According to the study, rural areas had much higher “excess deaths” recorded than urban ones and the same was true when comparing pro-Trump voting areas to non-Trump areas (based on election data from 2016 and 2020). To be clear, lower income areas also had higher excess deaths, and many of those areas don’t vote for Trump. But what researchers are responding to here is the difference between “44 excess deaths that weren’t officially recognized as Covid-19 for every 100 official Covid-19 deaths,” versus “25% of counties with the most Trump voters in 2020, with 163 excess deaths for every 100 Covid-19 deaths.”
This is where the many insidious ways Trump’s COVID denialism has expressed itself. As the study points out that one of the many reasons a death doesn’t get counted as COVID-19-related is if the person was not tested for the virus. Trump and our country’s inability to get out a meaningful testing infrastructure has made it virtually impossible to control the spread of the virus, but it also means that many people who have potentially died after contracting the virus, never knew for sure that they did indeed have COVID-19. People have been trying to work on ways to maximize results under our federal government’s weak response.
But this is not the only reason. Sadly, one of the big correlations drawn here are between areas where the local coroner can be an elected non-medical professional, the rates of excess COVID-19 deaths were far higher than those with medical examiners appointed by medical officials. There are other reasons as well. Chief medical examiner in Pima County, Arizona, Greg Hess, told Stat News that not only are medical examiners stretched thin, many rural coroners have to pay for post-mortem testing out of their own budgets.
Hess also brought up smaller areas’ pressure on these officials. “There are certain expectations that families have or certain narratives that they have in their mind about why their loved one died that might be contrary to or supported by what is available in the medical record. Sometimes someone might tailor the way a death certificate is written to try to get some relief from a family member who might be bothering or badgering them.” Hess, who says this is not an issue he has seen any specific evidence of this, did offer it as one of the potential scenarios for why the data looks as it.
And then, of course, there are the pro-Trump officials who believe that COVID-19 is “overblown,” and even possibly a “hoax.” The lies that many of the MAGA world have internalized are so deep, people die of the virus while maintaining the virus itself does not exist. The lie is so prevalent that Trump officials, trying to pass the poison potato of their failures, are also trying to give excuses for the fake news spouted by the orange maniac. Believing that there are people in pro-Trump areas willing to lie or deny COVID-19 on death certificates is not a great stretch.
*As of this story’s publishing, the United States has officially recorded 419,000 deaths due to COVID-19.