Opinion: Tennessee and Georgia elected officials give us another week of smoke and mirrors

FILE - Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite / Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

MTG is aTwitter no more

Poor Marjorie Taylor Greene. The North Georgia congresswoman, a Republican from Rome, finds herself now permanently suspended from Twitter over spewing more false claims about COVID-19 and more misinformation about COVID vaccines.

It's a good bet that if she could post on her personal Twitter account right now, she'd be saying something like she's in good company. Her idol, the former guy, also is permanently suspended.

Her suspension came hours after she published a tweet falsely suggesting "extremely high amounts of COVID vaccine deaths." Alongside was a chart showing data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System which details "self-reported" post-vaccine health issues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns do not imply causation.

But, wait. Do we need the CDC to tell us that if the "self-reported" reactions tallied in the chart represents deaths, then there's a bigger story here? We can see the headline now. "Folks come back from the dead to report adverse COVID vaccine reaction."

It sounds a bit like the false rightwing claims of dead people voting, doesn't it?

Then there's Tennessee

But MTG takes a back seat to Tennessee politicians and their resistance to COVID truths as new cases and hospitalizations surge in Tennessee, Georgia and the nation.

Hamilton County alone, over the 14 days ending on New Year's Eve, tallied a two-week rate of 1,009 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Hamilton County Health Department.

It also meets the virus prevalence number needed to trigger a county's ability to issue or reinstate a mask mandate, despite a new Tennessee law outlawing such mandates. But that law also requires that the governor already have in place a state emergency order.

Don't count on that. Gov. Bill Lee's press secretary, Casey Black, told the Times Free Press on Thursday, "There are no plans for a state emergency order at this time."

The new law, by the way, is on hold, pending federal court rulings. And of course the state is appealing the hold.

But that's not the least of it. Now the Tennessee Department of Health has decided to quit counting, and quite trying to count, all COVID test results - specifically the new cases found by at-home tests.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said case counts will likely continue to rise, but people "should look at trends" in the data rather than specific data points, since at-home tests are largely not reported to the state.

The trouble with that logic is that trends are a product of tracked specific data points. Piercey, a pediatrician with a masters in business administration and more than a decade of experience in health system operations, surely knows that.

This is just more political smoke being blown at us. By golly, if the state can't make COVID go away one way, it will manipulate its own measure of misinformation.

Move over MTG, Tennessee politicians and bureaucrats are coming through.

Meanwhile schools reopen

Amid this new COVID surge, school classes were set to resume today after the holiday break, and there's no word on precautions. At least no word about having any precautions.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger told the TFP last week that he is "not interested in looking at [a mask mandate] again right now, even though [case numbers] may meet the threshold."

And Hamilton County school board Chairman Tucker McClendon did not respond to multiple requests for comment for Tuesday's paper about whether school officials might reimpose a mask mandate as in-person classes open again. The district announced on Nov. 5, about a week after Tennessee's new law was voted on, that it was lifting all mask requirements. That was on a day when the county announced 45 new cases. Last Thursday, the county announced 16 times that many new cases.

Then last month came the real Hamilton County schools double whammy. Our officials in December announced the district wouldn't stop students from attending school who were exposed to COVID or had tested positive to it.

The school district's interpretation of the law (the one on hold) is that they can't made a COVID-19 positive student go home.

"For purposes of COVID-19, a public school district may no longer enforce an individual quarantine at any point. This authority will be left solely to the discretion of the [state] commissioner of health."

We remind you: The state's mandate against mandates has been put on hold by a federal court. There's no reason at this moment in the pandemic for these ridiculous actions. Except, maybe cowardly or obtuse politics.

Not every state is so dumb

Even Alabama - Alabama! - has taken a more reasonable approach.

With Alabama hospitals treating more COVID-19 patients daily (like everywhere else) and the positivity rate for COVID tests exceeding 35% statewide, some state school systems are returning to online learning or implementing mask requirements to avoid classroom outbreaks.

In Sylacauga, population 12,578 in rural Talladega County, students will attend classes remotely for three days when the new semester begins, Superintendent Michele Eller said in a statement. "Considering the surge right here in our community following the holiday gatherings, this is the reasonable course of action to protect our students and teachers from exposure," she said.

Of course it is reasonable.