America is being blitzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 13,216,679 confirmed cases, and the figure has started to rise by almost 200,000 a day. Deaths stand at 268,504, a number that is expected to rise by 2,000 a day soon. And, experts believe that figure will get much worse before a vaccine is widely distributed in spring 2021. The current spread is uneven. It has moved from the coasts and big states by population in the early spring and through much of the summer. The hardest-hit part of America has moved to the upper Midwest within the last several weeks.
The state with the most confirmed cases per 100,000, a traditional measure of the concentration of the disease within the population, is North Dakota at 135.3. The state has registered 77,238 confirmed cases and 908 deaths. North Dakota’s population is 762,062, which ranks it 48th among the states.
The hardest-hit county in North Dakota is Griggs County with 301 confirmed cases per thousand. Total confirmed cases stand at 245. One person there has died from the disease.
Griggs County sits in the central East part of the state. Its population is 2,231. It has dropped with each Decennial Census since 1930 when the population was 6,889.
Demographically, Griggs County does not look like much of the rest of the United States. Almost 100% of the population is White. As measured by ancestry, 61% were Norwegian and 37% were German. At $40,000, the median household income is more than $20,000 below the national average. About 11% of the people in Griggs County live below the poverty line, which is very similar to the national average. The county covers about 700 square miles.
One of the challenges Griggs County faces is that the state government did not really take the disease seriously. As the AP reported less than two weeks ago:
After months of resisting ordering the people of North Dakota to wear masks and limit the size of gatherings, the state’s Republican governor relented in an effort to stem a coronavirus surge that is among the worst in the U.S. and that threatens to overwhelm the state’s hospitals.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order Friday night came as a surprise and only hours before the state recorded new daily records for hospitalizations and infections. Throughout the pandemic, the former software executive had been leaving it to individuals to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread of the virus, beseeching the public during his weekly press briefings to wear masks but emphasizing a “light touch” by government.
That “light touch” has been costly, in terms of infections and lives.