Dean Baker

Here's why you don't want to live in a Republican-run state

As infection rates surge, Democrats still are outpacing Republicans in thwarting coronavirus spread according to my interpretation of data.

A few weeks back I noted in a post that states governed by Republicans had the highest positive COVID-19 test rates, while the states with the lowest positive rates mostly were governed by Democrats.

I argued that positive test rates are a good measure of how serious, or not, governors are in trying to bring the pandemic under control.

While leaders can take measures to limit the actual spread, such as longer and stronger lockdowns and mask requirements, many factors determining the spread are outside their control.

By contrast, they do have control over the amount of testing, although legislatures can play a role since they can appropriate or restrict funding.

Testing also has become a political issue since Donald Trump explicitly said that he wanted to see testing slowed to reduce the number of cases identified.

I thought it was worth an update to see what the story looks like as the country is experiencing a huge surge in infections.

Here's the more recent picture showing the 10 states with the highest infection rates and the 10 states with the lowest rates, based on the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, seven-day moving averages. (Data are for Oct. 26, 2020.)

Source: John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center


Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates have Republican governors. Kansas and Nevada, which come in eighth and ninth, both have Democratic governors.[1] While Democrats also control the legislature in Nevada, the legislature in Kansas is overwhelmingly Republican.

The story is more mixed among the states with the lowest positive rates, with five having Democratic governors and five having Republican governors. However, it is worth noting that all five of the states with Republican governors have legislatures that are controlled by Democrats.

In short, by this measure of efforts at getting the pandemic under control, Democrats seem far more serious than Republicans.

[1] The 100 percent positive rate shown for Mississippi is the result of the way John Hopkins reports the data. It shows the number of positives as a percentage of the tests given in the period, not as a percentage of the results reported that day.

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