Tennessee GOP Gov. Bill Lee Just Can't Figure Out Why State Being So Stupid About COVID-19
Christmas is this Friday, and COVID-19 has left a lump of coal in everyone's stocking. People will need to stay home, avoid travel, and not gather in large groups. If this advice sounds familiar, it's because medical experts made a similar plea before Thanksgiving and everyone pretended they actually liked that holiday and their annoying families. Now, we are witnessing the surge doctors predicted.
More than 47,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19 since Thanksgiving, and last Wednesday, there were a reported 3,448 deaths, a horrifying new record. The coronavirus is currently the leading cause of death this month.
"I don't think we've seen the full brunt of what happened during Thanksgiving yet. I think we're beginning to, but it's probably going to continue for some time," Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider.
Americans don't treat doctors with the blind reverence they reserve for the police, probably because doctors take an oath against killing people. This means Republicans are free to pick fights with doctors. Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan has implied Dr. Anthony Fauci is a Grinch who wants to steal Christmas because he's begging people stay put over the holidays.
On the day after Thanksgiving, a truly black Friday in retrospect, Jordan boasted that the left's attempt to cancel turkey day had failed. Hooray for Jordan. Now there aren't enough hospital beds to go around.
In Tennessee, COVID-19 cases have surged 94 percent in the past 14 days. The state has averaged more than 9,000 new cases a day over the past week. GOP Governor Bill Lee and his wife, Maria, released a video prior to the holiday stating that their own Thanksgiving traditions would change for "the first time in decades," but he didn't exactly urge Tennesseans to follow their example. He did say they'd spend Thanksgiving in “prayer for you, and your family, and your health." Maybe they just watched a lot of football instead. Or maybe, to loosely paraphrase, faith without works is a bunch of crap.
Thursday, Lee expressed his shock that Tennesseans ignored his vague remarks and did whatever the fuck they wanted.
"Tennesseans and the decisions of some over Thanksgiving to ignore advice and to meet anyway resulted in cases that we did not, we couldn't have imagined the case rise that quickly or we certainly didn't want to imagine that. Those are decisions that people have made in their homes with one another that could've been made otherwise," Governor Lee said.
Lee didn't directly offer any useful advice and failed to amplify the medical professionals who warned that this would happen. The week before Thanksgiving, Tennessee doctors stressed that safe, while admittedly difficult choices over the holiday could save lives.
"The doctors up there, the nurses are exhausted. We've been doing this for a long time," [Vanderbilt critical care Dr. Matt] Semler shared. Also adding, "In the ICU right now, we have a college student, we have a 40-year-old who got COVID at the gym, multiple family members of our hospital's nurses, all critically ill from COVID-19. We don't know which of them will be around next year for Thanksgiving."
The doctors also pushed for a statewide mask mandate, which Lee has resisted because he's fucked in the head. There really is no other explanation.
"No mandate, no restriction, no shutdown is going to stop that kind of behavior," Governor Lee insisted Thursday. "Tennesseans will stop that kind of behavior. To the degree that they say this urgency that's happening in our state, we believe that they will."
Let's travel back to the distant past of July when Lee signed a wide-ranging abortion ban, one of the most restrictive in the nation. He obviously believes the government can't just rely on hippy-dippy thoughts and prayers to prevent women from making choices he doesn't like.
"It's our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community," the governor said as he signed the measure from inside his office. "With the signature of this bill, Tennessee is one of the most pro-life states in America."
high quality GIF Giphy
Tennessee's abortion law requires that doctors — for cruelty and giggles -- “allow the woman to hear the fetal heartbeat and explain the location of the unborn child within the uterus" and “conduct an ultrasound and display the images to the mother." Perhaps in addition to a statewide mask mandate, Lee could also require that Tennesseans watch videos of overwhelmed doctors treating the flood of sick and dying COVID-19 patients.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).