The New York Times has published a map based on cell phone tracking data that shows how different regions compare in terms of the daily distance traveled during this period of people being asked to stay at home as much as possible. The overall average has dropped from five miles per day to less than a mile a day, which is a huge drop. But the drop has not been uniform. At a casual glance it looks like the southern regions have people traveling more.
Kevin Drum argues that this is a Trump/Fox News effect because those are the regions more likely to watch Fox News and believe Trump and both of them for a long time declined to take the pandemic seriously and dismissed as conspiracists, hoaxers, or alarmists all those who argued early on for social distancing. Fox News viewers are still more likely to say that the danger of the pandemic is being exaggerated.
But it is risky to place responsibility on one factor based on one piece of data that has been collected in such a crude manner. There may be other factors at play. The people in those regions may be those who do not have the luxury of working at home and thus had to travel to work or they live in rural areas where just going to the grocery stores requires a bit of a trip
But there is no possible exculpatory reason for the governor of Georgia, who only two days agao issued the kinds of restricted movement guidelines that other parts of the nation have had for weeks. He said that it was only now that he learned that people not showing symptoms of Covid could be carriers of the virus. Where has he been all this time? Does he not follow the news where this particular point has been a major topic of discussion? He has been slammed for his ignorance and inaction that put the lives of the people in his state at greater risk.
Meanwhile, the craft company Hobby Lobby has ordered its stores to stay open. This is a private company that has religious owners who want to impose those religious values of its employees and the US Supreme Court helped nurture that feeling when in 2014 it ruled that it did not have to comply with the Obamacare mandate that contraception be covered in the health insurance policies offered to its employees. Officials even in Republican-controlled conservative states have expressed dismay at the company’s recklessness and sent cease-and-desist letters.
In Texas, home to 108 Hobby Lobby stores as of last month, the retailer on Thursday continued to welcome customers into its stores despite Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordering Texans to stay home. Calls to two stores in Houston found them to be open as usual, with another one, in Garland, a Dallas suburb, also open.
But that changed Thursday night, with a Hobby Lobby in Dallas closed abruptly by county sheriff’s deputies after Jenkins called out the retailer, reports CBS Dallas / Fort Worth. Other Hobby Lobby stores were also closed in the Dallas metro area, including one in Garland, where workers were told their store would be shuttered until April 30 or further notice, according to Andrea Freidberg, who has worked at the location for three years.
Meanwhile, remember the Cliven Bundy family and its followers? The armed people who took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon to protest the fact that its use was under the jurisdiction of the federal government and did not allow anyone to run all over it with off-road vehicles and the like? Well one son Ammon Bundy has encouraged people to defy the stay-at-home orders and pledged that his band of followers will defend anyone who chooses to violate Idaho’s Covid-19 rules.
“The right to travel is not theirs to take,” Bundy announced to the crowd. “The right to assemble is not theirs to take. The right to worship how and when and where we want is not theirs to take.”
If a business owner decides to keep their business open in violation of the state order, Bundy said, he would organize a group to “surround them and protect them.”
In addition to legal and political advocacy, he said, “we will also, if necessary, provide a physical defense for you so that you can continue in your rights.”
Bundy seems to think that the First Amendment also has a clause guaranteeing the right to act stupidly.
The apex of stupidity is of course always Trump. This article describes his trail of ignoring information and issuing breezily optimistic statements when he should have been sounding the alarm and taking action. He still has refused to issue a national stay-at-home recommendation, thus allowing denialists like the Florida and Georgia governors to not take such a step until a couple of days ago. Trump’s reasoning (if we can even apply that word to whatever his mind does) is that different parts of the country require different responses and some have little or no infections. But isn’t that the point? If some regions are fortunate to not have a problem at the moment, don’t we want to keep it that way by instituting these restrictions? Surely trying to clamp down after an outbreak is much harder than preventing it in the first place?