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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection caused by novel Coronavirus. It is highly infectious, and as a result, the health sectors across the globe face a critical challenge trying to control the spread of the disease (Nicola et al. 2020). The patients infected by the disease experience respiratory illnesses. People with critical health conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes are at high risk of developing the severe illness as a result of the disease. Older people are also considered at high risk because of their weak immune system and underlying medical issues (Dashraath et al. 2019). It has put pressure on governments, economies, and societal welling across the world. The impact of the disease has caused an alarming situation in many countries and cities, including Houston. The number of new infections and deaths is rising every day.
COVID-19 has become the most controversial disease in the world. The disease has become a world health crisis affecting almost all nations across the globe. COVID-19 pandemic is, however, far more than a health crisis because it has affected different societies from various perspectives. The core socio-economic factors in many counties and cities have been adversely affected (Spinelli & Pellino, 2020). While the effect of the crisis varies from country to country and city to city, it is most likely to increase the level of inequalities and poverty on a worldwide scale. Like most of the cities in the United States, Houston is also affected. Some of the industries were forced to shut down. Millions of employees are losing their jobs. This paper, therefore, summarizes the current state policies and procedures on social distancing being used in Houston and provides a review of literature on the impacts of the diseases in Houston and other cities.
Current State Policies and Procedures on Social Distancing Being Used In Houston
COVID-19 pandemic has led to the development of some policies to help mitigate the spread of the disease. In the United States, the government imposed social distancing as one of the main factors to consider in the prevention and control of the spread of COVID-19. World Health Organization (WHO) has stipulated specific guidelines and policies, including social distancing and washing of hands regularly to help in the process (Moore et al. 2020). Implementation of these policies, however, have shown different approach and impacts in different countries and cities across the globe. There are many human activities taking place in the city of Houston, maintaining social distancing in for some of these activists has been complex; as a result, the government directed for closure places such as schools, entertainment venues, restaurants, and bars. The impact of these measures poses a critical challenge in human nature and economic activities not only in Houston but other cities across the nation.
The federal government has emphasized the need to practice social distancing following the pandemic. The same policies have been applied by Houstonians to mitigate the spread of the virus. States and cities have taken different approaches to implementing social distancing policies based on their contexts. The current policies on social distancing in Houston include:
Stay At Home Policy
The policy is one has been identified as one of the best social distancing control measure it mitigates the spread of the virus. The policy presents a casual impact in the process of trying to control the spread of the virus. Still, it remains more significant in terms of reducing mobility as compared to other policies. Most of the Houstonians embraced the policy and practiced it with great concern. The government has made the stay at home policy mandatory for members of the public who would wish to move out of their house for non-essential purposes.
Closure of Schools and None Essential Centers
Schools and non-essential business places remain closed in Houston following state odder to implement the policy. According to Courtemanche et al. 2020, schools were identified as critical venues that could encourage the spread of the virus. As a result, the government has ensured that all schools remain closed to reduce movement and maintain social distancing. None-essential business places also remains a policy in practice.
Restriction of Events and Public Gatherings Policy
The spread of the virus has been linked to public gatherings and holding events. The government provides guidelines and procedures to restrict gatherings and events. To hold a meeting in Houston, the participants must practice social distancing by sitting or standing at least 6 feet apart. The government only allows for the essential events to be carried out while maintaining social distancing. Public gatherings remain restricted. Most of the people in Houston are practicing these guidelines.
These policies are among the best social distancing practices that have helped to reduce the spread of the virus. They are significant in reducing the rates of social contact. There have been controversial issues following the reopening of schools and business, business premises like bars, and restaurants in Houston. Houston, Texas, for instance, has opened some of the businesses but with strict social distancing rules and other guidelines used to control the spread of the virus.
Literature Review on the impacts of COVID-19 on Houston
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many people across the globe from different perspectives. In Houston, it has affected various sectors of the economy following the health issues and number of policies that were developed to reduce the spread of the virus. As the virus continues to spread to various parts of Houston, the government, under the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott has taken the necessary steps to stop the spread of Coronavirus. One of the measures that affected Houston was the introduction of lockdown and its standards (Olin, 2020). During the first wave of the spread of Coronavirus, the government enforced lockdown measures to respond to the rise in the spread of the virus, especially in Texas. The impact of this move greatly affected the lives of many people in Houston. Lockdown and many other measures, such as social distancing policies, are the main factors that have influenced socio-economic activities in the city. The pandemic has impacted different sectors in the economy, as well as social wellbeing, being as described in the following sections:
Social Impacts of COVID-19 on Houston
COVID-19 is a health crisis that the whole world is facing, unlike any other pandemics in history. Valliani, 2020 says that many people have died, and it has increased human suffering, especially for vulnerable people. According to her, Houston is one of the cities across the nations that is largely impacted by the pandemic from social perspectives. She identifies that containment measures and economic impacts are among the leading factors causing social effects. The pandemic has caused the following social effects on Houston:
Impact of Social Well-Being and Education
Social wellbeing for many Houstonians, as well as the education system, has been affected by the pandemic. Potter, 2020, identifies that the school's calendar has been changed following the disruption of learning to implement social distancing policies. Schools are closed, putting more pressure on parents. The pandemic is affecting the Houston families, especially single parents. According to Zhang, Diez & Wu, 2020, these parents face many challenges coping with their children at home since stay at the home policy was enforced. Many families' presents complain of fear and anxiety.
Despite the preexisting racial disparities in the region, the pandemic has led to increased racial differences as a result of economic impacts. According to Olin, 2020, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic communities living in Houston are taking greater suffering than the whites. He identifies that over 16% of the black Americans living in the city have challenges in paying rent and gather for other essential; 14 % of the Hispanic community also experience the same problem. The gap continues to grow as black, and Hispanic households have struggling more to pay bills as compared to whites.
Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Houston
The economy is one of the leading sectors that have been affected by the pandemic, according to Klineberg, 2020, the city's economic performance was projected to increases significantly by June 2020; however, the crisis has exacerbated Houston's economic performance. The implementation of social distancing policies in the city has negatively economic output as the government is working on active containment measures. When lockdown and strict social distancing measures were enforced, the city has experienced economic loss. Olin, 2020 affirms that the retail industry is one of the largest hit economies in the region, small and medium-size businesses face a series of challenges as a result of containment measures. Restricting movements, in particular, the implementation of stay at home policy negatively influenced SMEs across the city. According to the assessment conducted by the University Of Houston, 2020, restaurants and bars were greatly hit. Different sectors in the economy were hit differently; the following sub-sections explain how the containment measures affected each of the sectors.
Travel and Tourism
Houston is known for the considerate performance in travel and tourism; the industry is one of the key pillars that support the economy in the region. Qiu, & Gonzalez, 2019 consider Space Center Houston (SCH) as one of the leading tourist attraction areas in the Houston region. The Official Visitors Center of NASA has always attracted many tourists in the area before the pandemic. The author identifies that tourism, especially NASA, is one of the leading contributors to Houston's economic performance; however, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of containment measures. Travel and tourism industry has been affected, the cessation of movement and closures of tourist attraction centers such as NASA has affected not only the economy of the region but also the employees who are working in the sector. The government shutdown tourism activities and place more restrictions on travel to mitigate the spread of the virus. According to the research conducted by the University Of Houston, 2020, containment measures have led to the loss of jobs for some of the people working in the industry, casual workers are the most affected as the industry provided daily incomes to support their livelihood.
Hospitality is also one of the sectors impacted by the pandemic as a result of the cancellation and postponement of the events, sports, leagues, and conventions that would have been conducted during the past few months has dramatically affected the income and performance of Houston's hospitality industry. According to Schafler, 2020, the policies of social distancing will continue to affect the industry negatively. The author identifies that the hotels in Houston have experienced less than 50% occupancy by early June; this implies that the industry is operating on 50% less. As a result of this impact, many people have lost their jobs ad rendered vulnerable during this pandemic.
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