Houston…

  16. MJR

    This kind of ignorance is the reason those of us with common sense need to heed the warnings and stay home. These people will continue to go out, and the virus will continue to spread. A forced shutdown will hurt us economically but so will a society crippled by the virus (and worse). A shutdown might be the only thing to keep this “Christian” off the streets. What a christian-like idea, caring about oneself and your personal belief system/denial more than the good of all people! Jesus would be so proud.

  17. James Avery

    The first Covid-19 cases appeared in a few Washington state nursing homes and then in other states.
    After learning about the one isolated case in a small Kansas town, I’m beginning to wonder if this may be more an airborne disease rather than a close contact one.
    If you plot the jet stream’s movement from when the first cases appeared in the Washington state nursing homes to the present spread across America, is there a correlation of the virus spreading relative to a plot of the jet stream’s movements?

    1. William Ryan

      One death is at a Kansas facility just outside Kansas City. The facility is a nursing home owned by the same company as the heavily affected nursing home in Washington State.

  18. William Ryan

    Check out Dr. Roger Seheult at http://www.medcram.com. While this is a paywall site aimed at medical professionals, Dr. Seheult is posting daily on youtube (Caronoavirius Pandemic Updates) not behind a paywall. Succinct, factual…..he’s up to about 36 posts. Just FYI.

  19. Robin Holzer

    This is exactly the COVID update I hoped you would write. Thanks so much for using your platform this way, and as always, thanks very much for all you two do. Best regards, Robin

    ps. My daughters and I won’t mind in the eventual event one of you feels driven to curse online. ;-D

  20. Julie Smith

    I have been trying to get this message out to as many folks as possible. Your reach is so much greater! I would also use some of those strong words for the folks who are not taking this seriously and are holding large celebrations/gatherings, with no concern about the consequences. Last night, I was driving down W 20th, in the Heights. There are a lot of new bars there. Traffic was at a crawl. There were large celebrations at each bar and clumps of young folks were moving from bar to bar, arms around each other, piling many into vehicles, etc. Selfish, at the least. I suspect that the main thought is “I am not in the risk group”.

  21. Amy Williams

    Thank you for clearly stating what needs to be said. My sister has it and is young but extremely sick. I ask everyone to heed all the advice about just stay home and limit your outings.
    My sons enjoy reading your weather report before school. Thank you from a mom for using choice words today.

  22. Blackhawks Fan

    Amen on the hoarders. In WW2, food hoarders were prosecuted.

    Please think of people who are simply out of toilet paper or other groceries before you buy a 30 year supply.

  23. Eddie

    How would one go about setting up a city wide, volunteer delivery service from grocery stores/ restaurants/ pharmacies, etc to homes? A constraint to get past would be ensuring the delivery didn’t transmit the virus either through the product and/ or the volunteers. Perhaps it could be donation based ($0-$x) through PayPal or one of the other digital methods to offset the costs (gasoline, sterilization methods, logistics, etc).
    This may help keep people in their homes?

    I wouldn’t know where to begin but would be a participant at whatever level.

    Good/ bad idea?

  24. Doc Dougherty

    Thank You Both for always being clear and concise…and now, calm and empathetic.

  25. Shari Mauthner

    I wish all broadcasters of information were as reasonable, clear, and non-inflammatory as you. I get a chuckle or two along with a “just-the-facts-ma’am” forecast from your postings.

    Thank you, thank everyone who is out there still providing us with essential services, thank the non-hoarders, thank us all. We are smarter together than by ourselves. Be safe: we will get through this.

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