“The South, Sickest Part of a Sick America, Falls Prey to Virus.”


“Lost Cause” means different things to different people.

The South, Sickest Part of a Sick America, Falls Prey to Virus
, by Margaret Newkirk and Michelle Fay Cortez (Bloomberg)

A region beset by obesity and diabetes is uniquely vulnerable.

A virus that is particularly lethal for people with underlying health conditions is now spreading into the unhealthiest part of the U.S.: the South.

For decades,­ people in the 11 states that seceded during the Civil War — America’s poorest region — have suffered from a scourge of obesity and hypertension, which intensify the danger of the coronavirus and the Covid-19 respiratory disease that it causes. Four of the five states with the highest diabetes rates are in the South. And eight didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving thousands of families without access to routine care, even as financially troubled rural hospitals wither away.

Those factors give the South a special vulnerability, as did the haphazard response from some governors as the disease began to course through the country. Without clear direction from the Trump administration, they were loath to mandate stay-at-home orders. Beaches were open in Florida, churches held services in rural Tennessee and Mardi Gras went on in Louisiana.

Now Covid-19 has infected 47 long-term care centers in Georgia, overwhelmed hospitals in New Orleans, spread into at least six Alabama nursing homes, forced the evacuation of scores of elderly residents from a Tennessee rehabilitation center and killed a country music star in Nashville.

“Covid-19 is going to be a disaster in the Southeast,” said Aaron Milstone, a Tennessee pulmonologist. “We’ll see higher morbidity, which is getting sick from the virus, and higher mortality, which is dying from the virus” …