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Website scores Hawaii low on COVID-19 preparation

A report produced by finance website Wallethub has assessed Hawaii’s response and preparedness for the COVID-19 virus as 45th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., using 35 data points that include health care spending, health insurance coverage and how many people have chronic health issues — areas where Hawaii scored well. But Hawaii lost points because of its dependence on the tourism industry, scoring at the bottom alongside Nevada.

The report rated states based on which are the most aggressive against the coronavirus. At the top spot is Rhode Island, followed by Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Washington. The bottom five include Oklahoma, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi and Wyoming.

The report came out Tuesday before Gov. David Ige announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine of residents and visitors arriving after Thursday and mayors on Oahu and Maui announced stay-at-home, work-at-home orders.

Sources included the National Governors Association, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control, among others. Data was scored across three dimensions: prevention and containment, with a total score of 60 points; and risk factors and infrastructure and economic impact, with 20 points each.

Prevention and containment ranked data points that included tested cases for COVID-19 and share of confirmed over tested cases, total public health emergency spending per capita, emergency centers and services per capita, activation of the National Guard, epidemiology workforce per capita, paid sick leave, bans on gatherings, closed bars and restaurants, and statewide curfews, among other metrics.

Hawaii was among the five worst for death rates from influenza and pneumonia. The state scored among the top five with the lowest share of at-risk and chronically ill, highest public health care spending per capita and lowest population without health insurance. Other metrics included life expectancy, poverty rate, hospital beds per capita, communication infrastructure and food insecurity.

For economic impact, factors included wage and salary workers paid at hourly rates, the ratio of part-time to full-time workers, and states that have enacted budget legislation in response to the virus. However, Hawaii lost points, scoring at the bottom in a tie at 49th with Nevada, for the highest share of GDP coming from accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation, and public transportation. The state tied Nevada at 50th with the highest share of workforce in those areas.

Wyoming was rated the least aggressive because it has administered relatively few tests and has not closed schools or bars and restaurants, according to WebHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. Rhode Island scored as the most aggressive because it has closed schools, bars and restaurants; restricted travel; and administered the most tests, she said.

“Aggressiveness in combating the coronavirus is not all about recent actions,” said Gonzalez. “For example, Rhode Island has the infrastructure to handle this type of pandemic in large part because of its relatively high funding for public health programs and its high number of health care facilities.”

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