The governors of red states, by their lax policy choices during the COVID-19 pandemic, have effectively left their citizens to early and needless deaths.
This figure comes from JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), in the article "The Growing Influence of State Governments on Population Health in the United States" by Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH. Where you live makes a difference to your life expectancy, both comparing the US to other countries and within the US as well--and not just with respect to the pandemic. Woolf writes:
For decades, the population of the US has experienced shorter life expectancy and higher disease rates than populations in other high-income countries. The gap in life expectancy between the US and 16 peer countries increased from 1.9 years in 2010 to 3.1 years in 2018 and 4.7 years in 2020.1 The US health disadvantage is even worse in certain states, with states such as Alabama and Mississippi having the same life expectancy as Latvia (75 years).Someone should download these data and integrate under the curves to find the total difference in deaths. (I've already heard some of DeSantis's excuses: vaccine tourism, older population.) Woolf continues:
Disparities in health across the 50 states are growing, a trend that began in the 1990s. For example, in 1990, life expectancy in New York was lower than in Oklahoma, but the trajectories separated sharply in the 1990s and, by 2016, New York ranked third in life expectancy, whereas Oklahoma ranked 45th. By 2019, mortality rates at ages 25 to 64 years differed by a factor of 216% between the states with the highest mortality rate (565.1 per 100 000) and the lowest rate (261.9 per 100 000), up from 188% in 1999. The widening gap cannot be explained by changes in the racial and ethnic composition of states, because the same trend occurred within racial and ethnic groups.
For example, excess death rates in Florida and Georgia (more than 200 deaths per 100 000) were much higher than in states with largely vaccinated populations such as New York (112 per 100 000), New Jersey (73 deaths per 100 000), and Massachusetts (50 per 100 000). States that resisted public health protections experienced higher numbers of excess deaths during the Delta variant surge in the fall of 2021 (Figure). Between August and December 2021, Florida experienced more than triple the number of excess deaths (29 252) as New York (8786), despite both states having similar population counts (21.7 million and 19.3 million, respectively).And it's only going to get worse:
State control over health outcomes shows no signs of waning. Legislatures have passed and are considering numerous laws designed to transform elections, civil rights, school curricula, and climate policy. New laws and court decisions could affect health and health care and exacerbate inequities. The Texas abortion bill and other challenges to Roe v Wade, new state laws to nullify gun regulations, and other sweeping measures suggest that states will be wielding greater control over the health and safety of their populations. Increasingly, an individual’s life expectancy in the US will depend on the state in which they live....I'm afraid that the American public is, at least via their votes for primarily Republican legislatures and governors, deciding that, astonishingly, there are some things more important than their health and their lives.
States are laboratories for experimentation, but fragmented health policy has consequences. While other countries mounted a national response to COVID-19, the US was hobbled by 50 response plans and, to date, has lost more than 1 million lives. Although state governments have the right to set their own path and policies, the public should decide whether life expectancy should be part of the experiment.