“You forgot to mention that red states had far higher death tolls from COVID. On purpose. Because you’re amoral scum.” – I&I reader Charles Ray in the comments section.
Our editorial pointing out how Red states have done far better than Blue states at recovering from COVID prompted a few readers, such as Charles Ray above, to complain in the comments section that we overlooked COVID deaths. (See, “The Results Are In: Red States Won The COVID Fight, Hands Down.”)
Another reader, Paul Roberts, commented: “did the Red states win the COVID-19 fight? Hardly. Most (not Utah) let their citizens die in higher percentages to show how ‘pro-business’ they were.”
This storyline has been repeated ad nauseam by the leftist corporate media and by those who still believe that mask mandates, lockdowns, and various other government efforts to stop COVID worked.
And, indeed, the top five states in terms of COVID deaths per capita are all solidly Red: Mississippi, Arizona, Alabama, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
At the other end of the spectrum, three of the five states with the lowest per-capita COVID death rates are deep Blue (Vermont, Hawaii, and Washington) and only two are Red states (Utah and Alaska).
Proof positive that Republican states “let their citizens die,” right?
First, as we’ve pointed out in this space many times, the evidence continues to mount that none of those government interventions made a significant difference. (See, for example, “It’s Time To Ask: Did Any Of The COVID Mandates, Closures, Lockdowns Do Anything?”)
In addition, this simplistic accounting of death rates overlooks three key COVID risk factors that did have a significant impact on COVID deaths in each state.
Demographics: The biggest risk factor, far and away, for COVID death is age. Nationwide, some 75% of COVID deaths are among those 65 or older – a group that accounts for less than 17% of the total population.
Well, guess what? The states with the highest COVID death rates also have a higher-than-average concentration of seniors.
West Virginia, for example, has both the fourth-highest per-capita COVID deaths and the fourth-highest senior population. In fact, of the 29 states that have higher-than-average COVID death rates, 22 also had senior populations that were higher than the national average.
Health Status: Second, COVID targets the sick. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that people who died with COVID almost always had other serious health problems. There have been precious few COVID deaths among those who were otherwise perfectly healthy.
Well, guess what again? The states with the highest COVID death rates also ranked lowest in the nation for overall health in 2019 – before COVID hit these shores.
Mississippi, for example, is at the top of the list for COVID deaths per capita, and at the bottom in terms of overall health, according to a ranking by the UnitedHealth Foundation. Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama were also at the bottom of the states’ overall health scores before COVID struck.
On the other hand, states that were healthier before COVID suffered fewer deaths. Vermont, which has the lowest per-capita COVID death rate, ranked No. 1 in the UnitedHealth score in 2019.
Racial Makeup: Third, CDC data also shows that minorities are dying from COVID-19 disproportionately. The CDC says that “once infected, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be hospitalized, be admitted to the ICU, and die from COVID-19 at a younger age.”
Turns out that states with higher-than-average COVID deaths also tend to have larger minority populations. Mississippi, in addition to having the highest COVID death rate, also has the highest percentage of blacks of any state (37%). Alabama is sixth, Tennessee is 10th.
Put it all together and what do you get?
A state’s COVID death rate almost certainly had nothing to do with who was its governor, who its citizens vote for in presidential elections, or how onerous its COVID policies were, and everything to do with general risk factors such as age, health, and ethnicity.
The left always accuses the right of politicizing things. But this is another example of what psychiatrists call “projection.”
It’s the left, not the right, that spent the past two years trying to score political points during this once-in-a-generation pandemic. It’s the left, not the right, that spends its days, nights, and weekends trying to politicize everything else under the sun.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board