The partisan divide in the United States throughout the COVID-19 pandemic stretched beyond differences in attitudes about masking, social distancing, and vaccines.
Scientists from the University of Maryland found it also is tied to a clear difference in mortality rates from the virus.
The research is published in Health Affairs and was conducted by Neil Jay Sehgal et al.
In the study, the team compared the number of COVID-19 deaths through October 2021 with counties’ voting behavior in the 2020 presidential election.
Their analysis controlled for other characteristics likely to influence COVID-19 transmission and mortality such as age, race/ethnicity, chronic disease, and access to health care.
The team found that Republican counties (where 70% or more voted Republican) experienced nearly 73 more COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people compared to Democratic counties (where less than 30% voted Republican).
The disparity in mortality rates between Republican and Democratic counties was due largely to structural, policy, and behavioral differences in the more conservative counties.
The team found voting behaviors at the county level are likely to represent the compliance or lack of compliance with mask mandates, vaccine uptake, and use of other protective policies to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
They say people living in states and counties with more conservative voters are dying at higher rates from a largely preventable disease.
COVID-19 vaccine uptake only explained 10% of the difference in mortality between red and blue counties. The vaccine-only approach to public health isn’t doing enough to combat the continued toll.
The team says since the United States surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19 earlier this spring and infection rates are up in many states, these policies could help prevent infections and reduce the chance of serious outcomes among those who do get infected, including death or the lingering symptoms known as long COVID, which may affect as many as 30% of people who have been infected.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about a new inhaled COVID-19 vaccine, and this drug may prevent respiratory and heart damage in COVID-19.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about a strong link between COVID and stroke, and results showing vegetables and coffee may protect against COVID-19.
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