What makes this story particularly telling, though, is where it occurred: Jacksonville, recently chosen by the Republican Party as the site of President Trump’s formal acceptance of his party’s nomination for November’s presidential election.
The party’s convention was originally going to be held in its entirety in Charlotte. Trump forced a change of plans, though, out of frustration that North Carolina mandated social-distancing measures intended to slow the spread of the virus. Jacksonville was more amenable to the sort of energetic crowd he wants to see. It was also more amenable to that large dinner party.
If current trends hold, it is hard to see how Florida will be able to present Trump with the event he wants to hold. In fact, several states central to his reelection chances, including Florida and Arizona, have recently seen sharp increases in new coronavirus cases — increases that, despite the Trump administration’s insistences, are not obviously a function of increased testing for the virus.
Texas, Florida and Arizona all saw highs in the number of new daily cases this week. Since June 1, the seven-day average of new cases in Texas is up more than 50 percent. In Arizona and Florida, it is more than double at around 150 percent. North Carolina’s rate of new cases has increased, too, but at the same rate testing in the state has expanded. In Oklahoma, where Trump is holding a rally Saturday, the number of new cases each day has climbed 150 percent since June 1, while the number of tests being conducted has dropped.
Trump’s decision to shift his attention to Florida may end up being ironic: ditching North Carolina because of its attempts to curtail the virus, which might tamp down the risk in that state by the end of July even as Florida faces more risks as coronavirus cases grow.
For months, Trump has treated the coronavirus as something distant, a vague threat that would simply evaporate on its own. His base of support has often echoed that sentiment, regularly expressing less concern about contracting the virus. To some extent, that was rational: Coronavirus cases spiked in blue states but were generally more limited in states Trump won in 2016.
That’s no longer the case.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than half of coronavirus cases have been in states that voted for Hillary Clinton four years ago. In fact, they have been heavily concentrated in states she won by a lot, largely because she won New York by a lot and New York was an epicenter of the virus’s emergence in the United States.
Looking at cases per county, the pandemic has been even more obviously a function of blue America. (Some counties split their 2016 vote or don’t map easily onto election results, meaning the county case total does not match the state total.) Even in red states, blue counties were often harder hit.
You’ll notice, though, that over the past few weeks red states and counties have made up a larger proportion of cases nationally. If we look at new cases reported per day, red states started consistently making up the majority of new cases June 2. Considered at the county level, blue counties still constitute most of the cases — but that’s likely to change soon.
Since June 1, 60 percent of the new coronavirus cases were recorded in states Trump won in 2016. Forty-one percent were in counties Trump won, though nearly a third were in counties Trump won by at least 10 points.
This is in part a function of increases in testing, as the administration has argued. But, as we reported earlier this week, it is not only a function of testing. The tool below allows you to compare current rates of new cases and testing by state over whatever time period you wish. The changes in Florida, Texas and Arizona are not ones largely driven by additional testing.
Show changes in seven-day average in
over the past 14 days.
Those three states are responsible for a large part of the red-states surge in cases. For most of April and May, cases in Texas, Arizona and Florida made up about a fifth of all of the cases in red states. Since late May, that percentage has climbed and is now near 40 percent.
The good news for Trump is that, the move from Charlotte to Jacksonville appears like a safe one. Since June 1, cases in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) have grown faster than those in Duval County (Jacksonville).
Or, more accurately, moving the convention hasn’t meant moving from a currently safe location to a currently problematic one, since both appear to be problematic.
The question for Trump — and the country — is how many non-problematic locations there might be at the end of next month. Particularly in politically friendly areas for the president.