The debate over re-opening the state continues to rage, despite pretty clear evidence of what will happen. When other states decided they were going to open, critics in North Carolina complained that Roy Cooper was leaving us behind and costing us revenue and jobs by opening too slowly. Experts, though, warned that re-opening economies too soon would cause spikes in cases and deaths.
That was back in May. Two months later, the experts were proven right. In Texas, Florida and Arizona, in particular, cases of COVID-19 are overwhelming hospitals and deaths across the country are close to 1,000 per day again. Our neighbors, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee are all faring worse than we are. North Carolina is seeing spikes, particularly around areas near the South Carolina border, but we are doing better than many states.
In the conservative press, though, North Carolina is on the brink of an economic collapse. The threat to businesses is far greater than the threat of the virus. Cooper is to blame for the loss of jobs and revenue, not coronavirus. In reading between the lines, they believe that the virus is as much hype as menace. To hear them tell it, the only people who are really at risk are old people on the brink of death. The rest of us can weather the storm, so we should open up everything while isolating nursing homes.
The problem with the conservative narrative is that they have been wrong about almost everything and they’ve yet to cast blame where it’s most deserved—with the White House. They screamed that fear of the virus was overblown. They didn’t believe deaths would top 100,000 total and that estimates of more than 250,000 over the next few years was widely overblown. Now, that deaths have reached almost 140,000 and are starting to climb quickly again, they are telling us it’s only old people with serious conditions that are affected.
In reality, the main “comorbidity,” a term conservatives are wearing out, is being over 65. People with no obvious problems are dying from the disease. Some younger people are dying, including four children in Florida. We’re just learning about the long-term health effects. Increasingly, people are finding themselves with symptoms months after the virus first strikes. And now studies show that immunity might only last months, making the GOP dream of herd immunity another fantasy.
The biggest failure of conservatives, though, is casting blame in the wrong places. When the country shut down in late March, the goal was to flatten the curve and develop a national approach to containing the virus, including widespread testing and tracing. That White House failed. Instead, Trump told us it would go away, or summer would halt the spread. Nobody in conservative media thought to contradict him. Instead, they screamed about re-opening. As we learned more about how the disease spread, public health experts urged us to wear masks, but Donald Trump and Fox News folks pushed back calling mandates un-American and saying that the country was taking a federalist approach to containing the virus, a strategy that proved to be another failure.
The United States has failed miserably to contain the virus or limit its impact. Cooper and other Democrats want to follow what has worked in other countries around the world. Republicans want to do something else, though what is not exactly clear. So far, Republican policies are responsible for an elevated number of cases and deaths. It’s only going to get worse.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >