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Coronavirus first spread in the United States as a mostly coastal and big-city scourge, sparing many rural areas, small towns and even small cities. Translated into U.S. political geography: The virus hit Democratic areas first.

No more. An Associated Press analysis of coronavirus case data shows the virus has moved — and is spreading quickly — into Republican areas, a new path with broad potential political ramifications.

States that President Donald Trump won in the 2016 election account for about 75% of the new cases, a trend that has accelerated since the end of May. Counties that voted for Trump in 2016 have seen cases and deaths rising — now seeing an impact nearly even with counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The virus’s spread into red America could scramble partisan divisions over the disease. In the first phase, the virus was an undeniable reality for many Democrats, and it largely fell to Democratic governors and mayors to issue the strictest stay-at-home orders that helped slow the economy to a crawl.

Trump’s base, meanwhile, wasn’t so directly affected. His supporters have been less likely to support preventive measures, more likely to believe dangers were exaggerated and less likely to worry about friends or family contracting the virus. Some Republican governors followed the president’s lead, taking longer to issue stay-at-home orders, making the orders less strict when they did, and then more eagerly relaxing the limits on business operations in late April and May.

Already the latest surge is forcing some GOP governors to reverse course. It remains unclear whether it will also force GOP voters to reassess their opinion on the virus and their leaders’ handling of the crisis.

New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, last week pulled no punches in seeking some vindication for himself and other Democrats who battled the virus first and faced skepticism from Trump and other Republicans.

“You played politics with this virus, and you lost,” he said on CNN, indirectly addressing Republicans who downplayed the virus. “You told the people of this state, you told the people of this country, the White House: ‘Don’t worry about it. Go about your business. This is all Democratic hyperbole.’”

“It was never politics,” Cuomo said. “It was always science.”

Counties won by Trump are seeing new cases in the last week at almost the same rate as those counties that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. To be clear, cases are increasing in both groups. But that follows Clinton counties having a declining share of new cases for much of the spring after imposing initial rounds of social distancing guidelines and restrictions on business and public gatherings.

As with COVID-19 cases, the distribution of deaths has leveled off as well. The initial surge in March and early April occurred in Democratic counties. But those counties then saw a sharp drop in deaths per million residents. Trump counties, meanwhile, moved upward, stabilized and then started falling, but at a lower clip than the Democratic counties. Now, there’s a much narrower gap between the two groups.

Perhaps the most marked reversal when measuring coronavirus trends by political geography comes when looking at cases on a state-by-state basis. Those that Clinton won in 2016 accounted for considerable majorities of the earliest cases. Well into March, those states diagnosed four out of five new cases. But since then, the trend lines have taken opposite trajectories. States Trump won account for about three out of four of the newest cases.

COVID-19 deaths broken down by states’ presidential vote yields similar conclusions. Initial measures showed spikes in Clinton’s 2016 territory, with Trump’s states lagging. But trend lines through the spring brought parity, and Trump states have on occasion surpassed Clinton states in rates of new deaths.

One clear pattern: a state’s governor seems to matter. New cases in states with Republican governors, regardless of how those states voted in 2016, now considerably outpace those in states run by Democrats. That circumstance comes after months of trending away from the initial analysis, when Democratic states were the hotspots. That trend roughly reflects how the two parties’ governors have approached the pandemic. GOP governors generally have leaned more heavily in favor of lighter government restrictions on social gatherings and business operations. Democratic governors, on average, have embraced stricter restrictions and more forcefully advocated for caution.

The pattern is repeated when looking at deaths. States with Republican governors have seen an increase as an overall share of the national measure. Democratic-run states, meanwhile, have dropped over time. In recent weeks, there’s been rough parity and smaller spikes and drops between the two groups of states. But it’s another notable correlation between the public health outcomes and the policies governors have chosen.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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California coronavirus-related deaths top 7,000 as infection spread worsens

SAN FRANCISCO — 

The death toll from the coronavirus in California soared above 7,000 this weekend as the infection rate continued to worsen.

The rate at which coronavirus test results are coming back positive in California over the previous seven days has hit 7.97%. That’s the highest number since April — a continuing sign that the coronavirus is spreading throughout the state, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis conducted Saturday.

A week ago, on July 4, the so-called positivity rate over the previous seven days was 7%; and the Saturday before that, on June 27, it was 5.9%. The positivity rate in Los Angeles County is even worse than the statewide figure. On Friday, the seven-day positivity rate was 10% in L.A. County; in late May, that rate fell to a low of 4.6%.

As of Sunday morning, California had recorded 7,030 deaths and 319,000 confirmed cases. The coronavirus had exploded in the state over the last month as businesses reopened and people got back to old routines. In response to the surge, the state ordered bars and in-restaurant dining closed in many parts of California.

Hospitalizations have also spiked, and in the last week so have deaths. California’s death toll remain way behind other hot spots like New York (32,000) and New Jersey (15,000).

Los Angeles County health officials Saturday confirmed 2,916 new coronavirus cases and 57 more related deaths, as the region struggles with a surge of cases in the ongoing pandemic.

There are more than 2,000 people hospitalized with the virus, with 27% of those confirmed cases in intensive care and 18% on ventilators, officials said. It’s a significant increase from the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen a month ago, according to the county Health Department.

L.A. County has identified 130,242 positive cases of the virus and seen a total of 3,793 related deaths. Officials have warned of the potential for exceeding hospital capacity if stricken patients have to start competing with others for a bed.

“For those of you mourning the loss of a loved one from COVID-19, your community mourns with you,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “We must work together to get back to being able to slow the spread. Unless we can do this, our recovery journey is in jeopardy.”

As of Saturday, the total number of coronavirus cases reported statewide stood at 316,928, with 7,016 related deaths, according to health officials.

Los Angeles is on the state’s list of counties being monitored for their rising case counts and increased hospitalizations. If counties remain on the list for three or more consecutive days, the state will require them to close bars and indoor dining in restaurants, along with most other indoor business operations, for at least three weeks. L.A. County reopened restaurants for in-person dining on May 29 and allowed bars to reopen on June 19. Its bars were ordered shut again on June 28, and indoor dining rooms on July 1.

During a Friday briefing, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti reminded Angelenos that socializing and gathering with people outside of their households is still not allowed. He warned — as he did earlier last week — that the city could reimpose a mandatory stay-at-home order should the risk of infection worsen.

“We’re not back to a safer at home order, but we all need to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Twenty thousand people were tested at city and county testing sites Friday, Garcetti said. To meet surging demand, city testing capacity will increase by 25% this week. More than 1 million people have now been tested by the city and county, he said.

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