What should the president do? And no, I’m not talking about the incumbent.
For the first time since January, COVID-19 is rising in all 50 states and D.C. The increases range from five percent in Montana to 155 percent in Vermont.
In many respects, the vaccination maps of the United States resemble the final result of the 2020 election And you can usually tell the Red States because they have a lower rate of vaccination. In Mississippi, for example, only about one-third of the state is vaccinated. Seven children in the state are now in the ICU, with two on ventilators. A poll last month by ABC News and the Washington Post found that only 6 percent of Democrats say they aren’t likely to get vaccinated, whereas 47 percent of republicans fall into that camp.
Of course, the virus doesn’t stay contained by political boundaries, and the ferocious Delta variant – which now accounts for an estimated 58 percent of all U.S. cases – poses a risk not only to those who choose not to get vaccinated but also, kids and those who for medical reasons can’t get vaccinated.
So how do we reach the vaccine-hesitant? Can anyone persuade them?
What about the person on whose watch the vaccine was developed in record time? Former President Donald Trump. You’d think President Trump would be eager to remind that the vaccines were developed on his watch and with the support of operation warp speed. But relative to how much time he spends complaining about the 2020 results, he hardly ever mentions it. And when he does, it’s usually to complain about not getting more credit.
Last Sunday he sent out a missive saying that his administration did a quote, “Great job … with respect to the pandemic” and that “Without the vaccine, the entire world would have ended up like it was in 1917, the Spanish Flu, where as many as 100 million people died.”
But he refuses to take the next logical step: encouraging his followers to protect themselves. I suspect he doesn’t want to risk alienating his vaccine-hesitant supporters by encouraging them to get a jab.
Meanwhile, the unvaccinated needlessly suffer the most severe consequences of the virus. Here is a stunning statistic from Los Angeles County: every person hospitalized with COVID has one thing in common… they’re not fully vaccinated!
In fact, over 99% of the county’s current COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. And now, as a consequence of the surge, starting today (only a month after reopening and regardless of their vaccination status) all LA county residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
To the north, San Francisco’s mayor says that, similarly, all of those hospitalized for the coronavirus in the city’s general hospital are un-vaccinated.
Both of those are in California, a blue state, where over 52 percent have been fully vaccinated. Need more convincing?
Earlier this month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky cited early data from several states that suggested un the last 6 months, 99.5 percent of COVID deaths occurred among unvaccinated people.
Think about that. All these real-world tests, implying that a vaccine could be the only thing keeping you out of the hospital – or worse. Yet only about 48.4 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated and new vaccination rates are plummeting, down 13 percent from last week.
Nevertheless, the mouthpieces of the resistance are more and more proudly resolute. Look no further than the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (or “CPAC”). Writer Alex Berenson got the crowd to applaud the fact that President Biden had missed his July 4th goal of vaccinating 70 percent of America.
“Clearly they were hoping – the government was hoping – that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated,” activist Alex Berenson told the crowd Saturday. “And it isn’t happening.”
So, what is to be done? Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and strategist known for his Fox News focus groups, has been advising the Biden administration on overcoming the vaccine’s political divide.
This week he pitched to CNN’s Don Lemon that the president should ask Trump to film a PSA with him giving him credit for the vaccine and encouraging supporters to take it like Trump and his whole family have.
Look, I like Luntz’s idea, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. Popstar Olivia Rodrigo was at the White House on Wednesday to answer the call to be an advocate. But if Biden were to extend an invite to Trump, I doubt it would be accepted.
And why should the onus be on Biden to get Trump to play a positive role to encourage people to receive the vaccination trump himself accepted, and to combat misinformation? Speaking of which, Thursday brought an unusual warning from America’s surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, against health misinformation, which he blamed for declining vaccination rates.
And yesterday, on the south lawn of the White House, a reporter asked President Biden about his message to social media platforms like Facebook on covid misinformation. The president’s response: “They’re killing people.”
That’s a pretty stunning claim and it displays the level of concern the White House now has about the sudden stall in finishing off the pandemic.
Facebook had this to say about being blamed:
“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts. The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the Internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”
This leads me to this ask the question: Are social media groups like Facebook really killing Americans by allowing vaccine misinformation on their platform?
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.