- Dec. 10, 2020
-- In the U.S., many aspects of the fight against COVID have been politicized. States' early responses and current situations are judged according to party affiliation. Following this line of reasoning, all blue states should fare better than red states. However, comparing California, Texas, and Vermont, two liberal states and one conservative, the results do not support this assumption.
California was the first state to issue stay-at-home orders (https://www.vox.com/
outbreak) back in mid-March. It also took steps to increase (https://www.technologyreview.com/
testing and tracing capacity and had strong public messaging. However, economic concerns, public restlessness, and seemingly plateauing cases put more pressure on state officials to re-open. As restrictions eased in May, county and city officials gained more regulating power. The decentralized structure made it difficult to enforce measures consistently throughout the state. Experts say the state re-opened too quickly and did not focus enough on regulating restaurants and bars. The spike among migrant workers, particularly the Latinx population, supports this. Latinx people are 2.9 times more likely to test positive than whites. They make up a large portion of California's essential workforce in foodservice and hospitality.
Disagreements at the local level, between judges and mayors, over shutting down businesses and enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing played a large role in why Texas's case count is the highest in the country (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/coronavirus-u-...
) and the first to surpass one million (https://www.govtech.com/em/safety/Why-Texas-was-the-First...
). Additionally, Texas also has a large Latinx population who face similar challenges as those in California.
Although Vermont is often thought of as one of the most liberal states in the union, it actually has a mixed government. Republican, Phil Scott, has been the governor since 2016 and won the most recent election with 66% of the vote (https://electionresults.vermont.gov/
. This makes Vermont an interesting comparison to California and Texas when examining why the state has the lowest infection rate (https://abcnews.go.com/
in the country.
Dr. Mark Levine, the state health commissioner, says three things have helped (https://www.vox.com/
. First, having a healthy population before the pandemic. The second contributor, shutting down the state quickly. The third and most unique point in Vermont's plan focused efforts like testing and contact tracing on the most vulnerable populations, including those experiencing homelessness and those living in nursing homes.
While some, including President Trump (https://www.cnn.com/
index.html), have tried to make mask-wearing and case counts political, the science does not support this. COVID does not distinguish between red and blue states. Instead, what made the difference between states' successes and failures is how unified they are within themselves and how they met the needs of high-risk groups.