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Opinion | Ivey sends the wrong message at the wrong time on in-person learning

“Ivey came with a message to get back in there and try harder — as if more trying is what our schools and teachers are lacking.”

Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a press conference.

Over the course of the last several days, my Facebook feed has been filled with posts expressing sadness, anger and dismay over the passing of two beloved Montgomery Public Schools assistant principals and three more school system employees.

According to posts by their family members and friends and interviews with several, all passed away from the COVID-19 virus.

Another MPS administrator was in an ICU unit in Montgomery, according to a coworker. Several others are struggling with the virus.

None of this is uncommon in the state right now, where COVID infections are spreading like wildfire in a strong breeze. On Tuesday, there was yet another record-setting day of positive cases and hospitalizations. And hospital officials said there are currently zero ICU beds in Mobile.

So, it was a bit surprising, with all of that distressing news rolling in, to also receive an email from Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday afternoon, passing along a press release in which she encouraged all schools to open for in-person instruction in 2021.

This came on the heels of her declaration a couple of weeks ago that she would not be ordering future business closings due to coronavirus cases increasing. Just a blanket statement that no matter how bad things get, and no matter how effective Ivey’s previous shutdown order was, there would be no more shutdowns.

It’s as if there was only so much rational thought and science/math-based decision making that could be condoned within the Alabama governor’s office and Ivey used up her allotment by the end of October.

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Nothing else makes sense — not if you understand how numbers work.

We’re in far worse shape now than we were when the original shutdown order was issued by Ivey last spring. Our doctors and health professionals and frontline workers are screaming out warnings, and hospital administrators are again warning that bed capacity is nearing critical shortages.

And public health experts think we’re only on the fringe of a coming “tidal wave,” spurred by Thanksgiving gatherings last week. Not to mention we’re coming up on the Christmas party season. And we’re still months away from the widespread distribution of a vaccine.

If something doesn’t change, a whole lot of people are going to die. A whole lot more will suffer through hospitalization and undetermined long term issues.

These are not secrets. And there’s no chance that Ivey and others around the state aren’t getting these messages from doctors and scientists.

But politics.

Ivey governs a state that is dominated by right-wing voters who have bought hook, line and sinker into the Trump fantasyland extravaganza and conspiracy carnival. The majority of voters in this state, and an overwhelming majority of voters in Ivey’s party, believe Trump won in a landslide, that masks are tyranny, and shutdown orders are impeachable offenses.

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Hell, Ivey’s own Legislature, dominated by her party, is seeking to strip her power to issue shutdown orders and other emergency health orders.

There is almost no political upside for Ivey in issuing another shutdown order or even mildly expanding the order that’s currently in place.

There’s also this little problem: If Ivey issues another shutdown order, it is an acknowledgment that the first order was effective — and it was, as every chart of infections and hospitalizations will show — and that we squandered the time that shutdown bought us.

If you’ll recall, we didn’t just close businesses and sit home for a few weeks because it was going to eradicate the virus. We did it so hospitals could catch up and we could implement national and state-level strategies for combating the virus on many fronts.

The hospitals caught up. Nothing else happened.

We don’t have a testing and tracing plan on any level. We don’t have a national mask ordinance. We don’t have a comprehensive spending package that provides a lifeline to families and businesses. We can’t even figure out in Alabama how to spend the damn money the feds gave us.

And our schools … sweet Lord Jesus … our schools.

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It is pathetic the protective equipment and cleaning supplies our school teachers have been provided. It is nearly criminal the danger we have put some of them in, as evidenced by the deaths and illnesses we’ve seen. And it should be a national outrage the work hours and commitment we’ve demanded of them, while we sat on a billion dollars that could have made their lives exponentially better.

We had opportunities to be safer, but those opportunities (including one that Ivey, to her credit, pushed for) were lost in the usual, ignorant bickering and ego-stroking.

But with all of that going on, and with districts and schools just trying their best to get by and do what they can to serve students, here’s Ivey with a message to get back in there and try harder. As if more trying is what our schools and teachers are lacking.

But that’s actually fairly fitting for the way Republican leaders at the state and national levels have handled this virus: do the bare minimum, shame working people for their fears, worry about the money first.

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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