A Tale of Two States

Over the past month Massachusetts had a test-positive percentage of 0.5%. That’s an increase from the prior month, but it’s still the lowest test-positive percentage in the country, tied with New Hampshire and Maine. The state has also amped up its testing a lot — second only to North Dakota of all places. Increasingly, dx tests in MA are being administered as population surveys — at universities, for example — where the intent is to identify and squelch local outbreaks before they begin. The Massachusetts covid death rate is about average and down slightly from the prior month, in step with the surprising slow downward trend nationwide. However, using death as a lagging indicator of infection, only about a third of those who get covid-infected in MA are being identified by dx testing. So the widespread MA testing protocols are missing people where the virus is already prevalent and contagion is ongoing.

Wisconsin has seen a big jump in test-positives over the past month; WI also had one of the highest test-positive percentages at 17.4%. Unlike MA, WI doesn’t do widespread testing. Also unlike MA, WI’s testing identifies pretty much everyone who’s infected, to the point of conducting and recording repeated tests on those who’ve already tested positive. It would seem that Wisconsin’s dx tests are reserved mostly for people who are experiencing symptoms and/or who have been in contact with infected people. The covid death rate in WI is still below average, and below MA, but will likely rise this month.

In short, it’s hard to compare states’ covid rates when there’s so little standardization in testing standards. That’s where a well-run CDC would help, along with a President who reinforces the recommendations.

Overall, continuity continues to prevail nationwide: the states with the highest covid death rates are still the usual Southern suspects: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas. This month they’ve been joined by North Dakota.

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