Axios co-founder Jim VanderHei politicized the coronavirus crisis by claiming red states have been “slower” responding because they’ve been “listening to President Trump,” but he ignores why blue states have been hit harder.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Morning Joe and name-dropping Georgia and Florida as states that waited longer than others to implement stay-at-home orders, VanderHei said “information inequality” is to blame for states not acting as one in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s because they were listening to President Trump up until the last five or six days. They were watching Fox News, they were listening to Rush Limbaugh, and they were following conservatives on Twitter or social media,” VanderHei said of the delayed stay-at-home orders.
He went on to say conservatives were “downplaying” the coronavirus threat, and serious restrictions on people’s movements should have been put in place months or weeks ago.
Axios’ @JimVandeHei: Red states were slow to respond to the Coronavirus because “They were listening to President Trump, they were watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbo [sic]” pic.twitter.com/ETdoXprumL
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 2, 2020
VanderHei’s solution was a call for more control from the federal government.
“Short of a national declaration that everyone has to sit in, you’re going to have states — they’re going to tend to be conservative states — who sit out, and I think that’s why, if you want to get to the low end of that projection, you have to take strong national steps.”
Weeks after some states issued stay-at-home orders, Florida only followed suit in recent days, as did Georgia where Governor Brian Kemp made the head-scratching revelation that he had only just learned people can be asymptomatic and still carry the highly-infectious virus, a fact that has been highlighted by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control for several weeks.
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Though VanderHei claims Trump and other conservatives were downplaying the coronavirus pandemic up until “five or six days ago,” the president released social distancing guidelines and urged people to stay at home halfway through March, and those requests have remained in place.
While more conservative states’ slower response to the virus can be chalked up to politics by folks like VanderHei, the fact of the matter is blue states have been hit the worst as far as death tolls and severe cases, which necessitated a quicker response there.
New York, California, Washington, and New Jersey have recorded the most deaths from the virus — all typically considered blue states — but all are densely-populated areas with citizens who typically travel a lot for work (especially from Jersey to New York, and vice versa).
States like New York and California responded early to the virus largely because they contain more densely populated areas, which contributes to the spread of the highly contagious disease. New York currently has 92,381 confirmed cases of the virus, and their reported deaths — 2,373 — make up about 40 percent of the total losses in the US overall.
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California, with over 10,000 cases and more than 200 deaths, has been hardest hit in its southern region where, again, there is serious population density. Four million people live inside Los Angeles, about 500 square miles, and the city makes up for over a third of the state’s coronavirus cases and about a third of the reported deaths.
For comparison’s sake, since VanderHei specifically mentioned Georgia and Florida, Georgia has a population of more than double LA’s, spread out across just under 60,000 square feet. The state’s total cases stand at more than 5,000, with over 160 deaths.
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Florida, a bigger state than New York by over 10,000 square miles, has a population of over 21 million and the state has reported over 7,000 cases of the coronavirus. It has also reported over 100 deaths from the virus.
It’s worth keeping in mind too that New York, Florida and California also hold the distinction of being the most-visited US states by foreign travelers.
Like Georgia and Florida, other red states, such as Texas, Mississippi and Missouri also issued stay at home orders later than others, but again, they don’t face the same population density or tourism risks.
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