A Georgia man survived coronavirus. He's broke. But he thinks America is overreacting
For three days, he was hooked up to an oxygen tube. For six days after that, he was cooped up in a 26-foot RV in a special quarantine camp run by the state of Georgia.
So when Joey Camp, a 30-year-old Waffle House line cook, learned he no longer had COVID-19 and could go home, he figured things were getting back to normal. Immediately, the former National Guardsman started making lunch and dinner plans: all-you-can-eat wings at Hooters? A super burrito from Los Arcos Mexican restaurant?
Soon, heavier concerns loomed. The divorced father of two made $10.65 an hour at Waffle House and has lived with friends since being evicted last year from his apartment. After leaving quarantine, he worked just one shift before his boss cut his hours because so few customers were coming in. His other part-time gig, as a party bus driver, went away.
"I'm making zero dollars for the foreseeable future," Camp said. "A person who makes $50,000 or $60,000 a year just isn't understanding what this means."
Almost every day since he got out of quarantine, Camp has squeezed into his dusty black '98 Chevy Camaro with its cracked windshield and driven, seat belt unbuckled, to a string of restaurants: Hooters and Applebee's, Waffle House and Buffalo's, Los Arcos and Huddle House.
Inside, he has sought to resume small acts: greeting a server, sitting in a booth, perusing a menu.
Until now, COVID-19 has mostly been experienced through the lens of metropolitan areas: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York. But as the virus spreads into rural and small-town America, significant numbers of Americans continue to dismiss calls for more aggressive social distancing and shutdowns.
Media sensationalism and liberal fear-mongering, they say, will destroy the economy.
"With all the craziness going on in the world, America should show people that this is not something that should shut down countries," Camp said after wiping his hands at a sanitizing station posted at the entrance of 7 Tequilas restaurant. "We need to be the adults in the room."
Public health officials say that such doubters pose a major obstacle to efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent mass casualties.
The coronavirus is at least 10 times deadlier than the flu and can be transmitted by people who are infected but asymptomatic. Even though many cases are mild, especially in the young, widespread infection could lead to hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths.
A libertarian who voted for President Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him again, Camp compares COVID-19 to the flu.
"It's not going to kill the vast majority of the population," he said. "People are hearing 3.4% mortality. They're not hearing the 96.6% survival rate."
Polls show that Democrats and those living in large cities and suburbs have significantly more anxiety about COVID-19 than Republicans and residents of small towns and rural areas.
While Democratic strongholds like California and New York have banned public gatherings and closed restaurants, reaction to the pandemic has been slower and more uneven in Republican states, like Texas and Florida, where distrust of big-government regulations coincides with suspicion that the media is overplaying worst-case scenarios.
A good chunk of conservatives have also taken their cue from Fox News, whose pundits were late to take the virus seriously and are now backing Trump's call to reopen the economy. (Camp doesn't have cable, but he uses his smartphone to follow commentary on Daily Wire, Fox News and CNN.)