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When Leaders Fail To Lead… Everybody Pays The Price

When Leaders Fail To Lead… Everybody Pays The Price

Updated November 1, 2020

Does policy make a difference to the average American’s life? Interest in the upcoming election suggests that it does. That said, each side of the political divide is convinced they have the better policy. Lost in the noise of legitimate argument and illegitimate disinformation and misinformation are facts and evidence. Tune out all the noise, however, the facts and evidence do speak for themselves. When it comes to tackling the new coronavirus, the evidence shows that some governors learned and are learning from experience, while other governors seem determined to not intervene in any meaningful way to stop the spread of the virus. The dividing line between these two sets of governors is party affiliation. The graph below plots confirmed cases of coronavirus infections across states and territories, aggregated by whether they are run by a Republican or Democratic governor.

Covid-19 cases, Mar 15 to Oct 29, 2020

New York City, and its greater metropolitan area, was the main entry point for the virus, via Europe. It took hold in mid-March and accelerated rapidly in blue states, the bulk of it being New York. At this point, the growth in red states is noticeably more gradual and, relatively, less steep. The blue states peak in early April, move sideways for a few days, and start to decline in the last week of April.

Towards the end of May, Republican-administered states and territories start to record more cases than Democrat-administered states and start a steep ascent for the next two months, as states start to reopen different sectors of their local economies. Another big factor is the extent to which these governors advocate social distancing and the use of masks or face coverings. In the third week of October, red states are registering approximately 200 more cases per hundred thousand population than blue states.

The White House was getting intelligence briefings about this new virus wreaking havoc in China, as early as December 2019. Intelligence the White House chose to not share widely, alerting states and health agencies. Early in 2020, the Senate Intelligence committee received briefings about the virus, and the assessment that it would have a devastating impact on the US. It transpired that the only action that came out of that briefing was a Republican senator quietly selling stocks from his portfolio. When the virus took hold in the northeast in March, the sheer number of deaths in unprepared or inadequately prepared health systems was staggering. How many of those deaths could have been prevented?

Deaths due to Covid-19, Jan 22 to Oct 29, 2020

All states and health systems learnt on the job and in real time. You can see this most clearly in the way the death toll in blue states drops off through spring as they put in place measures to limit transmission – lock downs. Towards the end of June, President Trump started to bully states into lifting the lock-downs. Republican governors, led by Governor DeSantis of Florida, heeded Trumps diktats. Here is a closer look at deaths from the July 4 weekend onwards.

Deaths due to Covid-19, daily, July 4 to Oct 29, 2020

Population adjusted to 100,000s:

Deaths due to Covid-19, per 100,000 population, July 4 to Oct 29, 2020

What are the long-term health implications of hundreds of thousands of Americans falling sick? Science has no definitive answers yet. The effects of various degrees of organ damage will be experienced by people over the years to come. At this time, we can  take a look at one measurable outcome that we can all understand: deaths from Covid-19. So far, from March to October 23,  223,975 Americans have died due to Covid-19. That is an average of 983 Americans per day, every day. More than half the total deaths to date, 127,417,  occurred between March and June. Worth noting is that from about July onwards, as with the number of people testing positive, deaths due to Covid-19 are consistently higher in red states. This is not an anomaly or an accident. It is a product of policy. Whatever policy measures the blue states are taking to keep the numbers down are also available to red states.  Republican governors are choosing not to learn from or consult their Democratic colleagues, thereby causing avoidable deaths of Americans. From July onwards, the negative health effects of the pandemic are being disproportionately experienced by Americans in Republican run states and territories.

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