By Michael Kinney
As the United States continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, the national government has pretty much had a hands-off approach when it comes to putting restrictions in place. That has left it up to individual states to decide how best to combat the coronavirus pandemic and still keep the economy moving.
Because every state is different, it can be hard to compare who is doing a better job of handling the reopening phase that the country is still in. However, WalletHub.com tried to do just that.
WalletHub, a personal-finance website, recently released its rankings for the states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions and Oklahoma came in at No. 3 with the third-fewest restrictions in the country when it come to combating the pandemic.
Oklahoma posted an overall score of 71.78, which put them just ahead of No. 4 Utah (68.64) and No. 5 Iowa (66.89).
Scores were determined by the weighted average across all metrics to calculate an overall score for each state and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
South Dakota leads the way with the fewest restrictions by a large margin with a total score of 86.95. Wisconsin is a distant second with 75.09 total score.
“South Dakota ranks as the state with the fewest coronavirus restrictions in part because it does not require or recommend working from home and it does not currently have penalties or enforcement for non-compliance with COVID-19 legislation,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “South Dakota does not currently have any restrictions on large gatherings, and it is the only state that didn’t require restaurants to close during the pandemic.”
On the other end of the spectrum, California has the most coronavirus restrictions. The state earned a 15.54 score, which ranked them No. 51. New Jersey (27.15) and Pennsylvania (27.51) were far behind at No. 50 and No. 49 respectively.
In order to identify which states have the fewest coronavirus restrictions, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 18 key metrics. The data set ranges from whether the state has any penalties for non-compliance with COVID-19 legislation to whether the state has required face masks in public and health checks at restaurants. (1=fewest, 25=avg., 51=most)
Oklahoma’s highest ranking came in the category of reopening of non-essential businesses. Their rank of No. 23 put them just below average.
“The ranking means that certain non-essential businesses opened or have been reopened with reduced capacity,” Gonzalez said. “This will clearly have a positive impact on the state’s business sector, especially for hospitality and entertainment businesses.”
While Oklahoma was No. 3 overall, they did take the top spot in several different metrics. That included working from home requirements.
“The metric basically means that the state doesn’t require or even recommend working from home. I think this has more to do with the fact that Oklahoma has a fairly low COVID-19 death rate,” Gonzalez said. “It’s difficult to tell what criteria authorities used when imposing restrictions. It is possible they may have also taken into account the fact that the state’s main industries, like biotechnology or energy, are not fit for working from home situations.”
When it comes to the fewest requirements to wear face masks, once again Oklahoma is No. 1. Even though a few cities around the state have made face coverings in buildings mandatory, that was not enough to push Oklahoma off the top spot.
“Oklahoma’s ranking for this metric takes into account the fact that there is no state action on public face coverings,” Gonzalez said. “The report refers strictly to state level data, and does not analyze the policies of each city within the state.”
Oklahoma was also No. 1 in workplace temperature screening, reopening of child-care programs and travel restrictions. They were also No. 2 in large gathering restrictions, according to WalletHub.
This is the sixth time WalletHub has put together these rankings since early May. On June 9, Oklahoma was ranked No. 34 overall, which meant they were well above average with some of the most restrictions in the country.
But since then, it has been a drastic decline for Oklahoma. Its past three rankings were No. 9. No. 5 and now No. 3.
“There are several things that caused this drop,” Gonzalez said. “Travel restrictions have been lifted since then, as well as large gatherings restrictions. Oklahoma also fully reopened bars and lifted all stay-at-home restrictions.”
Each of the top three states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions, also have some of the lowest death rate numbers in the country. That includes Oklahoma, whose death rate toll is ranked No. 15.
“These states, along with others, such as Wyoming and North Dakota, have loosened or lifted restrictions because they had low death rates,” Gonzalez said. “It basically means that all the social distancing measures that were imposed by authorities were successful in flattening the curve of infection.”
However, the recent spikes in the coronavirus across the country may have shown that some states may have lifted their restrictions too soon.
“States with spikes in COVID-19 deaths should pause their reopening as well as make sure extra preventative measures are in place, like mandatory mask wearing and temperature checks at workplaces and busy transit hubs. Some states, such as Texas and Arizona, have already paused their reopening yet don’t require masks in public,” said Gonzalez. “It may be necessary to reinstitute lockdowns in some places at a micro level, in small communities that are experiencing especially high death and hospitalization rates.”
Story & Photo by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media