According to Gallup, Americans see Biden doing a far better job than Trump in regard to the pandemic. This morning, they reported that "With well over 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, the public's satisfaction with the rollout has surged 24 percentage points to 68% in the last month. Satisfaction with the COVID-19 vaccine process has doubled since January and is now at the majority-level among all major demographic subgroups. It is particularly high among adults aged 65 and older (77%), a group that has been prioritized for vaccines, those who have received at least one vaccine dose (75%) and Democrats (73%), whose satisfaction has more than tripled since President Joe Biden took office... Two months into the Biden administration, the president's promise to get 100 million vaccination doses administered in his first hundred days has been kept, and he has now increased the goal to 200 million. By all accounts, the country is on track to achieve this goal, and the public is largely satisfied with the way the vaccine process is going. Yet, there have been considerable problems in some states with the rollout, and there still is not enough overall supply to meet demand. If people who are anxious to get vaccinated have to wait weeks or months to do so, Americans may become less satisfied with the rollout. The 26% reading for Americans who remain unwilling to receive the shot has been fairly steady over the past few months. In order to achieve herd immunity and a return to normal, prepandemic life, public officials will likely continue to try to chip away at this reluctant group."
A day earlier, a poll from Ipsos showed largely the same results-- 75% of Americans, including 92% of Democrats, 77% of independents and 53% of Republicans, approve of the way the pandemic vaccination program is being handled by the Biden administration. 47% of Republicans disapprove; that's a big number and it reflects the hyper-partisan obsession-to-the-point-of-mental-illness if not anti-American treason from GOP political leaders. Please think about that; I have for the last 2 days.
Michael Gerson, writing for the Washington Post, noted the pandemic derangement in one especially venal Trumpist acolyte, Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, a state considered one of the worst places on earth to go if you want to reduce your risk of being infected with COVID. Few governors can hold a candle to Noem when it comes to her hospitality of inviting COVID into her state-- and the entire Upper Midwest. And no governor's policies-- with the possible exception of Ron DeSantis-- is responsible for more infection across the country than Noem's. Noem's ideology-driven pandemic policies have given her state 132,634 cases of COVID per million residents, second worst compared to North Dakota, a state that was largely infected because of Noem. Across the globe, using this metric, the only place bigger than a postage stamp where COVID has been more predominant than the Dakotas is Czechia (142,084), in the throes of a 4th wave that hasn't come to South Dakota yet... but probably will.
Gerson reminded Americans what Noem, who should be on trial for murder, told the largely maskless attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando last month: "Now let me be clear, covid didn’t crush the economy, government crushed the economy. South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close. We never instituted a shelter in place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are, and the coercion, the force and the anti-liberty steps that government takes to enforce them."
Gerson seems awestruck by Noem's brainless defiance. "What level of hubris, extremism or insanity does it take to crow about one of the worst covid records in the nation? Noem might as well be campaigning for higher office in a hearse."
In the not-so-distant past, Republican governors competed with their colleagues to author innovative welfare reform or criminal justice proposals. Now bad covid policy is a point of pride and a path to influence. Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has made his better-than-Noem-but-still-middling covid record the centerpiece of his national appeal. He also bucked the medical experts-- making Florida “an oasis of freedom”-- but held his per capita death rate to 28th in the nation. It makes for a nice campaign slogan: “DeSantis, Not As Disastrous As You Initially Thought.” [DeSantis has moneyed with the statistics and it is universally agreed that Florida has the most unreliable pandemic stats in the U.S., if not the world.]
Amid its many horrors, covid has presented a rare opportunity. On one large national problem, it has allowed for an empirical test of political philosophies. Under President Donald Trump, the federal government largely surrendered its role in the unfolding crisis, leaving both red and blue states to respond according to their ideological proclivities. Republican governors were less likely to implement stay-at-home orders, and, if they did, those orders tended to be of shorter length. Democrat-led states were more likely to impose mask mandates.
A recent study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Medical University of South Carolina-- analyzing every day of data between March 15, 2020, and Dec. 12, 2020-- calculated the chances of getting covid-19 or dying from covid-19 in every state (and D.C.). After adjusting for factors such a population density, ethnic composition, poverty and age, a clear picture emerged. Democrat-led states were hardest hit early on, as you’d expect given the places where the disease took hold in the United States. But then the balance shifted. By June 3, Republican states had higher case diagnoses. By July 4, higher death rates. By Aug. 5, the relative risk of dying from covid-19 was 1.8 times higher in GOP-led states.
...[S]tates like Florida, Texas and Georgia, among others, essentially disregarded the guidelines. To a greater or lesser degree they opened up too quickly leading to that late spring, early summer surge that we experienced... Republican governors tended to put a greater value on economic activity than preserving the lives of the elderly and vulnerable (and others) when compared with Democrat-led states. In doing so, they elevated their views above the sober judgment of experts.
How is this performance by many Republican governors not discrediting, even disqualifying? Does it not concern people in GOP-led states that, at a key moment in the crisis, they were nearly twice as likely to die of covid than their counterparts in Democrat-led states? Why does it not generate more outrage that many Republican governors are continuing these policies even as infections spread and virus mutations accumulate?
Realistically, this is because the economic benefits of covid irresponsibility are immediate and obvious to everyone. And even twice a very small risk is still a very small risk. But this reasoning requires us to abandon our social solidarity with the elderly and vulnerable, who bear a disproportionate cost in Noem’s vision of liberty. And I fear it indicates a wide streak of social Darwinian callousness in the American right.
Yesterday, the Biden Administration, and Biden himself, were strongly pushing a reimposition of mask mandates and warning about impending doom. Despite the stellar vaccination program, the chance of the 4th wave ravaging Europe now making it to America is very high and very dangerous. This is not the time for anyone to be letter their guards down. But in Los Angeles, one can look around and guess that the pandemic is over. Indoor dining, gyms, salons, movie theaters are in full swing. Do fear the Reaper; he is drooling and rubbing his hands.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Sharon LaFraniere reported that there's "a growing sense of urgency among top White House officials and government scientists that the chance to conquer the pandemic, now in its second year, may slip through their grasp. Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are on the upswing, including a troubling rise in the Northeast, even as the pace of vaccinations is accelerating. 'Please, this is not politics-- reinstate the mandate,' Mr. Biden said, adding, 'The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.'"
According to a NY Times database, the seven-day average of new virus cases as of Sunday was about 63,000, a level comparable with late October’s average. That was up from 54,000 a day two weeks earlier, an increase of more than 16 percent. Similar upticks in Europe have led to major surges in the spread of Covid-19, Dr. Walensky said.
Public health experts say that the nation is in a race between the vaccination campaign and new, worrisome coronavirus variants. Although more than one in three American adults have received at least one shot and nearly one-fifth are fully vaccinated, the nation is a long way away from reaching so-called herd immunity — the tipping point that comes when spread of a virus begins to slow because so many people, estimated at 70 to 90 percent of the population, are immune to it.
...In nine states over the past two weeks, virus cases have risen more than 40 percent, The Times database shows. Michigan led the way with a 133 percent increase, and the Northeast has also seen a marked rise in virus cases. Connecticut reported a 62 percent jump over the past two weeks, and New York and Pennsylvania both reported increases of more than 40 percent.
Michigan’s increase has not been traced to any one event, but epidemiologists have noted that cases started to rise after the state eased restrictions for indoor dining on Feb. 1 and lifted other restrictions in January. Other hot spots included North Dakota, where cases rose by nearly 60 percent, and Minnesota, where cases have risen 47 percent. Of those states, North Dakota is the only one currently without a mask mandate.
...Covid surges in some states have health officials increasingly on edge. Similar escalations several weeks ago in Germany, France and Italy have now turned into major outbreaks, Dr. Walensky said.
“We know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and over the winter again,” she said.
As his presidency enters its third month, Mr. Biden is still fighting some battles started by his predecessor, who turned the act of mask wearing into a political statement. As soon as he took office, Mr. Biden used his executive authority to impose mask requirements where he could-- on federal property. And he urged all Americans to “mask up” for 100 days.
But some governors, particularly in more conservative states, ignored him. When the governors of Mississippi and Texas announced this month that they would lift their mask mandates, Mr. Biden denounced the plans as a “big mistake” that reflected “Neanderthal thinking.”
The rate of infection in Texas has started rising again... even as a local judge threw out the state's suit against the city of Austin for keeping a mask mandate. Texas is appealing the decision to a right-wing higher court. It's as though "owning the libs" in Texas now means nothing short of killing Texans.