Republicans arguing against coronavirus mitigation efforts have been consistently dishonest, ignorant, or both. For instance, one columnist from National Review posted a chart showing the rate of deaths from COVID by state, starting from January 2020. The top ten were a mix of Democratic- and Republican-run states. The writer, Charles C. W. Cooke, tweeted that public policy made no difference in the spread. (As I searched for his tweet, I found that he deleted it, but at the time, it had been retweeted hundreds of times.)
Among the states, were New York, New Jersey, and several in New England where the virus hit first and spread quickly. With no mitigation efforts, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketed, dominating the first wave in April 2020. Since that first wave, Republican governors in places like Florida and Texas have resisted efforts to curb the spread of the virus and their rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have consistently dominated the ten most affected states over the most recent wave. Clearly, the mitigation efforts of mostly Democratic governors and legislatures work to save lives. You can decide for yourself whether or not Republicans like Ron DeSantis are responsible for people dying, but they clearly aren’t responsible for keeping more people alive.
We’ve been hearing for a year from conservative commentators and elected officials that masks don’t work to curb the spread. Now, we have real-time comparisons. In Union County, the school board has allowed masks to be voluntary while in neighboring Mecklenburg, masks are required. The infection rate in Union is about four times higher than the rate in Mecklenburg.
The evidence indicates that masks make a difference to reduce the spread, but even if the evidence weren’t so clear, why are Republicans and conservatives so hell bent on fighting mitigation efforts? Despite their tired rhetoric, few of the measures taken are dramatic or unusual. Vaccine mandates have been with us since the Revolution. George Washington required the Continental Army to be vaccinated against small pox. Every school requires a series of vaccinations for students to attend. And conservatives have been the leaders of school dress codes that really aren’t that different from mask mandates. They want students to cover their asses, but not their faces.
All of that said, conservatives and others are asking some questions that need to be answered. Specifically, when will the pandemic be over? What metrics will allow us to drop mask mandates? In short, when can we return to normal? Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen need to offer some answers here. So does Joe Biden.
We are probably never going to eradicate COVID, at least not in the foreseeable future, but we can reduce the risk and vaccines do that. We have finally reached the point where the disease is no more dangerous than the flu, which kills about 35,000 people year, for vaccinated individuals. According to recent studies, the chance of vaccinated people contracting the virus is about 1 in 5000. The chance of hospitalization or death are much, much lower. I’ll take my chances with those odds and I’m ready to put away my mask.
Now, public officials like Cooper, who has done a great job protecting us, need to lay out the end game. We’ll be coming out of the latest wave soon and hospitals will begin to recover from being overburdened. That said, areas with lots of pro-COVID Republicans will continue to see spikes. Our policies moving forward should be directed toward them, not those of us who have been responsible. The policies moving forward should be targeted, not broad.