Published: May 19, 2020

As is common knowledge at this point, seniors face a heightened risk of serious complications from COVID-19, including death. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 deaths in the United States have been in adults that are 65 or older. That’s why Caring.com completed a study meant to shed light on which states are most effective at both slowing the spread of COVID-19 and treating those with the virus. 

To that end, Caring.com’s team of researchers developed a ranking of all 50 states based on 11 metrics organized into two main categories: Social Distancing Aggressiveness and Preparedness & Prevention. For more on the sources for each data point, the individual metrics that were used, and our scoring process, read the section on our methodology below. 

What we found is that Hawaii, Montana, and Vermont placed in the top three, with Maine and California rounding out the top five. Read on for a recap of our key findings, and to see how your state scored.

Key Findings

Overall, Caring.com’s study revealed that Hawaii, Montana and Vermont are the three best states for seniors during COVID-19. Each of these states ranked in the top 10 for both Social Distancing Aggressiveness and Preparedness and Prevention. Below you can see how your state stacks up.

Overall Rank


State


Overall Score


Social Distancing Rank


Preparedness & Prevention Rank


1


Hawaii


43.35


1


5


2


Montana


41.88


8


3


3


Vermont


38.55


5


6


4


Maine


34.88


28


2


5


California


32.93


7


23


6


Alaska


32.68


37


1


7


Texas


32.20


11


19


8


Nevada


30.63


6


32


9


South Dakota


30.60


25


7


10


New Mexico


29.95


17


16


11


Wyoming


29.63


35


4


12


New Hampshire


29.55


22


12


13


Michigan


29.45


9


31


14


Oregon


29.40


26


11


15


New York


28.78


2


43


16


North Dakota


28.38


24


13


17


Florida


28.18


3


46


18


Arizona


26.98


18


26


19


Minnesota


26.95


29


15


20


Massachusetts


26.83


9


39


21


Pennsylvania


26.18


14


33


22


Idaho


25.80


39


10


23


Oklahoma


25.53


40


9


24


West Virginia


25.43


43


7


25


New Jersey


25.08


4


49


26


Colorado


24.85


13


43


27


South Carolina


24.83


31


21


28


Missouri


24.75


35


14


29


Rhode Island


23.93


15


35


30


Wisconsin


23.80


33


22


31


Washington


23.48


12


48


32


Illinois


23.00


21


36


33


Louisiana


22.68


16


45


34


Utah


21.93


32


29


35


Maryland


21.58


19


47


36


Kansas


21.38


46


17


37


North Carolina


21.28


34


30


38


Delaware


20.90


23


42


39


Arkansas


20.53


48


18


40


Georgia


20.48


27


37


41


Tennessee


19.98


44


24


42


Iowa


19.53


45


25


43


Virginia


19.10


30


40


44


Nebraska


18.90


50


19


45


Alabama


17.80


47


28


46


Kentucky


17.63


49


27


47


Connecticut


17.55


20


50


48


Ohio


17.23


38


37


49


Mississippi


16.78


41


34


50


Indiana


15.55


42


41


#1: Hawaii

Possibly due to the fact that most if not all tourism has halted in the state, Google’s mobility data revealed that residents of Hawaii have done a great job at “staying home” during this pandemic. In Hawaii, more than almost all other states, workplace-related travel has decreased significantly (a change of 47%). 

Hawaii has experienced some of the lowest infection and death rates from COVID-19 in the nation (per capita). This may in part be due to the state’s success in social distancing and the isolation of the islands. 

#2: Montana 

Montana is one of the least densely populated states in the nation, so it’s no surprise that COVID-19’s person-to-person spread has gained a relatively small hold in the state. Montana has one of the lowest effective reproduction rates for the coronavirus, and it has some of the lowest infection and death rates per capita.  

Montana’s population has also very aggressively socially distanced themselves according to Google’s mobility data. Residents of the state have been especially careful of retail shopping trips and recreational activities. 

#3: Vermont

Unlike Montana, Vermont has a fairly high population density (30th most in the nation). However, the state has done well with both aggressive social distancing and the preparedness and prevention for COVID-19. Retail and recreation trips have some of the most dramatic decreases in the nation according to Google’s data, along with the fact that 44% fewer workplace-related trips have been reported. 

While infection rates are fairly high per-capita (in the top 20 nationwide), death rates are comparatively low – Vermont ranks in the top 10 for fewest deaths per capita. This may be partially due to the fact that the state has a robust medical system, with some of the highest numbers of primary doctors and hospitals per capita in the U.S.

Methodology 

The Best States for Seniors During COVID-19 study uses 11 metrics across 2 main categories, grading all 50 states on how effective they’ve been at slowing and treating COVID-19. Caring.com’s team of researchers spent numerous hours gathering these data points, developing a system of grading and ranking each metric, and then weighting each based on overall importance. 

Note: The data used in this study is from February, March, and April of 2020.

Social Distancing Aggressiveness

While almost every state has put stay-at-home orders into place, how aggressive they are and how thoroughly they are followed varies from state to state. One way to measure this is Google’s mobility data which it has made available to the public in a report that measures activity from February 29th to April 11th. 

This data shows overall mobility changes in a state’s population from a baseline established prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Google uses the same methods to capture this data as it uses to “popular times” at businesses, and it is based on users who voluntarily have their location history set to “on.” Google takes steps to preserve the privacy of its users. 

Social Distancing Aggressiveness is one of the two main categories of metrics used in this study, and it was given a weight of 1.0. It is made up of six metrics, which you can read about in more depth below. 

  • Retail and Recreation: This metric measures the mobility trends for retail and recreation travel, such as trips to places like restaurants, libraries, movie theaters, shopping centers, cafes, and more. In the U.S. as a whole, there was a 45% decrease between February 29th and April 11th. This metric was given a weight of 2.0 since much of this travel is non-essential. 
  • Grocery and Pharmacy: Farmers markets, grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, and similar stores were all included in this metric. As expected, the decrease was small (only 7%) since this is considered “essential” travel and not covered under the stay-at-home orders. This metric was only given a weight of 1.0 since it is typically essential travel and hasn’t seen much of a change from the baseline. 
  • Parks: Not just limited to city parks, this metric includes national and state parks, public beaches, marinas, dog parks, and public gardens. Between February 29th and April 11th, there was a decrease of 16% in park-related travel. The parks metric was assigned a weight of 1.5 since it’s considered “non-essential travel,” but doesn’t have as high of a risk as retail and recreation travel. 
  • Transit Stations: This metric measures travel to and from public transit hubs, such as bus stations, subway stations, and light rail stations. Mobility trends show a decrease of 49% from the baseline, which is the largest decrease for the nation as a whole. Because not all states are equally impacted by a decrease in transit-related travel, this metric was only given a weight of 1.0. 
  • Workplaces: The travel to and from places of work is another key metric that shows how well states’ populations are adhering to the social distancing guidelines given by state and local authorities. Overall, workplace travel has decreased by 28% in the nation. Since this not only impacts the risk to workers, but also to any members of the general public that interact with them at their place of business, this metric was given a weight of 2.0. 
  • Residential: Indicating the people spend much more time at home, residential mobility is the only metric that has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a national increase of 14% in residential mobility trends. This metric was given a weight of 1.0. 

Preparedness and Prevention

This category measures how equipped states are to treat COVID-19 along with how effective preventative measures have proven to be. Sources for the data points used for the five metrics in this category is the data provided by the CDC, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), and rt.live. 

  • COVID-19 Effective Reproduction Rate: This metric is based on data from rt.live, a project that takes the COVID-19 data from each state and estimates the effective reproduction rate of COVID-19 in that area using a model known as Rt. This project was started by the founder and former CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom. Since it uses data to predict how quickly the virus will spread, it’s of primary importance in understanding the current and future safety for different states and areas in the nation, that’s why we gave it a weight of 2.0. 
  • COVID-19 Infection Rates: This metric calculates the number of infections per capita in each state, and is based on the data provided by the CDC. As another primary indicator of safety in each state, this metric was also weighted at 2.0.
  • COVID-19 Death Rates: Similarly to the infection rates metric, this data was taken from the CDC and is also calculated based on population (per capita). It was also given a weight of 2.0. 
  • Hospitals Per Capita: One of the key dangers of COVID-19 is that it is a novel (new) virus, so the lack of immunity and quick spread could easily cause a state’s healthcare system to become overloaded, drastically increasing the death rate, as was seen in places like Italy. To factor that into our study, this metric is focused on the number of hospitals per capita in each state, based on data provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). This metric was given a weight of 1.0. 
  • Primary Care Doctors Per Capita: Similarly to the hospitals per capita metric, the number of primary care doctors per capita was also factored into this study, and was based on data provided by KFF. This metric was also given a weight of 1.0.