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Staff reports | Political polarization in the U.S. was already evident before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was perhaps never as glaring an issue for public health as it eventually became as the coronavirus swept the country and world.

Surveys from the Pew Research Center last year found about six in 10 Democrats and Left-leaning independents believed the virus was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population, compared to only one in three Republicans and Right-leaning independents. That’s a gap of 26%, and it would ultimately grow to about 40% by fall 2021. 

This gap likely resulted in the massive difference in death rates between red and blue states, and it’s amplified when examining the most and least vaccinated states as well. 

“In the United States, COVID-19 has become a political issue, and people’s political beliefs strongly influence their behavior,” David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told ABC News. “Political divides in our thinking about COVID are much stronger than in many other countries.”

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Cumulative death rates in red states was 38% higher than blue states, researchers found. The 10 states and jurisdictions with the highest vaccination rates in the nation all voted for Biden in the 2020 election. About 75% of residents in these states on average had been fully vaccinated. 

Latest COVID-19 data

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) transitioned to weekly reporting of new COVID data this month, with Tuesday’s update being the most recent of reports including data taken from March 13-19.

South Carolina health officials on Tuesday reported 1,014 total new cases of COVID-19, with 667 confirmed, and 116 total new deaths, 60 of which were confirmed. As of March 22, 187 COVID-19-positive individuals are hospitalized, and 16 COVID-19-positive individuals are ventilated.

No positivity rate was reported by DHEC.

  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ with at least one vaccine: 66.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ who have completed vaccination: 57.7%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 with at least one vaccine: 19.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 who have completed vaccination: 16%

For more information, visit the S.C. SCDHEC COVID-19 dashboard.