UTAH (ABC4) – It’s been two years since COVID-19 found its way to the United States, forcing states and policymakers to create their own pandemic guidelines that would help mitigate the damage from the virus. A new study analyzed how pandemic health, economy, and policy varied across all 50 states — the findings may appear quite shocking for some.

One of the most compelling discoveries of the study, which is an updated version of an October 2020 report card, suggests that the states that withdrew the most from economic activity did not significantly improve health by doing so.

(Courtesy: NBER)

Economy

This finding contradicts the popular belief used for the past two years that sacrificing income, daily routines, and normal freedoms would significantly reduce the burden of COVID. It turns out that there is zero correlation between health and economy scores — ultimately suggesting that states that withdrew the most from economic activity did not significantly improve health.

Several other studies have found few health benefits of closing schools or businesses. One particular study found, cited by the researchers of this study, stated that “lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average.”

Researchers found that in-person workplaces were often safer, in terms of COVID transmission per person per hour, than households were due to the additional prevention efforts made in workplaces. Researchers said several other studies have found that efforts to reduce COVID mortality had costly unintended consequences.

When it came to the three categories of mortality, economy, and schooling, New Jersey, New York, and California were among the worst across all three categories.

The states that were leaders in all three categories were Utah, Nebraska, and Vermont.

The states that ranked closer to a combined score of 3.39 had the best State Pandemic Performance

Unemployment

When researchers engaged an unemployment metric, Hawaii and Nevada ranked at the bottom because of the overwhelming impact the global shutdown of tourism had on them.

Energy-heavy states similarly had disproportionate unemployment rises with the collapse of global demand.

Education

School closures are believed by researchers to prove to be the most costly policy decision of the pandemic era in both economic and mortality terms. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that learning losses from pandemic era school closures could cause a 3% decline in lifetime earnings — and that loss of just one-third of a year of learning has a long-term economic impact of $14 trillion. An analysis from the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that life expectancy for high school graduates is four to six years longer than high school dropouts.

(Courtesy: NBER)

There was a strong relationship between the states that had poor economic performance and closed schools — the lockdown states.

(Courtesy: NBER)

Mortality

When it came to deaths, there was no clear pattern in which states had high and low mortality researchers found.

Researchers applied an age adjustment to the number of observed deaths in each group to bring the numbers in line with the standard U.S. population. The adjustment was applied due to the fact that COVID infection mortality risk is extremely age-related — 8700 times higher in people 85 years or older than those aged 5-17.

(Courtesy: NBER)

Overall pandemic mortality was greater in states where obesity, diabetes, and old age were more prevalent before the pandemic. Although sometimes criticized as having policies that were “too open,” Florida proved to have average mortality while maintaining a high level of economic activity and by keeping 96 percent of its schools open.