The Problems of COVID-19 Aren’t Uniformly Acknowledged (and Likely Never Will Be)

David Leonhardt accurately writes that Heavily Republican areas of the U.S. have a growing Covid problem:

Cases have begun to rise more rapidly in communities with lower vaccination rates.

Consider this chart, which looks at the number of new cases in counties across the U.S., grouping counties by the share of residents who have been fully vaccinated:

New York Times | Sources: State, county and regional health departments

A month ago, a chart like this would have looked almost random, with little relationship between caseloads and vaccination rates. Now, there is a clear relationship. (A recent Washington Post analysis came to the same conclusion.)


There is a political angle to these trends, of course. The places with the lowest vaccination rates tend to be heavily Republican. In an average U.S. county that voted for Donald Trump, only 34 percent of people are fully vaccinated, according to New York Times data. In an average country that voted for Joe Biden, the share is 45 percent (and the share that has received at least one shot is higher).

The New York Times | Sources: State, county and regional health departments; National Election Pool/Edison Research

No wonder, then, that the number of new cases keeps falling in Biden counties, while it has begun to rise in Trump counties.

In previous newsletters, I have pointed out some of the questionable ways that liberal communities have responded to the current phase of the pandemic, such as keeping schools partly closed and insisting on masks for the vaccinated. But conservative communities have their own problems with Covid behavior. Many Republican voters have not taken the disease very seriously and also have irrational fears about the vaccines.

It’s an undertstatement to say that COVID-19 has been a problem, but in Walworth County, for example, there are thousands who would likely carry on the same even if cases regrettably spiked beyond anything yet seen. Persuading them about the dangers of COVID-19 would require huge efforts for only slight gains in acceptance of the pandemic’s risks.

One offers no prediction of a future spike; instead, it’s evident that the reddest of the red simply don’t acknowledge a COVID-19 problem as others do.  See generally Whitewater’s Local Politics 2021 — COVID-19: Skepticism and Rhetoric.)

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