National Review Rips AP Story Singling Out ‘Deep South’ on Vaccine Rollout

News & Politics

In his “Morning Jolt” newsletter on Friday, Jim Geraghty at National Review took exception to an Associated Press that proves the rule that liberal media outlets “shoehorn the data about state responses and caseloads into a simple, political Goofus-and-Gallant story of good and wise blue-state governors and foolish and reckless red-state governors.”

Geraghty points out that the best state vaccine rollout is happening in West Virginia, a red state, alongside North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. AP singles out a favorite liberal whipping boy, the “Deep South.” The headline is “Deep South falls behind in coronavirus vaccine drive”. Reporter Sudhin Thanawala began:

ATLANTA — The coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but four states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates that have alarmed health experts and frustrated residents.

In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, less than 2% of the population had received its first dose of a vaccine at the start of the week, according to data from the states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

Though it’s not clear why the Deep South is falling behind, public health researchers note that it has typically lagged in funding public health and addressing disparities in care for its big rural population.

“When you combine a large percentage of rural residents who tend to be the hard-to-reach populations and have lower numbers of providers with trying to build a vaccine infrastructure on the fly, that’s just a recipe for a not-so-great response,” said Sarah McCool, a professor in public health at Georgia State University.

And yet, right there in the tenth paragraph, Thanawala admits: “Overall, experts say it’s too early in the vaccine rollout to draw conclusions about the region’s shortcomings, and they can’t easily be attributed to a particular factor or trend.”

So why rush out with this narrative? The reporter’s assigned beat is based on an assumption of Deep South backwardness, ”rural health care issues and poverty in the Deep South based out of the Atlanta bureau.”

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Geraghty says a look at the statistics shows it’s not that tidy, that the Deep South is uniquely terrible on the vaccine rollout: 

If you use the measuring stick of Bloomberg’s percentage of allocated doses used, Alabama ranks last of the 50 states and Georgia ranks 48th. But Mississippi ranks 30th and South Carolina ranks 29th — slightly below the middle of the pack. Nothing to brag about, but not notably bad, or warranting national scorn.

By the measurement of doses used, other states in other parts of the country are comparably bad. The country’s most populated state and the one we’re constantly reminded would be the world’s fifth-largest economy all by itself, California, ranks 49th….

But let’s say that for some reason, you don’t like the measuring stick of “how many allocated doses have been administered so far.” Let’s say you prefer measuring vaccinations per 100,000 residents, as the CDC does. Yes, Alabama ranks dead last, at 1,882 vaccinations per 100,000 residents, the only one below 2,000. But Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina are in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, along with eleven other states — including California, Washington State, Wisconsin, New Jersey. Not good, but not particularly bad, and there’s no particular geographic, political, economic, or cultural factor across those states.

Geraghty concluded: “Right now, West Virginia is doing a bang-up job of getting its residents vaccinated, and just about every other state should be looking over that state’s collective shoulder and asking, ‘Hey, what are they doing right that we ought to be doing, too?’”

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