States with least restrictions now have worst outbreaks: NYT

States with least restrictions now have worst outbreaks: NYT
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States that imposed the least coronavirus restrictions tend to have worse outbreaks, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the University of Oxford.

The analysis plots new cases against an Oxford index of how strict an area’s restrictions are.

South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa, for example, have the fewest restrictions and the most per capita cases. Maine, New York and Hawaii, on the other hand, have more restrictions and fewer cases per capita.


Governors in Iowa and North Dakota had long resisted imposing a mask mandate, and only did so in recent days as the outbreaks continued to get worse and worse. Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemMembers of law enforcement sue to halt marijuana legalization in South Dakota Thanksgiving gatherings could inflame COVID-19 crisis More GOP governors embrace mask mandates, but holdouts remain MORE (R) in South Dakota still has not imposed a mask mandate, amid one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

The correlation is not perfect. Outbreaks are now worsening almost everywhere in the United States, across a wide range of varying policies. New Mexico, for example, stands out for having a bad outbreak amid tougher restrictions. 

There is evidence, though, that restrictions help turn the situation around. Over the summer, Texas, Arizona and Florida, facing worsening outbreaks, closed their bars, a move seen as helping lead to the case counts then lowering.

And after some European countries recently imposed lockdowns again, new cases are now dropping there. 

President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE has called for evidence-based national guidelines for when businesses should open or close depending on the level of infection in the area, as opposed to the piecemeal approach that has governed the U.S. so far.

“States that have kept more control policies in a more consistent way — New England states, for example — have avoided a summer surge and are now having a smaller fall surge, as opposed to states that rolled them back very quickly like Florida or Texas,” Thomas Hale, an Oxford researcher leading the tracking effort, told The New York Times. “I think timing really matters for the decisions.”