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Utah's governor: 'Politics is becoming religion in our country'

POLITICO logo POLITICO 7/4/2021 By Nick Niedzwiadek
a man in a blue suit: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a March 18 news conference in Salt Lake City. © Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, Pool Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a March 18 news conference in Salt Lake City.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox bemoaned Sunday the polarization of American life in recent years and said it has complicated the vaccination effort in his state and elsewhere.

Cox said it is “deeply troubling” how partisanship has influenced attitudes on all manner of subjects and made it harder to build consensus and unity across the country.

“Politics is becoming religion in our country,” Cox, a Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Politics is becoming sport and entertainment in our country. That everything is political. It is a huge mistake, and it’s caused us to make bad decisions during this pandemic and in other phases of our life as well. It is deeply troubling.

Cox’s comment came on July 4, the date on which the United States celebrates its independence from colonial Britain.

The Biden administration set a goal of getting vaccines to at least 70 percent of the country’s adults by that date in a bid to symbolically tie the vaccination effort to the United State’s patriotic traditions. But that goal fell short — the current number is approximately 67 percent — in large part to conservative parts of the country where residents remain deeply reluctant to get inoculated.

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Utah is slightly below the national average among states in terms of vaccinating adults (approximately 64 percent), which Cox said understates its achievement given the state’s conservative valence and how much of its population consists of younger people, who are generally less likely to be vaccinated than older Americans.

Still he said he is concerned about unvaccinated residents, given the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that has taken hold.

“Those are deaths that don’t have to happen, hospitalizations that don’t have to happen,” he said. “It is very simple and very easy to get the vaccine now.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has tried to grapple with the political divide on vaccination, particularly in the wake of a contentious presidential election that many Republicans still fume about.

Jeff Zients, who is leaving the White House after leading its coronavirus task force under Biden, said they are continuing to reach out to local health care providers who are trusted in their communities to help educate people on the value of the vaccines.

“This is not about politics,” he said earlier on “Face the Nation. “We need to continue to reach people where they are and have trusted messengers at a local level.

Zients said one promising sign is that as vaccinations become more prevalent, it is easing some of the reservations people have of their own.

“The good news is as people see their friends and family and neighbors get vaccinated, more and more people get vaccinated," he said.



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