Is the GOP taking COVID-19 seriously?

The president has COVID. A number of his close confidants, including Kellyanne Conway and  Chris Christie, have COVID diagnoses of their own. It appears that Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s Rose Garden Nomination Ceremony was a “superspreader” event that spread COVID among all levels of government — from the Presidency to the Senate. 

There were some key details to the ceremony: it was largely mask-less, it ignored social distancing protocols and it was a GOP event (I’ll get into that later). Descriptions of the event paint a picture of an administration unconcerned with traditional COVID precautions. There were few face masks present and people were seated closely together. Instead, the White House relied on rapid COVID tests, which deliver results in 15 minutes, to screen guests for the Coronavirus prior to entering the Rose Garden. 

However, frustratingly, the Trump Administration completely misused these tests — putting everyone who attended the event at risk. According to the NYTimes, these tests are specifically designed to test someone who already has symptoms for COVID. In this scenario, the test has a 95% success rate of correctly identifying someone who has COVID as positive. However, if someone has COVID and is asymptomatic (which would likely be the case with a guest at the Rose Garden — I doubt anyone would knowingly attend with symptoms), the test can miss as many as one in three cases (that’s a paltry 67% accuracy). 


The White House insists that everyone tested negative before the event as if this absolves them of any responsibility for the fallout that’s ensued. However, if they’re talking about the results of the rapid tests (which is likely), the results aren’t reliable and the White House statement is meaningless. It remains unclear whether the White House used the tests thinking they were getting 95% accuracy, or whether they were aware that there was just a 67% accuracy given the circumstances they were in. If it’s the former, the Administration is astoundingly incompetent (surprise!). If it’s the latter, there might be a secret plot to assassinate the president and thin the ranks of the GOP because that’s grossly negligent. Either way, the White House was committed to using the instant tests as a solution to avoiding masks at public events despite all public health expert recommendations otherwis.  After all, it would be bad optics to have everyone in a mask after Trump mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask too often. 

The Stats

This brings me to the “Statistics with…” part of my post. You see, the figurehead of the GOP was largely unconcerned with COVID best practices, and it came back to bite him. But the Trump Administration is a special case. It seems unfair to apply judgement to the rest of the Republican Party. 

That being said, I wanted to see if there’s something systematic about the GOP and their approach to COVID-19. Are they taking this thing less seriously than the rest of us? Evidence suggests they might be doing so. And can we see it bear out in the data in a simple way? 

It turns out we can. Its almost comedically simple, actually. It turns out that they’re getting COVID. Really often. Especially recently. Let’s take a look: 


As of October 3rd, 5.6% of Republican congresspeople had contracted COVID. 2.2% of Democratic congresspeople had contracted COVID, while 2.5% of the general population had done so. Here’s a nifty table to help you visualize: 


Republican congresspeople have contracted COVID-19 2.5x more often than Democratic congresspeople and 2.3x more than the general population they represent. That’s a statistically significant difference. That means this difference likely isn’t due to random chance — there’s something else at play here. And no, it’s not because the Republican congresspeople come from states that have higher COVID rates — I checked. The congressperson-weighted infection rate of the House home states is not that different by party (2.4% for Republicans vs. 2.2% for Dems). And as far as I could tell, it’s not because GOP congresspeople are systematically older than Democratic congresspeople and more likely to get symptomatic bouts of COVID that make them more likely to seek a formal test (Dems are older than I thought). The most likely explanation is that GOP senators and representatives aren’t wearing masks or observing social distancing as often as Democrats. It took me a 15 second Google search to find backup to this hypothesis: 


So here we see some basic evidence that the GOP is not taking the pandemic seriously, and it’s paying personal dividends. Of course, this begs the obvious question: if the GOP can’t be trusted to follow public health protocols to look after their own health, how can we trust them to legislate and lead the rest of us through the pandemic safely and effectively? Looking at the 15 states where the highest proportion of the population has been diagnosed with COVID thus far further damns the GOP: 


Thirteen (87%) of these states’ governors are Republican. Some of them — like Florida’s — are pushing for a full reopening of their state, defying what seems to be common sense and certainly worrying public health officials.

This isn’t meant to be a systematic review of the GOP’s approach to COVID. That probably exceeds the scope of this blog. But I did notice a pattern in COVID diagnoses by party, and I wanted to check out if the difference was statistically significant. It turns out that it is, and the most likely reason is that one party is observing public health protocols, while the other is openly flaunting them. 

For those who stuck with me this far in the post: thanks. If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. I’m tired of the never-ending incompetence, the endless scandals, the cruel, coldhearted attitude towards systematic oppression, racial violence, and over 200,000 dead. I’m tired of populism — the antithesis of evidence based policy. I’m tired of being told to go back from where I came from (I was born in West Virginia!!) — and I’m tired of having a president that refuses to condemn people who say that, and instead implicitly cheers them on (and tells them to stand by??). 

When I started this blog, I didn’t want to get too political. Obviously, that didn’t really happen. It turns out I really like blogging about current events, which are inherently political. I’m still trying to find a niche for the blog, so bear with me as I search for it. 


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