More on ICU Beds in the South

Policy matters.

The NYT has some instructive data visualizations of the current surge in the need for ICU beds in the southeastern United States. For example:

This is the direct result of rhetorical politics and policy choices made. It is not a coincidence that the parts of the map that are covered in red are mostly in states with a combination of low vaccination rates and some combination of patchwork mitigation rules and/or policies that are proactively blocking mitigation practices.

Here’s a CDC map of vaccination rates by county (percentage of those fully vaccinated):

From the NYT piece:

“Our biggest concerns are our low vaccination rates,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer. “That’s the reason we’re in the situation that we’re in. Virtually all of our deaths are people who are unvaccinated.”

Those who want to argue this is somehow just a weather-driven phenomenon need to look a bit more closely at some of those counties across the whole country from both maps. And let’s also not forget that as long as large numbers of people are unwilling to get vaccinated and engage in simple mitigation efforts like masking indoors, the disease can continue to live in the population with ease, including infecting some of the vaccinated.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Tony W says:

    The slave states continue to impact the entire country in a negative way.

    It is the story of America

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Funny how easily I can pick out my county on those maps, and not in a good way.

  3. Jen says:

    Are the CDC/ Virginia and Georgia maps accurate? This makes those states look less vaccinated than Alabama, which I did not think was accurate.

    I’m also surprised by Vermont, I thought it was more vaccinated than NH as a whole.

    NH’s numbers have been rising steadily. I’ve gone back to ordering groceries online, and we won’t be eating out anytime soon.

  4. Jax says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Mine too….white for one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, and zero ICU beds available, because we don’t have any at all, we have to go out of county or state for any kind of hospital care.

  5. charon says:

    Some statistics found via BJ:

    CNN Poll: 73% of Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine while 27% have not.

    88% of Democrats, 68% of independents, and 60% of Republicans have done so.

    35% of Republicans say they will not get vaccinated, compared to 25% of independents and 8% of Dems

    CNN Poll: 88% of college graduates have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine while just 64% of non-college grads have.

    87% of those who approve of Biden’s job have received at least one dose against 57% of those who disapprove of Biden’s job.

    CNN Poll: 57% of parents say that all children attending school in-person should wear a facemask while 43% say no.

    Overall that number is 63-37 when non-parents are included.

    CNN Poll: 54% of Americans support requiring vaccination to return to work against 46% who oppose.

    81% of Democrats, 49% of independents, and 27% of Republicans support this measure to illustrate how political this issue has become.

    CNN Poll: 14% of Americans believe the COVID pandemic is over while 86% say it’s not.

    3% of Democrats, 15% of independents, and 27% of Republicans believe the pandemic is over.

    8% of vaccinated Americans say it’s over while 32% of unvaccinated Americans say it’s over.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Jen is right…VT is ~70% fully vaccinated.
    Although I suppose it could be an urban/rural situation that makes it look less so in the graphic.

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Related…if this doesn’t make your blood boil…
    (Scroll down, at the link, to this item)

    Trump advisers privately warned of ‘critical mistakes’ as pandemic loomed

  8. mattbernius says:

    Those who want to argue this is somehow just a weather-driven phenomenon need to look a bit more closely at some of those counties across the whole country from both maps.

    Those who want to make that argument have been consistently wrong on just about everything related to C19, starting with claims from last year that this is just like a “bad flu.” That’s what happens when your political ideology is the primary motivator for the rest of your reasoning.

    The data has never born out the weather argument, especially given how the surge curves for each other those states mirrored most other states in the nation last year (including a big surge in the winter of 2020 into 2021, when, according to this theory, there should have been less transmission).

  9. CSK says:

    Essex County (Mass.), where I live, is 70% fully vaxxed, and the transmission rate is high.

  10. Scott says:

    Don’t know why CDC is not showing Texas’ data. They have it and post it. BTW, 59% fully vaccinated 12+, 70% one dose.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: The data has never born out the weather argument,

    Obviously I haven’t done a deep dive, but the patterns I’ve been seeing is that the weather affects transmission to the extent that if it drives people into indoor environments, the infection rates go up. I have no idea how much it drives the infection rates, but it could at least be a contributing factor.

  12. Kathy says:


    Last year I tried not to expect much from the first generation of COVID vaccines, figuring a 50-60% defectiveness would have to do (and assuming a vaccination rate of over 95%). Instead we got almost the exact opposite: very effective vaccines, very low vaccination rates.

    Delta has made things worse. While the original vaccines remain effective, they’re not as effective against Delta. And vaccination rates remain lacking, even in countries like the UK and Israel with higher vaccination rates. Add the drop in precautions, and we get a stage of the pandemic that’s far worse than it needs to be.

    It’s theoretically possible to anticipate possible SARS-CoV-2 variants, and to tailor mRNA vaccines against them. But hitting the right mutation won’t be easy. I expect next year we’ll get polyvalent vaccines, that is a shot containing mRNA for different types of spike protein, both existing and suspected. This is common, though not using mRNA, in flu and other vaccines.

    If it feels like we’re back to late 2020 hoping that a vaccine would be available, it’s only because we are. Hopefully this time the trials will include a population from children to seniors, and we can get busy vaccinating everyone from the get go.

    The big problem will remain getting the pro-COVID crowd to vaccinate.

  13. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Weather/temperatures might affect transmission, but with a higher vaccination rate it shouldn’t affect hospitalizations–at least not to the extent we’re seeing.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I thought the urban/rural might have accounted for it too, but in order for the overall average to match what I understood Vermont’s vaccination rate to be, there would need to be at least one county that exceeded the 70% range (in other words, you can’t hit a 70% vaccination rate if all counties are recording a rate of 69.9% or lower)–according to this map, that does not appear to be the case. Strange.

  14. senyordave says:

    Another high-end practice facility for ‘Bama football or more ICU beds? One guess who is going to win that battle (especially since the ‘Bama football players will find their ICU beds. Half the people in the state would probably give up their own child’s ICU bed to assist their beloved Crimson Tide).

  15. Tlaloc says:

    Republicans are choosing to die of Covid. This is ultimately a self correcting problem.

    While it will affect the rest of us on the fringes and I absolutely support giving them correct information and subsidized access to vaccines if they choose to take them….if they choose not to I have no problem with them removing themselves from the gene pool.

    In the long run this may be the best contribution to the world they can make.

  16. Scott says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Anecdotally, it seems as if COVID is an indoor phenomenon. At least two summers in a row, Texas has a breakout just as everybody starts heading out of the heat and into the air conditioning. It also had the winter breakout also. Northern states just seems to stick with the winter as they head indoors to watch football and self-medicate.

  17. Stormy Dragon says:


    I don’t get why “at least one dose” is the still the standard figure being reported. At the beginning when most people were still waiting to take the second dose, but at this point we really should be focusing on people who are fully vaccinated.

  18. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Random question on that…how are J&J shots being counted? It’s a 1-shot dose, so “did you receive a second shot” question does not apply.

    There must be something in the questions that drill down on this, but I wonder how self-reporting on this goes. People aren’t terribly good about tracking this type of information.

  19. Stormy Dragon says:


    Anecdotally, it seems as if COVID is an indoor phenomenon. At least two summers in a row, Texas has a breakout just as everybody starts heading out of the heat and into the air conditioning.

    The air conditioning thing is just Republican propaganda to absolve their governments of responsibility for the surges. Why is it spiking in the Dakotas? Why is it spiking in rural New York, but not New York City? Why is it NOT spiking in Nevada?

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: There is a whole range of behaviors that affect transmission or the lack thereof, beyond just being vaccinated. Masks, social distancing, etc etc. I don’t eat in restaurants, go to crowded bars, concert venues, etc.

    the simplest way to Suss it out may well be as simple as Red v. Blue, even if it blurs a whole lot of lines.

  21. Kathy says:

    Speaking of air conditioning, about May or June of last year, we got very strict orders not to run the office A/C at any time for any reason (not heating either), as its use might help spread the trump virus. We were also directed to keep the windows and door open at all times.

    I don’t recall the rationale, but it had something to do with recirculated air and the subsequent reduction in ventilation with outside air.

    Many A/C systems have HEPA filters, but not all, nor are all maintained in good condition. So if you gather large numbers of people and recirculate refrigerated air, without much or any inflow of outside air, you are spreading the trump virus around quite effectively. The same goes for heating systems in cold weather.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Indeed. HEPA filters do become clogged just like regular filters. Possibly even more so.

  23. CSK says:

    Norm Macdonald has died. He was 61. RIP.

  24. CSK says:

    Wrong thread. Sorry.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: FWIW, if you have a prefilter to catch the dust, your HEPA filter should last a long long time. In this one instance, I’m not just some random guy on the internet but actually work with filters for a living.

  26. Christine says:

    Anecdotally, it seems as if COVID is an indoor phenomenon. At least two summers in a row, Texas has a breakout just as everybody starts heading out of the heat and into the air conditioning.

    This has been my theory for about 5 months. If we see a drop in October/November only to see another spike in the coldest winter months January/ February then maybe my theory holds?

  27. DC Loser says:

    Outside of NoVA, Virginia’s vaccination rate looks terrible.