Behavioral differences contribute to higher COVID-19 death rates in the Southern United States

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During the pre-OMicron phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, mortality rates varied markedly across regions of the United States, largely due to differences in mask use, school attendance, social distancing, and other behaviors. If the entire country had responded to the epidemic as well as the Northeast, more than 316,000 deaths could have been prevented, with 62% of those avoidable deaths occurring in the south.

The study was published in PLOS ONE on April 28, 2022, by researchers at Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Research.

The researchers found that regional differences in COVID-19 mortality rates persisted throughout the pandemic. Since the start of the summer of 2020, the southern United States has had a higher death rate than the rest of the country. Since October 2020, 48% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the south, representing 38% of the population, pointing to disproportionate regional outcomes.

The researchers also determined that 895,693 excess deaths related to COVID-19 occurred between January 2020 and September 2021, 26 percent higher than reported by other experts tracking the disease. While the official death toll from COVID-19 in the United States was nearly 1 million as of late April 2022, based on this underestimation, scientists believe it was actually surpassed in early 2022.

It is one of a series of planned studies aimed at scrutinizing the response to COVID-19 in the United States and other countries and learning from experience to enhance preparedness for potential outbreaks in the future。

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