The most proactive states in fighting the Coronavirus

The United States now has more coronavirus cases than any other country. Sadly, the number of active cases will only continue to grow in the coming weeks.

Currently, the federal government is leaving most of the decision making to state governments with the CDC offering recommendations, but no real restrictions.

This means that each state has different procedures and systems in place to treat and contain the coronavirus. Some states are leading the way, proactively developing policies to limit spread. Other states are administering a relatively small number of tests and are doing little to discourage groups of people congregating, leaving it up to individual cities with fewer resources to grapple with the pandemic on their own.

We hit the data to identify which states are dealing the most proactively with the coronavirus– and which are trailing behind.

The States That Are Most Proactively Fighting The Coronavirus

1. Washington
2. Minnesota
3. New York
4. Louisiana
5. New Hampshire
6. Connecticut
7. California
8. Illinois
9. Vermont
10. North Dakota

These 10 states have been most proactive in dealing with the coronavirus, in addition to having the best infrastructure in place to limit spread. You can keep reading to see the factors we used to determine the states with the most aggressive policies or hop to the bottom to see where your state landed.

How we determined the most proactive states in fighting the Coronavirus

We ranked each state 1-to-50 on the following factors:

  • Proactive state-level policies on large gatherings, schools, and store openings
  • Coronavirus tests administered per capita
  • Insured population
  • Hospital beds per 1,000 people
  • Past track record of flu/pneumonia deaths
  • Percent of population over 65
  • Percent of population who smokes
  • Population density

The first factors we examined looked heavily at the actions a state is taking to stop the spread of disease and actively detect cases. The state-level policies on large gatherings, schools, restaurant/bar closures, and store openings were weighted 300%. The earlier the declaration, the more proactive the state.

After that, we examined the number of coronavirus tests administered per capita, using test data from the Covid Tracking Project and population data from the most recent Census. The higher number of tests per million residents, the better. The more tests, the more accurate understanding of the situation a state has. Tests per capita were counted twice for ranking purposes.

To determine how well equipped each state is to handle COVID-19, we looked at hospital beds per 1,000 residents using data from the Kaiser Foundation. We then looked at data from the CDC to see the number of flu/pneumonia deaths per capita each state had in 2017. While COVID-19 is not the flu, a state’s past record at containing the flu and aiding the sick may be one of the best predictors for how they’ll handle other, more serious illnesses.

We then examined the number of residents in at-risk groups, the percent of the population over 65 and the percent of the population who smokers. Both the elderly and smokers face the worst outcomes when contracting the coronavirus. After that, we looked at population density using data from the ACS. While a state might not have control over the size of its elderly population or population density, states with higher at-risk populations need to be more proactive to compensate, not less.

Keep reading to see the top 10’s stats, or go to the bottom to see all 50 states.

1. Washington

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 4503
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 1.7
Percent of population over 65: 14.06 %

Washington is taking the most aggressive actions to fight the coronavirus. While Washington experienced the brunt of the US’s early outbreak, the state quickly canceled schools, public events, and dining in restaurants and bars. In addition to testing a large number of residents (second only to New York) to aid in containment, the state of Washington is healthier than most. Washington residents are less likely to be elderly, unlikely to be smokers, and are more likely to be insured than other states.

2. Minnesota

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 2,035
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.5
Percent of population over 65: 14.25 %

Minnesota is the second most proactive state in dealing with the coronavirus. Minnesota has enacted strict social distancing policies at a state level, even as cases per capita are lower than many of their Midwestern neighbors. While it is too soon to tell if these policies will spare Minnesota the devastation other states are currently experiencing, it will certainly be a factor.

3. New York

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 5319
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.7
Percent of population over 65: 14.66 %

New York is currently the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak, with cases and deaths growing exponentially. However, while the state is under assault, they are fighting it with everything they have. New York has given more tests per capita than any other state. Unfortunately, while New York has been testing in droves, they were a little too slow to enact shelter-in-place orders.

4. Louisiana

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 2,463
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 3.3
Percent of population over 65: 13.57 %

Louisiana is another state dealing with a high number of coronavirus cases. Louisiana is no doubt a state in crisis when it comes to the coronavirus– a crisis that wasn’t helped by the unfortunate timing of Mardi Gras at the end of February. However, the bayou state has still been shutting down businesses and schools ahead of federal guidelines. The governor even placed the state under a shelter in place order on March 23rd. This puts them vastly ahead of most of their southern neighbors, in particular their closest neighbor Mississippi.

5. New Hampshire

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 2,831
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.1
Percent of population over 65: 15.79 %

New Hampshire is the 5th most proactive state when it comes to fighting the coronavirus. New Hampshire has an excellent record when it comes to administering Covid-19 tests, administering 2,831 tests per million residents. This is particularly impressive since so many other states administering tests at the same scale have far more active cases. The Granite State is actively identifying as many cases as possible to better contain the virus. While New Hampshire is enacting social distancing policies, they are doing so slower than other states, keeping them from being higher on the list.

6. Connecticut

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 1,654
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2
Percent of population over 65: 15.44 %

Connecticut’s shared border with New York, and high number of commuting residents, has forced the state to be more proactive than most. Connecticut has been just a step behind New York in implementing strict social distancing protocol. Unfortunately, the state is administering fewer tests than many despite its shared border.

7. California

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 1,694
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 1.8
Percent of population over 65: 12.87 %

California has its first COVID-19 death on March 1st. As a whole, the state has been a leader in developing state-wide policies to contain the coronavirus. On March 19th, the state was the first to put shelter-in-place in order, although some cities in the state had already done so. California was one of the first states to navigate the quarantine waters and created a model other states would mimic. Unfortunately, California has not administered as many tests per million residents as other states– making it difficult to know how effective the policies have been at flattening the curve.

8. Illinois

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 1121
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.5
Percent of population over 65: 13.88 %

Illinois is the 8th most proactive state when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus. Illinois has made several aggressive moves to combat the coronavirus. The state was the second to administer a shelter in place order on March 21st.

9. Vermont

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 2744
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 2.1
Percent of population over 65: 17.02 %

The tiny state of Vermont is the 9th most proactive state in the nation. While 17% of Vermont residents are over 65, the state has high levels of insured residents and a track record of handling the flu. Vermont is also testing more people for COVID-19 than all but 6 states.

10.  North Dakota

Coronavirus tests per million residents: 2565
Hospital beds per 1,000 people: 4.3
Percent of population over 65: 14.16 %

North Dakota is the outlier on this list. The state hasn’t been particularly aggressive in halting the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing or other measures. However, the state has a lot of factors on its side. The state is less densely populated than most, meaning North Dakota residents have more space to themselves. The state also has 4.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That is more than double the number of beds than Washington.

Closing thoughts on the most proactive states in fighting the Coronavirus

States have had to forge their own paths in containing and combating the coronavirus. While many factors are out of their control, particularly with the initial spread, some states are leading the charge to flatten the curve and implementing strict policies.

The biggest difference between states? The number of test administered per capita. While New York has given 5,319 tests per million residents, 20 states have given under 1,000. As of when the data was collected, 8 have given under 500 per million residents.

Undoubtedly these numbers will change as the country continues to confront COVID-19, perhaps even by the time you read this story. We will continue to update the data to evaluate the state’s evolving policies. In the meantime, you can see the full list of all 50 states below.

This article originally appeared on Zippia.