WASHINGTON — The Omicron variant is making many people rethink how safe they are depending on where they live. With more than six in 10 Americans now vaccinated against COVID-19, a new survey examined the safest states to live in during the ongoing pandemic. Surprisingly, researchers find the safest place to avoid the virus isn’t even a state — it’s Washington, D.C.
The WalletHub study measured five key metrics of health and safety, including COVID transmission rates, the rate of positive tests, COVID hospitalizations and deaths, and the portion of state residents receiving the coronavirus vaccine. That data ranks the nation’s capital as the safest place to live, strictly in terms of COVID-19 prevention.
Also making the top five in 2021 are California, Hawaii, and Maryland. Although some might connect pandemic safety in these areas with strict local policies and mandates (which Republican-led states largely oppose), the number five safest state during COVID may surprise many people. Florida, a state which continues to push back on vaccine mandates and face mask guidance, actually rates as one of the safest places to live currently.
Moreover, the Sunshine State actually finished seven spots higher than New York (12th place), where Democratic leaders recently enacted some of nation’s strictest rules regarding pandemic health protocols.
Rounding out the top 10 safest places include other east coast states, including Connecticut (6th), Vermont (7th), Massachusetts (8th), Rhode Island (9th), and New Jersey (10th).
Will COVID safety lead to holiday spending?
As the holiday season approaches, WalletHub researchers add that the more people feel safe from the virus, the more the economy will likely benefit and return to a level of normalcy.
“The safer people feel during the winter holidays, the more they will spend on gatherings and associated seasonal travel. However, the spike in breakthrough COVID cases paired with the omicron variant might make people feel less safe,” explains WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez in a statement to StudyFinds. “Companies and individuals alike are starting to become more cautious again, which can impact the return to normality that the economy has gotten used to.”
With COVID variants spreading worldwide, holiday travel has also become a major issue. With 61 percent of Americans now fully vaccinated, however, fewer bans on travel may also help businesses stay afloat during this critical time of the financial year.
“Opening the U.S. to international travelers will do wonders for the economy, too. The tourism industry has been struggling during the pandemic, and we should see a spike in revenue, which will allow the industry to expand its hiring. European tourists will have an especially big impact, as they tend to be some of the highest spenders per capita,” Gonzalez adds.
Vaccinations rank as the biggest difference-maker
Researchers note that two factors in their study were weighted more heavily than the others — those being a state’s COVID death rate and their vaccination rate. The team put double the importance on how many people have received the COVID-19 vaccine and triple the importance on how many have died from coronavirus.
With that in mind, the results pushed certain states further into the “unsafe” zone due to fewer residents being vaccinated. For example, Alabama ranks 15th in the study, despite boasting one of the nation’s best records in terms of preventing COVID deaths.
“Despite having the lowest death rate in the nation in the past week, at less than one per million, Alabama ranks as the 6th lowest when it comes to the share of the population age 12 and over who have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” Gonzalez tells StudyFinds. “Increasing the number of people vaccinated is essential for getting control of the pandemic.”
Safest States During COVID:
- District of Columbia
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
- South Dakota
- North Dakota