There are very few places whiter than Cullman County, Ala.
In the 2020 presidential election, 88.1 percent of Cullman County residents voted for Donald Trump. According to the Cook Political Reporter, the home base of Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District is quite literally the Trumpiest place in America. In a state known for racism and college football, Cullman County was the site of two of Alabama’s most notorious “sundown towns,” including a sign warning visitors: “Nigger Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You in This Town.” In a U.S. Congressional report, “the ‘most violent of today’s KKK groupings,” operated a campsite near Cullman, suspected to be located on the 47-acre property owned by Alabama’s Grand Dragon. To be fair, it was a long time ago...
So, of course, Cullman was the perfect location for Donald Trump and bulletproof vest-wearing insurrection promoter Mo Brooks to hold Wypipo Woodstock to announce Brooks’ run for the U.S. Senate. Singing the hit song “Masks? We don’t need no stinking masks,” an estimated 50,000 MAGAmuffins attended the biggest political rally in the history of the state to enjoy America’s newest viral sensation.
Apparently, they knew the words to all the songs:
Since the Caucasian COVID convention, the anti-mask, anti-vaxxer parents of Cullman have realized that the feeling making their chests swell with pride is actually tiny bits of coronavirus multiplying in their lungs. Now the county is in the throes of the worst spate of COVID cases this year. “An average of 76 cases per day were reported in Cullman County,” the New York Times reports. “A 32 percent increase from the average two weeks ago.”
Because Alabama doesn’t have a robust contact tracing program, it is impossible to directly attribute Cullman County’s spike in COVID cases to Donald Trump. However, Cullman’s 14-day rise in positive cases more than double’s the state’s increase. And, while Alabama’s hospitalization rate has risen by 16 percent in the last two weeks, Cullman County is seeing a 90 percent increase. Still, this can’t be directly tied to Donald Trump. I’m not an expert on healthcare in the area.
“There were people, I can assure you, that said, ‘By golly, I am going to see that Trump rally. I’ve been waiting on this forever.’ I guarantee you there were people that were sick,” said Judy Smith, an actual health expert in the area. Days before the rally, Smith, the administrator of the Alabama Department of Public Health Northern District, told reporters that she was “shivering in her boots” about the prospects of overwhelmed hospitals.
But this story is not about how Trump brought COVID to town. It’s about how the town suddenly reversed course after COVID appeared at the MAGA family reunion. After months of defying state and local health authorities by not requiring masks, the overwhelmingly conservative local school leaders have stepped in to stop the mass sacrifice of Cullman’s youth to the MAGA Jesus. The CDC reports that only 35 percent of Cullman County residents over 12 years old are vaccinated and—as far as masks are concerned—Cullman County Schools officials say they would rather govern by what people believe instead of science.
Two days before MAGApalooza, Cullman County School Superintendent Shane Barnett said schools would leave the mask debate up to individual families, despite the fact that the school had recorded 400 absences by students and staff members. “We’re not requiring masks,” Barnette said in a videotaped statement. “I want that to be a parent’s choice. I think that’s important. For whatever reason, some people believe in masks. Some people don’t, and I’m not here to debate that today.”
Apparently, guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health, the CDC, and every sane doctor on the planet is not as valid as advice from Donald Trump and his coronavirus-breathing cohort...“For whatever reason.”
Then, COVID came to town and suddenly everyone changed their mind.
On Wednesday, Aug. 25—four days after MAGApalooza—the Cullman County Board of Education announced five schools would temporarily transition to remote learning. Explaining that it will institute a mask mandate if COVID forces over 15 percent of the district’s students to miss school, the board noted that “student enrollment absences due to either a positive COVID test, or because they have been identified as a close contact, is reaching one-third.” Two days later, they closed down the County’s Child Development Center.
Meanwhile, in the separate Cullman City School District (CCS), one MAGA maniac filed suit against the district for even suggesting that masks and vaccines work. On Aug. 19, Brian Ogstad filed a petition in the Cullman County Circuit Court asking a judge to prevent the district from “from continuing any advice and promotion” of vaccines, providing vaccines “on Cullman city grounds,” and “the promotion of mask usage through any and all media,” reports CBS42.
It is not quite clear why Ogstad was so concerned, considering the fact that the CCS told parents that they wouldn’t mandate masks. However, after the coronavirus cookout came to town, the school board changed its tune and implemented a mask mandate at two schools. For whatever reason, the board finally realized that COVID was, in fact, not “on par with the seasonal flu,” as MAGA Matlock contends in his lawsuit.
“Where we respect the choice of parents in regards to masks, these preventive steps are necessary to slow the spread of COVID,” the school board explained on its Facebook page. “This mandate will be for two weeks, beginning Monday, August 30th and expiring on Friday, September 10th at the end of the school day.”
Everything will probably be fine after that. Everyone knows this will last only a couple of weeks.
Cullman County schools are 92 percent white and 1 percent Black, while the much more diverse Cullman City School District is only 90 percent white and 1 percent negroid. And if you’re wondering whether Cullman County’s conservative COVIDchella caused an outbreak in adjoining counties, the answer is...probably. Neighboring Winston County and Blount County are whiter, more conservative and more anti-vaccine than Cullman County. In Blount County, only 26 percent of the population aged 12-18 have received one dose of the vaccine. In Winston County, it’s 19 percent.
I know you’re expecting a joke about how COVID is lighting up a Winston or hitting a Blount, but I’m not that kind of person. We should just be thankful that everyone is changing their tune. Apparently, when it comes to the coronavirus...
They don’t want that smoke.