It’s you, not him, who deserves blame for Louisiana’s worst-in-the-nation Wuhan coronavirus pandemic response, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In his latest attempt simultaneously to avoid taking responsibility for and to drag out needlessly the state’s sorry policy reaction to the pandemic, last week Edwards said he would keep in place for at least two weeks proclamations that had reduced the size of gatherings to 50, closed bars even with food service permits (unless they have video poker machines) for anything on premises, and mandated face coverings. At week’s close, Louisiana ranked second in cases per capita (Edwards erroneously claimed the state had the most), ranked fourth in current hospitalizations per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, which held down, respectively, first, first, and eighth places, rivals Louisiana in pandemic severity at this time.
The reason, said Edwards, is you. Enough of you don’t wear your masks enough to let the state register improved metrics and then move towards more economic openness. And maybe those nasty Republicans had something to do with it, one of his functionaries last month charged, saying that Edwards had resisted imposing this kind of restriction previously because of “political considerations.” Mainly GOP politicians have led the public fight against a heavy-handed state response that included a mask mandate.
If so, that merely tells us that Edwards is a weak leader who didn’t have the courage of his convictions to do what he thought right. Never mind, of course, that the face covering mandate allows for a large portion of ineffective instruments that won’t do much to stop transmission, although even largely ineffective is better than entirely ineffective. Or that by far physical distancing reduces transmission which the order addresses only indirectly with the capacity limit and selective closures. Too much attention to the former as a prophylactic and not enough to the second is why since the latest Edwards proclamation went into effect three weeks ago Louisiana’s metrics have decreased only slightly.
And the same Edwards who at one point said the state “can’t enforce our way” to compliance in desperation seems to have moved past that. Last week, state authorities busted several bars for violating the mandate, which Edwards has justified by noting that the state had traced 464 confirmed coronavirus infections to 41 bars. Never mind that by the beginning of last month over 7,900 cases had appeared in nursing homes causing over 1,300 deaths, with the numbers still rising. That carnage got kickstarted when Edwards responded too slowly at the beginning of the pandemic, waiting over two weeks after Mardi Gras (as Carnival acted as a virus accelerant obvious even then) to act and, specifically to nursing homes, delayed for days after the first presumptive positive case to commence restricting access to nursing home residents.
When a case under study scores far outside the norm, there have to be reasons, and some blame potentially attached to that. Louisianans probably are an independent lot who more than most in general don’t like to be ordered to cover nose and mouth in public and to stay adequately away from others. Louisianans, largely because of dietary choices and refusal to engage in adequate physical activity that makes one in three of them obese, collectively have the worst health over time in the country, which makes them more susceptible to the virus.
But policy matters, and almost no elected policy-maker in Louisiana has had input into the pandemic response other than Edwards. The main reason Louisiana has suffered the most from the virus, despite his protestations otherwise, comes from decisions made by the adult male residing at 1001 Capitol Access Road, Baton Rouge.