North Dakota Has the World’s Highest COVID-19 Mortality Rate

Data from the Federation of American Scientists uncovered a grim and stunning statistic on Wednesday: North Dakota has not only the highest COVID-19 mortality rate of any state in the country; it has the highest COVID mortality rate in the world.

Currently, North Dakota has a rate of 18.2 COVID deaths per million people. South Dakota, which has a rate of 17.4 deaths per million, has the third highest in the world. Both states have the lowest facemask rates of any state in the country. Experts said these are mortality rates more akin to a country in the throes of war than the United States.

“How could we allow this in the United States to happen?” Dr. Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington in Seattle health professor, told USA Today. “This is unacceptable.”

Last week, North Dakota has moved to require facemasks in some settings. “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” Republican Governor Doug Burgum told North Dakotans in a video message. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has refused to mandate masks and even questioned their effectiveness.

As of Monday, 775 North Dakotans had died of COVID-19 while the state grapples with about 12,000 active cases. Hospitals in North Dakota are so overloaded that healthcare workers who’ve been infected with the virus are still allowed to come into work as long as they’re asymptomatic.

In South Dakota, 644 people have died of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, while there are a little over 18,000 active cases.

The U.S. remains in the pandemic’s grip as the current surge has brought a swift halt to many state’s cautious attempts to re-open. Promising vaccine developments have heartened healthcare officials who now have reason to hope that the end may be in sight, though even if the new vaccines clear final FDA tests it will be months before they are widely available.

In the meantime, the virus rages on. It took the U.S. 127 days to hit its first million COVID cases. It took only 44 to get to the second million. It took ten days to get the tenth million — and just a week to reach twelve million.

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