August 13, 2020 10:18:17 AM
Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said this fall "could be the worst we've ever had."
Aside from Ole Miss football fans, who have been saying that for the past five years, this pronouncement was sobering news. We've already lost 165,000 Americans to COVID-19 and the worst may be yet to come.
Fortunately, a new strategy has emerged as we head into the final weeks of summer: Let's ignore it. Maybe it will go away.
In times such as this, especially in the South, we embrace the bedrock institution that has sustained us through hard times: Football.
Earlier this week, the Pac-10 and Big 10 conferences canceled sports through the end of the calendar year, including football.
The other major conferences -- the SEC, ACC and the Big 12 -- appear to be determined to play football come hell or high water.
Here in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves has declared football to be essential, maybe even as important as toilet paper.
Three weeks ago, when the SWAC announced it was canceling football for its 10 member schools -- including Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State -- the governor said nothing, so it must be a particular sort of football that Reeves finds essential.
As Reeves is always careful to remind us, COVID-19 is still a threat and that we should exercise caution by observing common-sense precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus.
As the circumstances in our state has evolved, Reeves has issued new executive orders as COVID-19 cases have increased in the state.
Some of those measures included restrictions on large gatherings. First, we were limited to groups of 10 or fewer, then it was expanded to groups of 20.
Now, it appears, Mississippians should avoid crowds larger than 32,019, which is half-capacity of the state's largest football stadium, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Ole Miss.
This "half-capacity" approach has already been employed in restaurants and other businesses. Now we have it for football.
I feel safer already.
By the start of September, all of Mississippi's colleges and universities will have welcomed students back to campus. A large percentage of the state's roughly 470,000 K-12 public school students will be in classrooms, too.
If that doesn't arrest the spread of COVID-19, I just don't know what will.
Who can we turn to for good counsel in times such as these.
In Starkville, that man is Dr. Cameron Huxford, a pulmonologist and the Intensive Care Unit medical director at OCH Regional Medical Center.
Huxford, who has long been a critic of the city's mask requirements, has apparently issued a "manifesto" on COVID-19 that is making the rounds on social media.
As a general rule, I am careful to practice a healthy amount of social distancing around manifesto writers, but I'll confess Huxford's views are, well, interesting.
The real problem, Huxford appears to be making is that, as a society, we are a bunch of scaredy-cats who are too politically correct, have failed as Christians and have forgotten the courage of the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy, probably we're too busy being "helicopter parents" obsessed with handing out "participation trophies" and are insult to various dead forefathers.
"Where is the modern day Patrick Henry, who famously said, 'Give me liberty or give me death!?'' he pleads.
My guess: He's probably hooked up to a ventilator someplace.
So, as we head toward what the CDC director predicts will be the worst fall ever, I take comfort that here in Mississippi we have leaders like Reeves and Huxford to turn to for reassurance.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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