In just over a month since a new COVID variant known as BQ.1 was first named, that strain and a descendant called BQ.1.1 have already grown to make up more than 10% of new infections across the country, according to updated estimates published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“When you get variants like that, you look at what their rate of increase is as a relative proportion of the variants, and this has a pretty troublesome doubling time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said in an interview with CBS News.
It comes as federal health authorities have been bracing for a widely-expected resurgence of COVID-19 this fall and winter. BQ.1 variants have already outpaced many rival strains in European nations from England to Germany, which have already seen renewed waves begin.
Mortality trends for the two groups had tracked one another closely before the pandemic, and both spiked together in 2020, but when science presented the world with a protective shield, Republicans were loath to accept it.
To be clear, anti-vaccine attitudes are hardly the sole preserve of the American right, but the breadth and depth of politicisation and polarisation in the US far outstrip what we see anywhere else in the developed world. By May 2021, with all US adults eligible for vaccination, less than half of Republicans had taken up the offer, compared to 82 per cent of Democrats(opens a new window). Across the Atlantic, Britain put on a much more united front: Labour and Conservative voters alike turned up in droves, with 90 per cent of eligible adults inoculated. Even among backers of the populist, anti-establishment Reform party, 70 per cent came forward.
French and German politics didn’t escape the politicisation. According to the latest data, 40 per cent of people in the areas that most strongly back Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland have yet to be vaccinated, compared to a third of people in the areas that voted most strongly for French populist parties — but these pale in comparison to the GOP’s heartlands, where more than 55 per cent are still vaccine holdouts.