COVID deniers, the anti-lockdown protestors who are now anti-maskers and QAnon anti-vaxxers are a public health menace.

So are the Republican governors who cater to these people, largely their base voters. NBC News reports, States with Republican governors had highest Covid incidence and death rates, study finds:

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States with Democratic governors had the highest incidence and death rates from Covid-19 in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, but states with Republican governors surpassed those rates as the crisis dragged on, a study released Tuesday found.

“From March to early June, Republican-led states had lower Covid-19 incidence rates compared with Democratic-led states. On June 3, the association reversed, and Republican-led states had higher incidence,” the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Medical University of South Carolina showed.

“For death rates, Republican-led states had lower rates early in the pandemic, but higher rates from July 4 through mid-December,” the study found.

The researchers theorized that one reason for the change is that Democrats were in charge of states where people who had the virus first arrived in the country — but Republicans were less stringent about safeguards, which could have contributed to their states’ ultimately higher incidence and death rates.

The study, which which was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined Covid-19 “incidence, death, testing, and test positivity rates from March 15 through December 15, 2020,” when there were 16 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and 300,000 deaths. It focused on per-capita infection and death rates in the 26 GOP-led states and 24 Democratic-led states and Washington, D.C., and made statistical adjustments for issues such as population density.

But “policy differences” between the Republican and Democratic leaders emerged as a big factor for the reversal of the states’ fortunes, the study suggests.

“The response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic became increasingly politicized in the U.S. and political affiliation of state leaders may contribute to policies affecting the spread of the disease,” the study said.

It pointed to a finding in another study that “Republican governors were slower to adopt both stay-at-home orders and mandates to wear face masks. Other studies have shown that Democratic governors were more likely to issue stay-at-home orders with longer durations. Moreover, decisions by Republican governors in spring 2020 to retract policies, such as the lifting of stay-at-home orders, may have contributed to increased cases and deaths.”

“Governors’ party affiliation may have contributed to a range of policy decisions that, together, influenced the spread of the virus,” the study’s senior author, Dr. Sara Benjamin-Neelon the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society, said in a statement. “These findings underscore the need for state policy actions that are guided by public health considerations rather than by partisan politics,” she added.

Now that the post-holidays surge in COVID-19 cases is in steep decline, and the COVID vaccine is being widely administered to the most at-risk groups of citizens, just like last spring Republican governors are lifting public health safeguards, including mask mandates, to open up their state economies too soon.

This is like spiking the football on the five yard line before you have crossed the end line, or declaring victory before you have won the war (like George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” – it must be a Texas thing). This is reckless and irresponsible behavior as Republican governors jockey for position to run for president in 2024. Their decisions are motivated by party politics and personal ambition, not sound medical science.

Republican governors are sabotaging the COVID recovery, and creating vectors for new variants of COVID-19 to emerge which may render the current vaccines ineffective against the emerging variants, and then we will find ourselves right back where we started.

The Hill reports, World on brink of fourth wave of coronavirus:

A year after the frightening beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the world stands on the brink of a fourth wave of infection as nations race to vaccinate their populations and stave off a new surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

Total reported cases rose across the globe in the last week of February after six weeks of decline, driven in part by new, more virulent variants that transmit between people at startlingly higher rates than the initial strains out of Wuhan, China, and northern Italy.

“This is disappointing, but not surprising,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters last week. “This is a global crisis that requires a consistent and coordinated global response.”

The United States recorded about 66,000 new cases a day over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), down 73 percent from the apex reached in early January and similar to levels of transmission from October. But the precipitous decline of late January and early February has plateaued in recent days, raising fears that a new wave is just around the corner.

“We could not have made a more wonderful environment for this virus to take off than we have right now,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We are not driving this tiger, we’re riding it. And the first time we may be able to drive it is with widespread use of the vaccine, and we’re not there yet.”

See The Pandemic’s Dr. Doom Bets It All:

Michael Osterholm has a new prediction: More virulent variants, particularly B.1.1.7 first identified in the UK, will likely kick off a surge in cases and deaths in the U.S. in a matter of weeks—just as most states lift restrictions. He’s staking his credibility on being right, and potentially his health, by delaying his own second vaccine shot, which he says should be done across the country in order to make more first shots available to as many people as possible, offering some protection before the wave crests yet again.

[O]ne major difference since last March are variants of concern. B.1.1.7, for instance, is about 40 to 70 percent more infectious and causes much more severe illness. It likely arrived in the U.S. in November, and now it’s in every state—and it is more than doubling every week. But there’s another big difference this March: extremely safe, effective vaccines that work against these variants. “The challenge we have right now is we have variants versus the vaccine,” Osterholm said—and the battle is also a race against time.

A total of 107 million doses of the three vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration have been shipped to states across the nation, according to CDC data. About 53 million people have received at least one dose, 16 percent of the population, while 27 million have received two doses. The first doses of the one-shot vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson were administered last week.

The 518,000 Americans who have died represents about 20 percent of the global death toll. The latest data from the CDC shows 41,000 are still hospitalized.

CDC forecasts show the number of weekly deaths dropping through the rest of March and into April, though the number of deaths will continue at a horrible cost of thousands of lives.

The next round of holiday gatherings is just around the corner: Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, a sequel to the spike in cases we saw last spring. By pretending that the worst is over before it is over, we may not achieve President Biden’s goal of friends and families being able to celebrate together on July 4th. Don’t ruin this for everyone.

Some models show an increase in cases just around the corner. One model maintained by the PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows reproduction rates — the measure of how many people are infected by someone who has the virus — rising in three quarters of the counties surveyed. States in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest showed higher transmission rates last week.

Several states have loosened restrictions on businesses and gatherings imposed over the summer, even though infections continue at higher levels today than when those mandates were initially put in place.

“You’re seeing a lot of states loosening mask restrictions at a point where they’re having more cases per day than they had over the summer when they put the mask restrictions in place,” said Rich Besser, a former CDC director who now runs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

This is sabotage, whether intentional or unintentional. It is driven by party politics, not sound medical science.

The governors of Texas and Mississippi have removed mask mandates, and most states have lifted capacity rules for indoor establishments like bars and restaurants. Public health experts cautioned against racing to reopen at a faster pace than the science suggests is safe.

“If we’re a little bit too capricious in this in between phase, we can really lengthen this [pandemic] out,” said David Rubin, who runs PolicyLab. “A lot of people very close to the finish line before they’re offered vaccinations can be infected.”

[T]he barriers to a return to normal remain in the form of vaccine hesitancy, as millions voice skepticism over shots that have shown no serious medical consequences.

“If we continue to see this large group of people who are not getting vaccinated, that’s going to have a big impact on sustainability of transmission in the US, even with the vaccine here. We’ve done little to dent that,” Osterholm said.

Variants that now account for an increasing share of cases in the United States are a growing cause of concern. Scientists are especially concerned about the B.1.1.7 variant, responsible for a winter outbreak in the United Kingdom, and the B.1.357 variant, first identified in South Africa and now prevalent in several of its neighbors.

As more Americans receive their vaccines, communities are looking ahead to a promising spring and summer. But while the light is on at the end of the tunnel, experts warned there is still plenty of tunnel to traverse.

“This in-between time, our collective response with communities and how we go about the next couple months is such a critical moment,” Rubin said. “Everything we do now has an impact on what might happen three months from now.”

Last week, the CDC warned, ‘Please hear me clearly’: CDC director urges states not to reopen too soon as cases plateau:

The U.S. has hit a plateau in coronavirus cases and deaths that signal a “potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned states on Monday not to loosen restrictions and get in front of the progress the country has made since it hit a monumental 300,000 cases a day in January, the worst point of the pandemic so far.

Walensky, previously the chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, had a targeted plea to all states on Monday: “Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said.

“These variants are a very real threat to our people and to our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close,” she said.

Walensky, chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health experts have been warning for weeks that letting up on mitigation before cases reach a more controllable level could lead to the same surge the U.S. saw after a patchwork of reopenings, largely across the South, erased much of the progress of the nearly nationwide March and April shutdown.

“We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country. Please stay strong in your conviction, continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work,” Walensky said.

The New York Times reported, The Virus Spread Where Restaurants Reopened or Mask Mandates Were Absent.

The Washington Post reported, As states lift restrictions, CDC says mask mandates can reduce deaths. The Post’s James Downie writes, When states unmask, we know what happens next.

Nevertheless, Governor Doug Ducey, who last year shut down too late and reopened too soon under political pressure from anti-lockdown protestors and President Donald Trump, last week ordered capacity restrictions lifted. Arizona governor ends capacity restrictions on restaurants, other businesses — but social distancing and masking rules still apply. Those masking rules are city and county regulations.

Governor Ducey also ordered schools to return to in-person instruction, before school districts have received any of the money recently appropriated by the COVID Relief bill only signed into law yesterday so that schools can reopen safely. Ducey back-to-school order leaves educators shocked, scrambling, upset.

The Arizona Republic reported, Ariz. health leaders worry about relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

If we suffer a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections this Spring from the new COVID variants rapidly spreading across the country, God help these Republican governors if the emerging variants render the New COVID vaccines ineffective. They should all be charged with negligent homicide and driven out of office.




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