Windy and warmish this late-afternoon Friday here in California’s Central Valley — another day in a series this week in seemingly a last grasp of comfortable weather before the seasonal heat-blast.
We’re forecast for high temps ahead, maybe into triple-digits by the middle of next week as a preview to a hot-as-shit summer that’s waiting in the wings. A short time ahead.
Buried in political news, or maybe war news, is that huge, atomic-powered elephant in the room — the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the weight of all that other shit, and with COVID cases/deaths dropping — although we recently cleared a million American deaths in just a bit more than two years — the virus reportedly will never actually go away. In our present situation, it’s going to become a serious, shit-bad flu.
Just a year ago, there was happiness and hope. Now it’s a return of a cycle (The New York Times yesterday): ‘Federal health officials warned on Wednesday that a third of Americans live in areas where the threat of Covid-19 is now so high that they should consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings. They cited new data showing a substantial jump in both the spread of the coronavirus and hospitalizations over the past week.’
I don’t go out much, but this morning a trip to the grocery store was required and it’s a bit frightening that hardly anyone wears a mask anymore. And each time I venture into public within closed spaces I mask-up, and each time the landscape of not-giving-a-shit seems worse. Store clerks mask, but customers don’t. This is a virus that’s not going away, in fact, it’s mutating rapidly and can’t be beaten down like other outbreaks.
Of course, we also are unfortunate enough to be burdened with crazy-assed, cruel Republicans who are dying dumb-assedly in large amounts. We’ve known this a while, but it hasn’t changed (h/t tweet Balloon Juice — at their new, hopefully temporary, home):
NEW: @DanielPWWood and I have taken another look at the death gap between counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump in 2020, and those that voted for President Biden.
Even after Omicron, the gap remains incredibly stark.
— Geoff Brumfiel (@gbrumfiel) May 19, 2022
Worrisome details at NPR yesterday:
Even with widely available vaccines and newly effective treatments, residents of counties that went heavily for Donald Trump in the last presidential election are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those that live in areas that went for President Biden.
That’s according to a newly-updated analysis from NPR, examining how partisanship and misinformation are shaping the pandemic.
NPR examined COVID deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which most Americans could find a vaccine if they wanted one.
Those living in counties that voted 60-percent or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.26 times the death rate of those that went by the same margin for Biden.
Counties with a higher share of Trump votes had even higher mortality rates.
The scale of the preventable loss of life is staggering. According to a recent analysis by Brown University, nearly 320,000 lives nationwide could have been saved if more people had chosen to get vaccinated. The Brown analysis also shows a partisan split in how those preventable deaths are distributed.
States that went most heavily for Trump –– including Wyoming and West Virginia — have among the highest rates of preventable deaths, while states that voted heavily for Biden — such as Massachusetts and Vermont — had among the lowest.
“How you vote should not predict whether you die of COVID,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University School of Public Health.
The social causes of the divide are complex, but the immediate reason is dead simple: Trump-leaning counties have far lower vaccination rates than those that went for President Biden.
NPR’s analysis showed that the gap was 21 points, with 81-percent of adults vaccinated in heavily-Biden counties compared to 60-percent of adults in counties that went for Trump.
According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals are 10 times less likely to die from a COVID-19 infection than the unvaccinated.
Nuzzo says she sees the partisan divide in COVID deaths as one of the major failures of public health messaging in this pandemic.
“Public health advice about vaccines often says, ‘Talk to your doctor,'” Nuzzo says. But many people don’t have one.
Meanwhile anti-vaccine advocates have found new audiences on social media, often by feeding into conspiracy theories on the political right. Trusted conservative sources of information tend to have far higher levels of vaccine misinformation than liberal sources.
“It’s hard for people to actually find the facts, particularly if they are of certain political persuasion,” she says.
So we’ll be in this shit for a long, long time.
Vaxxed and boosted, yet here we are once again…