When the coronavirus pandemic began a year ago, Democratic governors had the highest COVID case and death rates, but it wasn’t long before Republican governors took over.
The study was released Tuesday by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. The study examined coronavirus cases, deaths, testing, and test positivity rates between March 15 and Dec. 15, 2020. During that time, there were more than 16 million positive cases and 300,000 deaths.
The researchers found as the coronavirus pandemic raged on, states with Republican governors surpassed Democratic one in rates of cases and deaths.
“Republican-led states had fewer cases from March to early June 2020. However, on June 3, the association reversed, indicating that Republican-led states had on average 1.10 times more cases per 100,000 than Democratic-led states,” the study stated.
Researchers believe one reason for the change is Democratic states were the first to deal with patients with the virus. Republican governors were less stringent with safeguards including quarantining, face masks, and social distancing. Residents of Republican states also have a hand in the blame as large anti-quarantine protests took place in Ohio, Indiana, and other states with significant Republican representation.
“The early trends could be explained by high COVID-19 cases and deaths among Democratic-led states that are home to initial ports of entry for the virus in early 2020,” the researchers wrote. “However, the subsequent reversal in trends, particularly with respect to testing, may reflect policy differences that could have facilitated the spread of the virus.”
Democratic states, which are typically more populated, saw the full brunt of the pandemic early. New York and California were dealing with hundreds of deaths per day. Meanwhile, the Dakotas and Montana weren’t dealing with many cases as people are spread out more, but as 2020 went into the fall months, things changed.
Hospitals in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa began running out of beds and health experts were concerned state health systems in those states, which are much smaller than hospital systems in Democratic states, would be overwhelmed.
“This is what exponential math looks like,” Malia Jones, a social epidemiologist with the University of Wisconsin told MarketWatch last fall. “Everything seems fine until quite suddenly it seems completely out of control. We’ve been seeing the slow build to this for a month, and we have also seen little or no action to put the brakes on it. This is a predictable outcome, unfortunately.