Where would you expect the most Covid deaths?

In the initial wave of the Covid pandemic, deaths in the Northeast (and Washinton state) were far higher than other areas of the country. This is because the virus first entered the US on overseas flights to places like NYC, Boston and Seattle.

After that initial wave, the pandemic spread all across the country. After vaccines were developed, Covid deaths were higher in Republican leaning areas, as GOP voters were far less likely to become vaccinated than Dems.

Given those facts, where would you expect the most deaths from Covid? The answer is obvious—in GOP enclaves in the Northeast. They would have been hit hard by the initial wave, and then again by the delta and omicron waves due to low vaccination rates.

So that’s the theory. But does the theory match reality? Yup:

Ocean County, in central New Jersey, is a mixture of beach towns like Barnegat Light and exurban towns like Toms River and Lakewood. Household income in the county exceeds the U.S. average.

Yet Ocean County is among the least vaccinated places in the Northeast. Only 53 percent of residents have received at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine (or one dose of Johnson & Johnson). Only 26 percent have received a booster shot.

The large number of unvaccinated residents in Ocean County has led to a horrific amount of Covid illness and death. Nearly one out of every 200 residents has died from the virus. That is worse than the toll in Mississippi, the U.S. state with the largest amount of Covid death per capita, and worse than in any country except for Peru.

What explains the vaccine skepticism in Ocean County? Politics, above all. The county is heavily Republican. 

PS. This article caught my eye:

Though Paxlovid has only emergency approval, that interim status doesn’t put off many patients who need it, even those who resist vaccines, said Glatt from Mount Sinai. “They beg for it,” he said. “They ask for it.” 

But it’s only an “experimental” drug!

PPS. There is a special circle in hell for people who have been discouraging pregnant women from getting vaccinated.

PPPS. Speaking of pandemics, I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of the claim that 50% of Europeans died during the Black Death. Now I’m extremely skeptical. The reason I was previously skeptical is:

1. Plagues were far more deadly in big cities than in the countryside.

2. Estimated death rates were about 50% in big cities during the Black Death.

3. Over 90% of Europeans lived in rural areas.

Ergo . . .



22 Responses to “Where would you expect the most Covid deaths?”

  1. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    23. February 2022 at 11:23

    On your PPPS, my recollection from a history podcast (maybe Dan Carlin’s) was that the Black Death was quite detrimental to the rural population. It might have had something to do with rats per person being higher in those areas.

  2. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    23. February 2022 at 11:57

    German research always assumed 30% fatalities. Either way, the numbers are extremely high. I find it interesting that the research assumes large geographical differences. Southern Germany was almost not affected at all. English and German territory in total only 20%. But Italy, Spain, Southern France 70-80%. But then again some cities such as Milan: only 15%.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. February 2022 at 13:27

    John, I suppose that’s possible. Weren’t a lot of the illnesses caused by transmission from other humans?

    Christian. The wealthy used to flee plagues by going to the countryside. Not sure if that was true in the 1300s.

    And yes, 30% seems more plausible (maybe even less). But most articles I see on the Black Death mention a figure of 50%.

    It reminds me of when I read in some history book that a plucky army of a couple thousand warriors defeated an army of 100,000 soldiers back in ancient times. Whenever I see a figure like 100,000 I think to myself “wild guess”.

  4. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    23. February 2022 at 14:36

    I believe there was a solid study showing a correlation between menstrual cycle and the vaccines. So on difficult data I’m not sure i would call those people hellish. at her age was unlikely to have bad COVID and that decision gets into an area I can’t differentiate

  5. Gravatar of Student Student
    23. February 2022 at 15:47

    Note that the bubonic plague was spread by fleas (some argue human fleas and lice as well) but the pneumonic plague was respitory.

    Also not, based on Fred data real wages in England rose by about 33% or so in the wake of the 1349 outbreak in England.

    It’s not clear to me if there should be one to one correspondence between real wages and population changes in that period, but if so 30% seems more likely.


  6. Gravatar of Rinat Rinat
    23. February 2022 at 16:29

    You can only win the misinformation war with facts, so here it goes.

    1. Pfizer withdrew their EUA application for Covid-19 shot in India after regulators asked for an “independent study”.

    2. 17000 physicians and medical scientists declare “Covid National Emergency over”, citing two years of scientific research, data and evidence, gathered by front-line medical professionals treating hundreds of thousands of patients.

    3. Even the NYT, the left wing propaganda outlet, has turned away from the government, citing the agencies lack of transparency by witholding “negative information” from the public in an effort to “coerce them”.


    4. CDC has now lowered the speech standard for children in an effort to subtetly cover for the detrimental effects of masking children. In other words, when these effects become even more apparent, the CDC can cite the lower standard as opposed to the previous higher standard.

    5. Doctors are seeing an uptick in mycocarditis after the covid jab in adults of all ages, including kids.

    6. Two teenage boys died in their sleep last week after taking the covid vaccine. The VAERS data shows 21000 deaths, and over 1M adverse reactions. I only cite the boys because I’m trying to keep these comments as relevant as possible.

    7. Ivermectin shown to be a cheap and effective alternative in now over 20+ random, controlled trials. And that is not even including Uddar Pradesh (a real life sample of 200M)

    8. Insurance company actuarial data shows a large upward shift in mortality for those who have taken the vaccine, to the extent that insurance companies are now including vaccination status in their premiums. (higher for those vaccinated).

    9. Covid-19 vaccines have now been linked to menstrual cycle changes in two independent, controlled studies.

    10. Another independent study shows rising heart injuries for children below the age of twelve (those who are vaccinated).

    11. The following increases have been reported for those who are vacicnated:

    2181% increase in diseases and nervous system
    1048% increase in malignant neoplasms of esophagus
    894% increase in multiple sclerosis
    680% increase in malignant neoplasms of digestive organs
    551% increase in breast cancer
    female infertility 472% increase
    pulmonary embolism 468% increase
    migraines 452%
    ovarian dysfunction 437% increase
    testicular cancer 302% increase

    All data are from independent studies, not funded by big pharma or the CDC, and this is just scratching the surface. I don’t have 24 hours to write a comment, so I’m somewhat limited here. But there is obviously a lot more. And as you can see from Pfizers withdrawal in India, they clearly don’t have confidence that they can pass an independent study conducted by the Indian authorities.

    Pfizer has a long history of withholding data, fudging data, and misleading their clients. They’ve settled over 5B in lawsuits over the past twenty years.

    As you all know, Sumner is not a scientist. He’s a social scientist. He cites no independent studies to back up any of his claims. His post is a pile of ad hominem attacks, and regurgitating what he hears on CNN.

    He also says bizarre, illogical things, like everyone who cites this data should go to hell. Or if we are to use the same mundane, unorginal platitude, we can quote him verbatim “…special place in hell”.

    He is so aversed to facts, and so emotionally wrapped up in the falsity, that he wants those who cite data to go to that “special place in hell”. He wants those researchers to be “silenced”.

    This is the type of radical liberal that is destroying America.

  7. Gravatar of Henry Henry
    23. February 2022 at 16:39

    I was going to leave a comment, then I saw Rinat’s post.

    Rinat destroys Sumner almost every day with facts. It’s kind of sad.

    Has sumner always been this stupid, and this radical, or just recently?

    I’m surprised people listen to this garbage, although I suppose if CNN can still get a few hundred thousands to tune in at night, and if tiktok teenagers can get hundreds of thousands of followers by shaking their butts, then anyone can have an audience.

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. February 2022 at 16:55

    Sean, Being pregnant makes one much more likely to die of Covid.

    And I’m not sure the point of your menstrual cycle comment.

    Student, Thanks for the info.

  9. Gravatar of nick nick
    23. February 2022 at 16:57






    SINCE 1962….


  10. Gravatar of johannes johannes
    23. February 2022 at 17:09

    If I was pregnant, I would not take the vaccine.
    The Pfizer withdrawl speaks volumes.
    No company foregoes 10s of billions in revenue (probably 30-50B in the huge India market) unless they know the outcome will have a negative result on their brand.

    Any business man can see that this withdrawl is due to their efficacy and/or side effects, and I’m guessing its the latter now that we know the CDC hid data.

    When the pandemic started there was a such a wave of fear mongering that people sort of ran towards the vaccine, but they are waking up. you can see it in the demand for boosters. pretty low…even amongst the double vaxxed..

  11. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    23. February 2022 at 17:44

    If a disease is contagious enough, eventually everybody gets it. Rural people get it just the same as urban people, just later. It took, what, 5 years for the plague to kill all those people? R0 for the plague was maybe ~3 or so, similar to the original covid strain, and it’s perfectly plausible to me that most people, wherever they live, would’ve gotten covid in 5 years without vaccines and other modern advantages. I’d guess most of the people who survived the plague were exposed to it but got lucky and their immune system successfully fought it off, rather than because the plague never got to them.

  12. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    23. February 2022 at 19:56


    Do you have a more systematic analysis? I lived in NJ for twenty years. If I compare other Republican counties such as Monmouth, I see 3400 deaths per million, below average for the state. Similarly, if I look at the highest death per million counties. Sure ocean is tops at 4700/m but Passaic is number two at 4600/m. Passaic is deeply democratic. At the low end … Hunterdon county is 2100/m and deeply republican.

    Eying the list, I think income stratifies the COVID death rate more effectively. Eg, the three highest income counties in NJ are the three lowest on the list—and in the top 25 richest counties in the USA. Ocean on that same list is #300. Which is about a 2x shift in income (both per capita and household).

    When I look at national maps, COVID deaths seem to cluster around poverty. I am sure there are exceptions where stiff county government enforced more vaccine mandates or not but that seems a second order effect as the NJ data shows.

    Now I haven’t been systematic … but I don’t find your proof compelling yet.

    Even the lead in that ocean is high income compared to the country — sure but that ignores disposable income vs cost of living. Ocean is poor. Many beach towns in NJ are slums BTW. So the article is really preying on people’s ignorance of the facts on the ground.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. February 2022 at 20:03

    Jon, You said:

    “Ocean is poor. Many beach towns in NJ are slums BTW.”

    Poor and Republican is a deadly combination.

  14. Gravatar of Janice Janice
    23. February 2022 at 21:13

    Yup, looks like insurance companies now increasing premiums for those who took the vaccine.


    But those insurance companies must be lying right, just like those doctors, lawyers, virologists, etc. Only CNN can be correct.

    I agree, let’s pretend CNN right. Nothing to worry about. Keep taking them Sumner 😉

  15. Gravatar of Student Student
    24. February 2022 at 06:24

    One more comment on this because it’s interesting. My guess is that a lot of the heterogeneity was due to breakouts of the Pneumonic form of the plague in certain places (which was almost always fatal and spreads via respiratory droplets). My prior is it was less than 50% and concentrated more in cities.

    For a covid baseline without vaccines… my money is on the Russian flu of 1889 (especially if it was caused by OC43)

  16. Gravatar of Aladdin Aladdin
    24. February 2022 at 09:17

    Sort of related, but to an extent for the longest time there was a sense that Republican enclaves in New England / Mid-Atlantic were somewhat different. And its still there, I consider myself a New England style republican, and the focus is mainly on more moderate center-right policies, school reform, land use stuff, and so on.

    I came back to Jersey from Indiana during the 2020 election and I was very surprised to find some, not all but a growing portion, has gone just as crazy as everyone else in this country.

    National politics slowly infects everything and everyone is now insane. Gun control politics became a big thing despite the fact that, again, its Jersey, no one owns guns. Racial politics went off the rails in districts that are almost all white or Asian, and it made no sense. Its become ridiculous.

    Not sure about the vaccine politics, almost all Republicans I know from NJ or Massachusetts are vaccinated. We all do work for pharma companies, so that is definitely part of it :). I can’t comment on that, but I would imagine its a similar phenomena.

  17. Gravatar of stubydoo stubydoo
    24. February 2022 at 19:51

    Regarding how the other NJ counties mentioned by Jon actually line up, well if you can call a county where Trump got 51% in 2020 a Republican County, then Monmouth and Hunterdon just make the cutoff to be Republican. Maybe those counties really are full of Republicans, but apparently not so much the kind that support Trump.

    Trump got 41% in “deeply Democratic” Passaic – the same as for the state overall. In Ocean County he did even better (65%) than he did in Alabama.

    At least for the early days, population density was a very good proxy for COVID severity. Here in Hudson County (15,000 people per square mile, overwhelmingly Democrats) I pretty much spent the whole spring of 2020 listening to ambulance sirens 24/7. Passaic County is 3000 people per square mile, Monmouth 1400, Hunterdon 300, Ocean 700. Those empty Republican Counties had a lot of catching up to do to catch up with us in the crowded Democratic Counties, but they managed to do it and then some.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. February 2022 at 20:02

    Aladdin and Stubydoo, Good comments. Again, I think the biggest amount of anti-vax sentiment is in GOP areas with lower income/education. The rich GOP areas in NJ get vaccinated.

  19. Gravatar of harry harry
    24. February 2022 at 20:06


    Scientists (the real scientists, not sumner) say that there is a 1/300,000,000,000 chance that moderna’s sequence randomly appeared in nature.

    More proof that this is likely Lab created, as non CDC scientists have told us since day one.

    The only question now is if this was all planned, or if it was an accident.

  20. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    26. February 2022 at 00:10

    Which insurance companies are supposed to have raised premiums for the vaccinated?

    The article linked in this context doesn’t say anything about premiums.

    So I assume it’s not actually a thing.

  21. Gravatar of steve steve
    26. February 2022 at 14:43

    Too many things wrong here to respond to all of them so will pick just one.

    “5. Doctors are seeing an uptick in mycocarditis after the covid jab in adults of all ages, including kids.”

    Nope. I oversee about a dozen ICUs. We have seen a couple of kids in our system but none bad enough to require ICU and only one needing hospital. Zero adults. Incidence is very low as is severity. We are seeing follow up cardiac issues from Covid both from the inflammatory effects and also from the autonomic instability seen with covid.

    If you look at Covid deaths by county it really does match up with political affiliation. At the state level note that Mississippi just crossed the 400 deaths per 100,000 number. If it were a country it would be 8th worst in the world and it started off slow in the first wave.



  22. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    27. February 2022 at 00:14

    Sure, get vaxxed already and save your life.

    But at a minimum one needs to adjust for population age before comparing conclusions about death and hospitalization rates. GOP skews older as well.

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