COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of all of our lives, but one thing keeps jumping out in my mind while watching regional, national and international news coverage on the outbreak - I am so incredibly glad I am not an American right now.
Right now, living in the United States means putting yourself at a far higher risk of all manner of ills and bad fates, including COVID-19.
Let’s do some experiments here with math, by looking at the two provinces we cover here - Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As of April 20, both provinces have encouraged social distancing and other measures to keep people safe. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe seems more gung-ho on the idea of getting the economy back going than others, but both Moe and his Manitoba counterpart Brian Pallister seem to be cautious.
Manitoba has, as of April 20, 253 reported cases of COVID-19. Most of the people who have been reported to have the disease - 143 people, to be exact - have recovered from it. Five people have died.
Across the border, Saskatchewan has had 315 cases reported and four deaths due to COVID-19.
Let’s contrast that with how our southern neighbours - North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana - are handling things. Compared to Canadian jurisdictions, it isn’t close.
North Dakota, a state with barely half the population of Manitoba or Saskatchewan, has more cases than both the provinces combined - 585 in total on April 20. Nine people have died, as many as Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined.
South Dakota has around 890,000 people living there, once again far less than both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Accessing up-to-date COVID-19 numbers for the state was a bit of a bother since the state’s own Department of Health website doesn’t appear to be working - which right now is a major problem in and of itself - but I got some.
South Dakota has reported 1,542 cases of COVID-19. Seven people have died there so far.
Take the number of Saskatchewan and Manitoba cases - keeping in mind that in doing so, we’re talking about more than 2.5 million people now - then double it. You’re still more than 400 cases short of a state with barely a third the population.
In Montana, a state with barely a million people, the case number still outpaces both provinces despite having fewer people to infect. In total, 433 Montanans have gotten COVID-19 and 10 have died. Once again, those numbers don’t hold up to either of the prairie provinces.
Minnesota isn’t doing too hot, either. A state with 5.6 million people, according to most recent numbers, has 2,356 cases. If you average that down to a per capita number, Minnesota would have almost twice as many cases as Manitoba. One hundred and thirty-four people there have died from COVID-19. The number of cases and deaths are still climbing, while Manitoba and Saskatchewan numbers are beginning to slow down already.
In South Dakota right now, one out of every 574 people has COVID-19. In North Dakota, it’s one in 1,443. In Minnesota, it’s one in 2,393 people, while it’s one in 2,466 in Montana. Manitoba’s case load is one in 5,444. Saskatchewan’s is one in 3,751.
Also, note that the states with Republican governors - North and South Dakota - have the highest illness rates in our group. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
Another example is how Detroit and Windsor, Ont. are handling the crisis. The two towns are directly across the Detroit River from each other - since they’re so close, you’d figure they’d be similar, right?
Detroit has around 3.7 million people and the health region that covers Windsor, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, covers about a tenth of that - basically, take Windsor’s population and multiply it by 10 for a more direct comparison.
The City of Detroit Health Department is reporting 7,605 cases in the city alone during this outbreak. Cases have been reported in every district of the city. Six hundred and five people have died.
Let’s look at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, the health region that covers Windsor and outlying communities. How many cases do they have? 482. How many deaths? 27.
Take those numbers, times them by 10 each and they still aren’t close. Barely two-thirds the number of cases have been reported in Windsor. Less than half the deaths than there are across the river.
Something awful is happening on American soil.
Look at how our leaders are approaching this. Our Prime Minister continues to hold a hard line on keeping people from getting sick. The President of the United States has tweeted support for protestors arguing they should be getting back to work now, even though almost every single state is still reporting more cases of COVID-19 and few have even approached flattening the curve.
He's told people about the benefits of a medicine to fight COVID-19 that is not approved by his country's own medical establishment or the Food and Drug Administration. People have died because they took the President's poorly informed advice. It's a relief then that he decided in a later press conference, after some states publicly reported an increase in calls to poison control hotlines, that it was all just a joke.
Just under 3,000 Americans died on 9-11. On Monday, almost 40,000 Americans had died from COVID-19. By the weekend, it was more than 52,000 deaths. The number keeps growing. But hey, at least the President got jokes.
This is far from the time to go back to work. There’s still blood in the streets. You can work later. Let’s try not to kill everybody right now.
Call down our guy all you want, but you have to admit - we’d be in a much more dangerous situation if we were Americans right now.
Add to that a health care system that, while it has its warts, is not nearly as rough as the for-profit, insurance salesman wet dream bureaucratic nightmare that is American health and a healthy financial relief package for people who are either out of work or who can’t run their businesses and all the old favourites - a deep reduction in violence, increase life expectancies, institutions that actually work - and the choice is clear.
I may not always be proud to be Canadian, but I’m damn sure proud I’m not American. We can take care of our own. Our southern neighbours seem to have lost that touch.