Finally eschewing the sentiments of noted not-scientist Donald Trump, Ph.D. (Doctor of Phuckery), some red-state governors are beginning to take the research-informed advice of health experts and issued stay-at-home orders in Southern states already ravaged by the coronavirus. Other governors and legislators, however, are sticking by their dear leader’s advice and are still holding out, despite research showing that the deadly virus is actually worse in their respective states.
When the University of Chicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science COVID Analytics Team used population-adjusted data to map coronavirus outbreaks by county, eight of the top 10 “hot spots” were in Southern states. Using the total number of confirmed cases and then adjusted for population, the team noted the difference between clusters (counties with a high number of cases surrounded by other counties with similar outbreaks) and outliers (areas with a high number of cases but are surrounded by counties that don’t have significant outbreaks).
The top 10 population-adjusted hot spots (and the corresponding counties) are:
- Detroit: Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne
- Atlanta: Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Gordon, Pickens, Polk
- Albany, Ga.: Lee, Terrell, Dougherty, Worth, Sumter
- South Carolina: Darlington, Fairfield, Lancaster, Lee, Richland
- Nashville, Tenn.: Cheatham and Davidson
- Mississippi: Humphreys, Leflore, Sunflower, Tallahatchie
- New Orleans: (Parishes) Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany and Washington
- Little Rock, Ark.: Faulkner, Independence, Stone and Van Buren
- Pine Bluff, Ark.: Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln and Cleveland
- Colorado: Chaffee, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Park, Pitkin, Routt, Summit, Clear Creek and Jefferson
Georgia’s Governor Didn’t Know
Although his state contains two of the top three worst COVID-19 outbreaks in America, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp resisted issuing shelter-at-home orders until Wednesday, when he held a press conference confessing that he just discovered that people with no symptoms could transmit the virus to others.
“What we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now is that if you’ve been feeling bad, stay home,” Kemp explained in a Wednesday press conference reminiscent of his MAGA ally’s fact-free daily media circus. “Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. We didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”
To be fair, Kemp’s expertise is in voter suppression. I confess that I’m not a doctor, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But during my eighth-grade biology class, I was shocked to learn that “feeling bad” wasn’t an effective way to diagnose a viral infection. During my post-graduate work, I also trained in the academically rigorous field of Googling things and recently discovered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a whole website whose “How COVID-19 Spreads” section specifically mentions that “recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.” It is also important to note that the CDC’s headquarters is (pardon me while I switch to all caps) NINE MILES FROM THE GEORGIA GOVERNOR’S MANSION!
Florida’s Governor Was Waiting on Trump
After hosting tens of thousands of students who left his state with a lovely COVID-19 parting gift to share with people around the country, Florida Gov. Ron “Da Racist” DeSantis joined his fellow MAGA governors and finally issued a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, CNN reports.
DeSantis had previously cited Donald Trump as the reason he had refrained from enacting a statewide directive. While he ignored the advice from his own health officials for weeks to support his fellow Republican president, the newly seated governor finally relented after speaking directly to Trump.
No, Trump didn’t ask DeSantis to issue the order. Instead, DeSantis simply used the Brian Kemp medical detection method to determine how Trump felt about the method that scientists and physicians had advocated for nearly a month. DeSantis ordered “all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
“I did speak with the president about it,” DeSantis said during his presser. “He agreed with the approach of focusing on the hot spots but at the same time, you know, he understood that this is another 30-day situation and you gotta just do what makes the most sense.
“When you see the president up there and his demeanor the last couple of days, that’s not necessarily how he always is,” he added.
South Carolina Is Still Waiting
Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster continues to resist issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, despite his state landing a fourth-place spot on the list of hot spots. Legislators and health professionals have begged McMaster to issue the directive, calling the governor’s inaction “dumbfounding” and “frustrating,” according to WIS.
“Grocery stores, Walmarts and home supply stores are more crowded now than ever,” said State Rep. Wendy Brawley (D-Richland County), who represents one of the hard-hit clusters. “The executive order should prohibit all public and private gatherings—social, church, funerals, etc.”
At least 34 employees at one of S.C.’s hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19, The State reports. Still, state lawmakers will return to the legislative chambers on Wednesday and conduct business as usual. Although it sounds crazy, a coronavirus legislative wipeout may be the only way to unseat the state’s Republican stronghold.
Tennessee Is Concerned With Safety, Jesus and Hair
Doctors in Tennessee have organized an online petition that has been signed by more than 15,000 medical professionals and residents asking Gov. Bill Lee to issue stay-at-home orders. But, instead of contradicting his science-denying fellow Republicans, Lee issued a “safer-at-home” order for the entire state.
The declaration for the fifth-hardest hit area is only a suggestion that “strongly urges residents to stay at home,” according to CNN. It also closes businesses that had been allowed to stay open as “essential businesses,” including hair salons, barbershops and spas. However, Lee (who does have a nice head of hair) will allow churches to remain open because...of course.
Lee’s order will last two weeks and not only extends to regular church services but it allows for recreational facilities, real estate agencies and—I swear this is true—any Tennessean who wants to attend a wedding or a funeral.
Mississippi Reverses Reverse
Even though Mississippi was sixth on the list, Gov. Tate Reeves was so adamant about not issuing a stay-at-home order that he reversed a previous order by Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, explaining that he was rejecting “dictator models like China.”
Lumumba’s mandate enacted social distancing policies and ordered Jackson restaurants to close their dining rooms and move to takeout-only and delivery. Reeves immediately announced that he was striking down the measures, giving businesses around the state license to ignore the directives of mayors, police departments and local health officials. However, Reeves did use the coronavirus crisis in a desperate attempt at closing the doors of a business that he deemed non-essential:
The state’s only abortion provider.
Exactly a week later, the Mississippi governor announced a stay-at-home order that mirrored Lumumba’s previous one. Meanwhile, the state’s top health official is refusing to release data on how many ventilators are available in the state, the location of outbreaks or how many tests the state has performed.
Explaining that there is a “delicate balance between anonymity and public information,” state medical officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs sat next to Reeves and refused to release information that is publicly available from other states. For instance, the state will release the county where a positive test occurred but not the healthcare facility. Dobbs and Reeves don’t think the information is that important, while others think the data is very necessary for one reason:
Twenty-two nursing homes in 20 different Mississippi have experienced coronavirus outbreaks.
Alabama Keeps Alabama-ing
Not only is Alabama Republican and noted blackface-wearer Gov. Kay Ivey still refusing to issue a shelter-in-place order, but she explained why she refuses to adhere to science in the most Trumpian way possible: on Twitter.
Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, Ala., has more than 300 of the state’s 1,000 confirmed cases. But Ivey is a Republican and Alabama’s capital city is Montgomery, so Ivey held a Twitter chat on Thursday far away from the 70 percent black city suffering through the deadly outbreak. She looked comfortable as she slurred through questions concerning the crippling outbreak while sidestepping any question that asked why she wanted Alabamians to die. Even the white people were upset.
Anyway, if you live in New York and think you have it bad, at least your governor is doing his best to protect you. Meanwhile, my hometown is one of the top 10 counties on that list and I live in a state (Alabama) that still doesn’t have a shelter-in-place order.
*Barack Obama doesn’t have anything to do with this. It’s just something white people say in the South. Well...They used to say it.
Now they just cough a lot.