From The Center Square:
Southern states outperforming northern states amid COVID-19
(The Center Square) – Spent the past week on the road, which was a refreshing change from the moribund, COVID-locked life to which I have acquiesced in Chicago and its suburbs.
I traveled to and then through South Carolina, Georgia and Florida – where the sun shined and where there hadn’t been 10-plus inches of mature snow on the ground.
The birds are chirping behind me as I write this. Geese are jockeying for position in a pond.
A blue heron is standing as still as a statue on the other side of the water. Probably safe to guess that there is no alligator in the area. The air is filled with natural sounds that I had forgotten about – aside from the sound of a mower whirring somewhere off in the distance. But that’s a sound I haven’t heard for nearly five months, and it’s welcomed
Life here was different – certainly different from where I live in northern Illinois.
The southeast is far more free and noticeably more open.
Shops are operating.
People are walking around, living life.
Some wear masks. Some don’t.
From what I witnessed over the past week, pretty much wherever I went, people were respectful of others, maintaining reasonable safe distance whether they wore a mask or didn’t.
Per the Mayo Clinic’s data tracking, only 17 people per 100,000 in the county where I stayed, Camden County, had COVID-19 as of Friday. Check that against your local data when you get a chance.
The schools here have been opened since the first week of August. The local high school has operated in-person learning continuously since the 2020-21 school year began.
While in South Carolina, prior to driving to Georgia, I watched the school board meeting hosted by my local elementary district [Cary] back home in Illinois.
For nearly 30 minutes, mom after dad after mom after dad came to the lectern and throttled the board.
In my district (one of more than 850 independently operated local school districts in Illinois), the kids have attended classes fewer than 10 total in-person days since the second week of March 2020.
The tension was palpable.
The vitriol was genuine – the product of pent-up frustration with a district’s administration that followed “the science and data” that it has still yet to make a move toward reopening our schools.
The pains of this were articulated by parents who described their children having become turned off after months of Zoom-based learning.
One mom said that her twins cry frequently because they feel like failures.
Another said that her kids are spending so much time in front of screens that they no longer can sleep properly.
Still another said that her child’s personality has changed in the past six months.
She was nearly in tears.
That’s not the case here in southern Georgia.
The local schools were closed for one day at the start of the school year
But that was because a hurricane was headed this way.
I grew up in the north.
The information that I processed as a younger person and even as a younger adult informed me that life in the north was superior to life in the south. It was just better.
I now am convinced that was ridiculous and I was a sucker for the propaganda.
Southern states are teaching their children. Schools in Florida temporarily shut down. They’re open again, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he overreacted in the fall when the state succumbed to pressure to close.
Southern states are allowing their children to live somewhat normal lives.
They are looking at the same data sets and largely the same transmission rates that persist across the country, but they are actually following “the science and the data” that has said from the beginning that children are not vectors for COVID-19.
They are – get this – thinking reasonably, rationally and holistically about the realities of coronavirus.
People are working here – going about their business and making a living, providing for their families.
The burden on systems is lower here because of that.
And, day by precious day, the false narrative that life somehow is less pleasant here or less cultured or less interesting or simply less is melting away.
Thank God for that.
COVID-19 has opened the nation’s eyes, at least in part, to the value of choosing where you live.
It has reaffirmed the truth that we live in the United States (plural) of America.
And it has demonstrated where freedom is strong and where government is less interested in dictating our lives.
It’s intellectually dishonest to believe that the southern states are growing in population only because the weather is more palatable than it is in the north.
The truth is that the southern states are more free and more open, actually more inclusive and less segregated – probably the best places to live in this country right now and for the foreseeable future.