The second half of Texas Tech University’s homecoming football game on Saturday just started. The home team is up by seven points and lines are starting to form at the bars on Broadway, right across the street from the university’s main entrance.
Niko Suave and Isaac Chop are leaving one bar to go to the next. They’re not wearing masks.
“I like to come out, talk to people, have a good time," Suave said. "Show myself, you know. Just enjoy it and have a good weekend. That’s why I’m here tonight.”
Suave said he hasn’t worn a mask since the COVID-19 pandemic started, even though a statewide mandate enacted in July requires one to be worn in most public places. The friends say they’re still going to bars and house parties.
“People that are scared, stay home if you’re scared. You know what I’m saying?" Chop said. "Just like that. We’re not out here wearing a mask. I’m a United States citizen. I have the freedom to do whatever I want.”
Suave and Chop, who are in their early 20s but are not Texas Tech students, both said if they’re meant to get COVID-19, then it just happens. Chop said he has had relatives contract the virus. It hasn't changed his opinion.
When asked if they were keeping up with the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Lubbock, Suave said, "I haven't. I honestly don't really care."
The next day, Hospital Trauma Service Region B, which includes Lubbock County, reported its seventh straight day of COVID-19 patients accounting for more than 15% of all hospitalized patients in the area. This triggered state-required business reopening rollbacks. Some bars closed and most businesses cut back on occupancy. Elective medical procedures have also been put on hold.
New cases and the rate of hospitalizations continues to increase. Between Oct. 18-24, 1,590 additional COVID-19 cases were confirmed. At this point, with 18,015 cases diagnosed since mid-March, almost 7% of Lubbock's population has confirmed a COVID-19 illness.
On Tuesday, 234 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Lubbock, according to data provided by the city. In the 22-county trauma service region, 21% of hospitalized patients have tested positive for COVID-19. Since March, 188 people have died from complications of the disease.
Covenant Health System Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Rhyne said inconsiderate behavior is contributing to the problem.
“It’s like they’re daring COVID to come get them,” Rhyne said.
He gave an example he personally saw on Saturday. More than a dozen college-age students headed into a house party. They had beer, they had ice - no masks.
Rhyne said even if Lubbockites return to measures that science says works – wearing a mask, distancing and washing hands - the city is in for a rough few weeks based on the recent number of local diagnoses.
“It will take about 10 days to 20 days for us to see any break," Rhyne said. "But again if it never stops raining, the flood never goes away.”
Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.
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