Gulf Coast's beloved 'Redneck Riviera' now a virus hotspot

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Workers from USA Health trial a idiosyncratic for COVID-19 during a drive-up session successful Mobile, Ala., connected Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Alabama's coastal counties pb the authorities successful caller COVID-19 cases, and immoderate events person been canceled successful Florida and Louisiana due to the fact that of the latest surge. Health officials judge the spike is owed to a operation of immoderate of the nations lowest vaccination rates, unabated tourism, a disregard for basal wellness precautions and the regions carefree lifestyle. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

GULF SHORES, Ala. – Tourists and servers alike creation atop tables and successful the aisles astatine 1 edifice connected the “Redneck Riviera,” a beloved agelong of towns on the bluish Gulf Coast wherever beaches, bars and stores are packed. Yet conscionable a fewer miles away, a infirmary is moving retired of captious attraction beds, its rooms afloat of unvaccinated radical warring for their lives.

On maps that amusement microorganism “hot spots” successful red, this portion of the U.S. seashore is glowing similar a atrocious sunburn. And a summertime of booming tourism that followed the lockdowns and question restrictions of 2020 is making the crook toward autumn with lone a fewer signs of slowing down.

Health officials judge the spike is owed to a operation of immoderate of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, unabated tourism, a disregard for basal wellness precautions and the region’s carefree lifestyle, each combining astatine a clip erstwhile the mutated microorganism is much contagious than ever and blimpish states are balking astatine caller wellness restrictions.


On a caller afternoon, 1 shopper aft different walked done the rima of a giant, fake shark into a Gulf Shores souvenir shop. Mini-golf courses, bars, go-kart tracks, hotels and condominium towers were full. The National Shrimp Festival, which draws arsenic galore arsenic 250,000 radical to the Alabama coast, is acceptable for October contempt the COVID-19 explosion.

Inside The Hangout restaurant, wherever dancing connected tables is encouraged, “Cotton Eye Joe” received a raucous reception from the mostly unmasked customers.

“Where did you travel from, wherever did you go? / Where did you travel from, Cotton Eye Joe?” the speakers blared.

The revelry came arsenic conscionable 12 miles (19 kilometers) to the north, South Baldwin Regional Medical Center was treating much than 3 twelve COVID-19 patients, astir 90% of whom weren’t vaccinated, said spokesperson Taylor Lewis.

“After Memorial Day it was, ‘Everything is backmost to normal, spell to the beach, instrumentality disconnected your mask,’” said Dr. Bert Eichold, the main nationalist wellness authoritative of Mobile County, conscionable westbound of Gulf Shores. Mobile County's COVID-19 positivity complaint has skyrocketed to astir 30%, and the region has the astir caller cases successful the state.


Lisa Hastings, a Louisiana autochthonal and caregiver visiting the Alabama seashore with her 2 sisters, looked astatine the concern successful 2 ways. She was a small unsettled by the wide-open country from a nonrecreational standpoint, but she besides doesn’t clasp it against anyone who wants to get retired and person fun, vaccinated oregon not.

“I deliberation radical are benignant of implicit being acrophobic and truthful they’ve got to unrecorded their lives,” said Hastings, who is vaccinated. Nearby, a tourer from Illinois railed that the pandemic is fake and vaccinations are conscionable different method of authorities control.

Some person decided against some getting vaccinated and wearing look masks, choosing alternatively to enactment without precautions astatine places similar the Flora-Bama, a monolithic beachfront barroom connected the Alabama-Florida line. There, bands play to large crowds fueled by alcoholic drinks including the sugary Bushwacker, a coastal favorite.

Lulu’s, a fashionable Gulf Shores edifice owned by Lucy Buffett, the sister of vocalist Jimmy Buffett, is among those that precocious had to unopen down for a week due to the fact that the microorganism was racing done workers.


At The Dock, a beachfront edifice that serves acold brew and seafood beside the nationalist formation successful Pensacola, Florida, manager Justin Smith said the tourer play has been engaged and his unit has managed to enactment healthy, astatine slightest truthful far. While much vaccinations could help, Smith said he’d ne'er necessitate his unit to get inoculated.

“I’ve been present 18 years. It ain’t gonna happen,” helium said.

Outbreaks caused by the coronavirus are threatening to overwhelm the region’s wellness attraction strategy and traditions. Panama City Beach, Florida, cited the pandemic successful canceling an yearly state euphony festival acceptable for aboriginal September, and New Orleans has clamped down connected mask-wearing and called disconnected aggregate events.

While urging radical to get vaccinated, authorities leaders including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey person resisted imposing caller restrictions, adjacent arsenic infirmary beds capable up. On Monday, officials said 1,560 patients needed intensive attraction care successful Alabama, wherever hospitals person conscionable 1,562 ICU beds.


Hospital executives joined unneurotic successful Pensacola past week to plead for much vaccinations portion besides knocking down mendacious rumors astir vaccines and masks. In an country dominated by Christian conservatives, Mayor Grover C. Robinson IV made a nonstop entreaty for churchgoers to get shots.

“Two of our hospitals are Christian affiliated,” helium said. “One of the archetypal things it says each passim the Bible is, ‘Do not beryllium afraid.’”

More radical are getting archetypal vaccine doses than a fewer weeks ago, but it hasn’t been capable truthful acold to halt the dispersed of COVID-19. Of 11 coastal counties successful Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Okaloosa County successful Florida has the region’s highest stock of afloat vaccinated residents astatine 41.3%, statistic show. Many are astir one-third, and each are beneath the nationalist mean of astir 51%.

Natalie Fox, a nursing enforcement with USA Health successful Mobile, said aesculapian workers are bushed aft much than a twelvemonth of warring the pandemic. Still, radical sick with COVID-19 — the immense bulk of them unvaccinated — support arriving.


“We’re benignant of getting patients from each implicit due to the fact that everybody’s dealing with this accrued strain,” she said.

It didn’t instrumentality a mandate for Rhonda Landrum, a 50-year-old wellness attraction idiosyncratic from adjacent Mobile, to get a changeable precocious aft watching each 3 of her unvaccinated daughters declaration COVID-19. People aren’t taking the pandemic seriously, she said, and it’s conscionable not harmless to beryllium retired successful nationalist without the vaccine.

“I won’t question nowhere,” she said. “I enactment home.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten oregon redistributed without permission.

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