At Least D.C. Isn’t South Dakota

I realize that I am often critical of the COVID-19 response in D.C. (not Wor-Shing-Tun, but D.C.). But the city really is trying to combat the pandemic, and like all non-currency issuing governments is resource-limited, which restricts the possible economic responses that could enable good public health responses. And at least we’re not South Dakota, ‘led’ by Republican governor Kristi Noem.

South Dakota is twenty five percent larger than D.C., yet, in the last week*, the per capita prevalence of confirmed cases is eleven times higher in South Dakota. South Dakota’s one-week prevalence is 11.5-fold higher than the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per week per 100,000 people. To put this in perspective, South Dakota had as many confirmed cases last week as D.C. has had since July 14.

That’s probably a massive underestimate, since over that time period D.C.’s percent positive rate (number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests) is 1.2%, while South Dakota’s is… 35.7% (. That’s not a typo. At that rate, you’re not even doing all of the basic clinical (hospital) surveillance you need to do, never mind assessing what’s happening in the community. Realistically, claiming that one percent of South Dakotans contracted the coronavirus in the last week might be an underestimate (the official numbers are 0.58%). Yet South Dakota won’t even mandate masks–and that failure to mandate is a policy choice.

Meanwhile, if you run north of the South Dakota border, North Dakota isn’t doing much better, as they have had to call for ‘DIY contact tracing‘ (boldface mine):

North Dakota is now asking residents who test positive for COVID-19 to inform their own close contacts of the diagnosis as a recent surge in new cases of the virus has overloaded the state’s contact tracing operation.

The state Department of Health sent out a tweet Tuesday, Oct. 20, saying contact tracers are “experiencing a backlog of COVID-19 case investigations, causing a delay in calls.” The announcement advised residents who have tested positive for the virus to fill in as contact tracers themselves by telling their own close contacts to get tested.

The backlog means North Dakotans who recently tested positive have been waiting an average of three days to learn of their diagnosis instead of the usual one day.

The state announced late Tuesday night that 50 soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard will be shifted from notifying close contacts to calling residents who have tested positive.

It didn’t have to be like this. To fail this badly, after seeing what happened along the coasts earlier this year, is inexcusable. We really don’t have words to describe the crime that this policy failure is, but it is criminal.

And the next time someone brings up Mayor Marion Barry’s malfeasance from a quarter of a century ago as a reason to deny statehood to D.C., at least our government hasn’t abandoned its citizens the way these two ‘heartland’ states are.

*North Dakota data are from here. D.C. data are from here. One-week data end October 21 (last report date is October 20).

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2 Responses to At Least D.C. Isn’t South Dakota

  1. Joe Shelby says:

    That 37.5 positivity rate is higher than NYC itself had during its pandemic peak, which was 30% over a 2 week span ending April 30th.

  2. Bern says:

    But, but…they have their own bank…!

    OK, maybe not useful…it’s been a long week and it’s only Thursday!

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