ODs discuss safety ratings in their states this Thanksgiving

November 19, 2020
Brooke Beery, Associate Editor
Brooke Beery, Associate Editor

Brooke Beery is Assistant Editor of Optometry Times®.

COVID-19 is hitting some states harder than others

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and many are wondering how they are going to celebrate this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some holiday traditions will be put on hold or revamped.

In order to minimize viral transmission, families are choosing to have smaller, separate dinners, and some state regulations are enforcing curfews, mask mandates, and social distancing measures.

Related: ODs discuss stress rankings in their cities

Methodology

With safety at the forefront, WalletHub compared all 50 states across 10 key metrics to find out which states provide the safest settings for a Thanksgiving gathering. Data sets include metrics examining how each state is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Positive tests, deaths per capita in the past week, as well as other indicators of general safety like crime rates and the average number of driving under the influence (DUI)-related fatalities in November are compared.

Each metric was classified on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the safest conditions for Thanksgiving festivities. WalletHub then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate overall scores.

The safest

The state considered most safe by WalletHub is Vermont. With a total score of 89.76, Vermont takes the top spot for “safest state to spend Thanksgiving” and the lowest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the week of November 15, 2020. Vermont also placed second in fewest COVID-19 positive tests per capita that week.

Coming in second place is Vermont’s New England neighbor, Maine. With a total score of 89.58, Maine had the lowest crime rate, the second lowest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the week of November 15, 2020, and third fewest COVID-19 positive tests per capita that week.

In third, fourth, and fifth place are New Hampshire, New York, and Washington state, with scores of 80, 78.89, and 78.66.

The least safe

The state considered least safe by WalletHub is South Dakota. Coming in with a total score of 19.17, the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the week of November 15, 2020, the most DUI-fatalities in motor vehicle crashes around Thanksgiving, and tying for most COVID-19 positive tests per capita, South Dakota was the worst performing state in WalletHub’s safety analysis.

Trailing behind South Dakota is New Mexico, with a total safety score of 27.71 and the second highest share of offline homes. Offline homes describes households who would not be able to have at least a Zoom call with their loved ones. It measures the share of households lacking a computer and a broadband Internet service.

In third, fourth and fifth place are Montana, Missouri, and North Dakota.


Related: ODs talk healthcare rankings in their state

Safety scores ranked

Here’s where the remaining states ended up. See the full list of rankings here.​

We consulted a few ODs from around the country to get their feedback on how their own states ranked.

See what they said!

Dori Carlson, OD

North Dakota

#5 Least safe

North Dakota has been getting all sorts of publicity for the wrong reasons as of late. I even saw a report that they were ranking the cases of coronavirus globally, and North Dakota (as a state) made the global scale.

We were relatively isolated from cases early on, so people became complacent. Many did not believe it was real. Many did not change their behavior. Many still have not changed their behavior.

We have a Republican governor who was trying to let people “do the right thing” and would not issue mandates. Just this week however, we have mandates for masks in public and venues have been told to reduce their occupancies.

Dorothy Hitchmoth, OD

New Hampshire

#3 Safest

I think there are numerous reasons for New Hampshire doing better than some states during the pandemic.

The state is largely rural. I practice and live in the rural area myself. Folks tend to naturally socially distance in our area.

There are limited, multi-family dwellings and folks work in small businesses with smaller numbers of employees in most communities. Also, there are fewer multi-generation family homes than what you might find in cities in the Northeast. The rest of my family lives in the Boston area, and it is not unusual for my Italian family to have 2 to 3 generations living in one home.

In lower-income communities, folks tend to travel outside their living/working area a lot less. Often, this is due to lack of funds and public transportation. This tightens the circle of potential exposure further. Some communities are isolated because of this.

The governor of New Hampshire and his council offered concise, direct guidance very early in the pandemic. Part of his emergency orders included travel restrictions and quarantine orders from neighboring states like Massachusetts and New York. Travelers from the cities largely followed rules, and some areas were shut to visitors and tourists through most of the summer.

New Hampshire residents (especially natives) tend to stand further apart as part of the culture here. It would not be unusual to see folks standing a couple dozen feet apart hollering to their neighbor for a visit.

New Hampshire is a beautiful state and there are lots of outdoor activities. Given that the pandemic ramped up as we entered warmer months, folks largely went outdoors to appreciate the beauty around them. Similarly, folks with second homes in the area fled the cities to enjoy the area similarly. The type of activities I reference here has proven to be low risk for viral transmission.

You should also know, to date, 84 percent of deaths in New Hampshire have occurred in people who were in nursing homes, assisted, living or similar elderly housing situations. This is sad, but once this was realized, these areas were protected with the utmost state and community effort.

Lastly, the overall health profile in New Hampshire is a lot better than many states. Our rates of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and smoking are lower than most other parts of the U.S. This is noteworthy because data shows that these are all risk factors for infection and death.

Thomas A. Wong, OD

New York

4th Safest

“New York probably merited this rank because it has been more aggressive than most states in shutdown of businesses, and also, many have left New York City.”

A. Paul Chous, MA, OD, FAAO

Washington

5th Safest

“Mask adherence is really high here in western Washington. Residents tend to be poorer on the east side, and rates are higher there."

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