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In The Midst Of A Pandemic, "Owning The Libs" Becomes An Existential Threat To Society

"Badge of Honor" by Nancy Ohanian

Some people say that voters who cast their ballots for Trump last year-- after 4 years of seeing what he is-- should lose their right to vote until they pass a very intense civics course. That's not going to happen. How about about mass extermination? Sure, society has to protect itself, but that's a little extreme and it won't happen either. But the Trumpists are a genuine threat to society, a threat that has to be dealt with more effectively than just "hoping for the best" and "muddling through." The latest threat from these sociopaths is not another insurrection-- at least I don't think so-- but instead an unnecessary prolongation of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Worldwide, 3,015,644 people have died of COVID, although with many governments, fudging the statistics-- from Russia to Florida-- the figure is likely far worse. 8 countries have reported over a hundred thousand deaths:

  • U.S.- 579,970 (1,744 deaths per million residents)

  • Brazil- 369,024 (1,726 deaths per million residents)

  • Mexico- 211,693 (1,628deaths per million residents)

  • India- 175,973 (127 deaths per million residents)

  • U.K.- 127,225 (1,866 deaths per million residents)

  • Italy- 116,366 (1,927 deaths per million residents)

  • Russia- 105,193 (721 deaths per million residents)

  • France- 100,401 (1,536 deaths per million residents)

Yesterday, the U.S. was still leading the world in the number of serious/critical cases (9,712). Meanwhile, new cases of COVID-19 were still astronomically high in half a dozen countries:

  • India- 233,943 (10,442 cases per million residents)

  • U.S.- 81,773 (97,150 cases per million residents)

  • Brazil- 76,249 (64,721 cases per million residents)

  • Turkey- 63,082 (48,792 cases per million residents)

  • France- 36,442 (79,897 cases per million residents)

  • Argentina- 29,472 (58,401 cases per million residents)

And 7 American states reported over 3,000 new one-day cases:

  • Michigan- 9,850 (86,877 cases per million residents)

  • Florida- 7,296 (100,371 cases per million residents)

  • New York- 6,736 (104,402 cases per million residents)

  • Pennsylvania- 5,547 (86,250 cases per million residents)

  • New Jersey- 4,381 (109,408 cases per million residents)

  • Illinois- 3,866 (102,304 cases per million residents)

  • Texas- 3,030 (98,313 cases per million residents)

Half the states (25), have over 100,000 cases per million residents, a ghastly statistic. The Dakotas are still the most infected places, per capita, on the planet, followed closely by Rhode Island, Iowa, Utah, Tennessee and Arizona.

This morning, a trio of NY Times reporters looked into the political geography of vaccinations in our country on a more granular level than states-- Least Vaccinated U.S. Counties Have Something in Common: Trump Voters. They noted that 31% of adults have now been fully vaccinated. "Scientists have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the total population must acquire resistance to the virus to reach herd immunity. But in hundreds of counties around the country, vaccination rates are low, with some even languishing in the teens." Why the massive disparity? Was it because some counties are remote? Poverty-stricken? Victims of racism or classism? What is the thread?

The disparity in vaccination rates has so far mainly broken down along political lines. The New York Times examined survey and vaccine administration data for nearly every U.S. county and found that both willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where a majority of residents voted to re-elect former President Donald J. Trump in 2020. The phenomenon has left some places with a shortage of supply and others with a glut.

For months, health officials across the United States have been racing to inoculate people as variants of the coronavirus have continued to gain a foothold, carrying mutations that can make infections more contagious and, in some cases, deadlier. Vaccinations have sped up and, in many places, people are still unable to book appointments because of high demand. In Michigan, where cases have spiraled out of control, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, recently urged President Biden to send additional doses.
But in more rural-- and more Republican-- areas, health officials said that supply is far exceeding demand.
In a county in Wyoming, a local health official asked the state to stop sending first doses of the vaccine because the freezer was already stuffed to capacity with unwanted vials.
In an Iowa county, a clinic called people who had volunteered to give shots to tell them not to come in because so few residents had signed up for appointments.
In a county in Pennsylvania, a hospital set up a drive-through in the park, stocked with roughly 1,000 vaccine doses. Only about 300 people showed up.
And in interviews with more than two dozen state and county health officials-- including some who said they were feeling weary after a year of hearing lifelong friends, family and neighbors tell them that the virus was a hoax or not particularly serious-- most attributed low vaccination rates at least partly to hesitant conservative populations.
“I just never in a million years ever expected my field of work to become less medical and more political,” said Hailey Bloom, a registered Republican and the public information officer for the health department that covers Natrona County, Wyo., which Mr. Trump won by a wide margin last year.
The health department, Ms. Bloom said, set up a clinic in a former Macy’s at the local mall and was prepared to give 1,500 shots a day, four days a week. But it has never been able to fill all the slots, she said; usually, 300 or 400 people show up.
Ms. Bloom, like many other county officials, said she feared that reaching herd immunity might not be possible in her community. “It’s terrifying to think that this may never end,” she said. “So much hinges on these vaccinations.”
About 27 percent of Natrona County’s adult residents have been fully vaccinated, and the federal government has estimated, based on Census survey data, that about 32 percent of its residents may be hesitant to get a shot.
The relationship between vaccination and politics reflects demographics. Vaccine hesitancy is highest in counties that are rural and have lower income levels and college graduation rates-- the same characteristics found in counties that were more likely to have supported Mr. Trump. In wealthier Trump-supporting counties with higher college graduation rates, the vaccination gap is smaller, the analysis found, but the partisan gap holds even after accounting for income, race and age demographics, population density and a county’s infection and death rate.
When asked in polls about their vaccination plans, Republicans across the country have been far less likely than Democrats to say they plan to get shots. Most recently, on Wednesday, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University polls indicated that almost half of Republicans did not plan to pursue vaccinations. Only around one in 20 Democrats said the same.
Using survey data collected in March, the federal government recently created new estimates of hesitancy for every county and state in the United States. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services modelers used demographic factors and state-level responses of adults who said they would “probably not” or “definitely not” get a Covid-19 vaccine from the Household Pulse Survey, then used Census data to estimate the share of residents who might say that in every county.
In more than 500 counties, at least a quarter of adults might not be willing to get vaccinated, according to the estimates, and a majority of these places supported Mr. Trump in the last election.
In the 10 states where the government projected that residents would be least hesitant to get a Covid-19 vaccine, voters chose Mr. Biden in the 2020 election. Mr. Trump won nine of the 10 states where the most residents said they would probably or definitely not get the vaccine. (He did not win Georgia, which is among those states.)

...In counties where a majority of residents voted for Mr. Trump in the 2020 election, adult vaccination rates were lower, on average, than in counties where a majority of residents voted for Mr. Biden. The rate was especially low in counties where Mr. Trump dominated, falling below 1 in 4 residents in counties where the former president won by a margin of 50 or more points.
The divide in vaccination rates remained even after accounting for a variety of factors, including infection rates, population density and educational attainment.

This morning, CNBC reported that "Worldwide, deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day. 'This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,' said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organization’s leaders on COVID-19. In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a 'raging inferno' by one WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country. As cases surge, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what supplies remain and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats... Taking cues from [neo-fascist] President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than a flu, his Health Ministry for months bet big on a single vaccine, ignoring other producers. When bottlenecks emerged, it was too late to get large quantities in time."

I just had my first vaccination on Thursday and I'm already looking forward to a trip. But nowhere I want to go looks safe-- and most places I want to go are closed to tourists... or at least closed to American tourists. One of my favorite countries to visit is Thailand-- and the pandemic was easy on them-- until recently. On Thursday, Thailand reported 1,543 new cases. Yesterday it was 1,585 and today 1,547, bringing the national total over 40,000 cases. Nearly every day sees the highest increase increase in new cases since the start of the pandemic. This week reported that "The continued rise of COVID-19 cases casts a shadow on Thailand’s plans to revive its tourism industry by lifting travel restrictions allowing vaccinated travellers to visit the country without quarantine starting July 2021 in Phuket... Animesh Kumar, director of travel and tourism consulting at GlobalData, said: 'Thailand economy is heavily dependent on tourism as the industry contributes 17-18% to the gross domestic product (GDP) in Thailand. Last year, due to COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant impact on the tourism industry, the Thai economy witnessed its biggest slump in last two decades. ‘Household debts’ has been mounting and this is putting additional pressure on the government, which is already reeling from the pandemic, inactivity in tourism industry and the pro-democracy demonstrations. It may be argued that considering the current situation, it is probably not prudent for Thai authorities to go ahead with the plans to reopen tourism. While there is merit in the argument, there is still time for Thailand to control the spread of the virus. As part of the pilot in Phuket, the authorities are aiming to vaccinate at least 70% of the population in Phuket before July and it is critical that the plan does not get derailed. In case vast majority of the locals in the Phuket island are vaccinated and if sufficient measures are in place for smooth arrival and departure of vaccinated international tourists, Thailand can potentially go ahead with the pilot for reopening tourism regardless of whether the COVID-19 surge has been controlled or not. Thai economy is in a desperate situation and the revival of tourism activity is of paramount importance. A tourism friendly bio-bubble must be created in Phuket and other destinations across the globe, which are attempting to revive tourism.'"

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