The Deep Difference of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Red and Blue States

BELatina Pandemic Red Blue States
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY FIVETHIRTYEIGHT / SMITH COLLECTION / GADO / GETTY IMAGES

In the United States, it is not the same to go through a public health crisis in Texas as in California, for example.

Nor is it the same if you are an immigrant, a person of color, or undocumented. Because while some are fighting in the streets to defend their civil rights and liberties, there are many who forget the quote from the Declaration of Independence insisting that “all men are created equal.”

With almost 100,000 deaths and more than 1.5 million cases, the United States has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, not only because of its population density, but also because of the administrative chaos when it comes to imposing social distancing measures, mass testing, or even having clear guidelines from the federal government.

In the absence of clear counts from the Centers for Disease Control and state governments, what little is known about the impact of the virus has been its aggressiveness in minority communities, especially communities of color.

But the New York Times also offers another important disparity: COVID-19 has not impacted Democratic and Republican states equally.

“The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently,” the paper explains. “Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.”

Paradoxically, Democrats are much more likely to live in counties where the virus has taken hold in the community, while Republicans have barely felt the effect of the disease, which may explain why they refer to the issue, in presidential terminology, as a “hoax.”

The counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported only 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths, despite the fact that 45 percent of Americans live in these communities, according to a Times analysis.

While nearly one-third of Americans live in one of the nation’s 100 most densely populated counties — and the higher the density of cases — political, religious, and economic differences also play a role, especially when what the Times calls “red America” is concentrated in more rural areas.

“In some parts of red America, cities have been virtually unscathed and the sparsely populated outlying areas have been hardest hit,” the media continues. “Researchers have also found links between the virus’s effects and age, race and the weather, and have noted that some of the densest cities globally have not been hit as hard.”

However, even in the less impacted areas, it is the minorities who take the brunt of the blow.

“Blue states and red states are moving in very different directions,” said Drew Altman, head of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies the U.S. healthcare system, to the Los Angeles Times.

Taking again the case of California and Texas, the publication explains how the expansion of programs like the Affordable Care Act, a profoundly cross-party issue, has left an impressive number of people without health coverage before the pandemic, and in a critically vulnerable state after the devastation of COVID-19.

While California was making attempts to offer more affordable health coverage to its citizens — although not fully achieving it — Texas joined other Republican states in blocking the initiative, leaving more than 750,000 low-income Texans without access to coverage.

“Even Texans who have insurance pay higher premiums and higher deductibles than Californians, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show. And Texans are almost twice as likely as Californians to skip care because of cost,” the LA Times added.

Add to that a White House focused on political proselytizing and using the crisis as a smoke screen for campaigning, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.