For many years, it has been fashionable to point out that there are “two Americas” — one blue, one red; one urban, one rural; one evangelical, one non-religious; one college-educated, one not. However, we risk adding a lethal new point of comparison: one America protected from covid-19 and largely back to normal, and one at continued peril.

Red states’ vaccination rates are lagging behind those of blue states, with predictable results.

“Adjusted for population, nearly six times as many people died in South Dakota from covid-19 as in Vermont (230 per 100,000 in South Dakota compared to just 40 per 100,000 in Vermont). In real numbers, while about 250 Vermont residents died from the disease, more than 2,000 South Dakotans died,” Ashish K. Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, wrote in an op-ed for The Post, offering the states as contrasting examples of how vaccines make the pandemic less dangerous. “And as of today, Vermont has a lower unemployment rate, suggesting that there need not be any trade-off between public health and the economy.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has become the poster boy for blocking mask mandates; denigrating Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — DeSantis’s political action committee sells swag emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Fauci My Florida” — and anemic vaccination programs.

No surprise, then, that the Associated Press reports, “Florida’s covid-19 hospitalization numbers are again increasing, ending months of steady decline that began when widespread vaccinations became available and leaving doctors and epidemiologists worried as the more infectious delta variant spreads. About 3,200 COVID patients are hospitalized in the state, a jump of 73% since June 14, when 1,845 were hospitalized.… Florida reported 20% of the nation’s new coronavirus cases over the last two weeks even though it makes up just 6.5% of the population.”

These numbers are the result of a scandalous failure of governance that is all too familiar in red states.

Scientists and public health experts have no problem figuring out why Florida, and not some other warm-weather state, is doing so poorly. As the AP reported, “epidemiologists and doctors interviewed blame the spike on the state’s slowing vaccination rate, a decrease in mask-wearing and social distancing and the delta variant.”

(Ironically, conservatives in Florida are cheering on Cuban citizens who have taken to the streets to protest, among other things, the utter inability of the communist regime in that country to provide coronavirus vaccinations.)

It is the same story in Arkansas.

“While much of the nation tiptoes toward normalcy, the coronavirus is again swamping hospitals in places like Mountain Home, a city of fewer than 13,000 people not far from the Missouri border,” the New York Times reports. “A principal reason, health officials say, is the emergence of the new, far more contagious variant called Delta, which now accounts for more than half of new infections in the United States.”

If residents in Baxter County, where Mountain Home is located, had a vaccination rate comparable to those of, say, D.C. (54 percent fully vaccinated) or New Mexico (56.2 percent) instead of less than 33 percent, it might be a different story.

Worst of all — if one cares about children’s lives — Tennessee has announced it will “halt all adolescent vaccine outreach — not just for coronavirus, but all diseases — amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers,” the Tennessean reported.

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may pretend to be baffled about what’s happening, it’s not rocket science. Anti-vaccination paranoia, MAGA covid-denial (especially rampant in White evangelical communities) and weak state government vaccination programs all contribute to a situation in which red states lag the rest of the country in getting shots in arms. Where vaccination rates lag, infections, hospitalizations and death rates will eventually spike.

The right-wing political environment and media diet are a serious danger to vast swaths of America. They provide a constant stream of vaccine skepticism. One wonders when the residents of these states will look around and begin to wonder why their states are effectively becoming third-world pandemic zones in a country entirely capable of preventing the vast majority of covid-19 deaths. They just might reach the conclusion that the right-wing, anti-science MAGA cult is killing them.

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