By Jim Bowman
By Anna Lynn and James Agresti
August 24, 2020
In a Washington Post op-ed titled "More Republican Casualties From Trump's Coronavirus Denial," columnist Jennifer Rubin claims that "red states"—specifically Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas—are "paying the price" for their "arrogant and reckless disregard of expert advice."
In concert with Rubin, multitudes of reporters and commentators have declared that Republican governors have worsened the effects of Covid-19 by "denying science" and reopening "too early." Meanwhile, they have praised Democratic governors, like Andrew Cuomo of NY and Phil Murphy of NJ, for their handling of the pandemic.
By misusing anecdotes and stripping data of vital context, these media figures have woven a narrative that is at stark odds with reality. As documented below with credible primary sources, the hard facts show that:
- the C-19 death rates in Republican states regularly condemned by media outlets remain far lower than in NY and NJ after more than four months of doomsday projections for Republican states.
- Republican governors ridiculed by the media have acted in accord with the facts of science.
- Democratic governors cheered by the media have enacted policies that flout some of the most important scientific facts about Covid-19.
The Bottom Line is Deaths, Not Cases
On a near-continual basis since the outset of the pandemic, Rubin and many of her media colleagues have cited rising numbers of C-19 cases to castigate Republican governors for mishandling the pandemic. A small sampling of their rhetoric includes statements like these:
- "In Arkansas (home to Trump sycophant Sen. Tom Cotton), a debacle is unfolding."
– Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post
- "Americans didn't fail the Covid-19 test; Republicans did…."
– Paul Krugman of the New York Times
- Republicans "continue to peddle denial for political reasons."
– Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald
- If "coronavirus has revealed anything, it's that proud ignorance and do-nothing dangerousness is largely a Republican problem."
– Jill Filipovic writing at CNN
- The "president and his Republican allies had urged people to return to normal" in TX, FL and AZ, and are therefore to blame for rising case numbers.
– Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times
- Because Republican governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis "largely ignored" the "road map to safety," cases are now "exploding."
– Joanne Kenen of Politico
Yet, more than a month after the accusations above were leveled, the C-19 death rate—or the portion of the population killed by the disease—in the state of:
- New York is 2.7 times greater than in Arizona, 3.8 times greater than in Florida, 4.8 times greater than in Texas, and 8.4 times greater than in Arkansas.
- New Jersey is 2.8 times greater than in Arizona, 4.0 times greater than in Florida, 5.1 times greater than in Texas, and 8.9 times greater than in Arkansas.
Of course, death rates could rise in the future, but there is a lag of about 15 days between C-19 symptom onset and death—and after more than 120 days of persistent media alarmism—there is no indication that Florida or any other Republican state is in danger of reaching the level of carnage in NY and NJ.
On their own, death rates don't prove that Republicans have done a better job of handling C-19 than Democrats. This is because association does not prove causation, and numerous other factors are at play. However, preventing deaths is the ultimate goal of C-19 policies, and death rates undercut much of the media hysteria over rising cases in Republican states.
One key fact revealed by death rates is that there is not a fixed relationship between the number of C-19 cases and deaths. For example, the people currently contracting C-19 in Florida are relatively young, and thus, they are far less likely to die from it. During Florida's first infection peak in April, about 25% of reported C-19 cases were among people aged 65 and older, but this figure plunged to 13% by August 5.
Death rates can also cut through the noise caused by changes in testing capacity. This is important because the vast majority of C-19 cases are mild or asymptomatic, and greater testing rates can detect such cases and distort trends. Between April 1 and July 13, the number of tests per day in Florida increased by 6.5 times. This can create an illusion of "exploding" cases when, in fact, Florida's tame death rate suggests that a sizeable portion of the rise in cases is from more testing, which is a positive development.
(to be continued)
Answer Book 2019
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