Sad Sack: Despite enjoying much more freedom, Wisconsin still has fewer COVID-19 deaths than Minnesota

On May 14, 2020, Minneapolis Star Tribune Cartoonist Steve Sack drew a cartoon in response to the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Governor Tony Evers (D) stay-at-home orders showing the Grim Reaper with Wisconsin as its head.

Steve Sack / Star Tribune

The court ruling was the subject of much puffery on this side of the river, as American Experiment economist John Phelan noted in his July 29, 2020 article. Ken Martin, the Chair of the Minnesota Democrat party tweeted his predictions of certain doom in the Dairy Land.

Like predictions that the Vikings will dethrone the Packers to win the NFC North this year, this didn’t happen. In fact, Wisconsin still has fewer COVID-19 deaths than Minnesota despite the fact that Wisconsin has a larger population, according to Worldometers, and experienced much more freedom during the pandemic.

As of May 14, 2021, there have been 7,352 reported deaths from COVID-19 in Minnesota, whereas there have only been 6,953 in Wisconsin.

This means the per capita death rate is also smaller in the Land of Lombardi. Minnesota experienced 1,304 deaths per million population, and Wisconsin lost 1,194 residents per million population.

The strategies used to try and slow the spread of COVID-19 varied widely from state to state, but we are still struggling to find out which strategies were effective, and which ones weren’t.

This task will be made much more complicated by confirmation bias, as people try to rationalize the positions they took the proper way to deal with the virus over the past year. Hopefully this bias does not prevent us from learning from this experience.

As it sits now, Minnesota has experienced fewer deaths per capita than Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, but more than Wisconsin. Steve Sack should issue a corrected cartoon.