Corpus Christi’s COVID Crisis And A Public Relations Nightmare

Despite warnings from public health officials the attitude towards the ongoing coronavirus crisis has remained cavalier at best for many Corpus Christi area residents.

As infection rates and hospitalizations rise health officials are keeping a close eye on things, but local behavior patterns are not helping win the fight against COVID-19.

On Friday night it seemed as if there was the ongoing attitude of disregard. Many area restaurants and venues were full to their capacities, birthday parties and gatherings were underway across town—La Palmera Mall was packed. The careless attitude of local residents could end up being the death of them—and others.

“Just look at this,” said Rene Saenz. “Over 100 people and not a damn one of them wearing a mask or anything because they just don’t care.”

Saenz was sat at a local private venue wondering if he should let his 15 year-old son Adrian be a kid or protect him from the virus.

“If I let him go hang out with his friends then I am a bad parent for letting him because I am exposing him to a health risk that could impact us all. If I make him stay home then in his eyes I am a bad parent and am mean. The parents of the kid will think that I am weak minded and just being over protective,” Rene says. “It is kind of a damned situation.”

Like all kids Adrian sees it differently and feels as if he is somehow immune to any consequence.

“All of my school friends will be there and I want to hang out with them,” Adrian says. “This virus is a joke.”

After pondering for a moment Rene decided to allow him to go to the party with his friends. For him he felt like he would lose either way.

“I know I should make him stay but what can I do?” Rene says shaking his head.

Despite capacity limits groups of children left for bowling alleys, venues and halls despite there being an ongoing pandemic. Some local bars were packed in tight. One thing is clear—in Corpus Christi the warnings and advice from local, state and national leaders are going ignored despite what rhetoric is being spewed from the lecterns.

“All this talk about how we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and all that is just a bunch of talk,” says Wanda Clemens. “If these politicians would open their eyes and realize that people are ignoring their warnings they would see the truth. Deep down they know people are not listening and that means that they are part of the problem.”

Local officials are trying to play politics saying that Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders have tied their hands and are refusing to allow them to take control of local situations. While that might be true, the local governments lack the resources, experience and staffing to adequately handle public health emergency. The public relations strategy that local leaders have bought into has and is going unnoticed and ignored. County and city officials have shown no interest in changing course.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into a local public relations scheme developing hashtags, websites, social media campaigns and other forms of community outreach. CARES Act money has been thrown into the strategy as fast as local officials get it—the reality is that people are not listening.

“All of this is a big joke,” says Gilbert Jimenez, who was hosting the party that was attended by Adrian Saenz and about a hundred other kids. “They can say what they want and do what they want but we are not going to stop our lives for this. We have had enough.”

When asked if he read any of the local warnings or followed the local press conferences the answer is an abrupt “Hell no.” For Jimenez, his daughter’s fifteenth birthday is a once in a lifetime thing and no virus is going to ruin that.

“She wants this and we deserve it,” Jimenez says. “Now, if you will leave we have a birthday party to get on with.”

From backyards in London to bowling alleys in Aransas Pass and all points in between the fact remained bright—people are willfully ignoring the warnings and taking risks despite the death toll.

Birthday party groups from Flour Bluff left to nearby towns where infection rates are alarming in order to celebrate, another one from a home near Ocean Drive went to a local bar, Yet another one welcomed over 100 people into their home with the steady stream of cars dropping kids off. Come Monday, many of those possibly newly infected children will be right back at school and the parents at work. The question will be asked: How’s that public relations strategy working out for you?

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