By Kent R. Kroeger (May 28, 2020)
“I don’t believe I am costing lives at all,” said Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) in late March as he rejected calls for a statewide stay-at-home (SaH) order. “The effects that (a statewide SaH) will have on everyday people are dramatic. That means businesses will close, people will lose their jobs, the economy will be in worse shape than ever.”
At the time Governor Parson said those words, eight Missourians had lost their lives to COVID-19. Two months later, the death toll stands at 705 (or about 115 people per 1 million Missouri residents), putting the Show-Me state at 26th among the 50 states (plus District of Columbia) in the relative number of COVID-19 deaths. Missouri is ranked 37th in the relative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 2,088 per 1 million people.
In other words, Missouri’s performance so far in containing the coronavirus is roughly average to above-average.
It can’t emphasized enough that this pandemic is still an ongoing and many of the Middle America states that refused to impose stay-at-home orders, such as Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas, are now in the middle of their first wave of cases (as opposed to states like New York and New Jersey that are near the end of the first wave).
Still, it is legitimate to consider whether Governor Parson was at least partially correct about SaH orders (though he did end up issuing a SaH order on April 6th). This question is particularly important as all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) are in the midst of slowly re-opening for business — some faster than others.
What is not helpful nor analytically pertinent is the suggestion that one party is wholly responsible for increasing the number of COVID-19 deaths or worsening an economic recession merely for political gain.
At least, as of today, explicitly political variables (e.g., a state governor’s political party, Trump’s share of the statewide vote in 2016, etc.) offer little information that can explain the relative number of COVID-19 cases and deaths across states.
However, today we are in a period where many of the Democrat-led states (CT, HA, KY, LA, MI, MT, NY, NJ, OR, RI, PA, WA) are witnessing…