US polls show partisan divide in attitudes to COVID-19

New results from an ongoing health tracking poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation show Americans' attitudes about how and when to resume activities after stay-at-home mandates lift are starkly divided along political lines, with Republicans more than Democrats saying they intend to go to the salon, attend large gatherings, and eat in restaurants in the coming months.

Those findings echo a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which shows only 42% of those who went to concerts, movies, theaters or sporting events at least monthly before the outbreak say they would do so in the next few weeks if they could. Republicans are more likely to say they would return to retail malls for non-essential shopping than Democrats, 82% to 61%.

And mask-wearing, now mandated in several major US cities, has become a divisive political issue in the Kaiser poll: 70% of Democrats versus 37% of Republicans say they wear a mask when leaving the house, and only 48% of Republicans said President Donald Trump should be wearing a mask in public.

"President Trump now receives negative ratings for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak with a slightly smaller share approving (46%) than disapproving (52%) of his handling of this issue (-6 percentage points net approval)," Kaiser said. "This marks a decline in the public’s evaluation of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak from six weeks ago when 50% of the public approved of his response and he had a net positive rating (+3 percentage points net approval)."

Still, according to the Kaiser poll, only 6% of Republicans said the coronavirus pandemic was a voting priority in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, compared with 29% of Democrats. Only 1 in 5 undecided voters in swing states say the coronavirus is a top priority for them in November.

Trump tells governors to open churches

Today in a politically divisive move, President Trump told governors they had to open houses of worship this weekend, and called places of worship "essential," according to the New York Times.

"Today I am identifying houses of worship—churches, synagogue and mosques—as essential places that provide essential services," Trump said a press conference today. "Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right."

Trump had publicly stated he wanted full pews during Easter services, on Apr 12, which proved to be too soon for all 50 states. But now, with all states in phases of reopening, Trump has aligned himself with church leaders who say it's unfair retail stores, restaurants, and other establishments can open, but religious buildings are still closed.

A church choir practice in Washington and a bible study in Arkansas have been identified as super-spreading events in the US pandemic, as have weddings and funerals in a number of states.

Early guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested parishioners wear masks and cancel choir practices, but the Trump administration said that was too proscriptive. After Trump spoke, the CDC issues guidelines for houses of worship that include certain limitation to keep congregants safe, such as limiting the size of gatherings, according to the Times story.

Yesterday in an interview with Politico, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said he was not being muzzled by the White House, and denied that the Trump administration rejected CDC guidelines for reopening.

CDC forecasts 110,000 US deaths by Jun 13

The CDC has updated its forecast for US COVID-19 fatalities, to 110,000 by Jun 13. The forecasts are based on 16 models that aim to predict how physical distancing measures and transmission rates will affect the pandemic.

The CDC's previous forecast predicted 100,000 deaths by Jun 10. Today, the United States has 1,591,242 COVID-19 cases and 95,533 deaths, according to the tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Many of the US cases have come from large outbreaks tied to nursing homes, prisons, and meat packing plants. Yesterday National Public Radio reported that 570 workers at a Tyson Foods chicken processing plant in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, many without symptoms. A total of 2,200 workers were tested. Earlier this month, the same plant saw 200 workers infected with the virus.

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