Report: These Are the States Responding Most Aggressively to COVID and Least Aggressively


The response to the coronavirus threat is one of the greatest challenges faced by federalism in the 200-plus years of our republic.

There are the constant calls for a national lockdown — including from Dr. Anthony Fauci, arguably the most trusted name tasked with administering the federal government’s policy on the matter, who is in favor of a one-size-fits-all strategy.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci told CNN earlier this month, according to National Review. “You know, the tension between federally mandated versus states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into.”

“But if you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that. We really should be.”

But yes, each of the states has been left to determine their own plan to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Some have responded aggressively, others less so.

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Some areas are hotspots, others not. The key is to tailor the response to the state in order to best stop the disease.

So, which areas are dealing with the disease most aggressively and least aggressively? The personal finance website WalletHub has been ranking the states by how forcefully they’re fighting the pandemic based on a number factors — and here’s some of the takeaways.

The states were ranked on criteria which fell into three categories.

The first was “Prevention & Containment,” which consisted of items like laboratories per capita, presence of quarantine stations, and confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19, among many others.

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The second was “Risk Factors & Infrastructure,” which included more fixed factors like poverty rate and communications infrastructure, as well as more COVID-centric factors like guidance on nonessential surgeries and change in nonessential visits since the crisis hit.

The third was “Economic Impact,” which included the share of employment from small businesses, state rainy day fund balance and the share of wage and salary workers paid at hourly rates.

The state responding to the crisis most aggressively was, unsurprisingly, New York state.

New York City is the epicenter of the crisis at the moment and has seen the most death and carnage from the disease.

Number two was the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C., could be one of the next coronavirus hotspots, meaning authorities there have every reason to be worried.

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been sounding the alarm with federal officials.

“I told the president that, and Dr. [Deborah] Birx that, that we are concerned of the next wave. If you consider New York City the first wave, and other cities that we’ve heard about, that D.C. will be considered in the second wave,” Bowser said Monday, according to DCist.

“I’ve been solidly mentioning in all of my communications with the White House and the federal staff our concern for the District, and their responsibilities in the District, so I hope that message is going through.”

Third-most aggressive is Alaska, which may surprise you. As of Friday, there had only been 235 cases in Alaska and seven deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. However, Alaska has several key factors which necessitate an aggressive response.

The state is comprised of small, tight-knit communities, most of which are very far from a hospital and require patients to be flown out via helicopter or airplane. The medevac system is stressed already in the state, according to Time, and a coronavirus outbreak would absolutely destroy its ability to treat the state’s residents.

In addition, Alaska is home to plenty of critical infrastructure, mostly in energy production. If those individuals are wiped out, it would be a huge blow to the United States.

Fourth is Hawaii, a state which only had 442 cases as of Friday. Many of the cases have come from travel and, according to liberal mouthpiece Vox, there’s a lot of worry about “corona vacations” to the island. (Don’t worry, most of us can’t even get an Uber to the airport, much less a flight.)

“With the majority of Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 cases linked to travel, it is critical that we further mitigate the spread of the virus by both residents and visitors who are coming from out-of-state,” Gov. David Ige said in a March statement, according to The Associated Press.

“This plan was developed in collaboration with our county mayors and Hawaii’s business, community and visitor industry leaders.”

Visitors and returning residents can expect a 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Fifth-most aggressive is New Jersey. After all, they’re the ones right next to New York City and they’ve lost more residents to COVID-19 than they did on 9/11.

As for the least aggressive state in the nation, that goes to Oklahoma. While Gov. Kevin Stitt has only told vulnerable individuals to stay at home, according to The New York Times, the state’s larger cities have issued remain-in-place orders.

The state had 1,794 cases with 88 people dead as of Friday afternoon.

The second-least aggressive state is South Dakota.

South Dakota doesn’t have any state-wide stay-at-home order in effect as of Friday. According to The Times, there have been 536 confirmed cases with six deaths in the state as of Friday.

Third-least aggressive is Nebraska, another state which doesn’t have a state-wide stay-at-home order as of Friday.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, is under increasing pressure to implement one, according to Fox News. As of Friday, 635 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the state and 15 had died.

Fourth-least aggressive is Alabama, which has a stay-at-home order. However, the state also had 2,947 confirmed cases and 80 deaths as of Friday.

Fifth-least aggressive is Wyoming, which does not have a state-wide stay-at-home order. However, the state only had 239 cases and no fatalities as of Friday.

Notice that there isn’t necessarily a 1:1 response between how states deal with coronavirus and how much infection and/or death there is.

We’re usually informed that these states will feel the sting once the virus spreads outward. However, it could be that they don’t.

And this gets into why federalism, which allows the states a wide latitude of power, is so important.

If this were one-size-fits-all, you would have the same lockdown in New York that you would in Wyoming.

Even for states of the same relative size and population density, that isn’t true.

Wyoming and Alaska are probably two of the more alike states in our union, at least as much as Alaska can be like any other state. However, imagine if they had implemented the same policies to deal with coronavirus. It would be a nightmare for both of them.

As Louis Brandeis famously said, the states are “laboratories of democracy.” They retain that status even at trying times like these.

America’s Founding Fathers were truly wise.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture