VIRGINIA — Virginia’s strategy to curb the spread of coronavirus last year ranked 11th most effective in the nation, according to a new analysis by UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute.
Neighboring states Maryland and West Virginia ranked in the top 10, ahead of Virginia in terms of performance in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was quick to shut down in-person learning at public schools at the start of the pandemic and issued other orders on gatherings to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Throughout the first few months of the pandemic, though, certain long-term care facilities in Virginia did not take the proper precautions to protect their residents, resulting in a large percentage of residents who tested positive dying from COVID-19.
While Virginia was hit hard by the pandemic, other states fared much worse, even states that imposed stricter measures. New Jersey, for example, ranked 46th out of 50 states in terms of performance despite having some of the toughest, more restrictive COVID-19 orders in the nation, including requiring residents from certain other states to quarantine upon entering New Jersey.
“The best performing states are Vermont, Alaska, Maine, Hawaii, and Oregon, which all have the benefit of being more remote and isolated, but also had excellent public health responses,” the institute said in the report titled “2020 Inclusiveness Index Measuring Global Inclusion and Marginality.” “The worst performing states, however, were South Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, Arizona, and New Jersey.”
Many of these states had outbreaks among vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous, Latinos, and African Americans. South Dakota “was notorious for its lax response, and for refusing, for example, to issue a mask mandate,” the researchers said in the report. “One out of every five hundred South Dakotans died from the pandemic.”
The most effective states, according to research published in the institute’s 2020 Inclusiveness Index, were those that put in place mitigation measures based on scientific data.
Here are the top 15 states in how well they responded to the coronavirus in 2020, according to the analysis:
- New Hampshire
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
In Virginia, Northam eased his Forward Virginia restrictions on April 1 due to lower coronavirus case counts and rising vaccination numbers. The changes affected social gathering sizes and capacity limits at entertainment venues, recreational sporting events, and in-person graduations.
Social gatherings are now allowed to have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Entertainment venues may operate at 30 percent capacity, or up to 500 people indoors —whichever is lower. Outdoor entertainment venues will be capped at 30 percent with no numeric cap. Recreational sporting events can be limited to 30 percent capacity. Spectators may be up to 100 at indoor events and 500 at outdoor events.
UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute’s annual Inclusiveness Index typically ranks states and countries on their levels of inclusivity using six measures: outgroup violence, political representation, income inequality, anti-discrimination laws, rates of incarceration, and immigration and asylum policies.
The Institute added COVID-19 response to its 2020 index.
“What is clear, however, is that the pandemic has had a severe and disproportionate impact on communities of color, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” the researchers said. “Moreover, the response to the pandemic has revealed or exacerbated dysfunctions in our health care systems and governance.”
You can read more of the report here.
To compile the ranking, the Othering & Belonging Institute measured the performance of all 50 states and 172 countries primarily based on three factors: rates of infection, deaths and testing.
The data revealed a trend: state governments that were more aggressive in issuing mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and physical distancing rules fared better than states that did not.
Globally, the three most successful responses to COVID-19 came from the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, and Iceland. Other successful countries profiled in the report include New Zealand, Vietnam and Rwanda.
The bottom three countries on the list were San Marino, Montenegro and Belgium, all small European countries.
The United States, then led by President Donald Trump, ranked 161 out of 172 countries, placing it among the bottom 6 percent of countries.
Brazil and the United Kingdom were also near the bottom of the scale, scoring rankings of 155 and 141, respectively.
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