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Some Republican Governors Seem to Want COVID-19 to Win

With the Delta variant circulating in the United States, COVID-19 is still hitting hard. But the latest phase of the pandemic is also demonstrating a divide. Data so far indicates that several available vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. Unfortunately, in some states, including those with low vaccination rates, Republican governors are seemingly intent on blocking efforts to impede the virus’s spread as the nation grapples with the latest developments.

On Monday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told the media that Texas and Florida account for one in three new cases nationally, as the Houston Chronicle reported. Zients emphasized that the Delta-driven rise in cases is happening in areas with low vaccination rates. According to the Chronicle, the states account for about a sixth of the national population.

According to data published by the New York Times, as of August 3, Texas is averaging around 9,600 new cases and over 6,000 people hospitalized a day; both of those figures have climbed substantially in the last two weeks. The same is true in Florida, where data shows an average of over 15,800 daily new cases and over 9,700 people hospitalized. According to the data in the Times, the two states are also currently leading the nation in average daily hospitalizations, combining to represent a little over 34%.

Data from the CDC shows where in Texas and Florida the cases are surging right now. For the time period July 27 to August 2, both states are seeing broad increases in infections per 100,000 residents and high levels of community transmission across regions. In Texas, in terms of total new case counts, the bulk appears to be concentrated in the populous counties around San Antonio, Houston, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In Florida, the counties around Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville are seeing the highest concentrations of total new cases. While the virus is hitting hard in some of the states’ bluer areas, both Texas and Florida are run by Republican governors who’ve been lambasted for their recent moves.

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On Tuesday, President Joe Biden was asked directly about the governors of Texas and Florida at a press conference. Asked if the gubernatorial Republicans were “personally making decisions that are harming their own citizens,” Biden responded, “I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents. And it’s clear to me and to most of the medical experts that the decisions being made — like not allowing mask mandates in school and the like — are bad health policy.”

As the Times reported last week, Texas governor Greg Abbott doubled down on a prohibition against mask mandates in his state. He also outlawed vaccine mandates from local governments or state agencies and has prohibited public agencies and private entities that get public funds from requiring vaccines to provide services. Abbott is not anti-vax, according to a statement he sent the Times, but is adamant that they remain voluntary, not “forced.” The state is currently 44% fully vaccinated, according to the Times.

In Florida, just days after the CDC’s new recommendations, GOP governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order mandating that parents have the final say over whether their children will wear masks this fall. At an event last Friday, DeSantis pledged there would be no lockdowns, school closures, restrictions, or mandates in Florida, a state currently 49% fully vaccinated, according to the Times.

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