Tired: Vaxx rate lagging behind in red counties. Wired: COVID cases running 50% higher in red counties

COVID-19

For nearly a year, I posted a weekly analysis of the 100 U.S. counties (out of over 3,100 total) which had the highest cumulative rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita. In addition, I also included a running graph which compared the ratio of COVID cases & deaths per capita between blue and red counties to track how this changed over time.

The results were extremely telling: In the early days of the pandemic back in March/April 2020, the blue counties were devastated for a variety of reasons, including heavy population density, the fact they were mostly located along the coasts (usually in cities with major international ports/airport hubs), and so forth. Democrats tend to live in heavily-populated urban areas, while Republicans are prone to live in more sparsely-populated rural areas, so this made sense.

For the first few months, both case and death rates were running as much as 4-5x higher in counties which voted solidly for Hillary Clinton in 2016/Joe Biden in 2020 than in those which voted for Trump in either 2016 or 2020.

As time went on, however, this ratio began to drop at a dramatic rate. By June 2020, cumulative case rates were only 2x higher in Blue American and death rates were down to 3x higher. By September, total cases per capita were just 25% higher and the mortality rate was only 2x higher.

By Election Day in early November, there were an equal number of COVID-19 cases per capita in both Red and Blue counties alike, and by Thanksgiving the cumulative death rate had also equalized between the two nationally. In fact, the ratio for each actually inched its way into the Red Zone around that time, with cumulative cases and deaths per capita running anywhere from 3-8% higher in the red counties than in the blue ones.

Interestingly, since early January the ratio for both measurements has remained pretty much stable--inching slightly more blue one week, slightly more red the next. Since both of these are measuring cumulative cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, the plummetting numbers of each as more and more people started getting vaccinated meant that you had smaller numerators being divided into a huge denominator. As a result, even dramatic shifts one way or the other wouldn't move the cumulative needle more than a nominal amount.

I stopped tracking cumulative case and death rates in this manner over a month ago. Here's what the last chart looks like:

Now that it's become crystal clear that there's a massive discrepancy between the blue and red counties when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination rates, combined with the fact that the much more dangerous Delta variant has now become the dominant version of COVID spreading across the U.S., I decided it was time to revisit the county-level case data to see if that huge Blue/Red vaccination divide is showing up in newer cases.

The COVID pandemic situation is an entirely different animal today, so it didn't make much sense to just pick up where I left off. Instead, the graph below displays new case rates only over the past 2 weeks (14 days). I've also decided to switch from a line graph to a scatter plot layout in order to match my county/state-level vaccination rate graphs.

Note: I've slightly tweaked my definition of "swing county." I was defining it as any county where the difference between Biden & Trump was less than 6 points; for the scatter plot I'm defining it as any county where Trump received between 47 - 53% of the vote. This only changed the status of a handful of counties, with the swing county population increasing by a few hundred thousand nationally.

The results, once again, are pretty eye-opening: From what I can tell, based on daily tracking data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, new COVID-19 case rates are now running nearly 50% higher in Trump counties than in Biden counties. I haven't plotted deaths from the past 14 days yet but may start tracking those again as well in the future.

Note: Johns Hopkins database doesn't seem to be tracking county-level COVID data for Nebraska any longer, likely due to the state shutting down their COVID-19 dashboard at the end of June. If anyone knows where I can find the daily county-level case data for NE let me know and I'll add it back to the mix.

Update 5:45pm: The original version of the graph below had 2 minor errors, neither of which had anything to do with the data itself. The graph has been corrected.

I've also added lines to show what the case rates for each county would be equivalent to nationally for context. For instance, a county with 2.5 cases per 1,000 residents over the past 14 days would be roughly equal to around 60,000 cases per day nationally for the full 2-week period (2.5 / 1,000 x 335 million = 837,500; divide that by 14 and you get 59,821 per day). 5 cases/1K would equal around 120,000 cases per day and so on.

Beyond the red counties running 50% higher per capita overall, it's also worth noting that there are only 9 blue counties running higher than 2.5/1K (with 2.80 million residents) vs. 115 red counties with 3.78 million residents.

For these counties, the case rate is 4.721/1K in the red counties vs. 2.676/1K in the blue counties, or 76% higher per capita.

Put another way, #GetVaxxedNOW.