Biden's virus attacks face harsh reality: worst death tolls are in Democrat-run states

Top three states for total and population-adjusted deaths are run by Democratic governors, state legislators.

Updated: August 24, 2020 - 10:47am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

As Democrats and their presidential nominee Joe Biden gear up to attack the president's response to COVID-19, they must grapple with a harsh reality: a third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths occurred in just three states controlled exclusively by Democrats. 

Biden has sharply criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic since the first case was confirmed in the U.S. in late January. The Democratic presidential candidate claimed last week that Trump has allowed the disease to ravage the country and kill more than 170,000 citizens.

"Just judge this president on the facts," Biden said during his acceptance speech during the Democratic National Convention. "Five million Americans infected with COVID-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on Earth."

Biden's assessment is only partly factual. The U.S. has indeed recorded the highest total number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, but adjusted for population the nation falls to number 10, behind numerous countries in Europe and South America, including the United Kingdsom and Spain. 

Perhaps more notably, more than a third of the American deaths Biden cited have occurred in the Democrat-run states of New York, New Jersey and California.

Northeast blue states lead the pack 

According to the data-gathering website Worldometers, 33% of deaths in the U.S.—just under 61,000—come from three Democratic states: New York, New Jersey and California. All three are headed by Democratic governors, and the statehouses of all three are controlled entirely by Democratic politicians. 

Democrats have thus far skirted around those uncomfortable figures, with the messaging out of the party's convention this week being one of how the Trump administration has failed to properly manage the pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who instituted one of the strictest state lockdowns in the country in March in an effort to head off the virus, said during a convention address this week that Trump "tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicize it," and that the Trump administration revealed itself as "dysfunctional and incompetent" in its handling of the pandemic. 

Whether that message resonates with voters may depend on how much Trump presses the issue. Last week the president accused Biden of "want[ing] to shut down our economy and close our schools and grind society to a halt." Regardless if that is an accurate description of Biden's planned coronavirus response, it does happen to be precisely what the three hardest-hit states in the country did starting in March—all of them run by Democrats.

What remains to be seen is whether those state-level policies had any effect on the course of the disease. 

A range of policies appear to have had varied effects elsewhere. California, another Democratic stronghold, has also been under strict lockdown measures for months, and its adjusted death rate is comparatively low at number 28 in the nation. South Dakota, whose Republican governor has famously refused to institute the lockdown measures of most other states, is even better at number 39.

As November approaches, Biden may continue to criticize the U.S. as having "the worst performance" of any country worldwide, with the blame laid at the feet of the current Republican administration. Democratic-run New Jersey and New York's respective adjusted death tolls, meanwhile, both remain roughly three times the national average. 

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