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Blue vs Red State Covid death vs economic survival?

Interesting analysis. A few important things missing. The negative impact of lockdowns are not insignificant. For instance, one in 4 young adults in 2020 surveyed said they had seriously considered suicide. Mental health issues, isolation, job loss may overshadow the death rates differences in these states. The impact of having children engage in extended remote learning, may have devastating long term impact?

Also consider Florida vs California. Yes, Florida has a death rate of approx 2,800 per million compared to 2,000 for Calif. However, Florida's population is heavily skewed to the elderly which are exponentially more likely to have serious complications from COVID.

One last point. Vaccines have been shown in numerous studies to reduce your likelihood of contracting COVID (not not eliminate) and reduce the severity if you do contract it. There is no clear data yet on whether the vaccine makes you less contagious. Ergo, while it makes sense for the government to persuade people to vaccinate, it's not clear if it makes sense yet to mandate. Especially if mandates aren't reducing transmission and causing essential workers to walk off the job?

BTW: A recent survey of US Mayors. Principal concern now-LT mental health impacts of COVID.

Omicron Could Widen Blue-Red Economic Divide

Democratic-leaning states avoid the worst of Covid-19 illness while their economies lag

Voters’ risk tolerance, which manifests itself in how they shop and travel, play a part in economic outcomes.

By Greg Ip, WSJ

Dec. 1, 2021 9:00 am ET

Covid-19 has carved a partisan divide through the U.S.

Democratic-leaning states have gone further with social distancing, school closures, mask mandates and vaccinations than Republican-leaning states. As a result, the former had generally lower rates of infection and death than the latter—and paid for it with much weaker job growth. If the Omicron variant unleashes a new wave of the pandemic, those partisan gaps could be perpetuated.

The conventional wisdom at the start of the pandemic was that there was no trade-off between lives and livelihoods: Protective measures that reduced transmission would also minimize the economic harm. That might have been true in some countries such as South Korea and China, but not in the U.S., where infections and economic activity appear to be inversely related.

Of the 10 states with the strongest recovery in payrolls since February 2020, all have Republican governors and eight were carried by former President Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election. Of the 10 states with the worst job performance, eight have Democratic governors and eight were carried by President Biden.

Conversely, the 10 states experiencing the highest rates of Covid-19 infection and death are predominantly Republican and those with the lowest rates are mostly Democratic.

Vaccinations weakened the economic relationship somewhat this year, enabling most states to grow even as the Delta variant fueled a new wave of infections, mostly among the unvaccinated. Yet nearly two years into the pandemic, the economic gap remains wide. In solid blue California and Illinois, which imposed widespread restrictions and school closures last year, payroll employment in October was still down about 5% from February 2020. In Texas and Florida, whose Republican governors took prominent stands against lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates, it was down just 0.5% and 1.9%, respectively.

Even the Delta wave, which pushed the cumulative per-capita death toll in Texas and Florida well above that of California and Illinois, didn’t change this pattern: Job growth over August and September was similar across all four states.

Researchers disagree on the impact of the virus, lockdowns, masks and other interventions on health and the economy—no surprise since so many other factors are also at work. Demographics and weather influence vulnerability to Covid-19, as does timing; northeastern states bore the brunt of the first wave when their populations and health providers were unprepared. Economic performance was affected by dependence on tourism or oil and gas, and by out-migration, spurred by crime and housing costs.

And even the contribution of partisanship is complex. Different Covid-19 policies of elected leaders have played a part in economic outcomes, but so have voters’ varying risk tolerance, which manifests itself in how they shop, work and travel irrespectively of government policies. Indeed, some studies say voluntary actions explain more of the behavioral response to Covid-19 than government interventions.

Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at polling organization Gallup, notes that since February 2020, Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to worry about illness, feel isolated, wear masks and work remotely. Individuals might have first adopted these behavioral norms on the advice of political and public-health leaders and the media, said Mr. Rothwell. They then internalized them, and those preferences influence the policies their elected leaders implement: more restrictive in blue states, less in red.

Covid-19 deaths compared to 2020 presidential election margin of victory

There is no “right” trade-off between lives and livelihoods because people value economic vitality, personal freedom and health differently. Thus, a lot of the response to Covid-19 looks incoherent from the standpoint of costs and benefits. Evidence generally supports the use of masks to limit transmission but not of closing elementary schools. Yet risk-averse blue jurisdictions tended to both mandate masks and close schools while risk-tolerant red jurisdictions did neither. Masks are of much more value to the unvaccinated than vaccinated, but the unvaccinated are less willing to wear masks.

Countless studies illustrate the disconnect between Covid-19 behavior and evidence. One, by Ori Heffetz of Cornell University and Guy Ishai of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that people had a reasonable sense of the prevalence of Covid-19 in their state but their behavior had “close to zero correlation” with that prevalence.

Job growth compared to 2020 presidential election margin of victory

Another study found that people tended to read, and trust, news sources that confirmed their pre-existing biases, pessimistic or optimistic, about the pandemic—biases that were themselves closely aligned with political preference. Yet a third found that financial incentives, reminders and public-health messages failed to nudge the unvaccinated into getting shots; in some cases, they did the opposite.

This poses a big challenge to Mr. Biden. He and other blue-state leaders are deeply reluctant to return to lockdowns because of the economic cost. Instead, Mr. Biden’s game plan is to get enough of the population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity so that the pandemic burns itself out. This week, Mr. Biden said the best protection against Omicron was “getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot…if people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there’s no need for the lockdowns.”

But that plan has been frustrated by the virus’s mutations and vaccine hesitancy. Each new wave of infections triggers ingrained fears even among the vaccinated, said Mr. Rothwell. If Omicron drives another wave of cases and hospitalizations, “It will be another quarter of struggle for restaurants and the travel sector, more so in blue states. A lot of red states, they have decided the pandemic is over, and have returned to normal life.”

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