On Saturday, India reported 260,778 new cases of COVID-19 and 1,495 deaths. On Sunday it was another 275,306 new cases and 1,625 deaths. Yesterday, more than 272,000 new cases and 1,757 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 15,314,714, almost half as many as the U.S.-- thanks to Trump, the world's VOVID-capital-- and the total number of deaths to 180,550. India reported 8,944 current cases as serious or critical. The pandemic is impoverishing India's fragile middle class.
The B.1.617 variant, which is largely responsible for this new wavier India, has caused the U.K. to virtually ban all flights from that country into Britain. Boris Johnson canceled his own planned trip to India for next week. "A second wave of Covid-19 has struck India," reported Karan Deep Singh and Hari Kumar, "and the middle class dreams of tens of millions of people face even greater peril. Already, about 32 million people in India were driven into poverty by the pandemic last year, according to the Pew Research Center, accounting for a majority of the 54 million who slipped out of the middle class worldwide. The pandemic is undoing decades of progress for a country that in fits and starts has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Already, deep structural problems and the sometimes impetuous nature of many of Mr. Modi’s policies had been hindering growth. A shrinking middle class would deal lasting damage."
I've been working with a tech firm in Delhi. I usually speak with someone every other day. But until yesterday, I hadn't heard from anyone in a week. As of yesterday, Delhi was back on lockdown and everyone is tense. My main contact also sings in a jazz band but told me that all gigs are cancelled. Just before she called I had read a new report from Delhi in the NY Times: India faces new lockdowns plus oxygen and drug shortages as cases spiral. I can only imagine how it is in the rural areas if Delhi is reporting shortages of oxygen, hospital beds and drugs. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister of Delhi: "Our health systems have reached its limit. We have almost no I.C.U. beds left. We are facing a huge shortage of oxygen."
Because of a rapid vaccination program, the spread of COVID has drastically slowed down in the U.S., even while other countries-- not just India, but Brazil, France, Turkey, Iran, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, Italy, and Poland-- are back in hellish scenarios. But... it isn't slowing down everywhere.
Mask-free Florida-- under the deranged leadership of Ron DeSantis-- is reporting the most new cases-- an average of over 5,000 new cases per day. Florida has over 100,000 cases per million residents, far more than any country mentioned in this post. On Saturday we took a look at why Republicans' refusal to get vaccinated is threatening too normal people. Yesterday, writing for Vanity Fair, Eric Lutz covered the same topic: Trump Country Is Finding a Way to Screw Up America’s Vaccine Rollout. He went to the county level to looks at the political geography of the dangers Trump voters are putting the rest of us in. "Politics," he wrote, "continues to infect the public response to the health crisis, even though Donald Trump is no longer in office. But there is one big way that things are very different: We now have, in the vaccines, a clear off-ramp out of the pandemic. Millions of Americans have taken it, with half of U.S. adults now having received at least one of their shots-- a cause for hope and a credit to Joe Biden, who continues to exceed his vaccination targets. But tempering that optimism is what appears to be a mounting obstacle to reaching herd immunity: An apparent unwillingness, or hesitancy, on the part of many Republicans to take their pokes."
“The fact that one may not want to get vaccinated, in this case a disturbingly large proportion of Republicans, only actually works against where they want to be,” Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “They want to be able to say these restrictions that are put on by public health recommendations are things that they’re very concerned about. But the way you get rid of those restrictions is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
The U.S. on Monday opened up vaccine eligibility to all Americans over the age of 16-- a milestone that could further increase the pace of vaccinations. “For yourself, your neighbors, and your family,” Biden said, “please get your vaccine.” But polls have suggested around a quarter of Americans-- and nearly half of Republicans-- are not planning to get vaccinated, which could complicate the country’s quest for herd immunity and potentially prolong the pandemic. It could also leave vaccine-skeptical residents of pro-Trump counties, which a New York Times analysis found to lag behind in shots administered, even more vulnerable to a virus and its dangerous variants that the former president routinely downplayed as little more than a flu. “These are people who were fed untruths about how this virus wasn’t real,” Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, told the Times. “I think it is carrying through in the vaccination realm, too.”
To be sure, this isn’t only a Republican problem-- and the issues at play might include not only vaccine hesitancy, but vaccine access. Moreover, as Axios noted, there may be a danger, in pointing fingers, of the shot becoming even more politicized. “What I’m really worried about,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the outlet, “is building up this identity of, ‘if you’re a Republican, you don’t want the vaccine.’” But that already seems to be happening: As the Times reports, while states press for more doses, some Trump counties continue to have more supply than demand. “It pains me to think that the governor of Michigan is begging for vaccines,” one Wyoming health official told the Times. “And we’ve got vials and vials in our freezer.”
The task, then, might not be preventing the vaccines from getting swept up in America’s partisan culture war, but extricating them from it. To that end, the administration is mobilizing a massive messaging campaign, seeking to win over conservatives, as well as some minorities who have been given reason to be wary of the medical establishment. “What we are doing is we’re trying to get, by a community core, trusted messages that anyone would feel comfortable listening to, whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, or whomever you are,” Fauci said in an ABC News interview Sunday. Whether they can convince enough of the vaccine-hesitant to push the country over the 70% to 90% mark to bring about herd immunity will depend on how much the partisan lines have calcified.