Opinion: Alabama needs shelter-in-place order right now

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Scott Shelton

Sports Editor

In Alabama, we typically use our neighbor to the west, Mississippi, as a scapegoat to make ourselves feel better about the current situations of our state.

But during the current COVID-19 pandemic, even Mississippi is showing better leadership by having a shelter-in-place order to try and flatten the curve of the virus. Alabama has yet to do so.

In fact, every state bordering Alabama has now enacted a shelter-in-place order. There’s no excuse for Alabama not to have one already.

Though Alabama has fewer cases than Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida, our state will continue to see its numbers rise and catch up to its neighbors if it’s not careful.

The state of New York has been called the ground zero of COVID-19 in the United States because it more than triples any other state with more than 80,000 cases. Alabama just recently jumped to more than 1,000 cases.

But that doesn’t mean our state necessarily has low numbers.

According to data last week from Johns Hopkins University, the state of New York saw its COVID-19 cases grow in a seven-day span by about 33%. Cases in Alabama grew by 32%.

Last week, when Gov. Kay Ivey refused to issue a shelter-in-place order, she said we are not California.

She’s right. By some metrics, we’re actually worse than the Golden State.

According to the same data from Johns Hopkins University, Alabama has 10.5 positive COVID-19 tests for every 100,000 residents. About 9.9 of every 100,000 Californians have tested positive for COVID-19.

It seems in the South, especially in Alabama, people are not taking the virus as seriously as they should.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed echoed this sentiment on Wednesday at a news conference.

“Far too many people are endangering themselves and this community,” Reed said.

With the low number of cases right now, it may be hard to fully grasp the severity of the situation with 65 of Alabama’s 67 counties reporting fewer than 100 cases. Only Madison and Jefferson counties, right now, have reached triple digits.

But, we’re still so early in this pandemic, the numbers could keep rising exponentially if we don’t flatten the curve.

“The next 30 days I think are going to be hell for America and hell for Alabama,” said Dr. David Thrasher, who also spoke at the news conference.

I fear that many in Alabama who are currently making jokes about COVID-19 will only take it seriously when it’s too late.

This is a very serious disease spreading at a very high rate. The United States is seeing more than 20,000 confirmed cases per day.

Many states across the country have issued shelter-in-place orders, and unsurprisingly, Alabama will be among the last if we see such an order.

It’s past time for our governor to issue a shelter-in-place in order. If she’s not going to listen to health officials, she should at least listen to her own lieutenant governor, Will Ainsworth.

Ainsworth recently said in a letter to Alabama’s COVID-19 task force that it and the state of Alabama “are not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us.”

The lieutenant governor said Alabama is likely to see “a tsunami of hospital patients,” and health specialists are worried about the state’s ability to handle such a crisis.

 

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