An interesting/sad fact about COVID death rates: there’s been a demographic reversal. Where before black communities suffered most, now white people are dying off faster.
The Post analysis revealed the changing pattern in covid deaths. At the start of the pandemic, Black people were more than three times as likely to die of covid as their White peers. But as 2020 progressed, the death rates narrowed — but not because fewer Black people were dying. White people began dying at increasingly unimaginable numbers, too, the Post analysis found.
In summer 2021, the nation saw some of the pandemic’s lowest death rates, as vaccines, shoring up the body’s immune response, became widely available.
Then came the delta variant. The virus mutated, able to spread among the vaccinated. As it did, an erosion of trust in government and in medicine — in any institution, really — slowed vaccination rates, stymieing the protection afforded by vaccines against severe illness and death.
After delta’s peak in September 2021, the racial differences in covid deaths started eroding. The Post analysis found that Black deaths declined, while White deaths never eased, increasing slowly but steadily, until the mortality gap flipped. From the end of October through the end of December, White people died at a higher rate than Black people did, The Post found.
Maybe now Republicans will start caring? Nope.
The nature of the virus makes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which beset Black people at higher rates and earlier in life than White people — particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death.
The virus also attacks unvaccinated adults — who polls show are more likely to be Republicans — with a ferocity that puts them at a much higher risk of infection and death.
Of course, the problem is more complicated than that Republicanism is a mark of doom — although I think you could make a case that Republican policies are at the root of wrecking the pandemic response for everyone. There’s a whole array of factors that are killing conservative Americans.
Resilience gave way to fatigue. Holes left by rural hospital closures deepened. Medical mistrust and misinformation raged. Skeptics touted debunked alternatives over proven treatments and prevention. Mask use became a victim of social stigma.
Many Republicans decided they would rather roll the dice with their health than follow public health guidance — even when provided by President Donald Trump, who was booed after saying he had been vaccinated and boosted.
It’s also racism. Deep down, ugly, visceral racism.
Researchers at the University of Georgia found that White people who assumed the pandemic had a disparate effect on communities of color — or were told that it did — had less fear of being infected with the coronavirus, were less likely to express empathy toward vulnerable populations and were less supportive of safety measures, according to an article in Social Science & Medicine.
A growing body of research, outlined in the book “Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson, shows that even the most anodyne of social exchanges with people of different races, such as glancing at faded yearbook photos, can raise White people’s blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Not all white people, I hope. I’m at a
too diverse university, remember.
For some white people, though, it’s all too much, and it’s going to kill them.
As Metzl conducted research for his book in 2016, a 41-year-old uninsured Tennessean named Trevor who was jaundiced and in liver failure told him “I would rather die” than sign up for the ACA. When asked why, Trevor, who was identified by first name only, said: “We don’t need any more government in our lives. And in any case, no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens.”
Oh, Ronald Reagan, you were truly a curse on this country.
Everyone: get vaccinated. Even if you’re a Republican.