The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had been ever so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avator and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness… – Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque Of The Red Death
It’s been two years since the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in the US and there is no end in sight. Many of us had been hopeful in mid-summer 2021 that we had finally turned the corner on this pandemic. Then came the Delta variant, an apparently more dangerous strain than the original virus outbreak. Following that came the highly contagious Omicron variant. These variations have driven COVID 19 to their highest levels, not just in the United States but around the world. Hospitals are once again dealing with overflowing conditions and elective surgeries are put on hold once more.
When President Biden declared “a summer of freedom, a summer of joy” little did we know the joy of early summer 2021 would be short-lived. The rise of infections and “breakthrough” infections brought the need for a COVID Booster shot. People were getting sick and dying at an increasing rate. The fully vaccinated were less likely to need hospitalization, even if they caught a breakthrough case. The unvaccinated were much more likely to get sick and die.
Nine of the ten states with the lowest vaccination rates are Republican states or the Red States. On the other hand, the only state with a Democratic governor, Louisiana, might as well be considered a red state as both of their US Senators are Republicans. So let’s just call all ten states with the lowest vaccination rates as states of the red death.
National Public Radio (NPR) has been looking at COVID-19 deaths since May 2021. That’s a point in time when the vaccine was widely available. I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as far back as March. NPR discovered that people in counties that went 60 percent or higher for Donald Trump in the November 2020 election “have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden.” An independent health care analyst and researcher, Charles Gabba, noted that in October 2021 “the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth.,” as reported by NPR. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the risk for those unvaccinated at an even higher percentage.
Of course, we do not know the exact voting record of all the people who died of the coronavirus in these red counties, but we do know certain facts. Trump voters were more likely to resist getting vaccinated, and death rates in Trump counties are higher. This may come from the fact that Trump seemed to downplay the advice of doctors and scientists who urged for vaccination. He suggested bizarre options for fighting the disease, some of which live on today despite being debunked. While there is incontrovertible proof that the unvaccinated are dying at higher rates, people continue to hold out.
Also, an odd part of the story is that the man who has led so many down the path to death’s door is himself vaccinated. The former president was vaccinated while still in office in January of 2021, one of the first in the country. Recently he admitted that he received the booster shot as well. This earned him some boos from a Dallas, Texas crowd. He had said a few months earlier that he probably would not get the booster shot. He went on to tell the Texas audience, “If you don’t want to take it, you shouldn’t be forced to take it. No mandates.”
There is no lack of irony in seeing people in the so-called right-to-life party choosing death for themselves. No, most of them will not die, but many will die needlessly. The country has reached almost 850,000 COVID-19 deaths and may hit a million. Much of this could have been avoided. Misinformation drove the resistance to the vaccine. In the era before cable and satellite news, as well as social media, we were unlikely to be told so many lies. Now it is part of our daily lives.
The very people demanding that life get back to normal are the very ones preventing that from happening. Anti-vaxxers are feeding the rise in COVID-19 infections. They are adding to the spread of the variants and might be the cause of the next wave and the wave to follow that.
Some say that Omicron is not that bad, but it is still a coronavirus infection and we have not learned enough about it. You can still get sick from it. You can still need hospitalization from it. You can still die.
Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid those who refuse to get vaccinated or follow these simple steps. I am adding “avoid red states” to my personal list. We are all sick of this, and sick of those putting us all at risk. That is not as bad a being sick from COVID-19. That could be a killer.
Sources: “Pro-Trump counties now have far higher COVID death rates. Misinformation is to blame,” By Daniel Wood and Geoff Brumfiel, NPR.org, December 5, 2021.
“Trump met with boos after revealing he received Covid-19 booster,” by Dan Merica, cnn.org December 21, 2021.
“Omicron symptoms: What we know about illness caused by the new variant,” by Erika Edwards, nbcnews.com December 21,2021.
“The Morning,” by David Leonhardt and Ashley Wu, The New York Times, January 3, 2022
Read also: “The Masque of the Red Death,” by Edgar Allan Poe, The Poe Museum, May 1842.