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The GOP's Deadly Covid Crusade

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

With Republican leaders in Covid-19 hotspots crusading against vaccination and mask mandates and cheering low vax rates, what may have been dismissed as simple political opportunism has become much worse than that.

It's become deadly.

Here are four examples of Republican leaders who can be held responsible. They represent many others who continue to play politics with this deadly virus.


Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis leads a state that has become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, as the extremely contagious Delta variant causes cases to surge nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 23,903 new coronavirus cases in Florida on Aug. 6, the state's highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

Yet, DeSantis issued an executive order at the end of July prohibiting mask mandates in schools. Despite the rise in cases and hospitalizations, the Republican governor stubbornly refuses to change course -- even threatening to withhold state aid from schools that impose mask mandates.

However, he's running into some serious opposition.

A federal judge late Aug. 8 issued a temporary injunction blocking his ban on vaccine passports, clearing the way for the Norwegian Cruise Line to require vaccines for guests and crew members. DeSantis would have fined the cruise company for requiring such vaccines.

The Washington Post reported Aug. 9 that a group of parents of disabled children on Friday sued to block the state's ban on mask mandates in schools. That was the same day that Florida said it would give students access to a state voucher program to help pay for private tuition if their public schools require masks.

So, DeSantis is not just refusing to issue mandates for shots and masks, he is trying to actively prevent schools and private companies from doing so. One could say that he is using his argument of "personal freedom" as a ploy to gain the support of Donald Trump supporters in what appears to be an effort to assume the GOP mantle from the deposed president.

Update 8/10: Now DeSantis is threatening to withhold salary payments from school board members who defy his mask ban.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX)

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to enact any statewide mask mandate and is prohibiting local officials from doing so in their own communities. (I thought Republicans were all about local control...what about that?)

But, according to The New York Times, he is facing withering criticism as I.C.U. beds have dwindled to the single digits in Austin and health officials in San Antonio have labeled its risk level just a step below critical.

“The governor has shown a callous disregard for life and safety in defiance of clear medical guidance and is risking the safety of our children and the recovery of our economy,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said.

Once again, it's all about politics and echoing the edicts of Donald John Trump, who Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, says is still calling the shots for the GOP.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)

Now, we come to the nutcase Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who applauded the fact that Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation, prompting cheers from attendees of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women's fundraiser. Days later, Alabama tossed more than 65,000 coronavirus vaccine doses because of a low turnout for the shots.

Greene suggested that Southerners might greet pro-vaccine visitors at their front doors with guns drawn. The Biden Administration has suggested that door-to-door outreach might be needed to increase vaccination rates.

“Well, what they don’t know is that in the South we all love our Second Amendment rights,” she said. “And we’re not real big on strangers showing up at our front door, are we? They might not like the welcome they get.”

Once again, a Republican politician is cynically using the phony personal freedom argument to actively support those who refuse to get the shots, despite the rising infection rates and increasing numbers of deaths. By the way, Greene has refused to say whether she, herself, has been vaccinated.

Nearly 60 percent of Republicans say they are unwilling to get vaccinated, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last month. Meanwhile, Republican leaders, including Greene, have opposed vaccine requirements, arguing in favor of individual choices.

Upate: On Tuesday, August 10, Twitter suspended Greene's account for a week after she wrote that vaccines are "failing." Her account will be in read-only mode for one week "due to repeated violations of Twitter rules," according to a Twitter spokesperson.

Donald John Trump

And then, of course,, there is Trump, himself, who bragged to Fox News that 100 million people could have died had it not been for his administration's "Operation Warp Speed" campaign to develop vaccines.

“I think if we didn’t come up during the Trump administration with the vaccine, you could have 100 million people dead, just like you had in 1917,” Trump said the Fox News interview. “You take the Spanish Flu, 100 million people, up to 100 million people, died. I think we’d be in that territory.”

But then in the same interview, Trump said vaccinations should not be mandated and that kids need to go back to school, despite the covid surge.

“I really believe in somebody’s choice, somebody’s freedom,” Trump said. “I’m a big fan of our freedoms, and people have to make that choice for themselves.” Of course, that is exactly the message that DeSantis and Greene and the rest of the GOP opponents of vaccination and mask mandates are spreading. As a result, we are now in a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," according to many experts.

And so, Trump brags that he's responsible for saving millions of lives, even as he encourages those who refuse to get the vaccinations about which he is so proud.

Meanwhile, there now have been 617,000 deaths caused by covid. According to the CDC, 166.7 million people, or 50.2 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated. We still have a long way to go. We are now back to wearing masks in public places, regardless of whether they are mandated or not. Our kids and teachers are now afraid to go to school. And increasing numbers of people are suffering and losing loved ones.

If only, as President Biden has said, leaders like DeSantis would just get out of the way.

“The messaging here in the United States has been consistently around how it’s a personal decision to get vaccinated, but pandemics by their definition are collective problems,” said Rachael Lee, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine. “We have to think more about our actions protecting our loved ones and our communities.”

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