COVID Response: A Tale of 2 States

One is a US state: hot, dry, mostly arid: a place where many retire to escape the respiratory irritation of muggy, polluted, city air and breathe the dry, healing, desert air.
The other is a nation-state: hot, humid, embracing a long tropical stretch of waterways and coastline where drug-resistant malaria is still endemic.
One is Arizona, comparable in size to to the other: Vietnam. At 114 million square miles to Vietnam’s 127 million square miles the similarities end there with Arizona home to 7 million people while Vietnam numbers some 95 million inhabitants.
95 million people in a similar sized area. Keep that in mind.
Their populations may be strikingly different, their climates are different, the social, cultural, and political millieu of each state couldn’t be more dis-similar, but all these differences pale in comparison to the whopping differences in each other’s responses to the coronavirus.

Arizona is wallowing in a raging epidemic within its borders exploding to 177,000 cases and counting, now adding over 2-3,000 new cases per day here in early August 2020, having seen over 3,700 deaths already with the toll now rising by another 100 or more dead any given day.

Vietnam as of Sunday 8/2/20 has 620 cases and 5 deaths (their first deaths were just recorded in the past week or so).
The numbers are insane, and worth repeating: only 620 cases among 95 million people, versus Arizona’s 177,000 cases and climbing out of control in their 7 million citizens. Unreal. If Vietnam had the same level of infection as Arizona, they would have well over 2 million cases! But they haven’t even hit their first thousand.

How could two similar sized regions on earth experience such dramatic differences in infection rates of a deadly virus?

Well, here’s a couple of clues:
From an article this past week on Vietnam’s response to their cases suddenly rising in late July:

‘”Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, slammed his fist on the table during a meeting on Wednesday in which he warned that the entire country was now at risk of infection.
“Everyone, including health workers, had let their guard down months before the reintroduction of the virus,” said Truong Huu Khanh, head of the infectious diseases department at the Nhi Dong I Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
“People had stopped wearing masks in public and some health workers didn’t pay enough attention to ‘high risk’ cases”‘.

This quick and decidedly angry response was in reaction to just a few dozen new cases, spread across the entire country, the first rise in many months. A few dozen cases, not thousands per day as is ocurring in a dozen US states besides Arizona. Many US cities, even some of our smaller towns with the virus out of control would be deliriously envious right now to have such low numbers of infections as our fellow humans in Vietnam.

“It’s the response, stupid.”
Yep, the Vietnamese government’s immediate, and coordinated, and powerful response. And their continued, intense vigilance.

Vietnam started mandatory masking on…wait for it…March 16, and imposed fines for not wearing them!
Meanwhile in the US, many are still arguing over the use of masks-four and half months later. And none of the states in US that have put mandatory masking in place, impose fines or enforce mask wearing in any way. Vietnam, like many other Asian countries has gotten nearly full cooperation from their citizens in wearing masks from the beginning. And so, Vietnam has gone months being one of the least infected countries, having just experienced their first death from coronavirus in late July. They have had but 5 deaths so far. Contrast that figure with Arizona losing 53 more citizens yesterday alone. By comparison, back on April 1, not one of the 33 Republican governors in the US had imposed mandatory masking, and only a few of the Democratic governors had by that time as well. Vietnam was already fining its inhabitants for not wearing one, for putting their fellow citizens in danger of infection. Amazing isn’t it? What did we expect? It took until June for the Republican Governor of Arizona Doug Ducey to “allow” cities and counties in the state to set their own requirements for masking, some mandatory. Prior to that he blocked their abilities to require masking. To this day, he still refuses to implement masking statewide, nearly 5 months after Vietnam made not wearing a mask in public a punishable offense.

A strong top-down public health, science driven response works.
Denial gets you Arizona, and Texas, and Florida…and Mississippi.

Little ole’ 3 million-citizen, rural Mississippi is just smoking with infections, having already passed up Wisconsin and Minnesota (both with close to 6 million inhabitants, nearly twice that of Mississippi), has just passed up the state of Washington and its 7.6 million people. Mississippi is now barely shy of 60,000 cases, adding over 1,000 per day, and worse, has already passed Washington in deaths-nearly 1,700. Three million people; 1,700 deaths and counting. Vietnam; 95 million and FIVE, count ’em, 5! deaths. And Vietnam’s Prime Minister is screaming that they’re slacking! Here in Mississippi the highly religious governor wont enforce his very recent mask order (more like a suggestion) and instead has suggested the good people of Mississippi count on the power of prayer. The arrogance of religious thinking letting people die praying, instead of getting them to wear a mask to save their lives.

It is hard to imagine 1,700 people dead, much less our total US toll of 157,000. That’s almost 3 times the US soldiers lost in the entire decade of the Vietnam conflict…in less than 6 months. And some people wanna argue over a damn mask. Only religious thinking fuels the idiocy we’re seeing across much of the hard-core Xian south and in pockets throughout the US.

I said in a previous post you could “get away with no masking in the boonies but not in the big cities”…and rural, small-town Mississippi (and small towns along the Tex-Mex border, and remote Indian reservations) have proved me wrong. It doesn’t matter with this virus, it seems. Just a couple infected people…and it appears to spread: in large-dense, or small-sparse populations… maybe equally well. Not good.

Back in Florida, Gov DeSantis is one of a handful of Repub Governors who are still holding out on implementing any sort of masking order, while one-by-one Repub Governors of other states are caving in to the efficacy of mandatory masking, among them: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio. And DeSantis’ popularity, riding high a year ago has taken a huge hit.

From the Yahoo News article:

““If there’s a face of the botched handling of coronavirus in the United States – other than President Donald Trump, of course – it’s that of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis,” wrote CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.
The governor’s GOP supporters might shrug that off and allege media bias, but polls show many Floridians agree.
Just 41% of Florida voters approved of the governor’s job performance in (a recent) Quinnipiac poll, down from 53% in April. The poll also found that 79% of Floridians believe face masks should be required in public, 62% think it’s unsafe to reopen schools and 61% believe DeSantis reopened the economy too quickly.”

Information kills religion and lots of other stupid ideas eventually, and even hard-core religious Florida with its large retired, aged, conservative population is catching on to what most of the rest of the world already knows. Almost 80% now realize masks are a good idea, even if their Governor wont support it. (Afraid of Trump, and the hard-core base Desantis hopes to inherit when Trump’s reign over the Repub party ends and he can be their top Prez candidate down the road. Ah, what a little political ambition can do).

Masks work to slow down the COVID virus transmission. They alone wont magically make it disappear, but they are the best way to keep virus particles from spreading on exhaled breath from one person’s respiratory tract to another’s. But DeSantis, gambling with people’s lives over his political future, is losing the larger majority of Floridians, with his inability to admit he was wrong, and put mandatory masking in place to slow the dumpster-fire of Florida’s coronavirus epidemic that not only exceeds that of Arizona, but has passed up even New York in number of infections. Florida is now one of the worst virus messes on the globe. And but 90 days ago DeSantis was gloating over his state’s low numbers, sticking it to the liberals in New York and the media as well that his state was so much better off, despite their warnings it could happen to Florida as well if he continued to ignore it. Oops.

Less than a month ago, in the first coronavirus blog I posted The Virus and the States, I noted that Minnesota and Wisconsin each with cases in the high 30,000’s had Mississippi trailing just behind them but looking to catch up. Today, 8/2/20, Ole’ Miss is just shy of 60,000 cases – thousands ahead of MN, WI and now WA state as well.

Florida, on July 8th was up to 220,000 infections, passing Illinois at 151,000.
NOW, on August 2nd, Florida has ballooned to over 480,000… more than doubling its infections in less than a month. Illinois still hasn’t hit 200,000 reaching 182,000 over the same period. Even though the diehard mask deniers in Illinois are now just catching on, most folks are finally wearing masks routinely in Illinois (in the northern counties at least). Maybe mandatory masking in Illinois enacted months ago wasn’t such a bad idea…so early on in comparison to most other states in the US. Being an Illinois resident, I see the “Pritzker sucks” signs (the Democratic Governor of Ill is J.B. Pritzker), on Illinois lawns now and then, often along with Trump-Pence 2020 flags flying above the same yard. I think that some of those folks who are so pissed off, might owe the fact that they haven’t got coronavirus, or died from it, to the reality that our progressive Guv was one of the first to enact mandatory masking way back on May 1st, over 90 days ago! And our infections have slowed dramatically in comparison. If Illinois had kept pace with Florida, we would be close to 330,000 cases instead of 182,000…and so mandatory masking might have saved at least another 3-5,000 Illinoisians from dying as well.

Florida, if it was a country, would rank as the sixth worst nation out of the world’s 218 sovereign states listed by coronavirus infections. Vietnam with 4.5 times the population of Florida, ranks 157th in coronavirus cases. It is mind boggling. Florida, a tropical region at a similar latitude north of the equator as Vietnam has less than a 1/4 of Vietnam’s population. Arizona, of similar size in sq. miles has less than a 10th of the inhabitants Vietnam has.

Vietnam, the 15th most populated nation in the world, has less coronavirus cases than nearly 150 other countries, all with smaller populations than Vietnam, and strikingly less than either Florida or Arizona…not to mention less than every other state in the US-all 50 of which number now in the thousands of infections. Only the US territory of the Virgin Islands has less coronavirus cases than Vietnam, but then they only have 106,000 people…
I guess the Vietnamese did something right.

Florida, Arizona, and all the Republican-run states have governors who are married to the science denying, often liberal-and-progress- hating hard-core Xian denominations. And that denial is costing a lot of lives…and horribly, many more to come.

end religion now.





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  1. Pingback: Arizona, Florida, Vietnam, and… Global COVID comparisons. – Dispatches from the New Enlightenment

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