Why did Covid-19 kill more Republicans than Democrats?

Multiple academic studies have indicated that Republican were statistically more likely to die of Covid-19 than Democrats.

The latest, a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concludes, “Average excess death rates in Florida and Ohio were 76% higher among Republicans than Democrats between March 2020 and December 2021,” NBC News reported on Sunday, October 9, 2022 (read story here).

That’s based on a methodology using indirect evidence. “Excess deaths refers to deaths above what would be anticipated based on historical trends,” NBC News explains. The CDC provides a more detailed explanation here.

A study by Yale researchers published in June 2022 also found that “counties with a Republican majority had a greater share of Covid deaths through October 2021, relative to majority-Democratic counties,” NBC News reported, adding, “But experts are still puzzling over why these differences exist.”

The researchers behind the working paper think it has more to do with “vaccine hesitancy” than failure to follow mask and social distancing guidelines. “We really don’t see a big divide until after vaccines became widely available,” they said, but once they did, “Excess death rates in Florida and Ohio were 153% higher among Republicans than Democrats.”

I’ve previously seen data indicating Florida’s death rate was three times higher than Washington’s, whose governor implemented mask and social distancing mandates, and also vaccine mandates for state employees. By contrast, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants to be president, blew off Covid-19 and forced lax health safeguards on his state’s residents, thousands of whom paid for his policy with their lives.

The Covid vaccines didn’t necessarily prevent infection, but were highly effective to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. Masks and social distancing were designed to reduce community spread. Republican resistance to these measures presumably made them more vulnerable to infection; but if, as the studies suggest, the gap between Republican and Democratic mortality widened after vaccines became available, that would be because the vaccinated group were better protected if they did become infected.

The founder and owner of this blog, Dr. Steve Schwartz, an internationally renowned medical researcher at the University of Washington, contracted Covid-19 as the pandemic was just beginning in March 2020, no one knows how, and died within days. In those early stages, most of the casualties in Washington State were elderly residents of nursing homes, where the virus was able to spread quickly and easily.

Things were confusing for all of us then. Health experts learned as they went along, and shaped recommendations and policies based on what they knew about virology and previous epidemics, much of which was right. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic quickly became politicized; Republicans emphasized freedom from restrictive measures, while Democrats emphasized safety and survival.

Looking back, the results, it seems, speak for themselves.

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