New JHPPL study finds Republican governors delayed COVID-19 policies by an average of 2 days—a period with potentially devastating repercussions


September 22, 2020

The party of a state’s governor is the single most important predictor of the early adoption of social distancing policies, with Republican governors taking about two days longer to announce these mandates, finds a new study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

A two-day delay could result in a 17% to 59% increase in COVID-19 cases, according to prior research.

To investigate why some states were slower to implement social distancing than others beginning in March 2020, the study’s authors compared announcement dates for social distancing measures, controlling for competing explanations such as economic resources and hospital preparedness. All else equal, states led by Republican governors were slower to implement such policies during a critical window of early COVID-19 response. 

The study also found that states may be more likely to adopt social distancing policies when neighboring states act. States with lower population density and states with fewer confirmed cases were both slower to take up policies, and gross state product had no significant effect on timing.

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