Georgia-based analyst: How and why North Carolina has outperformed his state in responding to the pandemic

Gov. Roy Cooper

If you get a chance, be sure to check out a post that went up this weekend on the Georgia-based policy website known as Trouble in God’s Country by veteran policy analyst/observer/commentator Charles Hayslett. In a post he’s entitled “New medical study confirms what TIGC has been saying for a year now. You’re welcome.”, Hayslett dissects and interprets a recent study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that compares the responses of various American states to the public health challenges posed by the pandemic.

Here’s his basic take:

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) earlier this week published a new statistical study which basically found that American states led by Democratic governors have fared better through the worst of the pandemic than those governed by Republicans.

Opined the authors: “Gubernatorial party affiliation may drive policy decisions that impact COVID-19 infections and deaths across the U.S. Future policy decisions should be guided by public health considerations rather than political id

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

eology.”

Hayslett then goes on to focus on two very similar sized states from the South — Georgia, which is led by a Republican governor, and North Carolina, which is led by a Democratic governor:

Early on, I started noticing differences between between Georgia, where Republican Governor Brian Kemp was famously loathe to impose restrictions because of the pandemic, and North Carolina, where Democratic Governor Roy Cooper acted pretty quickly and decisively to begin closing down his state.

The two states have a lot in common, including demographics, economics, educational levels, and population size. Pretty much from the get-go, North Carolina was performing more Covid-19 tests and reporting more confirmed cases but fewer deaths.

Based on the latest data available from the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, North Carolina has since significantly out-performed Georgia. As of Thursday, March 11, Georgia, with a population of 10.6 million, had more than a million confirmed and probable cases and 18,117 Covid-19 deaths; North Carolina, whose population is only slightly smaller at 10.4 million, has recorded 879,825 such cases and 11,622 deaths.

Hayslett goes on to perform a similar comparison between six Old South states (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee) to the three West Coast states (Washington, Oregon and California) and once again he finds notable distinctions.

I pulled fresh numbers from the CDC’s Covid-19 Data Tracking website on Friday, and the Old South’s performance now looks much worse in comparison to the West Coast (where, again, the virus initially turned Seattle into the public health equivalent of Chernobyl and has continued to savage the California coast) than it did last April. The Old South states have racked up 25,000 more deaths than the West Coast and a million more confirmed and probable cases…

Similar numbers turned up when he compares pro-Trump counties in Georgia with pro-Biden counties.

Here’s his basic, bottom-line conclusion:

The authors of the AJPM study were careful to avoid asserting causality in the statistical relationship between the governors’ party affiliation and their states’ Covid-19 results. And, indeed, there are a variety of factors other than politics that probably contribute to different outcomes. In an early piece speculating that rural Georgia might eventually be harder hit than the state’s urban areas, I cited the facts that rural Georgians were generally in poorer health than their city cousins and had access to much frailer health care delivery systems. At that point, the political differences were just beginning to come into focus.

But, statistical limitations aside, it now seems silly to ignore the obvious political relationships and implications. It’s often said that the 50 states function as laboratories for American democracy. For a year now, that’s clearly been the case where America’s response to Covid-19 is concerned. But it’s a shame we all wound up being used as human guinea pigs.

Click here to read Hayslett’s entire post.

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