Mar 28, 2022 - COVID

How Texas measures up on COVID deaths per capita

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.

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.

Yes, but: Texas, among the reddest states of all, ranks just outside the top 25 in deaths per 100,000 residents.

  • At least 87,328 Texans have died with COVID.

But, but, but: Texas’ largest urban counties, where officials tend to emphasize mask wearing and vaccinations, have among the lowest COVID cumulative deaths per capita within the state, per an Axios analysis.

  • Travis, Hays and Williamson counties rank near the bottom in COVID deaths per capita — out of 254 counties overall.
  • Put another way: If you live in relatively lightly populated Lampasas County — 90 COVID deaths among its 20,000-odd inhabitants — you're more likely to know someone who has died of the disease than in Travis.

Between the lines: The partisan gap across the states, 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 the vaccination rates of Democrats and Republicans.

The bottom line: 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, counties within Texas with political and cultural aversions to using them were generally hit harder.

💭 Our thought bubble: Gov. Greg Abbott has been buffeted by attacks from his right and left for his performance during the pandemic, but if new hospitalizations and deaths remain down between now and November, Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke will have a harder time convincing voters to head to the polls.


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