Jim Hartman: The states’ COVID performances

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman
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The most comprehensive comparative study to date drawing conclusions about government policy and results during the COVID-19 pandemic was published in April by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The authors compared outcomes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on three variables: the economy, education and mortality. The states were ranked based on a combined score of the three variables.
It’s a revealing study that contradicts much of the conventional medical and media wisdom, particularly during the pandemics’ first year, when severe lockdowns were viewed as the best, and only moral, policy.
Utah ranked first by a considerable margin over Nebraska and Vermont. The top 10 in the rankings are smaller states, with the notable exception of Florida, which ranked sixth. Recall that Florida’s decision to open itself relatively soon was derided as cruel and destructive. Gov. Ron DeSantis was scorned as “Governor DeathSentence.”
The bottom 10 are dominated by states and D.C. that had the most stringent lockdowns and were among the last to reopen schools. Their economies are for the most part still behind most others in recovering from the pandemic.
New York, whose Gov. Andrew Cuomo was an early COVID hero, ranked 49th. New Jersey ranked last with a miserable performance across the board. Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t save lives but he did savage the economy and punished students as he followed teacher union demands on school closures.
Nevada was graded 44th overall among the states with only six states given lower rankings. The Silver State was assigned a near-bottom “D” grade, with Nevada ranked 48th on the mortality scale.
Gov. Steve Sisolak’s draconian lockdown orders in March 2020 were devastating to Nevada’s economy. In April 2020, Nevada set the highest unemployment ever recorded—30.5%.
Throughout 2021, Nevada’s unemployment was either the highest or second-highest state unemployment rate in the U.S. Sisolak’s lockdowns also destroyed many “non-essential” small businesses, closing them permanently.
An earlier extensive “State Pandemic Scorecard” was issued in December 2021 by Politico, the authoritative liberal-leaning political news publication. It put Nevada tied for 48th  — with Mississippi — in ranking the state’s overall COVID response.
Only Wyoming ranked lower than Nevada in handling COVID issues, according to Politico’s scorecard.
The study pulled together what was then known about how states fared during the pandemic, and how choices each state made impacted its residents, businesses and schools. It grouped the then available information into four categories — health, economy, social well-being and education.
Nevada placed 49th in the economy category with Hawaii coming in at 50. The report noted that states that rely on tourism were deeply impacted by the pandemic.
Southern Nevada’s hotel and casino industry was particularly hard hit. Casino’s closed in March 2020 remained closed until June 2020. Sisolak’s arbitrary capacity orders wildly fluctuated from 50% to 25%, back to 50%, made it difficult for businesses to plan and comply.
Nevada also received low marks for education, ranked 41st, on the Politico scorecard. That result was derived from changes in reading and math assessments from each state’s pre-pandemic baseline to the spring of 2021.
Under Sisolak’s directives, Clark County schools remained closed for an entire school year.
The Republican nominee for Nevada’s governor in November is certain to seize on both the Politico scorecard from last December and the current NEBR final report to blame Sisolak for badly mishandling the COVID pandemic over more than two years. Both studies bolster a COVID performance case against the politically vulnerable incumbent.
A Suffolk University/ Reno Gazette Journal Poll taken in early April shows Sisolak with a net unfavorable rating among likely Nevada voters, with 42 percent having a favorable view of him and 45 percent an unfavorable opinion.
Sisolak may sink politically under the weight of his COVID response record.
Email Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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