America has posted 7,553,392 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, based on the Bing COVID-19 tracker, the highest figure in the world. The number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths, at 213,462, also leads the world. One state has, by far, the lowest number of confirmed cases in the nation. Vermont’s total is 1,827.
Vermont trails the second largest state based on confirmed cases by a wide margin. Ranked number two in confirmed cases is Maine with 5,604. Just above this, Wyoming has 6,770. New Hampshire has 8,731.
State population is part of the reason for low confirmed case counts, although it does not account for the gulf between Vermont and Maine. Maine’s case count is three times Vermont’s.
Vermont is the second smallest state by population at 623,989, behind Wyoming’s 578,759. Alaska’s count is 731,454, and it ranks fifth in confirmed case counts at 9,861. North Dakota’s population is the next smallest at 762,062. It ranks 10th in confirmed case counts at 24,861. South Dakota’s is 884,659, which puts it next on the population list. It ranks 12th based on confirmed cases at 25,906. Maine’s population ranks 42nd at 1,344,212.
The proximity of people to one another should play a role. In Vermont’s case, it is at a disadvantage over most states with low case counts. It ranks 38th in population density with 68 people per square mile. Maine ranks 38th at 43 people per square mile. Wyoming’s population per square mile is 49th in the country at just six per mile. New Hampshire ranks 21st at 147.
Vermont is in a cluster of states with low confirmed cases. These include Maine and New Hampshire. However, Massachusetts, to its south, was one of the hardest-hit states early in the spread of COVID-19. It still ranks 21st by confirmed case count at 136,492.
Most experts attribute the low case count in Vermont to state policies and local habits. Vermont was early to shut down and slow and deliberate in its reopening. Contract tracing was very aggressive. So was the extent to which it closed its borders to other states.
So, the lesson of Vermont is probably public policy as much as population size or population density.