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Neelon B, Mutiso F, Mueller NT, Pearce JL, Benjamin-Neelon SE. Associations between governor political affiliation and COVID-19 cases, deaths, and testing in the United States. medRxiv : the preprint server for health sciences. 2021 Jan 6.
Introduction: The response to the COVID-19 pandemic became increasingly politicized in the United States (US) and political affiliation of state leaders may contribute to policies affecting the spread of the disease. This study examined differences in COVID-19 infection, death, and testing by governor party affiliation across 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Methods: A longitudinal analysis was conducted in December 2020 examining COVID-19 incidence, death, testing, and test positivity rates from March 15 through December 15, 2020. A Bayesian negative binomial model was fit to estimate daily risk ratios (RRs) and posterior intervals (PIs) comparing rates by gubernatorial party affiliation. The analyses adjusted for state population density, rurality, census region, age, race, ethnicity, poverty, number of physicians, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, smoking, and presidential voting in 2020. Results: From March to early June, Republican-led states had lower COVID-19 incidence rates compared to Democratic-led states. On June 3, the association reversed, and Republican-led states had higher incidence (RR = 1.10, 95% PI = 1.01, 1.18). This trend persisted through early December. For death rates, Republican-led states had lower rates early in the pandemic, but higher rates from July 4 (RR = 1.18, 95% PI = 1.02, 1.31) through mid-December. Republican-led states had higher test positivity rates starting on May 30 (RR = 1.70, 95% PI = 1.66, 1.73) and lower testing rates by September 30 (RR = 0.95, 95% PI = 0.90, 0.98). Conclusion: Gubernatorial party affiliation may drive policy decisions that impact COVID-19 infections and deaths across the US. Future policy decisions should be guided by public health considerations rather than political ideology.