The COVID-19 pandemic continues to blitz America. President Biden expects deaths to rise to 500,000 next month. The current grim figure is that 413,259 people have died, after rising by 8,447 yesterday. U.S. deaths currently are about 20% of the world’s total. Vaccine distribution is such that the president’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office appears to be a stretch.
The effects of the disease continue to be uneven. One measure of how fatal the disease is geographically is deaths per 100,000 people. Based on that yardstick, Arizona is the deadliest state now, with 2.50 deaths per 100,000 averaged over the past seven days. That is a traditional measure. To show how desperate the situation is, note that the next state down the list, which is Pennsylvania, has a rate of 1.54 deaths per 100,000. The state with the lowest figure is Hawaii at 0.10.
Across Arizona, one county stands out as worse than the others. Gila County has 3.44 deaths per 100,000, based on an average of the past seven days. It sits about halfway between Phoenix and the New Mexico border.
According to the U.S. Census, Gila County has 54,018 residents, which has grown only 1% over the past decade. The population is spread across 4,796 square miles, which means it is not densely populated. By contrast, Detroit has about 700,000 residents and covers only 143 square miles.
Of the population of Gila County, 62% is white and 19% is Hispanic. Native Americans make up 18% of the population. Less than 1% is Black.
The county is relatively poor. The median value of an owner-occupied home is $165,800, about $100,000 below the national average. The median household income is $43,524, over $20,000 lower than the national number. The poverty rate is 21.1%, about double the national average. There is much evidence that the disease has disproportionately affected the poor throughout America.
Over time, other counties will take the spot as the deadliest county in the deadliest state in America. In the meantime, the suffering in Gila County has to be unimaginable.