Photos of a state in crisis: Deserted highways, swamped food banks and health care workers at risk
When we first reported on the new coronavirus in January, the official worldwide death tally was still relatively low and the virus was mostly confined overseas. Since then, the epidemic has exploded into a pandemic, and people in the U.S. have died by the hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands. Here in Texas, to slow its spread, millions stayed home. Once-vibrant city streets were deserted. Freeways in our largest cities, once packed with cars at all hours, were emptied of traffic. Smaller cities were no different.
The toll on our lives and our once-thriving economy has been extraordinary. Businesses large and small have shuttered — many for good. Millions of people have lost their jobs as the unemployment rate shot from historic lows to levels not seen since the Great Depression. At The Texas Tribune, our comprehensive coverage of the pandemic stays focused on the people who are affected — those who have become ill, their loved ones and the people who care for them. Behind every new report on the economy are Texans struggling to make ends meet, educate their children or continue working in the face of so many terrifying unknowns.
To help tell those stories, our photographers have ventured all over the state, with sensitivity and care for the safety of their fellow Texans — and themselves, too. Here are some of some of their images.
First: Memorial Hermann Southeast employees were greeted by dozens of people honking their horns and flashing their lights in appreciation of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last: Protesters at the state Capitol building defied city and state mandates requiring social distancing and face coverings to demand the reopening of the Texas economy.
Annie Mulligan and Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
Food banks in Austin, Waco and El Paso served thousands of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eddie Gaspar, Jordan Vonderhaar and Emily Kinskey for The Texas Tribune
First: Many Houston-area highways were empty as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Last: An H-E-B store in Austin faced a shortage of grocery items as Texans rushed to stock their shelves.
Michael Stravato and Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
First: A sign over U.S. Route 54 in El Paso called for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Last: Ector County Health Department workers narrowed down the numbers of contact exposures at the Ector County Emergency Operations Center in Odessa.
Emily Kinskey and Ben Powell for The Texas Tribune
First: Seventh grade student Tabitha Hawkins, left, and her mother, Tobie, released balloons outside of G.W. Carver Middle School for Principal Phillip Perry, who died from COVID-19 in March. Last: Customers visited La Gran Plaza in Fort Worth on May 1, the first day that shopping malls, restaurants, retail outlets and movie theaters were allowed to reopen.
Angela Piazza and Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune
Many businesses shuttered their doors during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. and Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
Texas health workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. and Eddie Gaspar for The Texas Tribune