A visit to the Redneck Riviera chain of towns and resorts along the Gulf coastline covering most of Alabama and a part of the Florida coast, partying, concerts and festivals are going on as if there is no pandemic at all.
At The Redneck Reviera, Its Business As Usual
The grim reality was evident just 12 miles away at the Baldwin Regional Medical Centre where 36 patients affected by Covid were being treated and 90% of these patients had not been vaccinated.
The hangout Restaurant is a popular eatery where live shows are organised and is known for customers dancing on tables. Cotton Eye Joe had appeared to entertain the restaurant’s customers and the walls reverberated to loud welcome screams from the unmasked customers.
Tourism is back in the Redneck Reviera after both business and tourism suffered after the series of lockdowns from 2020 while the crowds had largely been restricted to their homes. After tourism was opened, there was a rush for revelry and merry making in the Reviera.
Worried health officials are watching a surge in Covid cases which has already seen an increase of 30% during the past 2 weeks. They attribute the rise to the lowest vaccination in the United States, a disregard for basic health and covid precautions and a disturbing carefree lifestyle. All this is going on int the region while a deadlier mutated Delta variant of the Sars-COV-2 virus is proving to be highly contagious and deadly. The Work of health officials is not made easy by several conservative state administrations not welcoming new health restrictions.
Looking at the dancing, go kart riding and the wild exuberant crowds, a visiting nurse from Louisiana felt that the people had been restricted and were over afraid and need to live their lives. Tourists from up north from as far as Illinois joined in the merrymaking. The environment at Flora Bama, a beach bar near the Alabama Florida border, is carefree. Most of the crowds cheering to playing bands have chosen neither to get vaccinated nor follow any masking protocols.
There are mixed feelings among the other restaurants. While lulu’s had to shut down due to increase of cases among its employees, a beachfront restaurant named The dock, a little ahead on the Florida coast has been having good business with little impact of Covid and the owner has no intentions of asking his staff to get themselves vaccinated.
While the Redneck Reviera is gearing up to host the annual shrimp festival and expecting to draw more than the usual 250,000 crowds, Panama Beach has called off its hugely popular annual Country Music festival. New Orleans nearby has turned track and is now enforcing wearing of masks and the city administration has cancelled several upcoming events in the city.
The Governors of Alabama and Florida, Kay Ivey and Ron DeSantis have both been against imposition of stricter Covid protocols and have resisted mandatory vaccination as well as wearing of masks. People in these states have, however, decided to proceed with vaccination and the percentage of vaccinated people in the coastal counties of both states as well as Mississippi are slowly inching up from 33% to 41%, though still well below the national average of 51%.
School meetings were disrupted in Tennessee and Texas where crowds resisted mask mandates by the schools and refused to ear masks and asked the school authorities not to issue mask mandates for school children.
The United States is continuing to witness flip flop reactions to both vaccination and mask mandates. Health officials, meanwhile, know how grim the situation is and are hoping the virus will come under control soon as people are beginning to get restless and afraid and are openly trying to return to pre covid lifestyles.