Monday, March 20, 2023

Idaho third fastest in COVID recovery

| May 6, 2021 1:00 AM

Outside of patients in distress at Kootenai Health, given the public mood around here you’d hardly know the virus yet lingers. At least compared to the rest of the country, new data suggests Idaho is moving at lightning speed.

Pandemic recovery gains are steady across the U.S. Business activities are rising and restrictions fading. The national unemployment rate has dropped to 6 percent from its high of 14.7 percent a year ago.

Vaccines have a lot to do with that, concludes finance site WalletHub in its May 4 report, “States That Are Recovering the Quickest From COVID-19.” With an average 32 percent of Americans fully vaccinated, infection and death rates are declining.

Some states are making faster than average progress. Among them is Idaho, with the third-fastest recovery overall (South Dakota is fastest, followed by Iowa).

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, Census Bureau and other sources, the ranking compared 50 states and D.C. across 22 health and economic metrics.

With a broad range and an overall rank of third (the lower, the better), Idaho’s numbers are:

• Vaccinated share of population 16 and older (37.65 percent, ranking 36 of 51)

• Share of vaccine supply used (76 percent; rank 34)

• Positivity rate (4.5 percent; rank 23)

• Hospitalization (eighth-best) and death rates (10th-best)

• Share of hospitals with staff shortages (7 percent; rank 17)

• Restaurant (26th) and park visits (third) per capita

• Travel and gathering restrictions (both number one)

• Real GDP, March 2021 vs. March 2019 (-1.14 percent; rank 4)

• Job postings vs. January 2020 (3.2 percent in March; rank 5)

• Weekly Consumer Spending vs. Pre-COVID Levels (rank 13)

• Real estate listings (given recent national headlines about Coeur d’Alene’s hot market and low inventory, a rank of 46 is no surprise)

Comparing our neighbors, Montana ranks ninth overall and Washington, 24th. At the bottom of the chart with the slowest recovery is Michigan, preceded by population-dense New Jersey (50) and New York (49).

Why are some states able to recover from the pandemic a lot faster than others? According to WalletHub’s experts the likely factors include vaccination rates, transmission protections, and climate, with warm weather allowing people to be outside and spread out more.

Along with having the highest vaccination levels, South Dakota ranked highest in part because it is one of only two states whose unemployment rates actually decreased since pre-pandemic levels, along with an increase in small-business work hours.

Conversely, bottom-ranking Michigan has some of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates in the country, thus is one of only 14 states with restrictions still in place for gatherings over 25.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email

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