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Two Covid Americas – The New York Times

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Two Covid Americas – The New York Times

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The starkly different impact of Covid on young and old has been one of the defining characteristics of the virus. It tends to be mild in children and young adults, but is often severe in older people. More than three-quarters of all Covid deaths in the United States have occurred in people 65 and older.

Given these patterns, it seems obvious that older Americans should be more fearful of Covid than younger Americans. Yet they are not.

This is one of the striking findings of a new poll that Morning Consult, a polling firm, conducted for this newsletter: Older and younger people express similar concerns about their personal risk from Covid. By some measures, young people are actually more worried:

The most plausible explanation for this pattern is political ideology. Older Americans as a group are currently leaning to the right, while younger generations are leaning to the left. And no other factor influences Covid attitudes as strongly as political ideology, the poll shows.

Across most demographic groups, Americans have broadly similar attitudes toward Covid. This is true not only for the young and the old, but also for men and women, as well as for the rich, the middle classes and the poor. The partisan divide, on the other hand, is enormous:

Many Democrats say they feel unsafe in their communities; fear getting sick from Covid; and believe the virus poses a significant risk to their children, relatives and friends. Republicans are less concerned about each of these issues.

Who is right ? There is no single answer to this question, as different people have different attitudes towards risk. A risk acceptable to one person (driving in a snowstorm, for example, or swimming in the ocean) may be unacceptable to another. Neither is necessarily wrong.

But the poll results suggest Americans have embraced at least some irrational beliefs about Covid. In our highly polarized country, many people seem to allow partisanship to influence their beliefs and sometimes overwhelm scientific evidence.

Millions of Republican voters have decided that downplaying Covid is central to their identity as conservatives, even though their vaccine skepticism means the virus kills far more Republicans than Democrats.

Millions of Democrats have decided that organizing their lives around Covid is central to their identity as progressives, even as isolation and pandemic disruption fuel mental health issues, drug overdoses, violent crime , rising blood pressure and growing inequalities in education. As gun control activist David Hogg tweeted last year, “The inconvenience of having to wear a mask is more than worth it so people don’t think I’m a conservative .”

In today’s newsletter, I’m going to focus on two examples of Covid irrationality that the poll highlights.

Covid vaccines are remarkably effective in preventing serious illnesses. If you are vaccinated, your chances of becoming seriously ill are extremely low. Even among people aged 65 and over, the combination of vaccine effectiveness and the relative mildness of the Omicron variant means that Covid now appears to pose less danger than a normal flu.

For the unvaccinated, however, Covid is worse than any other common virus. It killed over 865,000 Americans, the vast majority unvaccinated. In the weeks before vaccines became widespread, Covid was the leading cause of death in the country, even above cancer and heart disease.

But look at how worried Americans are about getting sick, by vaccination status:

It’s a remarkable disconnect between perception and reality. A majority of the boosted say they are worried about falling ill with Covid. In truth, driving a car is more dangerous for most of them than the virus.

A majority of non-vaccinated, on the other hand, say they are not very worried. The hardest and saddest way to understand the irrationality of this view is to listen to the regret of unvaccinated people who are desperately sick with Covid or who have seen loved ones die from it.

“There is nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” a California prosecutor said at an anti-vaccine rally in December. She died of Covid this month.

I know some Democrats think their approach — the focus on minimizing Covid risk — has few downsides. But the poll results call that argument into question.

One area of ​​agreement between Democrats and Republicans is a widespread concern that pandemic disruptions are harming their children:

People are also right to worry. Three medical groups – representing paediatricians, child psychiatrists and children’s hospitals – recently declared “a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health”. The worst effects have been on black and Latino children, as well as children in very poor schools.

Many Democrats effectively dismiss these costs and instead focus on the tiny risks of Covid hospitalization or long Covid in children. Most Democrats, for example, say they favor moving classes online in response to Omicron, despite widespread evidence that remote schooling has failed and little evidence that closing schools results in fewer Covid case.

Closed schools almost certainly do more damage to vaccinated children and adults than Omicron.

(Here are plenty more Morning Consult polls on Covid, dating back to early 2020.)

Democrats like to think of their political party as one that respects science and evidence. And on several issues — vaccines, climate change, voter fraud, Barack Obama’s birthplace and more — that certainly seems to be the case. But just because something is generally true doesn’t mean it always is.

On Covid, both political tribes really seem to have a hard time reading the evidence objectively. As a result, the country suffers thousands of preventable deaths every week while accepting a preventable isolation crisis that hits children particularly hard.

More virus news:

Covid – not Covid prevention – usually gets in the way of normal life, Michelle Goldberg argue.

Concussions in football remain a problem. People stopped caring, Jay Caspian Kang argue.

Democrats focus too much on race and way too much on Donald Trump, Christopher Caldwell said.

A Times classic: Why some people gain weight by exercising.

Lives Lived: Photojournalist Steve Schapiro has documented the civil rights movement, migrant workers and movie stars. He died at age 87.

Disney’s “Encanto” soundtrack has reached No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart for the second time. If you don’t live with young children, this may be surprising. If you do, you might wonder, “Only twice?”

“Encanto” is an animated film about a Colombian family with magical powers, with an original soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The songs are classic Disney fare fused with salsa, bachata, hip-hop and Broadway. (A Times review called the film “brilliant.”)

Leading the way is single “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart yesterday. That makes it Disney’s biggest hit in decades, surpassing “Let It Go” by “Frozen “. TikTok contributed to its success, with people singing or performing moments from the song. “I could watch TikToks all day,” Jared Bush, one of the film’s directors, told The Times. — Tom Wright-Piersanti, Morning Editor

For more: The Wall Street Journal explained what it took to translate “Bruno” into more than 40 languages.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was to throw. Here’s today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s mini-crossword, and a hint: “Damn!” (five letters).

If you want to play more, find all our games here.


Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

PS The first Winter Olympics opened 98 years ago today in Chamonix, France.

Two Covid Americas – The New York Times

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