As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread at a rapid pace across the country, top Republican officials continue to spread disinformation and fight against public health measures while their own states become epicenters of the virus’ latest surge. With the rapid spread of the delta variant, mask mandates have been discouraged or banned by GOP officials while child hospitalization rates in the US had their biggest increase of the pandemic yet in August, with hospitalizations of children under 18 30% higher than their previous peak.
USAFacts produced the following datavisualization showing the top states with the highest 7-day average daily case rates per 100,000 people on August 24th, the top 10 of which are majority red states, as well as their vaccination rates relative to the national average.
See how GOP officials in each of these top 10 COVID-19 hotspot states have undermined their state’s public health measures below:
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 117.5 per 100k people
Governor Tate Reeves (R) of Mississippi, denounced mask mandates as “foolish” and “harmful,” in late July, saying earlier this month that he has “entrusted” school districts to decide whether students and teachers should wear masks, telling reporters last week that it is “very rare that kids under the age of 12 have anything other than the sniffles” when they contract covid. But less than 2 weeks after schools started in Mississippi, 13-year-old Mkayla Robinson died of COVID-19 after attending in person classes days after parents and officials in Smith County, where Mkayla went to school, pleaded for schools to offer stronger virus protections for children returning to the classroom. As of August 20th, Mississippi has become the top global hotspot with more cases of COVID-19 per capita than any state or nation in the world, while having the second-lowest vaccination rate in the country. An analysis by Mississippi Today found an 830% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in children for the first two weeks of school in 2021 compared to the first two weeks this data was reported last August. As a result, Mississippi’s only pediatric hospital is now treating its largest number of COVID-19 patients so far during the pandemic and nearly 20,000 Mississippi students have been forced to quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 100.7 per 100k people
Republican Congressman Clay Higgins (LA-3) introduced a bill in July aimed at making vaccine mandates by employers illegal. Additionally, Louisiana’s state Republican Party voted earlier this month to condemn New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test to enter businesses calling the vaccine mandate “a threat to our liberty.” Meanwhile, Louisiana continues to rank in the top 3 highest rate of virus cases per 100k residents as Louisiana keeps breaking COVID-19 hospitalization records multiple times this month.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 93.0 per 100k people
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed an executive order on August 16th essentially gutting any school district’s effort to require its students to wear masks.by allowing a student’s parent or guardian to opt out, despite Tennessee topping its 1-month COVID-19 hospitalization high that same day, just 2 weeks into August. 5 days later, Tennessee reported a record-high 2,106 daily child COVID-19 cases, its highest daily total in children that the state has reported since the pandemic. Now, nearly a third of all new cases are among Tennessee kids 18 and younger, another pandemic record.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 83.2 per 100k people
As Florida became the biggest epicenter of the current delta wave of COVID-19, Republican Governor Ron Desantis banned school mask mandates and threatened to cut funding for school districts who defied his order. As kids went back to school in early August, Florida was the hardest hit state, leading the country in hospitalized children with COVID-19. Despite this, Desantis objected to vaccine mandates at hospitals and told the public to “deal with” it and instead continued to shift blame and posture against President Biden. Now, Florida has exceeded its previous records for daily cases and deaths of the entire pandemic so far, becoming the only state where more people are dying of COVID-19 now than ever before, having the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita in the country including highest child hospitalizations. More than 10,000 Florida students had been forced to isolate or quarantine just a week into the start of in person school as educators beg him to “get out of the way” and doctors walk out in protest admitting ‘It’s the worst it’s ever been right now’.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 82.0 per 100k people
Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina doubled down in early August on his belief that there was “no need at this time” for the government to require masks in school settings, despite the state seeing its highest COVID-19 case count since January. Under a provision created by the Republican state Legislature and signed byGov. McMaster in May, schools are not allowed to require face masks to be worn, even though they are a known tool to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Now, more than 700 students at South Carolina’s Horse Creek Academy have been forced to quarantine after a COVID-19 outbreak, and 3 school employees from the Dorchester District have passed away from the virus.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 81.4 per 100k people
Senator Rand Paul (KY) proved his recklessness from the beginning back in March of 2020, when instead of quarantining following a COVID-19 test, the results of which ended up being positive, he roamed the halls of the Senate, working out in the gym and pool. More than a year later, Paul has picked fights with health officials like Dr. Fauci multiple times and was most recently banned by Youtube for spreading COVID-19 disinformation suggesting masks didn’t work. Additionally, it was revealed this month that Paul’s wife bought stock in Gilead, one of the companies behind COVID-19 treatment which makes the antiviral drug remdesivir. Meanwhile, Kentucky is now experiencing nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, its largest total since Jan. 23, and record numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals with 301 on ventilators and more than 20 Kentucky hospitals confronting critical staffing shortage with its Governor warning the state will ‘be out of hospital capacity very, very soon’.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 81.2 per 100k people
In July, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), emphasized that he opposed new CDC mask recommendations and tried to shift blame toward undocumented immigrants falsely claiming that “The real problem right now is our porous southern border,” […] “They’re not tested. They’re not vaccinated. That is the biggest influx of coronavirus and variations of that into the country.” Governor Mark Gordon (R) of Wyoming has refused to issue a statewide mask order or require COVID-19 vaccines despite the state reaching its highest active cases since December and the state having the lowest vaccination rate of its population in the nation. Gordon said that “The issue is not masks, the issue is COVID,” and “We know that there’s value to masks and we recommend those masks. We also know people have very strong concerns about masks.” As of August 23rd, Wyoming had 201,863 unvaccinated adults in the state, which accounts for 45.6% of its population, the highest rate of unvaccinated people in the country.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 71.3 per 100k people
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a bill banning mask mandates in April, but then backtracked months later as daily cases reached the highest levels since winter and the state broke hospitalization records in August. In late July, Republican Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) said in a Fox News interview “However, I don’t know that it’s any worse than the common cold.” Now this week, the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in Arkansas reached a new record high of 1,411 patients as no ICU beds are left in the state.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 70.7 per 100k people
Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) pushed anti-vaccine talking points in a letter to Biden in July using debunked claims that masks “help spread COVID-19” and “endanger the health of those who wear them,” suggesting they increase risk of heat stroke, oxygen loss and cancer, claims that have all been debunked. Alabama now reportedly has ‘negative’ ICU beds available, as the state is reeling from its highest hospitalization rate of all time.
7-Day Avg Case Rate: 58.1 per 100k people
Governor Greg Abbott (R) of Texas issued an executive order in May prohibiting governmental entities in Texas, including school districts, from requiring masks — making Texas one of just six states, all of them Republican-led, to outright ban mask mandates. In July, he ruled out a statewide mask mandate, tweeting that “now is the time for personal responsibility.” Last week, Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a crowded indoor event maskless and announced he was receiving an expensive Regeneron antibody cocktail despite showing only mild symptoms. Despite contracting COVID-19 himself, Abbott has continued fighting local schools’ attempts to enact mask mandates, asking the Texas Supreme Court to halt its injunction. Just this week, Abbott continued and expanded his ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates regardless of whether they have full FDA approval. Meanwhile, virus outbreaks have forced at least 4 Texas school districts and an entire town to shut down temporarily as thousands of students in other districts quarantine due to unmitigated spread. As a result, at least 89 Texas hospitals were out of ICU beds last week as COVID-19 cases overwhelm the state’s capacity.