By the end of 2020, there was no discernible difference between the rate of people who died of COVID-19 from areas that voted for President Biden and those who voted for former President Donald Trump — but "then the vaccines arrived," and "they proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes toward them so different, that a gap in COVID's death toll quickly emerged," David Leonhardt writes in Monday's New York Times. And now, "the gap in COVID's death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point."
Residents of heavily Trump counties were more than three times likelier to die from COVID in October than those in heavily Biden countries — 25 per 100,000 versus 7.8 per 100,000 — Leonhardt reports. "Some conservative writers have tried to claim that the gap may stem from regional differences in weather or age, but those arguments fall apart under scrutiny." In fact, he argues, the "straightforward" explanation is that "the vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing severe COVID, and almost 40 percent of Republican adults remain unvaccinated, compared with about 10 percent of Democratic adults."
So while the pandemic has shifted regions, Leonhardt writes, "COVID deaths have been concentrated in counties outside of major metropolitan areas. Many of these are in red states, while others are in red parts of blue or purple states, like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia, and even California.""
"This situation is a tragedy, in which irrational fears about vaccine side effects have overwhelmed rational fears about a deadly virus," Leonhardt writes, but the good news is that the partisan gap very well may have peaked, thanks to promising new antiviral COVID-19 medications from Pfizer and Merck and greater natural immunity in hard-hit red America. There are caveats, like that natural immunity appears to be weaker than vaccinated immunity, and that so much about the pandemic is still mysterious. Read more at The New York Times.