COVID has trashed America’s Big Blue Cities. It soon will disrupt America’s Great Middle. Big Data tells the tale.” – The Lonely Realist

Although there is disagreement over the appropriate method to use in calculating the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19, all methods conclude that deaths range between 889,000 and 1,200,000. For example, the excess number of Americans who have died since the beginning of the pandemic – an “excess deaths” calculation (the method favored by The Economist) – equals 1,100,000-1,200,000; death certificates that specify the cause of death as COVID total >890,000; Statistica puts the number at 889,000; the New York Times at 901,000; the CDC at 895,000; Johns Hopkins at 898,000; and the Wall Street Journal at 987,000. By the end of February, the two-year anniversary of COVID’s beginnings, COVID deaths in America by every count likely will exceed 1 million, a number that doesn’t include deaths due to increased homicides, dementia and Alzheimers, drug overdoses, and delays in necessary medical procedures.

The adverse impact of COVID on Americans’ longevity has not been spread evenly across the country. Vaccinated individuals have had a lower incidence of both Delta and Omicron infections and a materially lower risk of hospitalization and death. Those States and counties with higher levels of vaccinated residents therefore have fared better – significantly better – than those with lower vaccination levels. (Although different health and media organizations utilize a range of sourcing materials to build their databases, all reach substantially identical numerical conclusions (e.g., States and counties that voted most heavily for President Trump in 2020 report that fewer than 50% of their residents have been vaccinated. They have had among the highest per-capita incidences of COVID hospitalizations and deaths, with data pointing to concentrations primarily in the South and in States with the largest rural populations. Although President Biden in the 2020 Presidential election accumulated 7 million more votes than President Trump, the election was decided – via the Electoral College – by less than 100,000 votes (out of more than 159 million votes cast). There were similarly thin margins of electoral college victory in the 2016 and 2000 Presidential elections. A study of the data by the Kaiser Family Foundation for the 6-months beginning June 2021 and ending November 2021 concluded that vaccinations could have prevented 163,000 COVID deaths during that period …, a number of potential voters that could have more than tipped both the 2020 and 2016 Presidential elections. The substantial majority of those who died were unvaccinated.

Vaccination data is being closely studied by businesses and by both political parties. Data will drive voter targeting in both the 2022 midterms and the 2024 Presidential election.

It will have economic effects as well. An analysis by the UK Health Security Agency concluded that unvaccinated adults are as much as eight times more likely to be hospitalized than those who have been vaccinated and that booster doses are 88% effective at preventing hospital admission. The UK Office for National Statistics’ most recent report on deaths from COVID covering the first 9 months of 2021 found that the age-adjusted rate of death was 96% lower in people who had received a second dose of vaccine than in those who were unvaccinated. Insurance companies set their rates based on the health and safety risks of those they insure and there can be no doubt that the higher rate-per-capita of hospitalizations and deaths in lower-vaccinated (and anti-vaxxer) localities will drive up insurance costs for residents, a process that already has begun. COVID data therefore will create (additional?) rate differentials for both life and health insurance between politically Red and politically Blue neighborhoods, driving costs higher in lower-vaccinated cities and counties.

Anti-vaccination campaigns are being waged in the media and in political arenas in which, contrary to the medical advice urged by the Federal government, the CDC and substantially all doctors, Americans are being urged to choose NOT to vaccinate and to oppose those who do (as well as those who favor mask-wearing). The anti-vaccination message has the effect of driving additional wedges between Republicans and Democrats, between North and South, between religious groups (“For Christians, Dying From COVID (Or Anything Else) Is a Good Thing” – no, it isn’t!), and between rural and urban communities. It adversely affects Americans’ health and also could impact America’s political future … and most certainly will have a negative impact on the pocketbooks of those Americans who live in anti-vaxxer locations.

In “The Big Blue Cities,” “The Covid-19 Bridge Connecting A Bifurcated America,” and “The Future of America’s Cities,” TLR discussed how polarization in America has resulted in a geographical Great Bifurcation where elected officials and their media allies have been successful in pursuing a strategy of dividing urban Americans – those living in Big Blue Democratic Cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, L.A., San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle – from their American cousins living in the Great Republican Middle – in small cities, towns and rural communities. TLR has discussed how COVID has exacerbated the fracturing of societal cohesion that separates Americans into self-interested cadres. The result is that the Big Blue Cities have lost their mojo. They are less safe, have fewer attractions, are becoming more expensive, and have seen many of their biggest supporters depart for greener pastures. Changes wrought by COVID will have different disruptive effects – economic, social and political – on the Great Middle. Data is accumulating. More change is coming.

One final thought: Today’s consensus is that the next COVID variants are unlikely to be worse than Omicron. What if that belief is wrong? What would happen if the next variant has Omicron’s contagiousness but causes a much more severe form of disease, or a form with more serious long-term effects? What if a highly effective vaccine were quickly produced to fight it? What then for America?

Finally (from a good friend)

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