The most comprehensive comparative study to date drawing conclusions about government policy and outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic was published in April by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The authors compared Covid outcomes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on three variables: economy, education and mortality. States were ranked based on a combined score of the three variables.
It is an eye-opening study that contradicts much conventional medical and media wisdom, especially during the first year of the pandemic, when tough lockdowns were seen as the best, and only, moral policy.
Utah ranked first by a considerable margin over Nebraska and Vermont. The top 10 in the ranking are smaller states, with the notable exception of Florida, which ranked sixth. Recall that Florida’s decision to open up early was derided as cruel and destructive. Governor Ron DeSantis was scorned as “Governor DeathSentence”.
The bottom 10 are dominated by states and DC that had the strictest lockdowns and were among the last to reopen schools. Their economies mostly still lag behind most others in recovering from the pandemic.
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New York, whose Governor Andrew Cuomo was an early Covid hero, ranked 49th. New Jersey placed last with a miserable performance across the board. Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t save lives, but he brutalized the economy and punished students by following teachers’ union demands for school closures.
Nevada was ranked 44th overall among states, with only six states ranked lower. The Silver State was given a “D” grade near the bottom, with Nevada ranked 48th on the death scale.
Governor Steve Sisolak’s draconian lockdown orders in March 2020 have been devastating to Nevada’s economy. In April 2020, Nevada recorded the highest unemployment rate on record – 30.5%.
Throughout 2021, Nevada unemployment was either the highest unemployment rate or the second highest in the United States. The Sisolak closures also destroyed many small “non-essential” businesses, shutting them down permanently.
A previous detailed “State Pandemic Scorecard” was published in December 2021 by Politico, the authoritative liberal-leaning political news publication. That put Nevada tied for 48th — with Mississippi — in the state’s overall COVID response rankings.
Only Wyoming ranked worse than Nevada in handling COVID issues, according to Politico’s scorecard.
The study pulled together what was known then about how states fared during the pandemic and how each state’s choices impacted its residents, businesses and schools. He grouped the information then available into four categories – health, economy, social welfare and education.
Nevada ranked 49th in the economy category, with Hawaii coming in at 50. The report noted that states that rely on tourism have been deeply affected by the pandemic.
Southern Nevada’s hospitality and casino industry has been particularly hard hit. Casinos closed in March 2020 remained closed through June 2020. Sisolak’s arbitrary capacity orders fluctuated wildly from 50% to 25%, back to 50%, making planning and compliance difficult companies.
Nevada also received low marks for education, ranked 41st, on the Politico scorecard. This result was derived from changes in each state’s pre-pandemic baseline reading and math assessments through spring 2021.
Under Sisolak’s direction, schools in Clark County remained closed for an entire school year.
The Republican nominee for Nevada governor in November is certain to seize on both the Politico scorecard from last December and the current NEBR final report to blame Sisolak for mishandling the COVID pandemic for more than two years. Both studies bolster a Covid performance case against the politically vulnerable incumbent.
A Suffolk University/Reno Gazette Journal poll taken in early April shows Sisolak with an unfavorable net rating among Nevada’s likely voters, with 42% having a favorable opinion of him and 45% an unfavorable opinion.
Sisolak could sink politically under the weight of its Covid response dossier.
Email Jim Hartman at [email protected]