Mar 25, 2022 - Health

The pandemic has been deadlier in red states

Data: Axios analysis of CDC data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Axios analysis of CDC data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

COVID is killing more people per 100,000 in red states than in blue states, a reflection of GOP resistance to vaccines.

Why it matters: "The COVID-19 pandemic removed any doubt that state policies can affect health outcomes," Virginia Commonwealth University professor Steven Woolf recently argued in JAMA.

Between the lines: The partisan gap, measured by deaths above what would normally be expected, was particularly stark during last year's Delta wave, when all adults had access to vaccines but stark differences emerged between Democrats and Republicans' vaccination rates.

  • The gap shrank during the Omicron wave, as the variant could evade some of the vaccines' protection.
  • In the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic, blue states — particularly big cities — were hit hardest beginning in March 2020. But once those initial outbreaks subsided, the virus took off in red states and less populated areas.

The big picture: The virus has proved itself to be exhaustingly unpredictable in many ways over the last two years. But there's no doubt that tools like high-quality masks and vaccines reduce the risk of catching the virus, and in the case of vaccines, of dying from it.

  • That means it's not surprising that once those tools were widely available, states with political and cultural aversions to using them were hit harder.

The bottom line: America's political divisions are now on display in mortality rates.

Go deeper: Partisanship undermines a playbook for the next pandemic

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