Minnesota ranks 11th in U.S. for COVID-19 restrictions, is also a hotspot

Today, WCCO reports:

A new survey ranks Minnesota just outside the top 10 among states with the most COVID-19 restrictions in place.

WalletHub has been ranking states periodically during the pandemic, and just released their newest rankings. They have Minnesota 11th among states with the most COVID-19 restrictions…

Minnesota’s position on the list is underpinned by the survey’s observation that we’re surrounded by states that are on the other end of the spectrum.

Wisconsin is the 19th least restricted state currently, North Dakota is the 17th, South Dakota is the fourth least restricted, and Iowa actually tops the list as the state with the very fewest restrictions in place due to COVID-19. 

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But it was striking to read just a day after seeing this:

Minnesota, with more restrictive anti-COVID-19 measures in place than its neighbors, is rated as ‘Very high risk’ while those neighbors all score a lower, ‘High risk’ rating.

Indeed, the states rated as ‘Very high risk’ by CovidActNow score an average of 35 on WalletHub’s ranking of COVID-19 restrictions, with 50 being the most and 1 the least stringent. States ranked as ‘High risk’ score an average rating of 24 and states rated as ‘Medium’ rick score an average rating of 20. So, on average, tighter restrictions and higher risk go hand in hand.

But what if higher risk causes the tighter restrictions? Fortunately, WalletHub shows us the change in a state’s ranking from March to April. Texas, for example, which has substantially reopened in the past month, has seen its ranking soar 28 places to 5th. Idaho, by contrast, which ranked 4th in March, has fallen seven places to 11th. So, a positive number means that the ranking of COVID-19 measures has moved in a less restrictive direction and a negative number means that the ranking has moved in a more restrictive direction.

The results are shown in Table 1. We see that, on average, the states currently rated as ‘Very High Risk’ saw their COVID-19 restrictions become relatively more stringent over the past month. States currently rated ‘High risk’ or ‘Medium’ risk, by contrast, saw their COVID-19 restrictions become relatively less stringent over the preceding month.

Table 1: Average ranking of state’s COVID-19 restrictions and changes in rankings

Source: WalletHub and CovidActNow

This is not to argue that more stringent restrictions increase COVID-19 risk (it is not to argue against it either). But what it does show, once again, is the relative inefficacy of so-called Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions’ — such as lockdowns, business closures, and mask mandates. There is a heavy cost associated with such measures, but there appears to be very little benefit.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.