May 4, 2020 - Health

Reopening is a risk for Republican governors

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Republican governors run a big risk — both to public health and their own political fortunes — if they open up their economies too soon, without adequate safeguards.

The big picture: The hardest-hit areas so far have mostly been in states with Democratic governors. But the number of coronavirus cases is now increasing more quickly in states with Republican governors.

By the numbers: Coronavirus cases and deaths are both higher in Democratic states than in Republican ones, even after adjusting for population. 

  • However, over the last two weeks, reported infections have increased 91% in red states versus 63% in blue states. 
  • We see the same pattern for COVID-19 deaths: 170% growth in red states vs. 104% in blue states.

Driving the news: Texas has begun easing its lockdown measures, and other red states are also moving quickly. Florida has reopened some beaches, and some southern states in particular never locked down as tightly as the Northeast and West coast.

  • Yes. but: Every governor wants to open up when they can to get the economy going, and there are some Democratic governors who are also taking steps to ease distancing measures.

Between the lines: The core of the Republican base in white, rural areas is at risk. 

  • 20% of people living in non-metro areas are older than 65, compared with 15% in metro areas.
  • And rural residents under 65 are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions (26%), compared to their urban counterparts (20%).

The bottom line: Polls show that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to think that the worst is behind us when it comes to COVID-19. 

  • That may be partly because they, and the Republican governors, think this is largely someone else’s problem. It isn’t.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

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