Charles M. Blow in the New York Times:
Nothing better exemplifies the gaping political divide in this country than our embarrassing and asinine vaccine response. Donald Trump’s scorched earth political strategy has fooled millions of Americans into flirting with death. And now thousands are once again dying for it.
Almost from the beginning, efforts to combat the virus were met with disdain from a president who felt the crisis made him look bad. The science was denied. We came to live in a world where masking was mocked and ingesting disinfectant was offered up as a possible cure.
All the while, the patients on ventilators gasped for breath, and refrigerated trailers filled with bodies. Death is one of the ultimate truths of life, and yet not even it could dissuade the headstrong from casting doubt on the science.
And then, a miracle.
In response to this raging, deadly virus, scientists developed multiple, highly effective vaccines with breathtaking speed. It was like a prayer had been answered. An antidote to the plague had arrived.
We should all have been celebrating in the streets and running to a lifesaving serum with our sleeves rolled up and a smile on our face. But not enough of us were.
The public had been poisoned by partisanship. Masking was a political statement. Social distancing was a political statement. Receiving the vaccine, for far too many, was a political statement.
And so, countless Americans responded with a political statement of their own: defiance.
They hated that businesses were forced to close, and being asked to wear masks inside when they reopened. They hated their children having to stay home from school and being made to wear masks when they returned.
But, the simple truth is that all of this could have been avoided if all Americans eligible for the vaccine — and that’s pretty much every adult at this point — had simply chosen to be vaccinated. But they didn’t. They haven’t. They are too dug in, too committed to the lies and conspiracies, too devoted to rebellion.
As I noted elsewhere, I will make no apologies for not tolerating those who deny science and make insane excuses for it. They are enabling death.
Some do it out of ignorance and mistrust. Some do it out of political motivation; to “own the libs” so that they can just piss off their opponents. Some do it to garner votes in the next election. And all of them are a public health hazard on a scale that would make Typhoid Mary look like a surgical scrub nurse.
This has gone beyond the question of personal freedom because it’s one thing not to wear a seat belt when you’re driving. This is driving drunk and endangering the lives of others. And the ones who are doing it for political gain — the glaring example being the governor of my state, Ron DeSantis — are the ones who must be held accountable.
Mr. DeSantis has been unyielding in his approach to the pandemic, refusing to change course or impose restrictions despite uncontrolled spread and spiking hospitalizations — an approach that forced him to undertake the biggest risk of his rising political career.
The governor reopened his state’s economy last spring and kept it that way, defying coronavirus surges that filled hospitals, and then celebrated as a statewide vaccination campaign took hold and life in Florida began to look normal.
Now Mr. DeSantis is gambling again. A new virus spike has led to a record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations that have undone some of Florida’s economic and public health gains and again raised the stakes for Mr. DeSantis.
If the latest surge overwhelms hospitals, leaving doctors and nurses unable to properly care for the younger, almost entirely unvaccinated people packing emergency rooms and intensive care units, Mr. DeSantis’s perch as a Republican Party front-runner with higher aspirations could be in serious trouble.
If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis’s game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.
Mr. DeSantis has every intention of running for re-election and then for president in 2024. He will literally kill to stay in office.