Red States Are Less Prepared for a Covid Resurgence
(Bloomberg Opinion) - The defining characteristic of Covid-19 in America, beyond its size, is the way it has been politicized.
Republican nations, possibly inspired by President Donald Trump's willingness to downplay the threats to life and health even after his own infection and hospitalization, tend to be minimally cautious. Democratic states, some of which were hit hard in the early days of the pandemic, have generally tried more aggressively to contain the virus. They encouraged the wearing of masks and social distancing, restricted eating indoors, and advocated contact tracing. The data is clear that the blue state strategy has been more successful in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Red-leaning states - those that either voted for Trump in 2016 or are led by Republican governors - have tested fewer people per capita than blue states and have more easily opened public venues, from soccer stadiums to restaurants. Red states score significantly lower than blue states in an Oxford University index that measures the severity of containment measures.
An analysis of the Covid-19 test data collected by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that in September states tested in the middle of the range for Republican states examined fewer people than medium blue states - about 25% fewer per 1,000 residents. It's hard to say what impact the president's infection and recovery could ultimately have on government action, but there was no visible spike in testing in Republican-led states in the week following his illness.
The partisan testing gap has existed since last spring, but has increased in recent months. The gap is particularly wide between the red-red states, those who both voted for Trump and have Republican governors, and those who consistently vote for Democrats.
A look at the rate of Covid-19 infections - measured by the percentage of tests that come back positive - shows an even wider gap between red and blue conditions. Some red states are clearly struggling to keep up with the growing outbreaks.
It's possible that the red states' higher infection rates were due to their political response to the pandemic - the reluctance of their leaders to make mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, and the unwillingness of some residents to make recommendations on protection to adhere to yourself.
Think Florida, a state that recently lifted capacity bottlenecks for restaurants and other businesses, and where Governor Ron DeSantis made it difficult for local executives to take stricter measures of their own. The state now reports more daily cases than it did at the start of its summer surge, which led to its final round of restrictions.
Taken together, the data signal is before us. Scientists believe the winter months will lead to higher infection rates. According to recent experiences, the political climate will also have a strong influence.
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Max Nisen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist specializing in biotech, pharma and healthcare. He previously wrote about management and corporate strategy for Quartz and Business Insider.
Sam Fazeli is a Senior Pharmaceuticals Analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence and Research Director at EMEA.
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