When identity politics turns deadly:
The refusal to go along with expert health guidance has persisted even in parts of the country that are seeing soaring caseloads and hospitalizations. That was driven home this week when the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Deborah Birx, toured North Dakota, which has had more coronavirus infections per capita than any other state and over the past month hasexperienced a stunning surge in hospitalizations and deaths.
What Birx witnessed dismayed her.
“Over the last 24 hours, as we were here and we were in your grocery stores and in your restaurants and frankly, even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been,” Birx told reporters Monday after participating in a round table with Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
Burgum has endorsed masks but declined to impose a statewide mandate, saying Monday that the decision to wear a face covering is a personal one. He did join Birx in calling for more widespread testing, and on his Twitter account, he cited her view that “more people need to wear masks, socially distance & slow the spread.”
The state reported 889 new infections Tuesday and 15 additional deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll to 481, three-fourths of them in the past eight weeks.
“North Dakota has the highest covid death rate per capita in the world right now,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, referring to deaths in the past week. At the same time, he said, data compiled from Facebook indicates that the state has the lowest mask-wearing rate in the United States, between 45 and 49 percent.
It is becoming increasingly settled Republican orthodoxy that requirements to wear masks even in indoor public spaces are bad, and it’s probably a majority Republican position at this point that wearing masks is affirmatively bad. (The Trump-after-five-trips-to-Kinko’s Washington Republicans are using as Jay Inslee’s cannon fodder is basically running on a single-issue no COVID measures platform.) Obviously, the idea that wearing masks in enclosed public spaces is a matter of “personal choice” is absurd; it makes as much sense as saying it’s a “personal choice” how much mercury a factory disposes into the water supply. Mask mandates are about protecting other people, who did not choose to be exposed to a potentially deadly virus. But the sobering reality is that there will continue to be COVID spikes, especially in red states, even if Biden wins, until there’s a safe and widely distributed vaccine.
Speaking of people who are contemptuous of the health of others:
President Donald Trump left several thousand of his supporters stranded at Eppley Airfield after his event in Omaha Tuesday night.
After jumping into Air Force One and departing the state, many of the attendees, some of whom waited more than four hours to listen to him speak, stood in the freezing temperatures on a private road in the middle of the airport.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported “thousands” of people were stuck in the cold more than an hour after Trump took off from the airport.
OK, but Biden once put Grey Poupon on a ham sandwich so I’d say it’s about even.