Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Did High Court Order Hike State’s COVID Cases?

They’re definitely up since state Supreme Court ruling, and a faster rate than the nation.

By - Jun 15th, 2020 07:19 pm
2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One month ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the state health department lacked the power to enforce a statewide stay-at-home order. Gov. Tony Evers reacted with alarm, telling MSNBC that Wisconsin was now “the Wild West.” “With no requirements anymore,” he predicted,  “we’re going to have more cases. We’re going to have more deaths.”

“The decision will hamper our ability to protect the health and safety of Wisconsinites,” predicted state Secretary of Health Services Andrea Palm. 

There’s no doubt there’s been an increase is cases and deaths. Back on May 13 the state had seen 10,611 cases of COVID-19 and 421 deaths. By Saturday, June 13, one month later those figures had risen to 22,344 positive cases and 691 deaths. But would there have been less of an increase had the state’s stay-at-home order continued? 

Across the world the pattern has been that nations like New Zealand that institute strong social distancing rules have greatly reduced the incidence of the virus, while countries like Brazil that have done little of this have seen huge increases in the number of cases. White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly urged states to adopt social distancing measures, as has the overwhelming majority of health experts.  

And prior to the state Supreme Court decision there was evidence that Wisconsin was dong better than the nation and other states in tamping down the growth in COVID-19 cases.  An analysis by Urban Milwaukee of the previous month, from April 8 to May 8, found that only Michigan had seen its COVID-19 caseload grow by a lower percentage — 142 percent — than Wisconsin at 257 percent. Every other state had seen its total caseload grow faster, led by Iowa with a whopping 955 percent increase, followed by Minnesota (up 776 percent), Illinois (403 percent), Ohio (351 percent) and Indiana (317 percent). (The figures came from daily totals reported for each state by the New York Times.)

During that same period, Iowa had gone from well behind Wisconsin in the number of COVID-19 cases to pass Wisconsin, and it was ranked as one of the slowest states in America, behind 42 other states, when it came to instituting social distancing measures.

How has Wisconsin done since then? Measuring Wisconsin as of June 13, one month after the Supreme Court ended the stay at home order, it has seen the number cases grow by 120 percent, faster than nearly every Midwestern state’s growth, including Iowa (up 81 percent), Ohio (60 percent), Illinois (58 percent), Indiana (56 percent) and Michigan (37 percent). Only Minnesota, up 139 percent, has seen more growth in cases than Wisconsin. 

Midwestern Growth in COVID-19 Cases 

State May 13 June 13 Percent Increase
Minnesota 12,494 29,826 139%
Wisconsin 10,611 22,344 120%
Iowa 12,912 23,337 81%
Ohio 25,257 40,424 60%
Illinois 83,094 131,679 58%
Indiana 25,676 40,144 56%
Michigan 47,946 65,627 37%

Wisconsin has also grown faster than the nation, which grew by 49 percent during the last month.  Meawhile, Michigan, which has had some of the toughest restrictions and maintained a state-at-home owner until June 1, has consistently seen the slowest growth in COVID-19 cases in the Midwest. 

Back in early May Wisconsin ranked below the District of Columbia and 32 states, including every Midwestern state, in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita, according to a New York Times ranking. Today Wisconsin has slipped to second best in the Midwest, the ranking shows. with 396 cases per 100,000 people, compared to Ohio’s 356 cases and nationally has slipped by four places: it is now lower than DC and in 28 states.

Back in early May, Wisconsin also ranked low in the death rate per capita from the virus, lower than in DC and 30 states. Today it Wisconsin has 12 deaths per 100,000 people, still the lowest in the Midwest, but it has slipped nationally by two places and is now lower than DC and 28 states.  

Several caveats regarding date are worth noting. It seems likely that Wisconsin would have slipped much further if not for the fact that the City of Milwaukee, which has had the most COVID-19 cases and deaths, continued maintaining social distancing restrictions, which it has begun to ease. And on a state level, the Evers administration has continued to increase the amount of testing and tracing, which may have helped reduce the increase in deaths, but helped increase the number of cases as more are being detected. So it’s possible some of the differential increase in cases in Wisconsin compared to the Midwest and the nation may show the state is doing better than some in increasing testing. 

On the other hand, the surge here compared to other states fits the narrative of a recent study which found that Wisconsin now has some of the least restrictive social distancing rules in the nation.  For those who believe the scientists, the slippage in restrictions and surge in Wisconsin’s COVID-19 cases compared to the rest of the nation is cause for concern. 

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Categories: Health, Murphy's Law

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