COVID-19 Deaths Much Higher in Republican Washington Counties, Analysis Finds
COVID-19’s “fifth wave” death toll hits Republican counties in Washington much harder than Democrats, new analysis shows.
As of this week, the death rate for people with COVID-19 was 44.4 per 100,000 in counties that voted over 60% for Republicans in statewide races in 2020. In contrast, counties that have opted for statewide Democratic candidates at 60% or higher have a death rate of just 6.8 per 100,000.
The statewide average is 17.8 deaths per 100,000.
The results reflect a recent New York Times analysis that found nationwide COVID deaths “show a partisan pattern” and that COVID is “increasingly concentrated in Red America.”
Separately, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported earlier this month that the vaccination rate was 12% higher in U.S. counties that voted for Joe Biden than in those that opted for Donald Trump in the last election.
The analysis of COVID-related deaths in Washington was prepared by legislative caucus staff and shared with public radio Northwest News Network. He looked at the period from July 4 to September 27 – generally defined as the period in which the so-called “fifth wave” of COVID-19 struck, resulting in a record number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The highest death rates were generally concentrated in the state’s 15 most Republican counties, including Cowlitz County which reported 77.7 deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000. It also includes County of Stevens, who has Washington’s lowest 12 and over vaccination rate and a death rate of 64.6 per 100,000.
“We keep talking every day that vaccines are the best tool to fight COVID-19,” said Matt Schanz of the Northeast Tri County Health District which serves Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties.
Schanz said that in September alone, 31 people in Stevens County died from COVID-19, up from 10 in the previous month.
By comparison, the strongly Democratic King County – which has the second highest vaccination rate in the state – has reported just 6.6 COVID-related deaths per 100,000 population since July 4, according to the analysis. legislative.
Unvaccinated people accounted for 79.2% of COVID-19 deaths in Washington from February 1 to August 17.
Some heavily Republican counties have managed to reverse the trend of the high death rate. For example, legislative analysis has shown that Columbia County, in the southeastern corner of the state, has not recorded any COVID-19-related deaths during this period. Adams County – where the vaccination rate is approaching 60% – has a death rate of 9.7% per 100,000 population.
Conversely, some counties with democratic tendencies were not spared. For example, in Thurston County – where statewide Republican candidates got about 46% of the vote in 2020 – the death rate is 26.5 per 100,000 among COVID-positive patients- 19. Only 64 percent of Thurston County residents aged 12 and over are fully immunized.
And Jefferson County, a deep blue county that is the third most vaccinated county in the state, has seen a death rate of 24.3 per 100,000.
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich on Wednesday said there are factors beyond political affiliation and voting tendencies that play into deaths from COVID-19.
“Many rural communities have less access to tests and hospitals than most urban counties,” Heimlich noted. “These are just a few factors that could contribute to death rates. “
Currently, nearly 70% of Washingtonians 12 and older are fully immunized, according to the state’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
Governor Jay Inslee, a three-term Democrat, is trying to increase that percentage even more with a tenure that sees government employees, health and long-term care workers, and people working in healthcare facilities. teachers will be fully immunized by October 18, or risk losing their jobs.
Inslee issued her vaccination mandate in August amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as the “fifth wave” set in. In recent days, the state’s scoreboard has started to show a drop in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. But the demand for people to be vaccinated or fired has generated backlash, protests and even a lawsuit.
“Instead of trying to persuade, the governor is imposing vaccines and working to deprive people of their livelihoods by further polarizing the response,” said Heimlich, GOP chairman.
On Wednesday, Inslee traveled to eastern Washington where he met besieged health workers in Spokane. In recent weeks, hospitals in the Spokane area have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, some of whom have been transferred from Idaho where hospitals have run out of capacity.
Asked about the disparities in deaths from COVID-19 between red and blue counties, Inslee said in a statement, “Life is precious in every county and every corner of our state and that is why we are committed to working in every community to help protect and keep people safe ”.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to encourage more hesitant and vaccine-resistant residents to get vaccinated voluntarily. For example, the Washington Department of Health created videos featuring Jesuit priests and a Presbyterian pastor evangelizing for immunization.
In a recent interview, Republican House Leader JT Wilcox, who contracted a mild case of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, said he also participated in public service announcements.
“I am a strong supporter of vaccination,” Wilcox said.
Still, Wilcox opposes Inslee’s vaccine mandate and said he fears government mandates could backfire and create resistance.
“I want these people to make their own decisions about getting the vaccine and I think more people would get the vaccine if we took a less drastic approach in this regard,” Wilcox said.
While the effort to develop vaccines to protect against COVID-19 began under former President Trump – he called it “Operation Warp Speed” – Republicans have generally shown much more mistrust than Democrats to get vaccinated.
Misinformation and vaccine conspiracy theories have also dominated the conservative media, and some conservative politicians have amplified these messages.
But as the death toll rises, there is anecdotal evidence that some people who were previously resistant to vaccines might change their mind.
“They look at all of this cumulative information and say, ‘you know, now is the time to get the shot,’” said Schanz, based in Colville, Wash. [Copyright 2021 Northwest News Network]