Jimmy Orr: The COVID Vaccine and The Price of Tomatoes in Texas

A reader didn't like our story about Wyoming counties' vaccine rates and voting preferences. Let's talk about that...

Jimmy Orr

August 23, 20214 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Jimmy Orr, Editor

You know you’ve touched a button when someone writes: “This must be a slow news day! Why is this news?”

That happened on Monday when we wrote an article on information from the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed a correlation between a county’s vaccine rate and a county’s support of either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

Wyoming is following a national trend. That is, the stronger the county voted for former President Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

Not true in every county. But as a general rule.

Here in Wyoming, the county which supported Trump the most (88% in Crook County) also had the lowest vaccination rate (19.4%).

Teton County, which supported Trump the least (33%), had the highest vaccination rate, 71%.

This story set some readers off. We didn’t hear the familiar: “This must be a slow news day!” Instead we heard the unique: “Why is this a news story? What does this have to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas?”

It has nothing to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas. But we get what the reader was saying.

Then we had the familiar “clickbait” charge and saying we weren’t helping in the healing of America.

It’s not our job to help heal America. It’s not our job to hurt America either.

It is our job to report on the news. And like it or not, the vaccine has become a partisan issue. And the results are hardly surprising.

“Our surveys consistently find that Democrats are much more likely to report having been vaccinated than Republicans, and Republicans are much more likely to say that they definitely do not want to get vaccinated,” wrote the authors of the study.

No, it’s not surprising. But it is fascinating to understand why.

What is the reason behind the partisan divide on a vaccine and what caused it?

Did we write a story to denigrate former President Trump as one commenter suggested?

If that was the case, then certainly we wouldn’t include this paragraph:

“You can go back to 2008 and look at the elections and see exactly the same results,” he said. “It’s not Trump.”

That’s from University of Wyoming political science professor, Jim King.

He went on to say the outcome would be the same if election results going back years were compared to vaccination rates, with counties showing the most support for Republican candidates having the lowest vaccination rates.

“What you’re seeing is generally the counties where you find people who are less trusting of the national government, they tend to vote a higher percentage Republican,” he said. “What you’re seeing is not anything related directly to the 2020 elections.”

That opinion, to us, was really quite interesting. That’s why you interview people who have studied one field for decades. Their insight is valuable.

My guess is the majority of the upset readers didn’t read the article. They looked at a headline or the Facebook blurb and immediately took offense. They jumped to a conclusion. They assumed we were condemning a group.

They saw a ghost.

The COVID vaccine is a sensitive topic. It’s not just Wyoming. It’s worldwide.

Add that to the increased distrust of the media and it gets volatile.

At Cowboy State Daily we will continue to stay away from agendas or biases or tilting of articles to make them more palatable for a certain group.

If we have an agenda, it’s that we are pro-Wyoming. We’re a group of Wyoming journalists who love the state and have chosen to live here.

You aren’t going to like every topic. You aren’t going to like every story. And you certainly aren’t going to like every column.

But all of that is ok.

We do hope that you like our Wyoming focus. And we hope our love for Wyoming is evident.

By the way, the cost of tomatoes in Texas varies between locations. For example, there is a big difference between Houston and Dallas. The former will cost you $2.24 for two pounds and the latter is much higher — $3.40.

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.