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Why is the Deep South still so broken?

in Contributors/David Taub/Voices by

Friends and foes alike recently scolded me that I will not convince folks to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by calling them “stupid.”

Certainly, this is correct. I apologize, and merely say choosing not to get vaccinated is not a smart career move. That is the best non-insulting wise counsel I can offer, in this case.

Born and raised in Texas, I’ve lived in the Deep South more than half my life; four years in North Carolina and 42 years in Beaufort, which I consider my home. The downside of the “recent unpleasantness” manifests itself in ways even the most dedicated Confederates could not have imagined. This stupefies my ability to understand “southern culture.”

Deep within “southern culture” lives the concept of individual freedom and state’s rights. Dedication to that concept, especially in South Carolina, preserved slavery in the Union when the Republic was born. The dedication to “individual freedom” is responsible for the foolish and dangerous argument that not getting vaccinated is a sunshine patriot’s statement of political freedom.

Balderdash, this is a public health issue, period!

Today, South Carolina has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the WORLD (on a pro-rata population basis) and almost 800,000 cases so far; surely something to be ashamed of. Yet, our governor refuses to mandate proven lifesaving measures of vaccination and wearing masks.

COVID-19 gives not a damn if you are White or Black; Democrat, Republican or Independent; young (those most impacted today), or old.

Nationwide, folks 65 years old and older have an 82 percent full-vaccination rate. In striking contrast, eight southern states, plus Texas, have fewer than 50 percent fully vaccinated.

A simple truth is these misguided southern politicians have ruinously failed their duties to protect the health of their state’s citizens. Scandalous numbers of new infections, especially among the young; increasing deaths (more than 1,500 daily); and the overflow of hospitals that prevent doctors from attending to non-COVID-19 life-threatening medical conditions of others, paint an ugly canvas.

Southern governors continue to raise the ante on their efforts to block mask and vaccine mandates, as if it were some kind of nonsensical poker game between them to see who can be the most Draconian. Sitting upon the throne of the highest statewide office, states where COVID-19 infections are highest in the U.S., they seem blind to this catastrophic medical and public health emergency. It is truly unwise for them to actively obstruct their states’ wiser officials, such as school boards, that fight the good fight against a folly resistant to a deserved swift and ignominious death.

Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator, a physician no less, touts Ivermectin, a drug for treating parasites – mostly worms – in farm animals. The FDA, CDC and AMA have sent out desperate warnings about its dangers. Ivermectin is not a therapeutic or prophylactic treatment for COVID-19. A judge recently ruled that doctors can refuse prescribing Ivermectin to patients that request it. The Senator, however, doesn’t encourage his constituents to get vaccinated, even though infections have more than doubled in just the past month.

Ignoring proven safety measures – vaccination and wearing masks – is foolishness of the first order. The FDA predicts that before the end of the year, another 100,000 of our citizens will die needlessly in the absence of wholesale increases in vaccinations and mask-wearing, especially among the younger population. Tennessee has the highest rate of infection among children, and their hospitalization rates exceed previous highs.

In southern states, including Texas, legislatures have passed laws prohibiting school districts from requiring students and teachers to wear masks. In just the past couple of weeks in the Miami area, 13 school staffers have died from COVID-19. Alarming increases in deaths prove these are supremely bad decisions by elected officials. Are these governors allergic to medical science?

World-wide, America has the most COVID-19 deaths, more than 650,000, and counting. It won’t be a “Merry Christmas” if deaths soar to 750,000, as predicted without massive increases in vaccinations. How many unnecessary sacrifices of our kinsmen/women will it take for decision makers to see the light?

I’m outraged. You should be outraged, too.

War against COVID-19 vaccination and wearing masks is not a political game. These proven preventatives are the only verified safeguards against this deadly killer. It has absolutely nothing to do with individual freedom or States’ rights, no matter how often certain people would have us believe that it is.

The failures of these governors and legislators to perform their sworn duties and live up to their moral responsibilities to protect their citizens blossoms here in the South, along with the azaleas. Because of this irrationality, those who live here are the losers.

Some readers may think I am talking politics. They’re dead wrong. And I mean dead. This is about something far more important — the health, safety and well-being of all Americans. Politics be damned. When will they ever learn?

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com.

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