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Covid disappears as top issue for voters, but it’s still taking 3,000 U.S. lives a week

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
People wearing face masks wait at a Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on Aug. 5, 2022.
People wearing face masks wait at a Covid-19 vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on Aug. 5. Xinhua via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden discusses crime and safety in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ... Biden also plans to deliver primetime speech Thursday on “the continued battle for the soul of the nation,” NBC’s Mike Memoli reports. ... A Secret Service official at center of explosive Jan. 6 testimony exits agency for private sector. ... Republican Blake Masters and NRSC launch joint TV buy in Arizona Senate. ... And Val Demings goes after Sen. Marco Rubio’s missed votes in Florida Senate.

But first: On Friday, more than 500 people died in America from Covid. Over the last seven days, the death toll has been approximately 3,400 Americans. 

And it was hardly a blip.

Politicians no longer want to talk about Covid; Congress hasn’t authorized new funding in case of a potential future surge; and it’s barely been an issue in the midterm elections, with the exceptions of TV ads like this one from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or this one from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. 

In fact, our most recent NBC News poll found just 1% of voters citing the coronavirus as the top issue facing the country, and just 3% said it was either No. 1 or No. 2 — down from 29% in March. 

While no longer dominating politics or most people’s behavior anymore, the numbers are far from inconsequential. In addition to the 3,000-plus Americans dying weekly from the virus, nearly 40,000 were hospitalized with Covid over the last seven days, and up to 23 million Americans are estimated to be suffering from long Covid

This isn’t to say things are anywhere near as bad as they were months or even years ago. Deaths have plummeted from more than 2,000 a day this past winter; vaccines are being tailored to new variants; and scientists are hopeful that continued advances in therapeutics can continue to lower the rate of serious incidents.

And it’s not to suggest any change of policy — that’s a conversation for a different day.

But as we settle into whatever this new normal has become, it’s worth taking a step back at the scope of the carnage left behind us, and what we’ve become numb to along the way. 

Data Download: The number of the day is … 1,046,429

That’s how many people have died from Covid in the U.S. since the pandemic began more than two years ago. 

The 1 million threshold was crossed in early May. There have been more than 94.3 million confirmed cases of Covid, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

Since Jan. 2020, more than 300 million people around the world have contracted the virus. And more than 6 million have died

Other numbers to know:

4.5: How many years a former Washington, D.C. bartender and Proud Boy received in prison for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

$4.3 million: How much New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan raised from July 1 through Aug. 24, the period before her September primary. 

14: How many days between First Lady Jill Biden’s positive Covid test and her testing negative (after a Paxlovid rebound). 

$3.2 million: How much Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has spent on ads in the last two weeks — more than Democrat Beto O’Rourke has spent additively since the beginning of June, per AdImpact. 

160,000: The number of residents of Jackson, Mississippi, where massive flooding is stressing the city’s already failing drinking water system

$12 million: How much two Democratic climate groups, Climate Power Action and League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, are spending on a new digital ad and direct mail campaign, per Axios. 

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: ‘Scranton Joe’ heads to Wilkes-Barre

President Joe Biden hits the road Tuesday for a trip to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., near his hometown of Scranton, where NBC News’ Mike Memoli reports he’ll focus on public safety and argue that far-right Republicans are a threat to the rule of law. (The trip was rescheduled from when Biden had Covid). 

It’s a return to a battleground state that comes after a string of legislative victories, but one that comes as top Democratic candidates in his party still appear hesitant to hit the trail with Biden, per NBC’s Jonathan Allen, Natasha Korecki and Adam Edelman

While Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro will attend the event in his official capacity (he’s the party’s gubernatorial nominee), the party’s Senate nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, won’t be there. Instead, Fetterman’s spokesman told NBC he’ll be marching in the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade with Biden next week but emphasized Fetterman wants to discuss his belief marijuana should be decriminalized. 

Democrats are taking a similarly mixed posture ahead of Biden’s trip next week to Wisconsin, where Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will appear with Biden while Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the party’s Senate nominee, isn’t committing to any public plans with Biden. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Republican Blake Masters’ campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are launching a joint, $100,000 TV buy starting Tuesday, per AdImpact. Masters also tweeted a video Monday night responding to criticism about his tweet about the diversity of the Federal Reserve, by doubling down and calling Vice President Kamala Harris “so incompetent she can’t even get a sentence out.” CNN also reports that Masters has made additional changes to his website, removing a false claim that the 2020 election was stolen and claims Democrats were trying to “import” a new electorate. 

Florida Senate: Democrat Val Demings is booking another $1.4 million in TV ads between Tuesday and Sept. 11, per AdImpact. 

Pennsylvania Senate: After recent comments pouring cold water on the Republican attempts to flip the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican Mehmet Oz has a “a great shot at winning” against Fetterman. Reuters also reports that a viral photo of Oz posing with someone holding his campaign sign upside down so it read “No” instead of “Oz” was faked. Fetterman, meanwhile, has a new TV ad responding to GOP attacks on crime. 

Georgia Governor: A judge has ruled Republican Gov. Brain Kemp has to testify in front of a grand jury looking into possible interference in the 2020 presidential election, but not until after the Nov. 8 election. 

California-22: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee booked $1 million in TV from Sept. 6 through Sept. 26 in the race between Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democrat Rudy Salas. 

California-49: Republican Brian Maryott placed $1.4 million on TV between Sept. 19 and Election Day in his race against Democratic Rep. Mike Levin.  

New Hampshire-02: A Democratic group appears to be meddling in the GOP primary in New Hampshire’s 2nd District, per Politico.

New York-10: Amid questions whether Democratic New York State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou is considering a run in the general election on the Working Families Party line if she doesn’t edge ahead of Dan Goldman in the Democratic Primary, Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones said he won’t run on the WFP line

Oregon-05: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is booking $2.4 million between late September and late October in the race between Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Lori Chavez-DeRemer. 

Ad watch: Demings blasts Rubio for missed votes

In a new ad, Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Florida, attacks GOP Sen. Marco Rubio for missing votes in the Senate. Demings, a former police chief, tells viewers, “When police officers don’t show up to work, they get fired. That’s how it should be for senators.”

“Marco Rubio is one of the worst at showing up. And when he does, he hurts Florida,” she adds.

According to GovTrack, Rubio has missed 9.1% of votes since 2011. The median for other senators is missing 2.4% of votes, according to the same site.

Demings has attacked Rubio over his attendance record throughout the campaign. In response, Rubio has criticizedDemings for voting with President Biden 100% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. A Rubio campaign spokesperson said, “Pelosi Puppet Val Demings’ version of ‘showing up’ for the people of Florida is voting for Joe Biden’s failing agenda 100% of the time.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Justice Department acknowledged it may have recovered some privileged information in its search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.