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Is COVID-19 a disease of rich people?
I usually check the COVID-19 data explorer at ourworldindata.org once a day, sometimes just to see how COVID-19 cases and deaths are trending in the United States, and occasionally to compare with what’s going on in the European Union or with individual countries such as Ireland, India, Ukraine, or the United Kingdom. It’s easy. On the left is a check-box list. You can check the countries or regions you want to appear on the graph or uncheck them to remove them when the graph gets too cluttered. There is also a slider one can use to take a closer look at the most recent period.
Tonight, I noticed something different, three new categories that are not countries: high income, upper middle income, and lower middle income. I have no idea where those data are coming from, but I’ll wager a guess that they represent data from the United States. So here’s what they look like.
I wasn’t sure if these are real data or a practical joke, but I did an Internet search for “COVID rich person’s disease” and found this from an Los Angeles Times article very early in the pandemic:
Pandemics throughout history have been associated with the underprivileged, but in many developing countries the coronavirus was a high-class import — carried in by travelers returning from business trips in China, studies in Europe, ski vacations in the Rockies.
As infections initially concentrated in better neighborhoods, many poor and working-class people believed the disease wouldn’t touch them, as if something terrible but rarefied. The misperception was fed by elites, including the governor of Mexico’s Puebla state, Luis Miguel Barbosa, who said in March: “If you’re rich, you’re at risk, but if you’re poor, you’re not. The poor, we’re immune.”
By now it is clear that COVID-19 spares no one and disproportionately harms the hungry, the forgotten and those with preexisting illnesses and substandard healthcare.
But now, 1.5 years after that article was written, is it becoming clear that COVID-19 disproportionately harms the rich?
Some other questions come to mind:
- Are these data real?
- Do these trends hold for all countries and regions?
- Does this mean that all the mandates and lockdowns were used to shut down the little people in order to protect their betters, who are more vulnerable?
- A reversal of the trend seems to have taken place about the time vaccines were introduced and to have lasted through midsummer. Is this why rich people (including a lot of government and government-adjacent people) were so insistent about vaccines? Partial disclosure: I’m pretty enthusiastic about the vaccines myself, am extremely middle income, and have been adjacent to a lot of government-adjacent people throughout most of my working life.
- How does this information square with information showing that severe COVID-19 is mostly a problem for the elderly and the obese?
- A closer look will probably suggest other questions. What am I missing so far?
Note: You can click on the graphs to go to the website and compare with other data.Published in