“I cry and weep for South Dakota… as both a former childhood resident and as an epidemiologist.” So tweeted a member of the left-wing Federation of American Scientists (FAS) referring to the impact of Covid-19. Meanwhile a HuffPost headline, coincidentally using FAS as its source, declared “North Dakota Hits Highest COVID-19 Mortality Rate in The World.” So should we cry for it, too? Or maybe cry for Argentina, despite the plea of Andrew Lloyd
Webber’s Evita Peron?
No, cry for the mainstream media and its need to wage war against any jurisdiction without authoritarian Covid-19 measures, be it Sweden or the Dakotas.
The Dakotas do rank first and second in the Worldometer database for cases per capita going all the way back to March. But that tells us nothing about what’s happening now. If we calculate active cases per population, we see 2.1% for South Dakota and 1.3% for North Dakota. Nationally the rate is 1.4%. For New York, it’s a stunning 7.4%.
But trend lines are even more important. Over the last two weeks the highest growth according to Johns Hopkins University has been in New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, California and Louisiana. New Mexico’s rate is up over 100%, while new cases for the Dakotas have been dropping.
That said, there’s simply no way to make straight comparisons between states as if you were comparing lab rodents in a controlled study. Each state has unique characteristics. Thus one characteristic favoring the Dakotas regarding Covid-19 is lower population density. (Nobody bunches together on the Fargo subway…)
Among those hurting include that North Dakota is the coldest state in the Lower 48 (“You betcha!) and South Dakota isn’t far behind. That means such things as spending more time inside in long-term close proximity to other people and less Vitamin D absorption (tied to both higher risk of contracting and dying from the disease). And, of course, the Dakotas don’t just get very cold; they get cold earlier. So you would expect their seasonal increase to come earlier than most of the country, just as we’ve seen.
Mind, so far most of this has addressed infections and not deaths. There’s not a direct connection and one factor that may be pumping up apparent North Dakota deaths is that under the “CARES Act” states are given special reimbursements for Medicare patients who are declared to have Covid-19. (Which, by the way, doesn’t even require a positive test. If a doctor says it’s coronavirus, that’s good enough.) As it happens, the latest data I can find shows North Dakota was paid the nation’s highest bonus at a whopping $339,000 per patient. By comparison, New York state was getting a miserly $12,000. As the expression goes, “You get what you pay for!”
Another possible factor: North Dakota has one of the highest Native American populations in the country. And sadly, those people are plagued by the comorbidities associated with coronavirus such as obesity and diabetes. As such, they suffer about twice the rate of Covid-19 as the general U.S. population.
What’s driving the anti-Dakotas vendetta is that the mainstream media overwhelmingly support authoritarian measures and governors of both states have resisted them.
“Unlike other states, South and North Dakota never fully closed down,” as the leftist Vox put it in its article “Why North And South Dakota Are Suffering The Worst Covid-19 Epidemics In The U.S.” Hence the alleged direct correlation between cases and gross irresponsibility in not mandating curfews, masks in the bathtub, and so on. Except … while South Dakota did indeed rank first in relaxed rules as of last month, North Dakota ranked ninth according to the tracking service Wallethub.
Envy may be a driving force, as well. Say you’re a writer in New York or Los Angeles living in something approaching a coronavirus police state and fearing for your job and pining for a pint and you learn North Dakota ranked second in least economic distress from the pandemic while South Dakota also did quite well. Further, a U.S. Census Bureau poll found that the two states least suffering from anxiety and depression right now are, yup, the Dakotas. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s freedom!
And never mind that countries with ongoing bone-crushing lockdowns like the Philippines are paying a terrible economic price even as their cases peaked long after neighbors with much milder sanctions. Also ignore that real-world mask mandates seem to have little impact on the disease, for whatever reason: improper usage, low compliance, or inferior mask material.
But just as the media love individual schadenfreude stories (“Man Who Said Coronavirus Was Hoax Dies of It”), they love sticking it to the Dakotas. And they’re not shy about using numbers from dubious sources.
In September, a representative headline in USA Today declared: “Study Says Sturgis [South Dakota] Bike Rally Was A ‘Super-Spreader’ Event, Led to 260,000 COVID-19 Cases.” It later revised that figure downwards slightly – to 124. Yet even that number is just persons who got sick after attending the rally, the logical fallacy of “after this therefore because of this.” The 260,000 figures was just one of those countless computer models by activist researchers (in this case a German firm, IZA) whose words showed they had an axe to grind and wanted publicity. The report was subsequently shredded by apolitical researchers, including some called “epidemiologists” whose job it is to crunch such numbers.
Another singular event, this from North Dakota as reflected in a headline of the British newspaper The Guardian: “Anger in North Dakota After Governor Asks Covid-Positive Health Workers To Keep Working.” That does sound pretty dire – the state is so swamped that the sick are treating the sick.
Except this is a phenomenon in agricultural states generally because they rely on small rural Critical Access Hospitals, often with few beds and limited or nonexistent intensive care capabilities. “COVID-19 patients and other critically ill patients who need to be cared for in an intensive care unit are typically transferred to larger regional hospitals, which can be hundreds of miles from the small critical hospitals,” notes USA Today when it’s not berating the Dakotas. This adds extra pressure to city hospitals and can potentially increase case severity and death. In fact, the CDC spells out guidance for areas in such situations that allows such working situations precisely because unlike what we normally think of as a disease case, that is, an exhibition of a certain cluster of symptoms, many Covid-19 “cases” are asymptomatic and non-spreading. It’s just one of the many idiosyncrasies of how this disease is treated compared to others.
The flip side of all this is that if light lockdown governors are reviled, then the totalitarian ones must be celebrated. And they are. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year ordered Covid-19 patients to be placed into nursing facilities, then lied about it. And no, the mainstream media did not let him off the hook. As a result, as many as 6,600 people in those facilities died – many times more than the official total for the Dakotas. Yet the good governor has just received a special Emmy Award “in recognition of his leadership during the Covid19 pandemic.”
In other words, the more orders you issue the more of a hero you are. Is it any wonder that the only award being given the Dakota governors is the wrong side of the cat o’ nine tails?
It’s all about politics, sensationalism, and possibly envy. Also, let’s face it: numbers are b-o-r-i-n-g, as are explanations of factors that would affect trends in various states. Just use terms like “worst,” “deadliest,” and so on. Oh, and publicly shed some tears.
The only real mystery here is why the media haven’t yet pointed out that Beatle John Lennon was murdered while coming out of his condo in a New York City building (Ready?) The Dakota. Aagh!