weather icon Windy

VICTOR JOECKS: Pick a coronavirus metric. Red states did better than blue states.

From coronavirus deaths to unemployment rate to vaccination distribution, states led by Republican governors have outperformed states run by Democrats.

The coronavirus pandemic continues, but substantial changes are on the horizon. The rollout of effective vaccines means the end is in sight. President Joe Biden is taking a different approach than did Donald Trump. Some Democrat leaders around the country are now talking about the need to reopen the economy. It’s amazing how that just happened to correspond with their party’s leader entering the White House.

It’s a good time to assess the performance of red or blue states in terms of the virus. Ignore the spin from both sides and look at the numbers.

Start with deaths. You might think that blue states — defined by those with a Democrat governor last year and including Washington, D.C. — would have the edge. After all, many public health experts called for stay-at-home orders and draconian restrictions on businesses. Democrat governors generally instituted harsher, longer lockdowns than did Republican leaders.

The justification for these freedom- and economy-destroying measures was saving lives. But states with Republican governors have a lower death rate than blue states. In red states, there have been 1,206 coronavirus deaths per million. In blue states, the rate is 1,251 deaths per million. The data for those calculations came from Worldometer on Wednesday.

If blue states had the same death rate as red states, about 8,000 more people would be alive today.

In the first months of the pandemic, this disparity could be chalked up to timing. The coronavirus hit blue states such as New York and New Jersey first. Once the virus had spread throughout the country, many assumed the death toll in red states would surpass the tally in blue states.

Ten months in, it hasn’t happened. New evidence provides a possible explanation. A peer-reviewed study published in a European journal found that lockdowns didn’t provide significantly more benefits than voluntary measures, such as social distancing. The study looked at data from 10 countries.

Restrictions weren’t effective at saving lives, but they did increase economic hardship. In red states, the unemployment rate is 6.1 percent. In blue states, it’s 7.2 percent. For context, it wasn’t until the sixth year of the Obama administration that the national unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent. Red states accomplished that in less than a year during a global pandemic.

Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, nine have Republican governors. Among the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates, seven have Democrat governors. If blue states had the same unemployment rate as red states, around 900,000 more people would be employed.

Red states have also outperformed blue states in terms of keeping students in school. There’s no clear way to measure that, but the benefits will be substantial.

Red states have done a better job distributing vaccines. Red states have given out more than 5,100 vaccines per 100,000 residents. In blue states, the rate is near 4,900 vaccines per 100,000. That’s from data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Thursday. You can’t blame supply shortages. States have had many more vaccines distributed to them than they’ve administered, according to the CDC.

The numbers show red state governors have consistently outperformed their blue state counterparts.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.