May 7, 2020
Golden State Shines with Crisis Performance
as Texas Ranks in Top Half of Largest States
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
The nation's largest and bluest state that had been one of the two most likely spots for prey in the coronavirus assault on America has done the best job of minimizing the damage since the outbreak almost three months ago.
But Texas has fared better in the war of the world against the invisible enemy than any other major red state in the country.
California has been the showcase for the COVID-19 response in North America as the state that introduced Americans to the concepts of sheltering in place and social distancing as early steps in a clinic on how to flatten the curve by getting ahead of it.
The Golden State had been the second most vulnerable place in the U.S. when the virus emerged here in January with 40 million residents and the second and third ranked metropolitan areas in population-weighted density with Los Angeles and San Francisco and the surrounding vicinities.
California - amazingly - has the second lowest rate among the 15 largest states in terms of the forecast for coronavirus deaths by early August. First-term Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has an approval rating that's twice as high as President Donald Trump's in the land that he represents as the first state leader to impose a statewide lockdown that he still has in place.
Crowning the inaugural Capitol Inside rankings of the way the 15 largest states have performed up to now in the midst of the worst public health crisis on the planet in more than a century.
The nation's second largest state with a population estimated at 29 million last summer, Texas is seventh on the virus fight leader board despite a sluggish start by GOP leaders in Austin in the pandemic's early stages.
The rankings are based on a half-dozen key variables including the number of COVID-19 infections per capita and the projections for deaths over the course of the next three months. Texas had appeared to be getting a relatively light dose of the disease in March and April with the rates of confirmed cases and fatalities lower here than most of the other major states. But it's become apparent in the last week that the Texas numbers had been artificially deflated by a lack of testing compared to the states that had been hit the hardest based on the sheer number of cases and deaths.
The rates of infections and tests tend to be a wash for most states including Texas where the number of confirmed cases has been rising with a significant recent boost in testing.
The rankings also take into account the initial odds that individual states faced at the outset of the outbreak. The states that appeared to be the biggest targets early on are those with the most people packed into the smallest amounts of space. While New Jersey is rated first in the nation in average population density, the state's eastern neighbor was destined to be the epicenter of the virus invasion in the U.S. with New York City as its anchor.
The metropolitan area includes NYC, Long Island and northern New Jersey has a population-weighted density level that's almost three times higher than the Bay Area in northern California and the swath of the state to the south that contains LA. Arizona is the only major state that ranks lower than Texas in the category that measures congestion as a gauge of the potential for devastation in the event of a pandemic like the one that's holding the world hostage now.
While New York City has been a horror show as the place that was hit the hardest without the advance warning that states in the south like Texas and Florida had, the Empire State is ranked third overall with Massachusetts and Washington in second and fourth respectively.
Washington recorded the first official COVID-19 case in the U.S. in late January before it had the first death in the country from the disease a month later. Attributed in large part to an outbreak at a nursing home in a suburb of Seattle, the state of Washington had the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita until the totals began to soar in New York midway through March.
But the state at the northwestern corner of the United States has fallen all the way to 17th in the total count of confirmed cases with the sixth most optimistic forecast for fatalities among the 15 largest states between now and August 4 based on estimates by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.
Another component in the coronavirus performance rankings is the level of support that the individual states have provided for people who are at-risk or have been infected based on a study that the personal financial web site WalletHub conducted and released late last week.
The WalletHub "data set includes factors like whether the state will offer a free coronavirus vaccine once one exists and whether it has adopted long-distance healthcare technology. It also includes metrics such as the coronavirus relief fund per capita and the share of households in poverty receiving social assistance."
The factor in the virus ratings that might be the most telling one of all is the way the voters in the largest states have graded their governors on the ways they've chosen to confront the crisis. This category is based on a poll that Harvard University conducted in a partnership with Rutgers University and Northeastern University and made public this past weekend.
The survey that gauged the voters' opinions on the government response to the coronavirus crisis in all 50 states found that more than 80 percent supported the restrictions that the leaders in their particular areas had put in place. The poll compared the approval ratings that governors and President Donald Trump received in the individual states. When the findings from all of the states were factored together, 66 percent of the voters backed the actions that the leaders of their states had taken during the pandemic compared to a show of support of only 44 percent for Trump.
Sixty-one percent of the Texas voters gave
Governor Greg Abbott a thumbs up for his handling of the virus response in Texas where the president had an approval rating of only 44 percent.
But a pair of Republican counterparts - Governors Mike DeWine of Ohio and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts scored the highest grades from voters with coronavirus response ratings of 83 percent and 80 percent respectively.
Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York had the third highest approval score among the leaders in the 15 largest states with support from 74 percent of the voters. Democratic Governors Gavin Newsom of California and Jay Inslee of Washington were next in a tie at 71 percent support each.
Newsom issued the first statewide stay-at-home order in the U.S. on March 19 after San Francisco Mayor London Breed had already locked her city down.
Baker is an anomaly as a Republican leader who's a self-styled fiscal conservative and social liberal in a state where Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 2016 by almost 30 points. Cuomo has been the most visible on the television news as the son of a former governor in the state that was slammed the hardest.
But DeWine has been around the longest as a former U.S. senator who moved faster than most of his counterparts around the nation in the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak. DeWine arguably has been the boldest and most humble of the bunch - saying that he'd gone too far with a mask order that he cancelled a few days before he called out protestors this week amid the suggestion that they'd been abusing their constitutional right to free speech with confrontational and obnoxious behavior at demonstrations.
The leader of the state that ranks dead last among the top 15 - Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia - had the second lowest coronavirus approval rating at 56 percent. Another Republican - Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida - was last at 52 percent even though his state was 13th on the list.
Texas actually tied with New Jersey in the virus performance ratings with 46 points apiece based on the cumulative score they received based on their rankings in the six separate categories. But the Garden State ended up one slot ahead with Democratic Governor Phil Murphy's 68 percent approval rating that beat Abbott by 7 in the Harvard poll as the tiebreaker.