3 reasons Maryland is among the states with the lowest COVID death rates

A comprehensive new study published in leading medical journal The Lancet shows that Maryland had the fifth-lowest COVID death rate per capita from 2020 to last summer.

The study examined how key dynamics such as racial inequality, politics and public health policies impacted while controlling COVID infection and death rates in each state for biological factors such as age, population density and chronic diseases.

Researchers found that Maryland’s political and social environment, combined with its healthcare infrastructure, may have played a large role in keeping death rates low. Here’s how:

1. The state had a Republican governor but not many Trump supporters.

A high level of support for the former president in 2020 was one of the strongest predictors of high COVID death rates in a state, researchers found — a finding supported by previous studies. Supporting Trump, in turn, came with a “set of traits” found in states with higher COVID death rates: lower average years of education, higher poverty rates, limited access to quality health care, and less interpersonal trust.

In Maryland, about a third of the people voted for Trump in the last election.

Conversely, there was no association between a state’s Republican gubernatorial position and its COVID results. In fact, half of the 10 states with the lowest death rates had Republican governors — Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Nebraska.

“It’s really politics, not the party, that seems to have played a role in this pandemic,” said Thomas Bollyky, senior co-author of the study and director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC

2. Local programs directly addressed racial differences.

The highest death rates are due to a “toxic mix of race and politics,” Bollyky said. This means the combined impact of socioeconomic factors such as poverty and limited access to health care had the greatest impact in states with wide racial health disparities, coupled with firm support for the former president in the last election.

While racial differences are by no means lacking in Maryland, and indeed there are salient ones in certain areas — such as life expectancy for blacks versus white males in Baltimore — these racial differences in state-level results are “dwarfed” by those in . States like Alabama and Mississippi, Bollyky said.

In areas like Baltimore, where racial disparities are most pronounced, local health officials have taken steps to address them through targeted, community-based efforts, and it’s made an overall difference, Bollyky said. The study specifically cites Baltimore’s door-to-door immunization advocacy program as an example of such an effort to engage marginalized communities.

The study finds that only a quarter of all states have included strategies to reach communities of color in their initial vaccine rollout plans, “despite extensive research showing these communities have historical reasons to distrust public health campaigns “.

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3. Maryland had a high vaccination rate and a vaccination mandate for government employees.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found a strong link between vaccine coverage and state variations in death rates. Maryland is the 10th State with the most vaccinations, 80% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Researchers have found that Precautions such as mask requirements and social distancing did not come by themselves Reduce COVID deaths, but vaccination orders for state employees did.

Former Governor Hogan introduced a vaccination mandate in September 2021 for government employees working in community settings, such as prisons. Some of the state’s more populous counties required workers to be vaccinated as well.

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