AL Gov. Kay Ivey’s Terrible Decision Will Cost Lives

Clete Wetli | April 2, 2020 | Opinion Article

As the overwhelming and colossal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic become starkly and undeniably clear, AL Gov. Kay Ivey continues to stubbornly resist growing, urgent calls for a state-wide “shelter-in-place” order. 

Make no mistake, Gov. Ivey’s terrible decision will cost lives. She is, without a shadow of a doubt, making the wrong decision. She is choosing a laissez-faire approach to a deadly crisis and abdicating pro-active leadership. Sadly, she’s taken a page out of Trump’s playbook and has decided to put economic interests over American lives.

In real-time, Alabama is watching its rate of infection and deaths grow almost exponentially. Alabama is already seeing the strain on its hospital resources and supplies. Alabama’s body count is accelerating. Surrounding states, even Florida, have put partisan politics aside to make difficult decisions for the greater public good. Yet, Gov. Ivey seems to think that her Marie Antoinette response of “let them eat cake” will suffice until the virus magically subsides on its own. 

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The Governor’s spokesperson, Gina Maiola, said, “The governor’s priority is protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all Alabamians, and their well-being also relies on being able to have a job and provide for themselves and their families. Many factors surround a statewide shelter-in-place, and Alabama is not at a place where we are ready to make this call.”

Oh, really? Just exactly where is that “place”? How many Alabamians need to be infected or dead until we reach that “place”? 

As the days pass, Ivey’s failure will become evident as the numbers dramatically increase. To her credit, she did make the right call in closing non-essential businesses, but that also should have happened sooner. Further, the effect of that order is significantly diminished without an accompanying “shelter-in-place” directive. Ivey’s profound lack of leadership means that many people are still not taking this seriously or that they believe, regardless of government response, this thing will just blow over in a few weeks.

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What made Ivey’s inaction so deplorable was that she made sure her statement was hyper-political and poisonously partisan by saying. “We’re not California.” However, a cursory review of the latest data shows that Alabama is, indeed, quite similar to California in terms of rate of infections and deaths per capita. Yet, it was seemingly more important for Ivey to take a not-so-subtle dig at those California liberals instead of doing the right thing for Alabama. Ivey’s statement was ignorant, tone-deaf, factually inaccurate, and shameful in a time of genuine crisis.

It’s possible that she will reluctantly issue the order soon, maybe even today or tomorrow. But the damage has already been done. Many Alabamians are still not sheltering in place, they have no idea if they are carrying the virus, and they are inconsistent in following social distance guidelines. They’re doing this because Gov. Ivey’s decisions and rhetoric are in conflict with reality. According to Maiola, her spokesperson, “As the governor has said, her No. 1 priority is the health, safety and well-being of Alabamians. … We take this virus seriously. The governor has used the word ‘deadly’ to describe this virus.”

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If what Maiola says is true, Governor Ivey’s decisions and actions sure don’t make any sense as we watch the death toll rise.

Alabama Democrats like House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, and Alabama Democratic Chair Rep, Chris England have been loud and persistent in their calls for an immediate “shelter-in-place” order. Their calls are not partisan or political, they are prioritizing the health and safety of all Alabamians.

Gov. Ivey has made the wrong decision and it will cost lives. Let’s hope she reverses course as soon as possible. There is no excuse for her failure and incompetence during this public emergency.

In the meantime, we all need to do our part individually to help stop this virus from spreading.

Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.

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