Virus wars: no ‘clear model’ between red and blue states | EDITORIAL


As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, with Putin issuing veiled threats of escalation and nuclear weapons, the past two years may now feel like the good old days. Remember COVID?

Mask edicts have been lifted virtually everywhere – Hawaii this week became the latest state to announce it would drop its face-covering mandate – case numbers are plummeting and hospitals are seeing fewer patients infected with the virus . COVID deaths, a lagging indicator, are also declining significantly across the country.

Yet the red-blue divide remains.

David Leonhardt of The New York Times wrote Wednesday that residents of many progressive states are still avoiding restaurants — “the number of diners seated last month was at least 40% lower than pre-pandemic levels” in cities like New York, Portland, Ore. , and San Francisco, according to OpenTable. Meanwhile, “diner numbers have fully recovered” in cities including Miami, Phoenix, Austin and Las Vegas.

A definitive review of how the country has responded to the pandemic — what has helped and what hasn’t — will one day be written. But there’s already evidence that states that have taken a less draconian approach to virus restrictions haven’t done as badly as critics predicted, especially when it comes to the highly contagious variant of the virus. ‘omicron.

“Has Omicron spread less in areas of the United States where social distancing and masking were more common?” asks Mr. Leonhardt. “The answer is surprisingly unclear.”

Mr. Leonhardt’s data-driven approach, seasoned with analysis from agendaless public health experts, enabled him to deliver a healthy, sober voice amid the sea of ​​hyperbole sailed by both anti-vaxxers and progressive COVID warriors. In this case, he concludes that the “lack of a clear pattern is striking” between states and jurisdictions that had strict mask and social distancing requirements versus those that did not.

The reason probably lies in the fact that the omicron was very contagious and therefore more likely to escape precautions. “It’s really a function of the extreme intensity of omicron transmission,” Dr. Charles Murray, founder of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told Leonhardt.

Yet governors and other public officials who questioned the benefits of mask mandates or business closures have been dismissed by some on the left as members of a “death cult.”

The takeaway from the data, Leonhardt observes, is that vaccines “are remarkably effective in preventing serious disease.” Apart from that, “interventions other than vaccination – like masking and distancing – are less powerful than we would like”.

There’s a lot in that determination for activists in the red and blue states to ponder.


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