Aside from the massive public health fallout, this fact has all sorts of poltiical implications as well, of course. Most of those involve pundits speculating about "the blame game" and so on; will voters in states like Florida and Texas blame their governors for doing everything possible to stymie reasonable pandemic safety measures such as mask mandates, or will they blame the Biden Administration for...I don't know, not tying people to a chair and manually forcing the COVID vaccine into their arms?
For weeks now, however, people have been asking me an even more basic, crass question about the impact of political tribalism on the 2022 midterm election:
For the past couple of months now, most of my COVID scatter-plot charts...whether measuring vaccination rates, new case rates or new death rates...have been based primarily on partisan lean. That is, at both the state and county levels, I've been using the percent of the 2020 Presidential vote won by Donald Trump as the basis for comparison.
I've gotten a lot of attention for my COVID "scatter plot bubble graphs" over the summer, laying out the COVID vaccinationandcase/death rates across every county nationally (well, mostly; Nebraska has stopped posting county-level data entirely, and Florida has only been posting county-level case data, not deaths, since June).
Data visualization is a tricky thing, though; sometimes line graphs are the way to go (that's what I did last year); other times scatter plots are more appropriate. But some people don't "get" either of these, so today let's look at some bar graphs.
For nearly a year, I posted a weekly analysis of the 100 U.S. counties (out of over 3,100 total) which had the highest cumulative rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita. In addition, I also included a running graph which compared the ratio of COVID cases & deaths per capita between blue and red counties to track how this changed over time.
The results were extremely telling: In the early days of the pandemic back in March/April 2020, the blue counties were devastated for a variety of reasons, including heavy population density, the fact they were mostly located along the coasts (usually in cities with major international ports/airport hubs), and so forth. Democrats tend to live in heavily-populated urban areas, while Republicans are prone to live in more sparsely-populated rural areas, so this made sense.
For the first few months, both case and death rates were running as much as 4-5x higher in counties which voted solidly for Hillary Clinton in 2016/Joe Biden in 2020 than in those which voted for Trump in either 2016 or 2020.
However, the biggest factors by far in this survey are Party Identification and Who you voted for in 2020:
30% of Republicans still refuse to #GetVaxxed, as well as 21% of Independents...vs. only 5% of Democrats
32% of Trump voters still refuse to #GetVaxxed...vs. just 3% of Biden voters
Joe Biden received ~81.3 million votes last fall. Donald Trump received 74.2 million.
That means, assuming this poll is relatively accurate and representative, there's around 2.44 million Biden voters who are apparently unreachable...but 23.75 million Trump voters who fall into that category. The other ~13 million refuseniks presumably voted 3rd party or didn't vote at all.
Last week I noted that MNsure, Minnesota's state-based ACA exchange, announced that while the general, open-ended 2021 Special Enrollment Period had ended back in mid-July, they're still letting any Minnesotan who received unemployment benefits at any point in 2021 the opportunity to enroll in ACA healthcare coverage & take advantage of the American Rescue Plan's Unemployment Benefit.
The key point is that Minnesotans can still do so even if they received UI benefits prior to the July 15th SEP deadline. This means that if you were on unemployment back in, say, January or February, and you still need healthcare coverage for the remainder of 2021, you can still visit MNsure.org and get coverage for the last 4 months of this year for $0 in premiums and with mostly nominal deductibles/co-pays (assuming you aren't eligible for employer-based coverage, Medicaid, etc. instead).
Having said that, those who don't get vaccinated will start facing more financial penalties soon anyway...a point which is included in the NY Times article above itself:
In 2020, before there were Covid-19 vaccines, most major private insurers waived patient payments — from coinsurance to deductibles — for Covid treatment. But many if not most have allowed that policy to lapse. Aetna, for example, ended that policy on Feb. 28; UnitedHealthcare began rolling back its waivers late last year and discontinued them by the end of March.
Over the past few weeks, as the Delta COVID-19 variant has surged across the country and COVID vaccination rates have plummeted, there's been a growing cry from many vaccinated Americans. Here's just a few examples:
Step up private sector. Mandate vaccinations for employees and consumers. Looking at you health insurance companies. Add insane premiums for those eligible yet refuse to be vaccinated. Deny hospital coverage for chosen unvaccinated hospital care.