This is from Politico, highlighting the dire situation unfolding in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, which right now has the highest per capita coronavirus infection rate in the nation.
Frantic local officials instituted an overnight curfew just this week and are begging residents to stay home. But in largely rural Southern states like Louisiana — where social distancing has been spotty, widespread testing is unavailable and hospitals are poorer and farther apart — the response may be coming too late to avoid a public health crisis as bad as the one now engulfing New York.
There are no hospitals in St. John’s Parish. None. And many neighboring parishes have no ICU beds. With 322 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 22 deaths, the Parish and its surrounding regions have already filled nearly three-quarters of available ICU beds.
But it is not alone. As Politico reports, “[T]he states that many experts are most concerned with are the ones that have been slow to clamp down on travel and nonessential businesses.”
Those are disproportionately the states in the South.
The virus is also poised to consume the area around Norfolk, Va., a rural county in Tennessee just north of Nashville and parts of southwest Georgia near Albany, according to models assembled by Columbia University epidemiologists. And without the resources of major cities, these areas are poised to see disproportionate suffering, economic hardship and death when cases peak.
Georgia is becoming a textbook example, even as its Governor inexplicably orders beaches to stay open under penalty of fine or imprisonment.
Dougherty County, Ga., home to Albany, has about 90,000 people and more than 500 cases and 30 deaths, according to the state health department. Lee County, just to the north, has 115 cases and eight deaths in a population of 30,000. The state, where Gov. Brian Kemp issued a stay-at-home order on Wednesday, well after many other states, isn’t expected to see a peak for another three weeks, according to the University of Washington model.
In the wake of this tragedy there are going to be fingers pointed in every direction. But the ultimate conclusion is going to be inescapable.
President Donald Trump last month suggested that red, primarily rural areas where he enjoys some of his strongest support have largely avoided the pandemic because they’ve had better local leadership than states on both coasts that were slammed early and hard by the virus.
Trump opined these red states should be allowed to return to work sooner than the rest of the country.
But public health experts say they’re most worried about those very areas. Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas do not have statewide stay-at-home orders. Florida and Mississippi enacted one only this week. That puts those states in the virus’ crosshairs, said Nirav Shah, a senior scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center.
Some tragedies are beyond the capacity of human beings to predict, or to protect against.
This was not one of them.