The Continued Politicization of COVID

From the beginning of COVID two years ago, health authorities and the media have been preaching “follow the science,” but what they don’t say is that it’s not medical science that they are following but instead political science.

How else does one explain sudden new rules and recommendations, contradicting past “settled science,” regarding everything from natural immunity and off label therapeutics to the futility of masks and social distancing. It seems that overnight the science changed with this viral pandemic due to an upcoming election and the convenient distraction of Russian-Ukrainian war.

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Does anyone doubt that COVID would have played out far differently in 2020 if it had been President Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders running for reelection rather than Donald Trump? The Pew Research Center analyzed the COVID timeline regarding voting patterns, confirming the continued political lens which is being applied to COVID.

From Pew’s recent article,

In the spring of 2020, the areas recording the greatest numbers of deaths were much more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. But by the third wave of the pandemic, which began in fall 2020, the pattern had reversed: Counties that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden were suffering substantially more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic than those that voted for Biden over Trump. This reversal is likely a result of several factors including differences in mitigation efforts and vaccine uptake, demographic differences, and other differences that are correlated with partisanship at the county level.

So it’s political. Those ignorant and stubborn Republicans who wouldn’t take the vaccine or wear masks are the sole cause of this discrepancy. No other explanation is possible, just as pickup driving Texans are the main reason the climate is changing, independent of solar activity and a host of other far more influential factors.

Yet in the same article, Pew debunks their political argument:

In many cases, the characteristics of communities that were associated with higher death rates at the beginning of the pandemic are now associated with lower death rates (and vice versa). Early in the pandemic, urban areas were disproportionately impacted. During the first wave, the coronavirus death rate in the 10% of the country that lives in the most densely populated counties was more than nine times that of the death rate among the 10% of the population living in the least densely populated counties. In each subsequent wave, however, the nation’s least dense counties have registered higher death rates than the most densely populated places.

No kidding. Viruses spread from person to person, so it makes sense that densely populated inner cities suffered far more and earlier than rural areas. And those densely populated areas tend to vote Democrat. This is association, not causation. Ladies who play bingo tend to be older and have blue hair. Is that due to them playing bingo? Or just an association?

Once the virus spreads through the inner cities, most residents have been exposed and infected, conferring natural immunity, protecting them from subsequent waves and strains of the virus. If anything, these first waves affected the lower socioeconomic classes, the essential workers who kept hospitals and grocery stores open while the latte-sipping Zoom class hustled out of town to rural America where they could maintain their incomes and lifestyles far from what at the time were inner city death zones.

Viruses are small and dumb. They have no brain and don’t think. They look for suitable hosts regardless of race, color, religion, gender, or politics. Medical factors may determine who gets sicker or dies, but not who becomes infected.

If Republicans populated inner cities and Democrats lived in the suburbs and more rural areas, more so than they all do now, these political associations would be reversed. This is hardly news as the virus is something one can run from but cannot hide from. Ask countries which initially followed a zero COVID policy, such as New Zealand, with low case rates at first but whose rates are now exploding.

Blaming vaccine hesitancy is disingenuous too. The UK government reported that, “The fully vaccinated now account for 9 in every 10 COVID-19 deaths in England.” It was similar in Israel as NPR noted, “Highly vaccinated Israel is seeing a dramatic surge in new COVID cases.” At least in these two medically advanced countries, it’s not the unvaccinated driving cases and deaths.

While Pew was trying to politicize COVID, the New York Times, in a surprising and unexpected act of journalism, threw cold water on COVID being a politically motivated virus, as reported by the Daily Caller,

A senior writer at The New York Times said vaccinations, booster shots and masks have not caused a major difference in case rates between parts of the country with different levels of COVID-19 precautions in a Wednesday morning newsletter.

The newsletter compared COVID-19 case rates for Democratic and Republican areas, noting that Democrats were more likely to wear masks, get vaccinated and boosted, avoid public spaces and shut down in-person schools over virus fears.

“These factors seem as if they should have caused large differences in case rates. They have not. And that they haven’t offers some clarity about the relative effectiveness of different Covid interventions,” David Leonhardt wrote in the newsletter.

Unfortunately, this realization is two years too late. What changed from two years ago when many were saying the same thing, only to be banned from social media, employment, and polite society?

From the get-go, everything President Trump suggested was immediately castigated. From travel bans and lab origins of the virus to hydroxychloroquine and other potential therapeutics, if a Republican president dared mention it, the media and big medicine followed political science rather than well-established medical science and declared it misinformation.

How much damage and carnage could have been avoided if COVID hadn’t been politicized? How many lives were lost, and families and businesses destroyed because politics ruled the day rather than science? History will judge this era harshly, and deservedly so.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a fully vaccinated physician and writer. On Twitter as @retinaldoctor. And on Truth Social as @BrianJoondeph.

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