AP file photo / President Donald Trump, left, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee walk in the Cross Hall of the White House last April.

Sorry, Southern governors. It appears you've made bad choices.

You chose to hitch your wagons to Donald Trump's do-nothing COVID-19 train. You chose Trump over us — the people you represent.

And we noticed.

As coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue rising — especially in the reddest of Southern states — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp are seeing their approval ratings plummet after fighting mask mandates and rushing to reopen bars and everything else in the Volunteer and Peach states.

What's more, their plummets are even greater than the drop in Donald Trump's rating for handling the pandemic.

A new 44-state survey, conducted by researchers at Harvard, Northeastern, Northwestern and Rutgers universities under their COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public's Policy Preferences Across States program, found the president's rating has dropped another 10 percentage points since late April: from 42% to 32% on the question of pandemic leadership.

The governors of Tennessee and Georgia have rating drops almost double that of Trump's.

Lee dropped 18 points, falling from 62% in late April to 44% this month with a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points. Rather than require masks, Lee instituted a multimillion-dollar campaign titled "Face It, Masks Fight COVID-19" which is being advertised on broadcast and cable television, digital platforms, social media, print and state billboards.

Kemp, who continues legal means to fight cities' efforts to require residents to wear masks, fell 17 points, from 53% in late April to 36% in the latest survey. That's even lower than Trump's rating. In Georgia, the survey has a 7 percentage point margin of error.

On the other hand, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who did — belatedly — institute a statewide mask mandate in mid-July had only a 13-point drop, from 60% to 47%.

That 13-point fall, incidentally, was the average governor approval rating drop on the question of pandemic leadership, the survey found.

But researchers say their analysis found that "across much of the South we see a tight coupling between approval of the president's handling of the pandemic and approval of the governor's performance during the pandemic."

In other words — the super red states with governors who mirror Trump.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has a 38% rating. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a 40% rating. Conversely, in California and Washington, despite resurgences of the virus there, support for those governors' decisive handling of the pandemic has stabilized at fairly high levels — 58 and 57 percent, respectively.

Governors retaining "notably higher support for their management of the pandemic" than Trump by 10 percentage points or more have been more proactively leading in either Republican-leaning or "purple" states with Democratic governors such as North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Another example is Maryland, where a Republican governor leads a Democratic-leaning state.

In other words, these governors are not blindly following Trump's foolish lead.

The Hill newspaper quoted Matthew Baum, a study co-author and the Marvin Kalb professor of global communications at Harvard University's Kennedy School, saying that "the governors who are doing really well are the ones that have acted most proactively."

Overall, the study reports, America's governors "continue to enjoy a 19 percentage point advantage over the president in public support for their handling of the pandemic — 51% vs 32%."

The Associated Press reported Friday that the Peach State last week had pushed past 182,000 confirmed cases and set another record for COVID-19 hospitalizations. The state's seven-day rolling average of daily new cases had risen from 3,420 new cases per day on July 15 to 3,671 on Thursday.

Think about that: 3,671 new cases every day — just in Georgia.

In Hamilton County, we have seen nearly 5,400 confirmed cases — even with a county mask mandate since July 10. Health officials said Friday they think that has contributed to a slight leveling off in recent days of a rise in cases here. They declined to say when or if we might see a dip in cases. And school is set to start in less that two weeks.

This virus is serious. Our leadership needs to be, too.