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The Sun Belt seemed immune this spring as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the Northeast. The Republican governors of Texas, Arizona and Florida began to let businesses reopen in early May. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas visited the White House for a thumbs-up from President Donald Trump on May 7.

On Thursday, Abbott paused the reopening, and none too soon. The Sun Belt that opened in May is being convulsed by a surge of infections and hospitalizations.

The coronavirus is transmitted by people — to people. Premature reopenings in the South and West gave the virus a chance to spread, especially in closed spaces with crowds, such as bars and restaurants, where people were loath to take precautions.

This patchwork pandemic was created, in part, by Trump’s epic abdication of responsibility,.

The nation could not stay locked down forever. But public health experts have advised repeatedly that, until a vaccine or effective drug therapy is found, the smart approach to reopening is for people to wear masks, keep a distance and wash their hands, and for governments to carry out mass diagnostic testing, contact tracing and isolation of the ill. Many states are struggling to bring this off, and many individuals are resisting simple countermeasures such as wearing a mask in public.

The pandemic is not under control in the United States. Abbott will need to make unpopular decisions now to fight it in Texas. He and other governors should learn the lessons from May, and act without hesitation. Complacency is not an option.

Print Headline: Sun Belt’s dark cloud

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