Visualization: How spring breakers (probably) spread coronavirus throughout America

The eastern half of America, anyway. Which is where the hot spots are, coincidentally.

This is a few days old but worth watching as a demonstration of why reopening parts of the country while outbreaks are raging in other parts is an invitation to disaster. Unless states are going to start closing their borders to each other, infected people will keep bringing the virus in from outside.


Ron DeSantis has a lot to answer for.

Considering the population of senior citizens in Florida, that state’s governor should have led the way in “overreacting” to the virus. Instead DeSantis has been the picture of complacency, allowing spring break beachgoing to rage on into March and letting most businesses continue operating as usual. Amanda Carpenter dubs him “Ron DeSantis (R-Petri Dish).”

Compared to his fellow governors, DeSantis’s response has been almost carefree, especially given the vast numbers of out-of-state people funneling into Florida this time of year and the severe risks COVID-19 poses to older populations. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that while he was among the early wave of governors to close bars and nightclubs, he was reluctant to close in-person dining at restaurants and gyms. He’s now closed public schools and banned visits to nursing homes, but unlike many other big states that have closed all non-essential services, Florida, by and large, remains open for business…

The governor’s only real effort to limit travel to date has been a half-baked executive order that requires anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14 days. This order is, in theory, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

How is the order being enforced? No one seems to be clamping ankle bracelets on travelers and tracking their movements to make sure they aren’t running to Publix. And it doesn’t apply to anyone driving into the state or traveling by rail, either. (What? The virus doesn’t survive travel by auto or rail? By Jove, we have a cure!)


Other officials are guilty of allowing mass celebrations to go on at moments when the risk of an epidemic was already clear. Scientists suspect that the nightmare unfolding right now in Louisiana, where the rate of deaths per capita in one parish is mind-boggling, is a direct result of letting Mardi Gras proceed as scheduled in late February. But spring break in Florida may have been the latest, and last, mass gathering that was permitted to happen as scheduled despite the fact that it was clear by then that America was about to face a crisis. Even Trump was persuaded to condone widespread lockdowns by that point as an emergency measure to slow down the disease. Not DeSantis.

Some numbers to consider while you reflect on the consequences for Florida’s elderly population:

DeSantis is far from stupid. And he was shrugging at COVID-19 at a moment when Trump was beginning to awaken to it, so I don’t think his complacency was a way to virtue-signal to MAGA Nation. I assume his motive was greed in not wanting to leave tourist money on the table plus some degree of the same denialism all of us have experienced at different points that the outbreak wouldn’t be as bad as feared.

The complacency this week from other southern governors is different. They know the extent of the threat now. They don’t have giant tourist industries dependent upon an inflow of visitors. Their citizens are hurting from the economic downturn, but so are citizens of every other state. People like Tate Reeves in Mississippi and Kay Ivey in Alabama are probably allowing certain businesses to stay open as a pander to Trump fans, to show their support for Trump’s newfound skepticism towards lockdowns no matter what that means for the disease’s spread in their states.


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) doesn’t feel any sense of urgency about implementing a similar order in her state.

“Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California,” she said on Thursday. “Right now is not the time to order people to shelter in place.”

Follow this link and scroll through a series of graphs to see how Alabama stacks up to New York, California, and Louisiana. The raw number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is lower than in those other states. But the spread relative to the size of the population in Alabama is actually higher than it is in New York and much higher than it is in California. The rate of known cases is growing faster than it is in California. And the number of known cases per 100,000 people is higher than it is in California. A key reason why the outbreak in California has moved relatively slowly thus far is because Gavin Newsom and local officials moved aggressively towards lockdowns and school closures early-ish. From the beginning, Fauci has emphasized that speed is everything in taking social distancing action. If you’re governor’s saying “not yet” right now, you’re in trouble.

That’s no small problem in Alabama and Reeves’s home state of Mississippi either. If it’s true that people with some underlying health condition are especially vulnerable to dying from COVID-19 (age, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, obesity, etc), then Alabama and Mississippi are cause for special worry. Per Gallup, they’re both in the highest risk tier of U.S. states. As is DeSantis’s home state of Florida. As is most of the south, in fact. Presumably no southern states will see an outbreak as large as NYC’s, simply by dint of lower population and density, but their outbreaks may be unusually deadly. Just like we’re seeing right now in that Louisiana parish.


Nate Silver looked at all 50 states to see where the numbers of confirmed cases are growing most rapidly. Nine of the top 10 are Trump states:

Of the top 20, 15 are Trump states. The state with the slowest rate of growth? Deep-blue Washington, which started social distancing early after it became the first known hot spot in the U.S. That’s paying off now.

Seriously. This is not the time to be doing MAGA virtue-signaling by reopening businesses:

Hopefully the current social distancing measure will flatten that line. “I would be very reluctant to let up on measures in the nation as a whole,” said the deputy director of the CDC in an interview yesterday, emphasizing that they’re watching “dozens of places” for outbreaks, not just NYC. I’m morbidly curious to see how much accountability there is or isn’t later on for obviously terrible decisions like Ivey’s and Reeves’s once local outbreaks erupt. If Alabama has 20,000 cases at the start of May, how does that play out? Does Ivey get blamed by voters? Can she scapegoat New Yorkers and China instead? Does it depend on whether Alabama’s unemployment rate at that time is higher or lower than the rest of the country’s? Are most voters too sealed off in partisan media of choice to to have access to arguments for and against holding the governor responsible? Coronavirus politics is going to be bitter and ghoulish, but it’s coming.


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David Strom 5:00 PM | May 23, 2024