Politics versus science: people lose

Although reported COVID-19 deaths between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec 31, 2021, totaled 5·94 million worldwide, we estimate that 18·2 million (95% uncertainty interval 17·1–19·6) people died worldwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic (as measured by excess mortality) over that period. (Source: The Lancet). Overt politicization of the pandemic—and the speed with which falsehoods about all aspects of COVID-19 have spread online, over the airwaves, and through media—are significant reasons why the U.S. has suffered a far greater COVID-related death toll than other large, well-resourced nations.

(Washington Post) Until now, we’ve known that covid-19 death rates were higher among the unvaccinated and also higher in counties that went for Donald Trump, whose supporters were more likely to resist vaccinations, masks, and other pandemic precautions. A new analysis of state-by-state data both point to an inescapable conclusion: Living in states run by a Republican governor is dangerous to your health.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consultant Doug Haddix reported Sunday that since July 1 (when the lifesaving vaccine was widely available), the 14 states with the highest death rates were all run by Republican governors. This included Florida (at about 153 deaths per 100,000 residents), Ohio (142 deaths per 100,000), Arizona (138), and Georgia (134). Contrast that with the deep-blue District of Columbia (only 27 deaths per 100,000) and California (58 per 100,000).

Johns Hopkins found similar results. The 16 states with the highest coronavirus death rates since July 1 were all run by Republicans. The worst was West Virginia (about 204 deaths per 100,000), followed closely by Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming and the aforementioned Florida.

Washington Post

Other factors, including climate, healthcare infrastructure, and the age and underlying health of the population, don’t fully account for it. With an even older population than Florida’s, Maine’s death rate was just over half as high. Also, Florida’s vaccination rate appears to be overstated thanks to vaccine tourism.

People in the most pro-Trump tenth of U.S. counties had a death rate more than three times as high as those in the most anti-Trump tenth. However, the number of overall cases was only 1.3 times as high, indicating that vaccines were preventing death.

It’s about trust

As of this January, trust in the C.D.C. had plummeted. According to an N.B.C. News poll, at the beginning of the pandemic, 69 percent of Americans believed what they heard from the agency. Now that has fallen to 44 percent. The numbers for Dr. Anthony Fauci have also substantially declined, despite his decades of government service under seven presidents and attempts to remove himself from political rhetoric.

Under Mr. Trump, the silencing of health officials was overt. The administration blocked some C.D.C. officials from television interviews and reportedly reviewed C.D.C. reports and, in some cases, requested word changes. Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency’s director at the time, and the coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, seemed to struggle to avoid contradicting Mr. Trump.

Ironically, while the C.D.C. has yet to acknowledge that much of its advice was misleading, not grounded in science, or simply wrong, the U.S. surgeon general, who heads the U.S. Public Health Service’s uniformed corps, just announced his intention to force social media companies to disgorge sources of “misinformation” that appear on their platforms.

The CDC is in dire need of top-to-bottom reform. Consider the damage it did to the public’s trust in science with its mantra of (in effect) “We follow the science and it is always changing.” This rhetorical cover for political science — not virology — rightly could cause citizens to doubt expert guidance in the future.

The A.M.A. says, “we need greater responsibility on the part of the corporations who run these platforms to recognize and limit the spread of disinformation and other falsehoods related to COVID-19, vaccination or related subjects, and help their viewers and listeners distinguish fact from fiction. We need a firm commitment by members of Congress and other elected officials to ensure that those who spread lies and disinformation are held accountable for their actions”.

Politics is causing people to die as politicians minimize science. Where has pharma, insurers, and insurers been during this debate?