The Riskiest and Safest Places to Be in the United States On New Year’s Day

Haleakala National Park, Maui , Hawaii

By Gracie Connell on 31 December 2020
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Across the globe, record numbers of new coronavirus cases are being reported, in some cases in waves far worse than what we saw in the spring.  Indeed the numbers are enough to make one want to go into hiding, preferably somewhere without any instances of the virus.

The options for this are few, and generally are Pacific Ocean islands where the inhabitants are experiencing the benefits of having a border consisting of vast bodies of water.

At press time, the World Health Organization lists 15 countries and territories that have reported zero cases. The list includes American Samoa, Anguilla, Cook Islands, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kirbati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Pitcairn Island, Saint Helena, Samoa, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, although two countries in particular, North Korea and Turkmenistan, have drawn skepticism from the international community about the accuracy of their health data.

As is clearly evident, if you are looking for someplace to hide from the coronavirus, the options are few and you probably won’t be welcome there anyway, as they have managed to keep the virus far from their shores through complete border shutdowns.

Today, only one county in the United States, Kalawao County in Hawaii, is virus free.  The county is where the Kalaupapa settlement is located on the island of Molokai.  Perhaps somewhat ironically, the settlement dates back to 1865, when the Kingdom of Hawaii enacted a law that forced inhabitants with Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, to move there, isolated from the rest of the world by towering sea cliffs and the Pacific Ocean.

Today, out of the thousands of afflicted people who came in the ensuing years, only 12 remain and a total of 75 people live in the community, the only place in the country that remains untouched by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, epidemiologists and researchers look at the positivity rate in a given area to determine the extent to which the coronavirus is spreading.  A high test positivity rate is used by most jurisdictions as a key metric in determining whether to impose school or business closures, whether to issue stay-at-home orders, but it alone does not signify a measure of the percentage of the population that is infected or even a measure of the incidence of new cases.

What a high positivity rate also suggests is that many other cases remain undiagnosed and that additional testing should be conducted to find infected individuals before they spread the virus further.   That is why some countries, Austria and Slovakia come to mind, are testing the entire citizenry.

Still, a low positive rate does serve as a clear indication that enough tests have been administered so as to ensure that most infections have been detected and contained, thereby interrupting the chain of transmission of the virus.

Absent other barometers, however, the positivity rate will give us a good understanding of where in the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. the coronavirus is rampant and where it is being contained.

The data used in this story is current as of December 30, 2020, and provided by Johns Hopkins University, along with the number of new cases most recently reported and the number of tests conducted per thousand members of the population.



(Photo and charts; Accura Media Group)

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