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For How Long Will It Be Unsafe For Normal People To Travel To Red States?

Yesterday's pandemic stats were typical of recent weeks-- nationally, new cases have been dropping rapidly while the most new cases are in anti-mask red states Texas and Florida. And Florida has the most one day deaths. I see people without masks hiking in the Griffith Park but not down in town, not indoors and not outdoors. Tomorrow People for the American Way president Ben Jealous will be in town for a low-key social event with the 8 or 9 southern California board members. Everyone's been double vaccinated and everyone plans to wear a mask. It will be the first social gathering for me since February, 2020 and I still have some sense of trepidation.

I very much agree with Noah Smith's argument about the normalization of mask-wearing post-pandemic. "[N]ow that we Americans have all learned how to wear masks, my question is: Why not adopt the Japanese custom? Mask mandates are unnecessary outside of a pandemic, but Americans who are sick with the flu or a cold can still voluntarily choose to mask up on public transportation or in crowded places, to keep from spreading their germs around. It would be a nice thing to do... [W]earing masks to protect others from your germs would be one small step in the direction of becoming a more pro-social, considerate society. And becoming a more pro-social, considerate society seems like an important step toward healing the toxic, crippling divisions that are holding our nation back from achieving its full potential. In the end, masks are not a huge deal, but I think the idea of looking out for the people next to you has important symbolic value."

Generally, in states where becoming a more pro-social, considerate society is least important-- the bad-neighbor, selfish, bigoted, Trumpist states-- the pandemic results were the harshest. These half dozen states had the worst statewide pandemics in America, using the metric of cases per million residents. The parenthetical are the percentages of Trump voters in 2020:

  • North Dakota- 143,210 (65.11%)

  • Rhode Island- 142,206 (38.61%)

  • South Dakota- 139,812 (61.77%)

  • Iowa- 126,656 (53.09%)

  • Tennessee- 125,689 (60.66%)

  • Utah- 125,620 (58.13%)

And the half dozen states with the least terrible pandemics are all good neighbor, pro-social, anti-Trump states:

  • Hawaii- 23,896 (34.27%)

  • Vermont- 38,321 (30.67%)

  • Oregon- 46,442 (40.37%)

  • Maine- 49,035 (44.02%)

  • Washington- 55,913 (38.77%)

  • DC- 68,849 (5.40%)

This morning, writing for The Hill, Peter Sullivan reported that "The U.S. vaccine map looks a lot like a map of how states vote in presidential elections, with most blue states vaccinating at levels well above the national average and GOP states bringing up the rear. The politics of COVID-19 have been partisan from almost the onset of the pandemic, and polls consistently show that Republicans, particularly men, are more hesitant than Democrats to get vaccinated. The deep-blue state of Vermont has the highest share of its population with at least one vaccine dose, at 65 percent, according to data compiled by the New York Times, followed by Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Connecticut. The top 21 states for vaccination rates all went for President Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Iowa-- with 47 percent of its population receiving at least one shot-- is the highest ranking state on the list, at No. 22, that voted for Trump. The state with the lowest vaccination rate, Mississippi, at 32 percent, is deeply red, as are the other four states that round out the bottom five: Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho."

“It does appear to be the case that states that voted for Biden in the 2020 election, in general or on average, appear to have higher vaccination rates than states that voted for Trump,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Survey results reveal a big reason why. An NPR-PBS-Marist poll this month found that 41 percent of Republicans said they are not going to get vaccinated, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats who said the same.
“Our country is profoundly politicized,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases expert at the University of California, San Francisco, in explaining the gap in vaccination rates.
...Megan Ranney, a public health expert at Brown University, said another factor is that red states tend to have less well-funded public health infrastructure, which could make getting shots in people’s arms more difficult.
...Given the hesitancy among Republicans, discussion has swirled around getting Trump to more actively encourage vaccinations. The former president has said he recommends getting the shot but has not made that message priority. And when he received his shots as president, he did not do so on camera like many other world leaders have done.
...Paul Beck, an emeritus professor of political science at Ohio State University, said his state’s relatively low vaccination rate, at 43 percent, comes at a time when Republicans have been doing increasingly well in what was once consistently the nation’s biggest battleground state.
“There are a lot of people in Ohio, maybe a majority these days, who are sympathetic to the Trump side of things,” Beck said.
“Obviously, Republicans are more hesitant to get the vaccine,” he added.
Gandhi, the University of California expert, said the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most places could serve as an incentive for more people to get the shot.
While the guidance was scientifically sound, “they’re also trying to motivate,” she said of the CDC.
Ranney, of Brown University, worried that some states won’t improve their vaccine rates, and that the country will “have persistent differences in vaccination rates.”
“For those Southern states, they’re all heading indoors to air conditioning,” where the virus spreads more easily, over the summer, she said. “I am concerned about those states.”

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