Tuesday Reads: Governors DeSantis and Abbott Are Killing Their Citizens.Posted: August 10, 2021
Right now the Southern states are experiencing the kind of surges that hit us in the Northeast at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately these states are dealing with the Delta variant, which spreads much more easily than the early versions of the virus. That’s bad enough, but many Republican governors are making it worse by fighting against simple mitigation strategies that can protect their citizens.
Dakinikat sent me this article from Yahoo News: Southern Hospitals, Crushed By Delta Strain, Report Running Out Of ICU Beds.
Hospitals across the southern United States are reporting dramatic surges in coronavirus patients, forcing some to close their emergency rooms and others to treat more patients than they have capacity for as the delta variant of the virus continues to wreak havoc on regions with large swaths of unvaccinated residents.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday said the state had “very startling” figures showing the largest, single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He said state hospitals had just eight beds in the ICU left for severely ill patients.
In Louisiana, an epicenter of the current wave, hospitalizations were climbing at the fastest rate since the pandemic started. Last week, the head of the state’s largest hospital described recent weeks as the “darkest” thus far, saying doctors were no longer able to provide patients adequate care under a crush in admissions.
“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, who runs the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, said last Monday.
O’Neal added later that week that dozens of children and young adults were now in the hospital, a reality that’s new under the delta variant. Half of the 12 children admitted were under the age of 2, The Advocate reported.
At least Louisiana has a Democratic Governor–Jon Bel Edwards–who actually cares about the situation. Not so in Florida and Texas, where Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott seem determined to kill as many of their citizens as possible.
Florida reported similar circumstances, with many hospitals over capacity. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 43% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, prompting complex logistical issues as hospital workers race to find space for a tide of sick residents.
And in Texas several hospitals said they were closing their emergency rooms due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, directing patients elsewhere.
The delta variant has upended the country’s reopening plans, prompting cities and states nationwide to reinstate social distancing measures and mask mandates that were relaxed just months ago and meant to usher in an era of relative freedom. Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in every state in the U.S. and hit the highest levels this week since February, averaging more than 100,000 a day.
Many of the states with the biggest outbreaks have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates and are led by Republican governors and legislatures that have made it much more difficult to protect their citizens. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has banned vaccine passports and mask mandates for some businesses and schools. Arkansas’ Hutchinson said he made an error when he barred new mask mandates in April, and Texas’ Greg Abbott (R) has faced revolt from some school districts who have threatened to sue over his order to ban mask mandates.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: Kids are the victims of new GOP bid to politicize the pandemic.
America is being forced yet again to learn the same, repetitive lesson of the pandemic: Fighting a raging, evolving virus with cynicism-laced politics rather than medical data only leads to the same result – a prolonged national nightmare.
School kids are the latest victims as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, prioritize ideology over public health guidance. The governors are clashing with local officials who are resisting their orders banning school mask mandates, which appear to directly contradict traditional conservative resistance to distant, centralized power.
The Delta variant of Covid-19 is challenging the long-held belief that children don’t get hit hard by the coronavirus. The American Association of Pediatrics reported last week that the US had an 84% increase in new Covid-19 cases among children from July 22 to 29, and Dr. Aileen Marty – an infectious disease expert at Florida International University – told CNN last week that children’s hospitals in the Sunshine State are “completely overwhelmed.”
As the Delta variant scythes across the country – especially less-vaccinated Republican states – there are increasing signs that leaders like DeSantis and Abbott have locked themselves into absolutist positions that they will be unable to water down without sustaining serious personal and political damage. But the price for their path is more sickness and death in crowded Covid-19 units among people they were elected to serve.
“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Monday. “Politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.” [….]
The irony is that by resisting similar measures, these Republicans have proved true warnings by federal health officials that the Delta variant represents a grave threat. Now the same dynamic may play out again, as they ignore CDC advice that all kids in schools should wear masks.
Both governors enjoy strong support in conservative media. DeSantis was recently celebrated by right-wing pundits for his handling of the pandemic and is seen as a possible alternative nominee in 2024 if ex-President Donald Trump decides not to run again. ThSo their refusal to change course as conditions worsen only bolsters the impression that those who want a political future in the GOP must now demonstrate their contempt for common-sense health measures, just as surely as they must repeatedly prove their devotion to Trump.
There’s much more at the CNN link.
Both Abbott and DeSantis have ordered school districts not to require masks; some school officials are resisting. DeSantis is even threatening to defund schools that require masks. CNN: Florida governor’s office says state could withhold salaries of officials who enact school mask mandates.
In a move that escalated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight over mask mandates, the governor’s office said Monday that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.
Last month DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules based on parents’ rights to make the health care decisions for their children who are students. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.
Several school districts are considering mask mandates and a few have said masks will be required, with some opt-out exceptions.
A statement from the governor’s office on Monday says the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”
His spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, pinned a tweet Monday that reads: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”
It’s close, but I’d have to say DeSantis is the worst. How bad is Covid in Florida? Newsweek: Florida’s COVID Death Rate Is More Than 32 States Combined.
According to a COVID tracker created by The New York Times, Florida is currently recording a seven-day average of 122.1 deaths in the state from the virus, a figure larger than 32 other states combined.
Florida’s figure is also more than double that of the second most affected state, Texas, which is currently recording a seven-day average of 57.6, closely followed by California with around 42 people dying every day.
Louisiana and Missouri have also been badly affected, with average death rates of 33.4 and 25.1 each, while Maine and Vermont are faring the best, reporting figures of 0.1 and 0.3 respectively.
Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year.
In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase.
Cases among children are surging too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.
Public health experts and pediatricians said last fall that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to start classes in-person was the amount of viral spread in the community at large. With cases so much higher than last year, districts are going against those recommendations by welcoming students to campus and limiting online learning options. Those moves follow instructions from the state government, which also prohibited schools from requiring masks for all children.
Over the seven days prior to last Friday’s state report, Florida saw 13,596 cases among children under 12, and 13,858 cases among ages 12 to 19.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: When it comes to the new coronavirus surge, Florida is an obvious outlier.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in his state amid dire warnings while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the increasingly hardline Republican.
Abbott’s request came on Monday as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their coronavirus patient overflow.
Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.
The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.
The Republican governor has directed the Texas department of state health services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources.
He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.
As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.
The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.
The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.
It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.
“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”
Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.
CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.
I feel for the citizens of Texas and Florida–especially the young children, who are at the mercy of their parents’ political ideologies as they return to school. This is completely insane!
That’s my rant for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay safe and healthy wherever you live.