White Republicans, fed a steady diet of false COVID-19 claims on Fox News, OANN and other right-wing outlets, make up the overwhelming majority of unvaccinated Americans who are driving red state outbreaks–and deaths, according to recent polling.
More than 90 percent of those who are being hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated with outbreaks scorching such Republican states as Texas, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama.
With about one-third of Americans still to be immunized against COVID-19, the majority clearly live on the right side of the political spectrum.
The tragic irony is most are getting their news from right-wing media and politically aligned Facebook pages and social media sites.
From the outset of the pandemic last year, popular right-leaning outlets and pundits spouted hoaxes and conspiracy theories behind the pandemic,” according to a Cambridge University study.
Sean Hannity said the virus was a fraud by the “deep state.” The late Rush Limbaugh suggested the virus was a plot hatched by the Chinese. Fox Business anchor Trish Regan told viewers that the worry over coronavirus “is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”
Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and other Fox News talking heads continue to spread misinformation and doubts about the vaccine.
Not surprisingly, early on, only 38 percent of Fox News viewers were worried about coronavirus, compared to 72 per cent of national newspaper readers or 71 per cent of CNN viewers, according to the study.
The average age of Fox News viewers is likely in the 50–60 range, who are most susceptible to serious health consequences from the virus. White Americans account for 74 percent of its total viewership, according to Cable TV News.
“The relative prominence of COVID misinformation shared by right-leaning media may have contributed to the spread of misinformation about COVID and subsequently undermined support for information from public health experts,” according to the Cambridge study.
A separate Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that more than 69 percent of those who say they are “definitely not” getting a vaccination are White. Blacks and Hispanics make up seven percent and 12 percent respectively.
Among that same group, 59 percent are Republicans. Democrats make up just 18 percent, according to the Foundation, which is tracking the virus.
In a second category, made up of those taking a “wait and see” attitude, Whites dominate again. They make up 58 percent of those polled, while Blacks and Hispanics made up 18 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Republicans make up 45 percent of that group, while Democrats come in at 34 percent.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen political divides in attitudes towards COVID itself, not just the vaccines,” said Liz Hamel, director of foundation’s Public Opinion and Survey Research program, in a blog post.
The survey found familiar themes among those who said they are definitely not getting vaccinated, all of which have been pushed by right-wing media outlets.
Among the claims, many said “the media has exaggerated the seriousness of the pandemic.” As such, more than half of those who refuse to get vaccinated claim they do not need it.
“That’s something that we heard President Trump saying when he was in office. It’s something that Republicans are more likely to agree with than Democrats. And people who believe that the pandemic has been exaggerated are much less likely to say they want to get the vaccine,” said Hamel.
Those who are hesitant to get the vaccine raised concerns about possible side effects and that lack of what they believe is adequate testing.
The three vaccines in use, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were all approved under emergency authorizations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has lower safety requirements than full FDA approval.
But on Monday, the FDA announced that it had given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. The other two are still under evaluation, but are expected to clear final hurdles in the coming weeks.
The defense department immediately ordered all 1.4 million active-duty service members to be vaccinated. The federal approval could also have implications for state bans on vaccine mandates.
A number of state governments, universities and business also have mask, as well as vaccine mandates in place.
But red state Republican governors, like Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and some state legislatures have blocked mandates across-the-board, including in schools and hospitals.
Arkansas and Missouri (each with more than 16 new daily cases per 100,000 people) are hardest hit, followed by Florida (10), Nevada (10), Wyoming (nine) and Utah (eight).
In contrast, urban and suburban communities more likely to be Democratic with high vaccination rates, are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases holding steady or falling.
The rate of new daily cases is below three per 100,000 residents in large cities like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, according to The New York Times.
There is a clear relationship between a state’s Covid death rate over the past week and its overall vaccination rate.
Only 54 percent of adults in rural areas have received at least one vaccine shot, compared with 72 percent of urban residents, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
More than 90,000 coronavirus patients are in hospitals nationwide, more than in any previous surge except last winter’s, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The country is averaging more than 800 newly reported deaths a day, about twice as many as in early August.
Deaths are rising in 42 states, the worst tally seen since December.
In the week ending Aug 18, the United States recorded 5,742 deaths, nearly double the total from two weeks earlier.
The 10,991 Americans who died of COVID-19 in the first 18 days of August are already more than all the fatalities in June or July.
The nearly 2.2 million U.S. cases in those first 18 days make this the fifth-worst month in the pandemic, blowing past the highest monthly totals of the 2020 spring and summer surges, with case counts rising in 44 states.
At the current pace, 34 Americans die of COVID-19 every hour.
“It is the unvaccinated people who are dying,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, told television station WLBT.
“The unvaccinated people who are going to the hospital. The unvaccinated people who are getting diagnosed, for the most part.”