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Comparing Minnesota’s COVID-19 death rate to rest of the country and the world

Minnesota is in the middle of the pack for U.S. states overall, though in the last week it has had one of the highest death rates.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, East Coast states top the list for the highest death rates due to COVID-19 at this point in the pandemic as of Tuesday.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, East Coast states top the list for the highest death rates due to COVID-19 at this point in the pandemic as of Tuesday.
REUTERS/Daniel Acker

Minnesota is roughly a quarter the size of Australia, population-wise. Yet our little Midwestern state has seen more than three times the number of COVID-19 deaths that country has.

Of course, different places have taken different measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many parts of island Australia have taken strict lockdown measures to contain the virus, while the U.S., with mostly lax restrictions, has accounted for a disproportionate number of cases and deaths with potentially no end, except a vaccine, in sight.

But three times as many deaths in a state with one-fourth the population? In Minnesota? Those numbers surprised us, and they got us thinking: how does Minnesota compare to other places, whether U.S. states or foreign countries, when it comes to COVID-19’s toll.

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Minnesota versus the U.S.

Just as Minnesota falls in the middle when it comes down to the intensity of lockdown measures, it’s also in the middle among states in the U.S. where COVID-19 deaths are concerned, ranking 28th among U.S. states and the District of Columbia, with 65 deaths per 100,000 residents.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, East Coast states top the list for the highest death rates due to COVID-19 at this point in the pandemic as of Tuesday. New Jersey has the highest COVID-19 death rate at this point in the pandemic, with 190 deaths per 100,000 residents, New York, with 176 deaths per 100,000 residents, and Massachusetts, with 155 deaths per 100,000 residents.

COVID-19 deaths since January per 100,000 people for select U.S. states
Source: Centers for Disease Control

New York City, the country’s first major COVID-19 hotspot, has had a whopping 289 deaths per 100,000 residents since the beginning of the pandemic.

While nowhere close to the states with the highest death tolls, the Dakotas are up there in terms of COVID-19 deaths. North Dakota ranks 8th, with 125 deaths per 100,000 residents, while South Dakota ranks 9th, with 107 deaths per 100,000 residents.

In the last seven days, South and North Dakota have topped the nation in per-capita deaths, ranking first and second, respectively (Minnesota is 10th in deaths in the past week).

Other neighboring states are closer to Minnesota. Iowa has seen 76 deaths per 100,000 residents, while Wisconsin has seen 60 deaths per 100,000 residents.

U.S. states with the highest COVID-19 death rates in past seven days
Source: Centers for Disease Control

Faring better in COVID-19 death rates are Vermont, with the lowest death rate per capita at 11 deaths per 100,000 people, Maine, with 15 deaths per 100,000 people, and Alaska, with 16 deaths per 100,000 people.

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Minnesota vs. the world

What about the rest of the world?

With the major caveat that different countries have different reporting systems (and some aren’t really reporting at all), Belgium, the European Union’s capital, actually has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world, at 147 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That rate is really high (though smaller than New Jersey’s), but it might not be as high as it seems. Part of Belgium’s high death toll is due to the way the country tracks COVID-19 deaths: It reports any mortality suspected to be tied to COVID-19 whether the person was tested or not, according to the Brussels Times. It’s also been attributed to the country’s political strife: before October, political divisions kept the country from forming a national government for 19 months, and regional lockdown patterns formed a patchwork of pandemic restrictions.

COVID-19 deaths since January per 100,000 people for select countries
Note: Different countries have different systems for reporting COVID-19 deaths, so data may be inconsistent.
Source: Johns Hopkins University

San Marino, the tiny country surrounded by early coronavirus hotspot Northern Italy, has had the second highest mortality, at 136 deaths per 100,000 residents, followed by Peru, (112 per 100,000), Andorra, Spain and Italy, all with deaths in the range of 90 per 100,000 residents.

The United States ranks 12th, with 82 deaths per 100,000 residents, and if Minnesota was a country, it would rank 26th, just ahead of Bulgaria.

New Zealand, South Korea, and Sri Lanka have seen an average of 1 death per 100,000 residents due to COVID-19, while Thailand, Tanzania, Rwanda, which was the first African country to implement a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, Vietnam, China and Taiwan have seen an average of zero deaths per 100,000 residents.