So what now, Kay Ivey? On Tuesday, as reported by APR‘s Eddie Burkhalter, the White House’s COVID Task Force report on Alabama told everyone what we already knew: the coronavirus is spreading faster in this state than a conspiracy theory on Facebook.
“Alabama continues to have significant community spread that is not being adequately mitigated,” the report stated. It also noted sharp increases in cases and positivity rates, along with increased deaths and hospitalizations.
And then there was this doozy of a line: “This surge is the most rapid increase in cases; the widest spread of intense transmission … and the longest duration of rapid increase, now entering its eighth week, that we have experienced.”
The report also notes that despite this surge being greater than the surge in the spring, many states — Alabama included — are not implementing similar mitigation efforts, such as limiting indoor dining and capping capacity of stores and other public areas.
“That must happen now,” the report almost begs.
Those horrifying statistics and dire warnings from Trump’s task force come just a couple of weeks after our governor vowed on Twitter to not issue another shutdown order and “keep Alabama open for business.” It also comes just a week after Ivey publicly pressured school systems in the state to hold in-person classes in 2021, regardless of the COVID situation.
And so now, Ivey finds herself in a bit of a pickle.
Does she heed the advice from the very Republican White House, impose new restrictions on businesses and limit the death and illness that will surely come from not doing so? Or does she honor her pledge to the business leaders of Alabama, turn a blind eye to the death and destruction and pretend that the economy is more important than human life?
To be absolutely fair to Ivey, she has been relatively sane throughout this pandemic. As the bat-guano crazy governors of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi have resisted mask orders and bailed on shutdowns, Ivey has stuck to her guns and mostly listened to the advice of the doctors and scientists.
But at the same time, there seems to be a growing resistance within the Ivey administration to continuing down this path of sanity and common sense. Whether that’s due to future political considerations — and God knows no one has ever won a Republican primary by being sane and level-headed — or she’s simply tiring of the constant barrage of idiocy from the anti-maskers/anti-lockdowners/anti-truthers, it’s hard to say.
Nevertheless, here we are. We have a bonafide emergency on our hands, and the governor has tied hers behind her back.
Making things even worse is the fact that Ivey’s recent mask order expires on Friday, and she has to do something. Soon.
So, here’s a piece of advice for the governor: Do the right thing.
I don’t have to spell that out for you. We both know what it is. And if you don’t do it, you’ll live the rest of your life regretting it. And I suspect that history will also be unkind.
Because what’s happening right now in America, and especially in Alabama, is not a political conundrum. It is not a problem to be workshopped and spun by a PR team. It is not an issue that will be lost among the next big news story next week.
This virus is a legacy issue.
And not just your legacy.
There are entire families of Alabamians that have been wiped out by this virus. There likely isn’t anyone in this state who doesn’t know someone who died of this virus. And we’re running at rates right now that will start overwhelming hospitals and causing deaths from other treatable ailments because the doctors and nurses were too consumed by COVID.
But there is a tiny sliver of good news in this: you don’t have to issue an order as broad as the one in the spring. We’ve learned quite a bit since then. We know significantly more about this virus and its spread.
The keys are avoiding large, indoor crowds for an extended period, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.
There are ways to coerce all of those without closing a single business.
Look, it’s a shame that 10 months into this pandemic we’re still forced to make people do basic things to keep from dying or killing their family members. But let’s be honest, if self-preservation were an Alabama strong suit, we wouldn’t have a Republican-dominated state government.
Fair or not, these are your constituents, and you have to save them from themselves. They’ll fight you tooth and nail, call you terrible names and probably try to run you out of the state. All while you’re trying to help them.
I’ll know exactly how you feel.