Over the Independence Day weekend, the New York Times published an article titled “In West Texas, Lingering Distrust in Public Health Measures as Virus Spreads
.” Unfortunately, the piece is the same song, different trite verse that has become all too common for coastal media when reporting on Middle America. It is riddled with condescending innuendo while lacking important context, facts, and any amount of introspection as to why the “distrust” cited in the article allegedly exists and even if it exists to the degree suggested. The article concludes by saying there was “not a mask in sight” to capture the total lack of perceived response to the virus from Lubbock.
It failed to mention that Lubbock is a medical hub for hundreds of miles in almost any given direction, home to the most robust medical facilities anywhere in the United States between Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix. We are caring for COVID-19 patients from across West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center medical researchers are helping fight the virus while creating safety equipment to help protect all Americans.
The article’s emphasis on rising cases leaves out the data that shows robust testing. Lubbock’s testing increased drastically over the last few weeks to meet demand. More than 45,000 tests have been conducted to date, in a county whose population is 310,000. That’s a testing rate of 14.5%, which outpaces the state of Texas average (7.9%) and the United States as a whole (11%) as of the Independence Day weekend. The same public health officials that The Times claims Lubbock ignores have long been touting more testing as a key piece of the puzzle, and so far Lubbock has answered that call. Despite the huge uptick in cases and hospitalizations, Lubbock’s remaining hospital capacity has held steady near 500 available beds for the past few weeks.
The New York Times’ portrayal of the Wild West where nobody cares about health guidelines failed to mention additional key facts about our community’s response to the virus. The City of Lubbock and Lubbock Chamber of Commerce partnered to create the “Lubbock Safe” initiative, a voluntary certification program for local businesses providing PPE to employees and customers and following other recommended guidelines. Today, nearly 900 local businesses are Lubbock Safe and continue to help protect employees and visitors to their establishments.
On Monday, in less than six hours the Lubbock Chamber gave out more than 88,000 masks to local businesses provided to us by the City of Lubbock. By Tuesday mid-day, 120,000 total masks were distributed. The large boxes filled with masks emptied out of our office faster than a New York minute. “Not a mask in sight” indeed.
It was quite the rush of demand for a bunch of people who The Times asserts don’t believe in public health guidelines. Instead, it looks like as many businesses as possible are working to comply with the governor’s latest order.
Lastly, the New York Times failed to engage in any amount of introspection as to why Lubbock’s residents may not be fully trusting of national media or public health officials. Could part of the problem be that national outlets such as the nation’s paper of record were running headlines throughout January and February assuring the American public that the virus was no big deal, that it wasn’t as bad as the flu, and that the real virus was “xenophobia” as it pertained to halting travel from China? Could it be that after the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Surgeon General told people explicitly not to wear masks in early March because it didn’t protect them from COVID-19, such authorities rightfully lost some credibility in the eyes of the public?
Lubbock, like most of America, can and must still improve in its response to the virus. This is precisely why the Chamber is working diligently to distribute so many masks, continues to connect businesses with additional PPE resources, and asks employers to protect their employees and visitors by wearing face coverings.
Lubbock deserves for the whole truth to be told about our community’s efforts. The New York Times’ incomplete and misleading narrative should take a back seat to the facts and data that tell a different story.