How COVID-19 Has Hit the Southern United States

When COVID-19 started over two years ago, it unfortunately became a political issue in our country.  Our lack of a unified stance has been devastating, with nearly one million deaths to date.  The casualties have been our family, friends, and neighbors.  We at Reaching Care aim to prevent as many future losses as possible.  

One of the ways we hope to do just that is to provide information and resources for those who need them.  In addition to the outreach and coordination Reaching Care is already providing, we are starting a Blog to offer further support to our communities in the fight against this pandemic.  

Over the course of the last two years, certain groups of people have been more negatively affected by COVID-19 than others. In this post, we want to address how COVID-19 had impacted the southern United States.

The South

First and foremost, we should define what we mean by the South.  This will really depend on where you’re from and what you, your family, and your community defined as the border of the South and the Southwest, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to use the Regions and Divisions of the U.S. Census, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Delaware.

Death Rates

Now that we have a baseline for what the South is, at least for this post, we can look at some of the COVID-19 statistics for this region.  Below is a chart of the states with highest death rates from COVID-19 (the last 3 are tied for 10th).  Of the 12 states with the highest death rates in the past 7 days, the South has 9 of them.

After we account for population size differences between the states then, these states have more deaths by percentage.  Other states may have a higher number of deaths, but they also have higher populations, so their deaths by percentage of their population is lower.  In short, our Southern states are losing greater percentages of their populations due to COVID-19 than most of the other states in the country. 

There are a few reasons for this, but two important ones we wish to discuss are chronic health conditions and vaccination rates.

Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic health conditions like chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diagnosed diabetes, or obesity all increase the risk for severe COVID-19-associated illness or death.  If you or someone you know has one of these conditions or another chronic condition listed by the CDC on their site, that person has a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, our population in the South has a high percentage of these chronic conditions.  Below is a graph of the percentages for five of these chronic conditions (chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diagnosed diabetes, and obesity).

Vaccination Rates

A second large factor for this high death rate in the South are vaccination rates.  

The graph below shows how much of the country is fully vaccinated to date.

The light areas of the map show the South’s overall lower vaccination rate than much of the rest of the country.  The COVID-19 vaccine reduces our risk of severe illness and death.  A lower vaccination rate in a population directly relates to higher rates of COVID-19 cases, higher rates of severe COVID-19-associated illness, and higher rates of death related to COVID-19. 

Combine these lower vaccination rates with the higher percentages of chronic conditions discussed above, and these are two major contributing factors to the higher death rates in the South.

What Can We Do?

COVID-19 vaccines work.  They are the best and first line of defense against COVID-19.  If you, a loved one, a friend, or a neighbor is not fully vaccinated, potential complications or even death from COVID-19 are higher.   

If you have a chronic condition and are not fully vaccinated, please contact your local vaccine clinic or fill out our form here and we can help you get started. 

If someone you know has a chronic condition and is not fully vaccinated, please encourage them to do the same.  

We need more outreach, more communication, and more assistance with navigating testing and vaccinations.  The South and other populations that have been more negatively affected by COVID-19 shouldn’t be hit as hard as they have been.  We know that Reaching Care can help.  
If you would like to volunteer to do just that, please join us here