Healthcare Economy

COVID-19: This Is the Deadliest County in the Deadliest State

The spread of COVID-19 has gone from one that was regional to one that is nearly universal across America. What had been concentrated in New York then moved South and West. Cases recently spiked in the heartland states of North and South Dakota. Total confirmed cases in America have reached 19.5 million. Fatal cases have topped 338,000. Each rises at near-record paces daily.

Statistically, some areas are worse off than others. Currently, the pandemic rages in New Mexico, where the deaths per 1,000 people over the past seven days have reached 1.4. That is followed by Wyoming (1.3), Pennsylvania (1.2) and Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia (1.1).

The rate of deaths per thousand is much worse in one New Mexico county than in others. Colfax County has had 9.6 deaths per 100,000 for the past seven days. It has had 650 confirmed cases and 19 deaths. In many ways, it is like the counties that were hard hit in South and North Dakota. It is rural and sparsely populated.

Colfax County sits in the northernmost tier of New Mexico counties along the Colorado border, to the northeast of Sante Fe. The county seat is Raton. Colfax County has 11,491 residents, according to the U.S. Census. That has fallen sharply from 100 years ago when the figure was 21,550.

Most of the population (93%) is white. Native Americans are nearly 3% of the population. The median value of owner-occupied homes is $104,800, less than half the national average. The median household income of $36,302 is about half of the national number. The poverty rate is very high at 17%.

Colfax County covers 3,771 square miles, which is about 26 times the size of Detroit, geographically. However, Detroit has nearly 700,000 people.

One question the residents of Colfax must have asked themselves is whether matters will get worse. If they are like the rest of the country, the future is grim. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine has one of the most carefully followed and widely regarded COVID-19 prediction models for deaths, daily infections, testing, mask use, hospital resource use and social distancing. Its scientists forecast that 509,000 Americans will die by April 1, if Americans do not take more aggressive measures to arrest the spread of the disease.