The financial website Wallet Hub, as of this week, has placed Montana in the bottom 10 ranking of the safest states in the U.S. during the COVID pandemic, meaning 40 states are safer to live in than Montana during the pandemic, but also that Montana has the second highest rate of COVID hospitalizations.

Wallet Hub analyst Jill Gonzalez provided details of the statistics.

“Right now the data set includes the rate of COVID-19 transmission positive testing populations, death, as well as the share of the eligible population getting vaccinated,” said Gonzalez. “Montana ranks the 43rd overall in terms of safety, so it is in the bottom 10. And it really is that way due to two metrics. Right now, Montana has the fourth highest transmission rate in the country. And because of that, it also has the second highest hospitalization rate right now.”

Gonzalez contrasted Montana to several states in the northeast that are in the top 10 as the safest states during the pandemic.

“You see northeastern states doing the best here,” she said.  “Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York all have the highest vaccination rates in the country, and it snowballs from there. That's why we're not seeing as many positive test cases and especially not as many hospitalizations or deaths.”

Gonzalez acknowledged the fact that the Montana legislature had denied communities the opportunity to impose mask or vaccination mandates, a fact that gives other states an advantage in controlling the spread of the virus.

“Here’s what you see in the northeast or especially at the large city level,” she said. “In a lot of these states where proof of vaccination is required to get into a restaurant or bar, a concert, a lot of these bigger enclosed spaces moving into the winter, and we'll be seeing more and more of that.”

Gonzalez laid out the near future of the COVID pandemic and that recovery depends on a high percentage of vaccinations.

“Our economic recovery will not reach its full potential until the vast majority of people who are medically able to get vaccinated do so,” she said. “The more people who decline to get vaccinated, the more risk there is to public health, especially as the new Delta COVID-19 variant spreads. The safety level of the country impacts the economy because it's tied to lifting restrictions, and it's up to the population how confident people are to go out and spend money.”

The data set includes the rates of COVID-19 transmission, positive testing, hospitalizations and death, as well as the share of the eligible population getting vaccinated.

Becker’s Hospital Review has Montana with the third highest hospitalization rate.

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