The South is at risk of being devastated by the coronavirus.
Why it matters: Southern states tend to have at-risk populations and weak health care systems — and they're the ones moving fastest to loosen social distancing rules. That puts them at risk for the worst-case coronavirus scenarios.
The big picture: To stop the spread of the coronavirus, there are really only two options: stringent social distancing, or stringent public health measures.
Driving the news: Several southern states including Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina have recently announced that they're starting to back off of social distancing.
- Our national testing capacity is still nowhere near where experts say it needs to be, and only some communities have announced efforts to build up contact tracing.
Between the lines: The Surgo Foundation created a coronavirus community vulnerability index that takes into account factors like socioeconomic status, minority status, housing type, epidemiologic factors and health care system factors.
The bottom line: The South is already worse off in almost every way, partially due to policy choices made in these states. Its comparatively unhealthy population is vulnerable to more serious illness, and looser social distancing will enable the virus' spread.
Go deeper: Everything's deadlier in the South