The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Blue-State Media Continue Wishcasting Coronavirus Epidemic in Red States

Posted on | May 2, 2020 | 2 Comments


Since mid-March, at least, we have seen endless reiterations of this narrative: “Oh, sure, the virus is devastating Democratic-controlled urban areas now,” the media keep saying, “but just you wait — eventually those Trump voters out in the sticks will pay the price!”

Two assumptions are baked into this narrative:

  1. Trump is to blame for the COVID-19 catastrophe. Despite the fact that the U.S. coronavirus per-capita death rate is far below the rate in many European countries — Belgium, Spain, France, etc. — liberals want Americans to believe that it’s actually worse here, and that this is Trump’s fault.
  2. Contagious diseases are a sort of political karma. If you vote Republican, you deserve to die, according to the media elite.

Of course, these assumptions are never expressed overtly, but what else can explain this gleeful desire to see rural America devastated?

Rural Counties Seeing Faster Growth in COVID-19 Cases, Deaths
The coronavirus was slower to make an impact in much of rural America, but cases and deaths have risen significantly in recent weeks, a new analysis shows.
The toll of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has shocked urban areas like New Orleans and New York City. But concerns abound that the virus could devastate rural communities, where populations tend to skew older and sicker and where there are fewer intensive care beds. Since 2010, more than 120 rural hospitals have shuttered altogether.
The new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that while rural communities have fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people than urban areas, rates of both coronavirus cases and deaths have surged at a faster pace in more rural counties in the last two weeks. The average number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people rose 125% in non-metro counties — or those that are largely rural, according to the analysis — and by 68% in metro counties between April 13 and 27, according to the analysis. Deaths rose 169% in more rural areas and 113% in the more urban counties, reaching respective rates of 4.4 and 17 per 100,000.

There is some statistical voodoo involved in this claim, which I’ll address in a minute, but notice how the headline and lead portray this study: “Finally, the Red State COVID-19 Apocalypse has arrived!”

One can imagine the MSNBC producers grinning at this news that — at last! — those Fox News-watching rubes in the hinterlands are finally getting the karmic retribution they deserve. Except . . .

No, it’s not really happening. This is statistical voodoo, based upon a simple fact: When you are starting from near zero, a fast rate of increase is not difficult to achieve, but this does not mean that the tortoise, who has just taken his first step, will soon overtake the hare. What is embedded in this “watch out, rural America” theme is a message in support of more or less permanent quarantine lockdown orders.

It has not escaped the notice of our media class that the pressure to end these orders — to “re-open America” — has been strongest in areas where infection rates and death rates of COVID-19 have been low. Therefore, they must scavenge around for some kind of “evidence” to suggest that ending the lockdowns will produce catastrophic rural outbreaks.

Let’s disambiguate the data. Obviously it is true that a rural community that has had very few COVID-19 cases thus far could suffer a disastrous outbreak, as has happened in Dougherty County, Georgia, and a few other cases. By and large, however, the disease has mainly affected urban areas where higher population density enables the disease to spread faster. However many new cases emerge as a result of ending the lockdown in Tennessee or Texas, it is impossible that these states will ever eclipse New York as the “epicenter” of the pandemic, in terms of per-capita death rates, simply because (a) the conditions enabling transmission of the virus are not equal and (b) New York has such an enormous head start in the cumulative death toll. Here are the highest per-capita death rates, expressed as deaths per million population:

New York ………………….. 1,227
New Jersey …………………. 849
Connecticut ………………… 653
Massachusetts ……………. 544
Louisiana ………………….. 422
Michigan …………………… 388
District of Columbia …… 337

And here are the rates for other selected states:

Georgia ……………………. 113
Ohio …………………………. 86
Florida ……………………… 64
North Carolina …………… 41
Tennessee ………………….. 31
Texas ………………………… 30

You see that, for example, the death rate in Georgia is about 79% lower than in Massachusetts, and Tennessee’s rate is 95% lower than Connecticut’s. What would it take for the low-rate states to “catch up” with the high-rate states? Whatever hypothetical scenario of a catastrophic rural epidemic you imagine, is it really likely, at this point in the pandemic, that such an outbreak will happen? The fact is, our awareness of how the virus spreads, and who is most vulnerable, has increased a lot since mid-March and, even if all the lockdown orders were rescinded tomorrow, this awareness would have a protective effect, in terms of people taking precautions. Yet the media will not let go of their prejudices, believing that somehow this virus will act as an instrument of “social justice” revenge against those stupid Trump voters in rural areas.

It hasn’t happened yet, nor is it likely that it will happen in the future, but because this belief is rooted in a basic prejudice of the media class, they will continue writing stories reflecting this fantasy narrative.



2 Responses to “Blue-State Media Continue Wishcasting Coronavirus Epidemic in Red States”

  1. The Media Keeps Hoping That COVID-19 Will Hit Red States | 357 Magnum
    May 4th, 2020 @ 8:59 am

    […] But like most contagious disease, this one hits cities harder than rural areas. They keep hoping that isn’t true. Blue-State Media Continue Wishcasting Coronavirus Epidemic in Red States. […]

  2. Why Gallup, New Mexico? : The Other McCain
    May 5th, 2020 @ 1:04 pm

    […] seen many stories in which the media promoted the idea that rural America would soon be afflicted by this disease, I wondered if somehow this prophecy was coming true. But why here? Of all the […]