US Covid deaths are getting even redder – Community News
Covid-19

US Covid deaths are getting even redder

As 2020 drew to a close, there were good reasons to believe that the death toll during the first year of the Red America pandemic may have been worse. There were also good reasons to think that things could have been worse in blue America.

Conservative areas tend to be older, less affluent and more hostile to wearing masks, all of which can exacerbate the spread or severity of Covid-19. Liberal areas, for their part, are home to both busier international airports and more Americans experiencing the health consequences of racial discrimination.

But it turned out that in 2020 these differences largely offset each other — or maybe they didn’t matter as much as some people thought. Regardless, the per capita death toll in blue America and red America was similar in the final weeks of 2020.

It was only a few percentage points higher in counties where Donald Trump had won at least 60 percent of the vote than in counties where Joe Biden crossed that threshold. In counties where neither candidate won 60 percent, the death toll was higher than in Trump or Biden counties. There just wasn’t a strong partisan pattern for Covid during its first year circulating in the US

Then came the vaccines.

They proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes towards them so different, that there was quickly a gap in the Covid death toll. I’ve covered that gap in two newsletters — one this summer, one last month — and today’s newsletter provides an update.

The short version: The gap in the Covid death toll between red and blue America has widened faster in the past month than ever before.

In October, 25 of every 100,000 residents in hard-hit Trump counties died of Covid, more than three times the number in hard-hit Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October marked the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.

Some conservative writers have tried to argue that the gap may be due to regional differences in weather or age, but those arguments fall apart on closer examination. (If weather or age were a major reason, the pattern would have started to show up last year.) The true explanation is simple: The vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing severe Covid, and nearly 40 percent of Republican adults remain. unvaccinated, compared to about 10 percent of Democratic adults.

Charles Gaba, a Democratic health care analyst, has pointed out that the gap is also apparent at finer degrees of political analysis: Counties where Trump got at least 70 percent of the vote have an even higher average Covid death toll than counties where Trump won at least. 60 percent. (Find your province.)

As a result, Covid deaths are concentrated in counties outside major metropolitan areas. Many of these are in red states, while others are in red parts of blue or purple states, such as Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia, and even California.

This situation is a tragedy, in which irrational fears of vaccine side effects have overwhelmed rational fears of a deadly virus. It stems from disinformation – promoted by right-wing media outlets such as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, the Sinclair Broadcast Group and online sources – that preys on the mistrust that comes with a stagnant standard of living.

The future of Covid is uncertain, but I do think it’s possible that the partisan gap in Covid deaths peaked last month. There are two main reasons to expect the gap to narrow soon.

First, the new antiviral treatments from Pfizer and Merck seem likely to reduce the number of Covid deaths everywhere, and especially in the places where they occur most. These treatments, along with the vaccines, could eventually turn this coronavirus into just another manageable virus.

Second, red America likely has built up more natural immunity to Covid — from previous infections — than blue America, because hostility to vaccination and social distancing has allowed the virus to spread more widely. A build-up of natural immunity may be one reason the partisan gap in new Covid cases has narrowed of late.

Death trends tend to lag the number of cases by several weeks, suggesting that the gap in deaths will narrow in November.

Yet no one knows what will happen next. Much of the recent drop in cases is mysterious, meaning it may not last long. And vaccination immunity appears to be much stronger than infection immunity, meaning conservative Americans are likely to continue to suffer an inordinate amount of unnecessary illness and death.

More about the virus:

  • As of today, international travelers are allowed to enter the US with a vaccination certificate and a negative Covid test.

  • Housing advocates expected a eviction crisis to hit the US like a tsunami. Instead, it unfolds slowly, especially in places with little tenant protection.

  • Romania, where religious figures have pushed vaccine misinformation, has the world’s highest Covid death rate.

  • After a woman died of prolonged Covid, her family feared her organs were unsafe to donate. It points to gaps in organ donation protocols during the pandemic.

  • Covid is on average worse for men than for women, and vaccination coverage does not explain the difference. What could be?

Marian Anderson etched her place in American history when she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. A new box set of her recordings, stretching from 1924 to 1966, offers a picture of her career beyond her most famous performance, Anthony Tommasini writes in The Times.

The Lincoln Memorial concert was an important civil rights moment. After the Daughters of the American Revolution barred Anderson from performing at Constitution Hall because she was black, federal officials offered her the new venue. In her alto – the lowest range for a woman’s voice – she sang to a crowd of 75,000, and millions more over the radio.

Anderson has performed all over Europe, earning the adoration of crowds — and of the famed conductor Arturo Toscanini, who said she possessed a voice heard “once in a hundred years.” After her return to the US, her recordings and tours made her wealthy, although segregation forced her to live as a second-class citizen.

In The New Yorker, Alex Ross highlights a standout song from the new collection: the Easter hymn “Crucifixion,” which left an audience in Salzburg in 1935 in “an instinctive, natural and intense silence, so that you were afraid to breathe.”— Claire Moses, a morning writer

Friday’s Spelling Bee pangram was dug up. Here’s today’s puzzle – or you can play online.