Stricter Covid restrictions meant virus spread was 8% lower in Democrat than GOP-run states, study finds
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, underscores how preventative restrictions have been “politicised” and that it is health professionals who should be calling the shots.
Researchers from Binghamton University calculated a Public Health Policy Index (PPI) to determine how stringent a state’s public health policies were, and analysed those findings against the state’s transmission of Covid-19 and the governor’s political affiliation.
The peer-reviewed study looked at the period between March and November 2020 taking into account when a state’s number of Covid cases peaked.
States with Democratic governors had a PPI that was 10 points higher on average than states with Republican governors.
The study notes there were some exceptions to the rule, for example, Maryland, Vermont, and Massachusetts have Republican governors but had measures in place closer to those employed by Democratic states.
On average, the 10-point difference in PPI led to an eight per cent increase in the expected number of cases.
As an example, New York, hit hard by Covid at the start of the pandemic, would have seen a higher and later peak in May rather than April, had strict restrictions not been put in place.
The authors argue that decisions regarding public health measures should be left to health professionals over politicians.
“The main lesson of this research is that better public health requires a less partisan approach to the making of public health policies,” says a statement by study co-author Olga Shvetsova, a political science professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
This is not the first study to draw conclusions about the efficacy of stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other state-imposed restrictions.
An earlier study that appeared in the same journal also linked Republican states’ looser restrictions with higher Covid-19 cases than Democratic states.
Republican governors were the first to lift any restrictions they had in place and have taken steps to ban local jurisdictions and schools from imposing new ones.
These same states, notably in the south, have also seen the lowest uptake of coronavirus vaccines leading to a surge in case numbers when the more infectious Delta variant of the virus arrived in the US.