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Americans have a common enemy in Covid-19. Cases and hospitalizations are once again rising around the country.
But the nation’s leaders continue to have opposing ideas about how to fight that enemy.
We’ve written before, repeatedly, about the divide between red and blue states in dealing with the pandemic – usually on masks and vaccines.
The latest news makes it worth revisiting.
A new requirement. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that by December 27, private employers must implement a requirement that their staffs get vaccinated. He is trying to penalize employers that don’t enforce the requirement – a step beyond measures adopted by 22 states that require vaccines for some combination of health care and public-sector workers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A new way to fight requirements. In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying to use state taxpayer dollars to encourage employers to defy the federal vaccine requirement proposed by the Biden administration, which is currently stalled in court.
Something is working. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data suggests a noticeable increase in vaccinations of late. Two months ago, fewer than a million doses were being administered each day on average, according to the CDC. One month ago, that figure was about 1.3 million doses. Today, it’s about 2.3 million.
More on the New York requirement. There are some looming questions about the plan de Blasio outlined Monday.
- First, the mayor is in office only for another few weeks, and his successor, Mayor-elect Eric Adams, is out of the country and has not committed to enforcing the plan.
- Penalties for noncompliance have not been determined and will be announced with more specifics on December 15.
- It’s not clear how businesses will certify that their employees have been vaccinated. One thing many employers probably don’t want is to be the vaccination police.
New York City is already a very vaccinated place. Seventy percent of the city’s total population is fully vaccinated, according to the city’s health department, and an additional 8% has had one dose, compared with 60% of the US population that is fully vaccinated.
Perhaps eyeing shutdowns in Europe, de Blasio said vaccines need to be as close to universal as possible.
“We need to take very bold action. We’re seeing restrictions starting to come back. We’re seeing shutdowns,” he said. “We cannot let those restrictions come back. We cannot have shutdowns in New York.”
Florida is more vaccinated than many states. At 62%, the vaccination rate in Florida is above the national average, but that includes both highly vaccinated places in southern Florida – Miami-Dade County is 79% fully vaccinated – and places in the northern part of the state that are well under 50% vaccinated.
They’re very similar. Blue states that voted for President Joe Biden are generally more than 60% vaccinated. Red states that went for former President Donald Trump are generally under that average.
Florida and Wisconsin, battlegrounds at the political level, are exceptions on the vaccine. They voted for Trump but have vaccination rates above 60%.
Other battlegrounds, like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, are also exceptions. They went for Biden, but their vaccination rates are below 60%.
Over it. The view among some of the country’s most conservative politicians, like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, is that Covid-19 is in the rearview mirror.
“Real America is done with #COVID19,” Jordan tweeted last week. “The only people who don’t understand that are Fauci and Biden.”
He later described the public health policy during the pandemic as a “two-year attack on our liberties.”
Over the weekend, CNN’s Phil Mattingly put together maps of cases and hospitalizations that show Covid-19 is anything but gone.
The pandemic is now undeniably affecting the less-vaccinated parts of the country more than the vaccinated portions.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips looked last week at the risk of dying from Covid-19 across the US.
Since vaccines have become widely available, the average risk of dying from Covid-19 is more than 50% higher in states that voted for President Trump in 2020 than it is in states that voted for President Biden, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
In the first 11 months of the pandemic – from the initial surge through the winter 2020 surge, before vaccines became widely available – the average Covid-19 death rate was about the same along party lines. Through the end of January 2021, states that voted for Trump in the 2020 election had an average of 128 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 people, while states that voted for Biden had an average of 127 Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 people.
More context: Since Feb. 1, red states have had an average of 116 Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people – 52% higher than the average of 77 deaths per 100,000 people in blue states. The five states with the worst per capita death rates in that time all voted for Trump in 2020: Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The divide is even more pronounced at the county level, according to a recent Washington Post analysis.
What’s driving the current rise in cases? It’s not the Omicron variant. At least not yet. The vast majority of new cases in the US continue to be caused by the Delta variant.
The uptick is clear.
- Average daily deaths have increased to 1,651.
- More than 59,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19 right now.
- Hospitalizations have been increasing for more than three weeks.
New travel restrictions went into effect Monday. International travelers must provide negative Covid-19 tests within one day of departure for the US.
Foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated to enter the country.
There is no vaccine requirement for domestic travel, but White House officials have not ruled out the idea.
Elsewhere, some large companies are rethinking their return-to-work plans. Factory workers at Ford have been back on the line since May 2020, but the company announced Monday that it would further delay – to March – the return-to-office date for 30,000 workers.
Everyone needs to widen their lens. CNN’s Rob Picheta writes that the pandemic is a global problem, and the solution – which is almost surely through vaccines that make dealing with Covid-19 like dealing with the common cold – is not being addressed globally.
I’ll cop to that. This newsletter spends a lot more time on the differences in vaccination rates across the US, but the disparity is much larger between high- and low-income countries, where there still isn’t sufficient access to vaccines.