Healthcare Economy

COVID-19: This Is the Safest County in the Safest State in America

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States just crossed 11.4 million, as new ones surge at a rate of well over 120,000 a day. The spread of the cases remains uneven. The hardest-hit parts of the nation are currently in the Plains States. In upper New England and New York, so far, the virus is much less aggressive.

In Hawaii, confirmed cases are pegged at 5.7 per 100,000 people, the lowest rate of any state in the country. The state with the highest level is North Dakota at 180.3.

Even inside the borders of Hawaii, the presence of the disease is very different from county to county. In Maui County, the figure for confirmed cases per 100,000 people is 2.1, the lowest in the state.

The County of Maui includes the islands of Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe and Molokini.

Maui County has a population of 167,417. Based on Census information, it has grown every decade since 1970, when the population was 45,984. Native Hawaiians make up 33% of the population. White Americans make up 29%, and 11% are Asian. Median household income is just above $77,000, which is above the national average. The poverty rate is less than 9%, which is below the national number.

Confirmed cases are also unusually low in one other Hawaiian county. In Kauai, which includes the islands of Kauaʻi, Niʻihau, Lehua and Kaʻula, there are 2.2 in 100,000.

One reason the confirmed case rate is low across most of the state is aggressive testing, particularly of visitors. Since people who visit the state have to test before they leave their destinations, there is a way to screen them before they even depart.

Also, mask-wearing is heavily enforced. According to Hawaii Now, University of Hawaii epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said: “I completely agree with everybody in our state government that wants to have a mandate for masking and a fine, and to try to get the people that are not masking to put them back on their heels, to do something that you can challenge them.”

The distance of the state from the U.S. mainland is a natural geographic buffer from the high infection rates in most states. Based on current practices to keep the disease in check, the low figures have a chance to stay that way.