States Vary in Vulnerability to COVID-19 Impact

Richard Franki

May 13, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

West Virginia's large elderly population and high rates of chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and COPD make it the most vulnerable state to the coronavirus, according to a new analysis.

Vulnerability to the virus "isn't just health related, though, as many people are harmed by the economic effects of the pandemic," personal finance website WalletHub said May 12.

"It's important for the U.S. to dedicate a large portion of its resources to providing medical support during the coronavirus pandemic, but we should also support people who don't have adequate housing or enough money to survive the pandemic," said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.

WalletHub graded each state on 28 measures – including share of obese adults, share of homes lacking access to basic hygienic facilities, and biggest increases in unemployment because of COVID-19 – grouped into three dimensions of vulnerability: medical (60% of the total score), housing (15%), and financial (25%).

Using those measures, Louisiana is the most vulnerable state after West Virginia, followed by Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama. All 5 states finished in the top 6 for medical vulnerability, and 4 were in the top 10 for financial vulnerability, but only 1 (Arkansas) was in the top 10 for housing vulnerability, WalletHub said.

Among the three vulnerability dimensions, West Virginia was first in medical, Hawaii (33rd overall) was first in housing, and Louisiana was first in financial. Utah is the least vulnerable state, overall, and the least vulnerable states in each dimension are, respectively, Colorado (50th overall), the District of Columbia (29th overall), and Iowa (45th overall), the report showed.

A look at the individual metrics WalletHub used shows some serious disparities:

  • New Jersey's unemployment recipiency rate of 57.2%, the highest in the country, is 6.1 times higher than North Carolina's 9.3%.

  • The highest uninsured rate, 17.4% in Texas, is 6.2 times higher than in Massachusetts, which is the lowest at 2.8%.

  • In California, the share of the homeless population that is unsheltered (71.7%) is more than 33 times higher than in North Dakota (2.2%).

"The financial damage caused by COVID-19 is leaving many Americans without the means to pay their bills and purchase necessities. … The U.S. must continue to support its financially vulnerable populations even after the virus has subsided," Ms. Gonzalez said.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com.

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