I haven’t written much about the Wuhan virus lately, because once it became clear that COVID posed a modest threat at most, and my own life returned to normal, I lost interest. At this point, it seems that COVID is more a political than a medical or scientific phenomenon.
Several months ago, I wrote a series of posts about COVID in the five Upper Midwestern states. The comparisons seemed useful because the states are similar in many respects, but their responses to the Wuhan epidemic were very different. Now that more water has gone over the dam, it is a good time to revisit those comparisons.
These are the currently reported rates of “COVID deaths” for the Upper Midwestern states–again, bearing in mind that a “COVID death” is, in most if not all jurisdictions, the death of someone who probably had COVID, regardless of what actually killed him or her.
North Dakota: 0.00025
South Dakota: 0.00023
A few observations come immediately to mind. The first is that a disease with a fatality rate that begins with 0.000 is quite minor. It is remarkable that we have twisted our entire society and economy out of shape, devastating the lives of tens if not hundreds of millions, over this flu bug.
Second, we are seeing a convergence of “fatality” rates among states. When I was following these numbers several months ago, Minnesota’s death rate was around 2 1/2 times that of South Dakota and North Dakota. Now, the Dakotas are catching up, although Minnesota’s fatality rate is still substantially higher. This isn’t hard to explain: any communicable disease spreads more rapidly in densely populated areas. It will spread in the countryside, too, but more slowly. That is what we have been seeing around the country in the past few months, as rural areas are catching up to more urbanized areas.
Third, the data reveal the utter futility of “shutdown” measures such as those that have been enforced in Minnesota and other states. In this sample, the correlation between severity of shutdown and fatality rate is actually negative. South Dakota never adopted a shutdown and has a much lower rate of purported COVID deaths than Minnesota, which had (and still has) one of the harshest shutdown regimes in the country. North Dakota, which had a shutdown but a relatively casual one, also does much better than Minnesota.
Of these comparisons, the most interesting is that between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Both had shutdowns for a while, but Wisconsin’s was invalidated by that state’s Supreme Court. This event was greeted with schadenfreude by Minnesota’s liberals, as in this tweet by the head of the DFL party, with a cartoon by the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s left-wing editorial cartoonist:
Not sure what’s happening with our neighbors to the East, but I am quite certain we will see a huge increase in COVID related deaths thanks to their terrible courts. BTW – @thestevesack is the best political cartoonist in America hands down. @DemStateParties @TheDemocrats pic.twitter.com/rP3Hu2GJLO
— Ken Martin (@kenmartin73) May 15, 2020
To say that the Wisconsin disaster failed to materialize is an understatement, as the above numbers show. By any measure, Wisconsin has far outperformed Minnesota despite having no shutdown order in place, and despite being open for business. (Some would say, sort of like how the Green Bay Packers outperform the Minnesota Vikings.) The only reasonable conclusion is that COVID shutdowns have been, at best, useless.
Of course, that leaves Iowa. I have no idea why Iowa’s recorded COVID fatalities outstrip those in Minnesota and Wisconsin, both of which are more urban. Or why they are so much worse than the Dakotas’. Maybe it has to do with states’ different standards for recording COVID deaths, or maybe it is just a fluke. Or maybe it is one more thing, among many, that we don’t understand about the coronavirus. One thing we do know, however, is that draconian limits on citizens’ freedom has produced great harm, but no tangible benefits.
If you are still interested in the Wuhan epidemic, this site has some revealing charts.