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Republicans end the pandemic emergency many Republicans never heeded

The announcement from the White House was almost aggressively anodyne. A brief statement of about 20 words, titled, “Bill Signed: H.J.Res. 7.”

And with that, at least in the eyes of the federal government, the coronavirus pandemic is no longer an emergency.

President Biden signed H.J. Res. 7 into law, formalizing the end to the national emergency declaration his predecessor had made three years prior. But the move was spurred by House Republicans who had at times campaigned on the need to formally shut down the government’s pandemic response. H.J. Res. 7 was introduced by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose political identity centers far more around his embrace of fringe-right rhetoric than his assiduously formulated policy proposals.

The impetus is obvious. For about three years — back into the administration of Donald Trump and with his blessing — Republicans have largely viewed governmental efforts to contain or confront the coronavirus as something between unnecessary and unwelcome. The arrival of vaccines overlapped with the arrival of Biden in the White House, and uptake of the preventive measure was soon correlated heavily with partisanship. The tragic effect? Republicans were more likely to die of the virus.

By winning the House in November, Republicans were finally able to end the national emergency Trump had declared. But only after Republican states became the ones where the pandemic was deadliest.

Three years ago, the epicenter of the pandemic was the Northeast, specifically the area around New York City. By mid-2020, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut were the states where the covid-19 death toll had been the highest relative to population.

At the end of the year, vaccines became available. For the first four months of 2021, state vaccination rates surged upward fairly evenly. By April, though, a gap started to emerge. After older Americans had been vaccinated, rates increased faster in Democratic-voting states. Then, that summer, the delta variant of the virus ravaged the Sun Belt. You can see the result below; red states saw a huge surge in deaths in mid-2021 that wasn’t matched in blue ones.

About the charts in this article: Each monthly figure extends from the 10th of one month to the 10th of the next to accommodate the last month of the federal emergency. Vaccination rates are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates from mid-July 2021.

By now, seven of the 10 states with the highest cumulative per capita death tolls are ones that preferred Trump by wide margins in 2020. Two of the exceptions are states Biden won only narrowly: Arizona and Michigan.

You can see how red states took over the states with the highest per capita death tolls in 2021. After the initial surge in deaths in the Northeast, the 10 states with the worst death tolls were evenly divided between red and blue. After the vaccines became available, though, strongly pro-Trump states made up most of the 10 hardest-hit states.

The overall correlation between vaccination and deaths at the state level isn’t as strong as it might seem, though states with lower vaccination rates by mid-July 2021 are also heavily ones with larger death tolls. The states roughly line up from the top-left to bottom-right corners below.

States that were part of the initial surge in deaths (such as New York and Massachusetts) skew the correlation. If we look only at deaths since mid-July 2021, the correlation is clearer.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the death toll in Trump-voting states has been 358 per 100,000 residents, 11 percent higher than the per capita toll in Biden-voting states. Trump-voting states made up 19 of the 20 states with the lowest vaccination rates in mid-July 2021. Biden-voting states made up all of the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates. Since July 2021, the per capita death toll has been 35 percent higher in red states.

The reason is simple: Since the middle of 2021, when Americans could readily access vaccines, red states have seen more per capita deaths than blue ones in 18 of 21 months. The death toll has also been higher in the 10 least-vaccinated states than in the 10 most-vaccinated ones in most of those months — and higher by a much wider margin.

From the viewpoint of the federal government, this is the story of the pandemic from start to finish. It’s a health crisis that did much more damage in Republican-voting states (and counties), in part because of lower vaccination rates and in part, it’s safe to assume, because residents were less likely to take other preventive measures as well.

Despite Biden’s signature on H.J. Res. 7, of course, the coronavirus is still doing damage. While the variant of the virus that’s most prevalent at this point is proving to be less deadly than prior iterations, more than 1,700 people died of the virus in the past week alone. Millions of Americans are still approaching public interactions with caution.

Presumably more so in blue states, as always.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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