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COVID-19 Response in the US: How Does Your State Rank?

Toby Graham /

No one was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Months after the global outbreak in March 2020, however, it’s clear that some jurisdictions have handled the situation better than others. New Zealand, for example, has beaten the disease—twice—and continues to keep new case numbers to a minimum.

The United States has fared far worse. By most accounts, our nation has had one of the least effective pandemic responses in the world. We’re no New Zealand, that’s for sure.

But perhaps it’s unfair to compare the US to a country with a fraction of our population and landmass, especially without accounting for different states. In practical terms, we’re more like 50 New Zealands, each with its own government, rules, and cultural norms. A more accurate picture of the way in which the US has handled the crisis would break things down by state, showing which ones succeeded and which faltered in terms of managing the coronavirus.

A new report from the National Safety Council’s Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) initiative does exactly that.

What is SAFER? The NSC describes it as “a multifaceted, comprehensive effort aimed at helping employers prioritize safety as they return employees to traditional work environments and schedules in a post-quarantine world.” The SAFER task force comprises businesses of all sizes as well as nonprofit organizations, legal experts, public health professionals, medical professionals, and government agency representatives, all of whom join together to make “recommendations based on best practices and proven workplace safety strategies.”

At KPA, we’re proud to be members of the SAFER task force, using our workforce health, safety, and compliance expertise to reduce COVID-19 transmission and make it safe and easy for employers to operate.

Onto the data. The State of the Response: State Actions to Address the Pandemic report shows what every state in the US has (and hasn’t) done to control the workplace spread of COVID-19 within its borders. To score each state, the NSC assessed the state’s official response against the SAFER initiative, evaluating performance in 5 key areas:

  1. Employer guidelines
  2. Testing
  3. Contact tracing
  4. Mental health and substance use
  5. Roadway safety

States were rated in each category, with possible overall scores ranging from 0–5. A score of 4.5–5 means the state is “on-track,” 3–4 means “lagging,” and anything below means “off-track.”

Sadly, only 12 states received an “on-track” rating.

You can download the full report here.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Regardless of where you do business, it’s time to get to work.

If you’re located in any of the 38 states that aren’t doing enough to reduce the spread of COVID-19, then you have to step in where your local government has fallen short. You need to take the health and safety of your employees, customers, and community into your own hands.

If you’re located in one of the “on-track” states, it’s up to you to keep your state on track. Make sure you’re meeting all of your COVID-19 response requirements and taking every possible precaution to prevent the spread of the virus.

Either way, we’re all responsible for what happens next. The steps we take now will shape our lives in 2021. We can stay where we are for the foreseeable future, or we can take a cue from New Zealand and actually beat this thing. I know which reality I want to live in.

Do your part and help the world conquer the coronavirus. Protect your people, your business, and your community with one of KPA’s COVID-19 safety programs.

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