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A new NPR analysis reveals that since May of this year, people living in counties that voted for Donald Trump have been almost three times as likely to die from Covid-19 than those living in counties that Joe Biden won.
NPR published its findings on Sunday after examining the number of deaths per 100,000 people across nearly 3,000 U.S. counties since May 2021, when vaccines became widely available. They found a disturbing trend: counties that voted for Trump with a 60 percent or more majority had 2.7 times the death rates as counties that Biden won. This data can partially be explained by another troubling finding: higher margins of victory for Trump correlated with lower vaccination rates. Even when controlling for age, a risk factor for dying of Covid, Trump county residents were still more likely to die of the virus than residents of Biden-supporting counties.
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At times in the past six months, those numbers have been even worse, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who assisted NPR with the project. In October, Gaba found, the ten percent of counties with the highest voting rate for Trump had death rates almost six times higher than the top ten percent of Biden counties. Now, Gaba said, that rate is “back down to around 5.5 times higher.”
Another reason for the discrepancy is the stark difference between Republican and Democratic rates of vaccination. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who represent 41 percent of adults, now make up 60 percent of the adult unvaccinated population across the country.” In fact, the foundation found, political partisanship was the strongest predictor of someone’s vaccination status. As of Dec. 2, Kaiser discovered, a staggering 91 percent of Democrats are vaccinated with at least one dose of a Covid vaccine while just 59 percent of Republicans are.
This information, while unsettling, should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the GOP. Many Republicans and conservatives at Fox News have fully embraced vaccine misinformation while also downplaying the risks of the virus — like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who told One America News on Saturday, “The best vaccine we’ve found is Mother Nature’s vaccine. It’s contracting the virus.” That’s not the case, according to findings by the CDC. Gaetz has also refused to disclose his vaccination status.
Exposure to that kind of misinformation increases the likelihood that someone will be hesitant to get the vaccine. A pre-print study from October led by a University of South Florida researcher found that people in Florida who reported hearing vaccine misinformation were less likely to be vaccinated than people who hadn’t been exposed to misinformation within the last six months. The more misinformation they’d heard, the less likely they were to get vaccinated.
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