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Coronavirus in Texas: “You Do the Right Things, and Still You Get It”

By: Evan Mei

A family in Houston, Texas took every precaution possible to keep the virus away. But as the debate about whether or not masks and social distancing should be mandatory rage on like wildfires, the family reached their limit of control.

Elaine Roberts, a 35 year old woman with autism, took every precaution possible. She wore gloves, stopped taking the bus to work, and she wore masks stitched by her own sister. However, all her efforts were in vain. As she helped old people to their cars, stacked products on shelves, and retrieved carts, she was getting closer and closer to getting infected.

With all the precautions Elaine has been taking, it should be nearly impossible for her to get infected. But most customers at the small Randalls store she worked at did not wear a mask, even as COVID-19 cases started to soar. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has prohibited local officials from enforcing mask requirements. The grocery store has only posted signs asking that shoppers wear masks.

Ms. Roberts, who lives with her parents, was the first in the family to contract the virus. Her mother and father, who were so cautious that they only left the house to visit a nearby park for bird watching, were subsequently hospitalized due to respiratory problems.

Elaine Roberts’ manager, Ms. Fletcher, said that the store devotes lots of time a week to cleaning, and the employees are ordered to stay home if they show any symptoms of the virus.

Until late June, customers at Randalls were never required to wear masks. There were signs asking for customers to put on a mask but “it wasn’t anything we had to enforce,” Ms. Fletcher said. “It was kind of 50-50,” with “younger customers not as much.”

Elaine’s older sister, Sidra Roman, blames the customers at the store for endangering the safety of her whole family. “Wearing a piece of cloth, it’s a little uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s a lot less uncomfortable than ventilators, dialysis lines, all of those things that have had to happen to my father. And it’s not necessarily you that’s going to get sick and get hurt.”

She added, “Whoever came to the grocery store and didn’t wear a mask, doesn’t know this is going on.”

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