First published Texas Medical Association (2020) (reprinted with permission)

As anyone without their head in the sand knows that coronavirus numbers are skyrocketing (especially in states that pushed to reopen despite warnings that it would spike disease transmission). More than 800,000 new cases were reported in June, led by Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California; the nation has now surpassed 3 million cases.

In Texas, mayors in Houston and Austin warn that their hospitals are facing critical mass and are on track to be overwhelmed in the next two weeks. Polling suggests that even the most stalwart “don’t tread on me” types are starting to get the message to stay home.

According to polling by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, most registered voters in the state have soured in their assessments of pandemic responses. In the latest survey, 46% of voters say efforts to deal with the coronavirus in the US are going well — down from 56% in April. Asked about the efforts in Texas, 47% say things are going well — down from 66% in April. But even if one is willing to curtail one’s lifestyle a little bit — like GOD FORBID wear a mask — a new assessment graphic from Texas Medical Association is a handy tool for understanding exactly what risk we run in our daily activities.

TexMed characterizes things like getting restaurant takeout, getting gas, and even playing tennis as low-risk activities (two on a scale of one to 10). Grocery shopping, going on a walk with others, visiting a library or museum, and playing golf all fall in the moderate-low range (three to four) — that last is of course great news for the president! Highest-risk activities (eight or more) include, unsurprisingly, sports stadium events and concerts, going to a movie theater, attending religious services with 500+ worshippers, and going to a bar — which was a major cause of outbreak in Michigan last week. Texans shouldn’t despair, though! Based on this graphic, it is still safe to shoot guns in the air (at least with respect to COVID-19 complications), do outdoor line dances in rigid six-feet distance grids, and ride the open range.

“We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe,” said Governor Abbott, in a statement accompanying a recent mask regulation. “If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we can both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business. I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

Not to mention that Texas has one powerful advantage in the practice of new social norms — with the highest rate of cowboy hat-per-capita, they are poised to bring back the hat-tip, easily the most congenial and COVID-safe way to greet friends and strangers alike. Can’t mess with that, y’all!

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....