2021-09-15 12:37:10 A Covid Referendum – The New York Times
A Covid Referendum – The New York Times
Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and his critics framed yesterday’s recall election in California as a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. Newsom supported his aggressive mask and vaccine mandates. His main Republican opponent, Larry Elder, promised to repeal the mandates before he drank his first cup of tea as president.
As my colleague Jennifer Medina put it, the recall became a “referendum on pandemic management.”
Newsom now has a landslide victory in that referendum. According to the most recent polling data, California voters rejected his removal from office by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent. The final margin may change as the vote count continues, but vaccination has clearly won a political victory.
I don’t mean to imply that Covid-19’s politics are simple. No, they are not. Lockdown fatigue may have contributed to Donald Trump’s and other Republican candidates’ surprisingly strong showing in the 2020 elections. And in some places, Democratic politicians have supported measures that are both scientifically and politically dubious, such as outdoor mask mandates and months-long school closures.
While his administration was urging Californians not to gather with people outside their households, Newsom ate a meal with friends at one of the state’s finest restaurants. It accentuated the most repulsive aspects of his persona. Only a few weeks ago, polls indicated that he was in danger of losing the recall.
However, Newsom’s overall approach to the pandemic saved him.
According to Soumya Karlamangla, a Times reporter based in Los Angeles, it was very close to what public-health experts were urging, including mandates for indoor masks and vaccinations. Those measures initially harmed Newsom’s popularity because they were burdensome and did not appear to be making much of a difference. In the spring, California’s case numbers were comparable to those in Florida and Texas.
“It feels like he’s the perfect example of the quandary that public health officials frequently face,” Soumya says. “How do you get people to do something before they realize there is a risk?”
The connection has recently become clearer. Vaccination rates in much of California have risen high enough — and the Delta variant is contagious enough among the unvaccinated — that the state now resembles much of the Southeast and Mountain West, where hundreds of people die each day and hospitals are running out of space.
Covid caseloads and hospitalizations in California, which were already well below the national average, have been declining for about two weeks. “My anxiety levels are much lower than they were even a month ago,” Soumya says.
Vaccination in the United States of America
Statewide comparisons, if anything, understate the effectiveness of vaccines; every state, including California, has areas with relatively low vaccination rates. When you look at California on a county-by-county basis, the picture is striking.
The large metro areas with the lowest Covid rates are also where Democratic candidates like Newsom get the majority of their votes in California.
For much of this year, before Delta was widely circulated, the San Francisco Bay Area had a hospitalization rate that was lower than the national rate. The Delta surge would not have been nearly as bad if the rest of the country looked like the Bay Area:
Individually, the vaccines are more effective than county data indicates. Most hospitalized people in San Francisco are among the small percentage of residents who are unvaccinated.
California is clearly a blue state, and Newsom’s approach would almost certainly fail in a red state. Nonetheless, his Covid policies are more in line with the preferences of the average American voter than the Republican approach. Despite the fact that all 50 states impose other vaccine mandates, prominent Republicans have described Covid vaccine mandates as tyrannical. Some Republicans have also prohibited businesses and schools from implementing evidence-based practices and promoted medical treatments that appear to do more harm than good.
By doing so, these politicians are siding with a minority of Americans. Less than a quarter of adults in the United States have not yet received a Covid vaccine shot. According to a recent Associated Press poll, only 26% of workers oppose a vaccine mandate at work. Vaccinations, as CNN’s Brian Stelter has pointed out, are not a coin toss.
It’s no surprise that the public health consensus triumphed over its detractors in the country’s most populous state yesterday.
Broadway welcomes back blockbusters.
Live theater slowly returned to New York over the summer, but last night was something of a grand reopening for Broadway, with “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Hamilton,” and other shows returning after an 18-month hiatus.
Jessica Payne stated that she and her husband had flown in from Colorado to see eight shows over the course of six days. “When the plane landed, we both cried,” she said. “We are overjoyed to be here.”
Everyone over the age of 12 must be vaccinated, and everyone except performers must wear a mask. Nonetheless, the virus’s recent resurgence may have an impact on ticket sales: Seats for the three blockbuster shows are available for less than $200, according to ticket seller StubHub. In addition, the Broadway League, a trade group, is not disclosing box office figures this season for fear of undermining consumer confidence.
Michael Paulson of The New York Times wrote about how Broadway came back, including an N.F.L.-inspired program for performers’ voices. — Morning editor, Tom Wright-Piersanti