The pandemic has broken down along partisan lines. In the post vaccine world, COVID is disproportionately harming Republican areas with the death rate in red states three times that of blue states. Two years of resisting any sort of mitigation efforts while casting doubt about the danger of the disease has taken a toll. The conservative media led its audience to be skeptical of the vaccines and Republican leaders like Florida Governor Ron DiSantis gave credence to the misinformation and disinformation being spread by the outlets. 

That said, COVID is not going to go away. We will likely see spikes again as people move inside during the winter. Cases, though, should not be the driver of government interventions. Instead, the threat to hospitals should be what triggers regulations and mandates. Most vaccinated people can now survive the virus without intense medical intervention. As long as COVID is not overwhelming medical systems, governments should back off of mandates and regulations.

It’s time to recalibrate our approach to dealing with the virus. We now have interventions that can reduced its spread and its severity. People either take it seriously or they don’t. They know how to protect themselves and their loved ones, so we should leave it up to individuals, organizations, and businesses. Keep them informed about the progress and spread of the virus and don’t declare victory. It’s not something to beat, it’s something to control. The only thing that’s going to convince skeptics is the toll of the disease on their lives and communities. 

We need to look at the impact of the virus from a local standpoint, not a state one. North Carolina is the size of many countries and the impact of the virus differs greatly geographically. In places like Orange County, the spread is largely contained. In other counties, the virus is still raging. Orange County took the virus seriously from the beginning. People living there will continue to take a cautious approach to dealing with it regardless of what the government says. 

In contrast, places like Cleveland County have taken a different approach. When Cleveland County resident and House Speaker Tim Moore made news by showing up maskless in a Raleigh pharmacy, conservatives on social media called him a hero. His county has a death rate three times that of Orange County. No amount of state government regulation is going to change the perception in Cleveland County that the virus does not need serious intervention. If they want to take a cavalier approach to COVID, let them. If agonizing deaths alone on a ventilator aren’t enough to make people realize the threat of the disease, nothing will. 

We’re going to have to learn to live with the disease and, thankfully, we now have interventions that can reduce its impact. I don’t think government mandates convince many people of its seriousness. Instead, they create heroes of those who snub them. People and businesses have the information they need. If they choose to believe conservative media outlets, let them pay the price. If they care more about their loved ones and their communities, let them be rewarded with lower infection and death rates. 

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