Below is a screenshot of a New York Times graphic that shows COVID hot spots on the left and vaccination rates on the right. On the left, the darker the color, the more dire the infection rate. On the right, the darker the color, the higher the vaccination rate.
According to the data underlying the charts, Florida has respectable vaccination uptake (thank you, senior citizens!), neither the best nor the worst (that would be Mississippi). But where the state distinguishes itself presently is in spreading the virus. From the Orlando Sentinel:
Florida has reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to federal health data released Saturday.
The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.
BTW, we rely on federal data because Governor DeSantis abolished the release of daily COVID stats a while back, saying that COVID was behind us, along with outlawing local mask mandates, vaccine passports, etc. Ms. Rubin of The Post wrote about it this morning:
DeSantis has banned schools from mandating masks, thereby leaving children too young to get the vaccine vulnerable to a life-threatening disease. In a speech in Salt Lake City last week, he declared, “It is very important that we say unequivocally no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no to mandates” — a clear repudiation of the “pro-life” philosophy DeSantis claims to support. He has also attempted to prevent cruise lines from requiring coronavirus vaccinations for passengers. Thousands upon thousands of Floridians will become sick or die in large part due to his willful ignorance and ambition to become the darling of the dangerously oppositional MAGA crowd.
She’s right, but the point of her column isn’t to call DeSantis out as a dangerous dickhead and ideological opportunist who puts his presidential ambitions above the lives of Floridians, although that’s true; Rubin’s point is to underscore the role businesses will have to play in getting the U.S. to something like herd immunity:
The private sector, which Republicans used to insist should be free to operate as business owners saw fit, now battles to save lives in the face of right-wing politicians who have formed a sort of death cult that elevates “owning the libs” over the prevention of needless death.
Public anger and disgust with these politicians — whose harmful rhetoric is forcing the majority of us back to mask-wearing — will continue to build. If anything, public health officials and the White House have not been direct enough in calling out these menacing figures.
She’s not alone in thinking businesses can help save the day — her fellow Never-Trumper David Frum wrote something similar in The Atlantic, though he focuses more on consumer pressure to force the issue with businesses:
Over the early summer, conservative governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis struck first, deploying the power of state government to impose their values on recalcitrant businesses. Now it’s time for public-health-conscious consumers to strike back, just as they would if the state of Florida tried to junk its fire codes or abolish food-safety rules or forbid cruise ships at Florida ports from carrying lifeboats.
The Biden administration’s preference on COVID-19 rules has been to move slowly—to follow public opinion rather than force it. That makes political sense. But COVID-conscious America has a friend and ally that can move faster. Say hello to Mr. Market.
Frum points out that political power disproportionately resides in red areas, whereas market power lives in blue zones. That’s true. Relatedly, more PEOPLE live in blue areas too, especially those with higher levels of discretionary income.
A while back, when the delta variant was in the news but before there was additional mask guidance from the CDC, Fox News and Republican politicians suddenly and loudly started urging people to get vaccinated. There was speculation here and elsewhere about their abrupt turnabout. One consensus view was that Republicans were figuring out that being perceived as anti-vax had become a political liability. Well, that seems to be out the window now that the CDC has issued updated mask guidance.
I’m not sure if Republicans are lurching back to their effectively pro-COVID position out of reflexive hostility to Democrats and government scientists or because they’re getting blowback from their nutty base, but the move is striking. DeSantis not only banned mask mandates in Florida schools, he threatened to withhold funding to enforce the ban. At a time when schools (and kids) are under pressure like never before.
School starts in a few weeks in this ranging virus hotspot, and DeSantis is betting it all on red (meat) again. I feel sick about the whole thing, and helpless. We’ll find out next year if DeSantis gets away with that gamble again or if the consequences of his grotesque fecklessness finally come down on his own thick head.