March 29, 2020

Oh yes, you ARE California….

Coming to you from the satellite office of Simpson, P.C. (read, my home office), here’s today’s rant.

Science denial is nothing new. It’s a grand tradition from imprisoning Galileo forward, and over the years it has become overtly political, even though real science has no regard for party affiliation or position on the political spectrum. The center and moderates of both liberal and conservative persuasions are pretty open to concepts like climate change, the advisability of vaccination, etc. It’s when you get out into the extremes that you start hearing about climate change being an elaborate hoax cooked up by the Chinese. Or NASA. Or “Big Science” looking to reel in all that grant money. Or you start hearing about vaccines causing autism based on that one study that one time by those guys, most of whom have since disavowed it and that the journal that published it has retracted.

With the advent of COVID-19, we’re seeing many local and state governments taking what would have been considered unprecedented measures to halt the spread of the most virulent pandemic the United States and the world have seen in a century. I hope that we succeed in promptly halting its spread, for all of our sakes, but if we don’t, I have a couple nominees for the new face of coronavirus infection–Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Even as Governors–both Democratic and Republican–of other states are taking strong measures to enforce social distancing and otherwise limit the chance for the virus to spread, Gov. Reeves insists he will not issue a “stay at home” order because he will not allow his state to become like China. (He almost certainly won’t. In China, the rate of infection is going down, at least for now. So far, Gov. Reeves only real attempt to shutter a business has been to try to close an abortion clinic.) For her part, Gov. Ivey insists that her state will not issue the same kind of “stay at home” order being instituted in other states because “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York state, we are not California.”

Sorry to break the news to you, Governor, but yes you are. Because a virus doesn’t respect borders or state residency. Being Alabaman doesn’t confer immunity from this disease (though, judging by your election, it might just confer immunity from common sense). And unless you’re completely sealing off your state from the rest of the Union–and I mean stopping ingress and egress; halting all transportation of goods; prohibiting all flights that originate or conclude outside of Alabama; closing all ports; and not allowing so much as a single person to drive, fly, walk, run, crawl, swim, or ride a pogo stick across Alabama’s border with anyone else or even out into the ocean, you might as well be California. That sounds quite a bit more draconian than just telling folks to stay home, doesn’t it? (But, of course, that wouldn’t even make a difference because there are already–as of this writing–over 800 confirmed cases in Alabama.)

The long and short of it is, until this thing is under control–genuinely under control, not wishful-thinking under control–we’re ALL California. We’re ALL New York. We’re ALL Louisiana. Because this virus is already among you. And if you want to avoid the worst of it, you need to be more like California and New York and Louisiana, not less.