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Opinion | Alabama flying blind into “reopening” thanks to Trump’s failures


Where are the tests? 

Save your rhetoric. Save your excuses. Save your ridiculous blaming of some other country. 

And tell us where the tests are. 

Because we were supposed to have them long ago. Enough tests for “anyone that needs a test gets a test.” 

Remember that whopper from the reality-show-racist y’all decided to let run the free world? Trump told that outrageous lie while standing inside the Centers for Disease Control on March 6. 

That was 45 days ago. 

And still, in the state of Alabama, you have to jump through a variety of hoops to get tested at most testing locations. And once you do, except for a handful of select spots, you’ll be waiting up to a week to get your results back. 

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Alabama’s population is nearly 5 million. 

We’ve tested, as of Sunday night, less than 50,000. 

That’s less than 1 percent. 

There are large portions of this state where testing is almost non-existent, and where we know that unreported cases are much higher than reported. We don’t think it, we know it. 

If you doubt this, let me tell you the story of Cleburne County. That small county in northeast Alabama borders the Georgia counties of Haralson and Carroll. 

To date in Cleburne, a county of 15,000 people, just 50 people — that’s right, FIFTY! — have been tested for COVID-19. 

There are 12 confirmed cases out of those 50 tests and one person has died from coronavirus in that county. 

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Just across the state line in Georgia, the neighboring counties of Haralson and Carroll have reported more than 300 confirmed cases. The majority of those are in Carroll County, which has one of the higher infection rates (231.1 per 100,000 people) in Georgia.

Further south, Henry County has tested only 111 people. It borders the Georgia county of Early, which had the nation’s fourth-highest coronavirus infection rate at 1,639 per 100,000 people. 

So, either this virus has tremendous respect for the imaginary lines of state borders, or the infection rates are only lower in Alabama because we haven’t tested well enough. 

I think we know the answer. 

And maybe this information void wouldn’t be quite so harmful or important if we weren’t using it to suggest “reopening” the state’s economy. 

At a press conference on Friday, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth presented the recommendations of the Small Business Commission — which must be approved by Gov. Kay Ivey — for easing back restrictions on the state. 

The suggestions ranged from reasonable to oh-my-God-people-are-gonna-die-in-the-streets insane. 

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For example, Ainsworth recommended reopening most retail businesses but keeping in place the same 50-percent restrictions that currently govern capacity at big-box stores. That’s reasonable. After all, why should Lowe’s be open but your local hardware store be closed? 

On the other hand, the committee also recommended allowing youth sports to resume. Because if there’s one thing that always occurs among 8-year-olds in a baseball dugout, it’s a strict 6-foot area of personal space. 

Those kids will spread the virus faster than … well, faster than kids that age normally spread every kind of seasonal illness to each other and eventually to everyone else in the family. 

So, kids, you can play baseball, but understand it means that you might kill mamaw and pop-pop. 

At the heart of the overly aggressive timetable for the recommendations — the committee wants to open most businesses, including restaurants, immediately — was the persistent message that growth rates in Alabama have slowed. That the rates of infection have leveled off and that we’re making progress. 

And maybe that’s true. 

But we sure as hell don’t know it to be true. Not with less than 1 percent of the state tested. Not with nine counties where less than 100 people have been tested. 

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To date, every doctor and every scientist who has studied this virus and tracked it as it has spread have said the same things about easing back restrictions: The only way to safely do so is through mass testing and contact tracing for quarantine. 

That’s the only way to prevent it from spreading like wildfire. Again.

And we can’t do it. 

We lack both the testing capacity and the manpower to properly trace. 

We lack the first one because the Trump administration is an incompetent band of yes-men flunkies who you wouldn’t trust to watch your dog overnight. If we had 50 percent of what the president promised at this point, we could probably safely reopen. But we have less than 10 percent.

We lack the manpower in Alabama because a decade of austerity rule by the ALGOP has left the Department of Public Health with a skeleton staff — cut from more than 6,000 in 2010 to just more than 1,000 today. Currently, ADPH is trying to hire and train workers to do the tracing, but that isn’t exactly a quick job. 

But we’re going to push forward anyway. Because the Republican president says we should. And when it comes to advice on science stuff, the political affiliation of the person providing the advice is most important. 

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Even if that guy has done nothing but lie to you from the start.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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