News & Politics

Why Georgia Could Be Blowing the Lockdown Meme Out of the Water

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Georgia was one of the last states to cave to a statewide lockdown. It was also one of the first to start reopening. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp resisted calls to mandate a statewide closure, leaving it to local governments. When reopening was an option after guidelines were published, Kemp ensured that all Georgians would be allowed to participate in the reopening and prohibited local governments from implementing more restrictive guidelines than he did at the state level.

The media freaked out on both ends of the lockdown. They browbeat Kemp until he issued the stay-at-home order. Then they were predicting doom and gloom upon reopening. They paraded vice presidential hopefuls Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms all over cable news to slam Kemp’s handling of the pandemic. Here is Bottoms with one of the dumbest men on television:

Then the state reopened. When the apocalypse didn’t happen, all of a sudden, Georgia fell off the media’s radar. For six weeks, there was no spike in cases. Georgians started to go back to their daily business cautiously and responsibly. So much so, that continuing to talk about Georgia would only have shown that reopening could be done safely.

Dear Media, Governor Kemp Will Accept Your Apology Now

Then, the George Floyd riots happened, and people flocked to Atlanta to cavort in the streets. Almost two weeks, to the day, after the rioting began, Georgia’s confirmed case rates started to rise. This uptick also intersected with mandatory testing to return to work and testing for hospitals when a patient was admitted. Georgia was identifying more cases.

Of course, the media immediately tied this back to the early reopening. This assertion was patently ridiculous, given the incubation period for COVID-19 and the length of time the state had been open. But we all know Peaceful Protestors™ are COVID-19-exempt or something.

Then we were all going to die because Kemp refused to enact a statewide mask mandate. He also made sure that cities and other jurisdictions didn’t require masks either, invalidating local ordinances that attempted to do so. Kemp did not prohibit businesses from doing so. Still, he was not going to allow municipalities to use police power or fines to punish Georgians in some cities, while others were free to exercise personal responsibility.

However, almost as quickly as the media fury kicked up again, it died down. You won’t see Governor Kemp being blasted along with the governors of Texas, Florida, and Arizona. An exciting development, but easily explained. Georgia’s new case rate is falling.

(Georgia Dept. of Public Health)

The media won’t want to publicize this, especially since the state never exceeded the daily death count from eary in the pandemic. Deaths will continue to lag cases, but the highest count was 42 compared 59 in mid-April. This is despite daily cases confirmed during June and July exceeding the numbers early in the pandemic.

What these observations indicate is that Georgia has done an excellent job protecting the vulnerable and has improved treatment for COVID-19. It would also seem that it is quite possible New York’s deliverance from the grip of COVID-19 may have more to do with a low threshold for herd immunity and nothing to do with lockdowns and restrictions.

Researchers have been putting this opinion in the public view. This is based on experience in Stockholm, Sweden, New York City, and other isolated outbreaks such as those on cruise ships. New York City’s experience was no different than Stockholm’s in terms of at what point cases began to decrease. Stockholm never locked down. New York City is still locked down in many ways. Researchers in the U.K. have proposed a herd immunity threshold of 43%.

If Georgia displays a similar pattern without the draconian restrictions in New York City, it will put to rest the need for lockdowns and make a case for a return to mostly normal life. If you go through the wave and protect the vulnerable, a smart and directed reopening is absolutely possible.

Georgia still has a large-crowd ban, but it is not preventing outdoor activities and festivals. Those who wish to mask do, and those who are comfortable not doing so don’t. And no one is getting maced or having hot coffee dumped on them. Many school districts have also returned to in-person instruction in Georgia.

The same trend is starting to emerge in Florida, and cases are declining in Texas. The next two weeks could tell a liberating story for the nation if the media would report it. Of course, they won’t. It would make grandma-killer Cuomo’s management look as terrible as it was. And you might feel optimistic before Election Day. That just can’t happen.

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