Stark partisan patterns in COVID deaths took shape for an obvious reason — the vaccines are extremely effective, and Republican elites mobilized against them — and the pattern has only accelerated over time:
It was only a few percentage points higher in counties where Donald Trump had won at least 60 percent of the vote than in counties where Joe Biden crossed that threshold. In counties where neither candidate won 60 percent, the death toll was higher than in either Trump or Biden counties. There simply was not a strong partisan pattern to Covid during the first year that it was circulating in the U.S.
Then the vaccines arrived.
They proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes toward them so different, that a gap in Covid’s death toll quickly emerged. I have covered that gap in two newsletters — one this summer, one last month — and today’s newsletter offers an update.
The brief version: The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.
In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.
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. (If weather or age were a major reason, the pattern would have begun to appear last year.) The true explanation is straightforward: 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.
And it’s not as if this is the product of actual misunderstanding — Tucker probably got the vaccine before most medical professionals did, just like his boss. They’re just happy for rank-and-file Republicans to die unnecessarily, whether to undermine Biden or just for the yocks.