I live in Kern County, California. I was raised in Madison County, Indiana and still have family there. As the Coronavirus sweeps across the continent, my concern focuses on these two quite different counties.
Kern County is huge. It spans the mountains, desert, and Great Valley. It’s larger than Connecticut and Delaware–combined. It has a population of 900,000.
Madison County is quite different. It’s small by Western US standards with a population of only 130,000 and all of that is located on the featureless landscape of the Tipton Till Plain.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Madison County. Though Indiana recorded its first case of Covid-19 almost a week later than California, central Indiana, where Madison County is located, has become a hot spot for Covid-19 cases–and deaths.
If you go to Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 Dashboard and search for statistics on deaths from Covid-19 in the United States, Madison County is one of the counties that stand out. This is not a list you want to be on!
I stumbled upon this when researching infection rates and doubling times of the disease. (I may post an article on this topic later.) This was confirmed by Indiana news reports that cited deadly outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes near my home town.
So I’ve run the numbers comparing Kern County to Madison County. I’ve added Dauphin County, Pennsylvania to the mix because my brother lives there now and I’d lived there for a decade thirty years ago.
In short, the deaths per capita due to Covid-19 in Madison County are nearly an order of magnitude greater than those in Dauphin County and nearly two orders of magnitude greater than those in Kern County. Something is seriously wrong there.
There are nearly twice as many documented cases in Madison County per capita as there are in Dauphin County and almost four times more cases than in Kern County as well.
We don’t know how accurate the data is from county public health officials. Public health and public health data has been politicized in the United States as it was in China when the Coronavirus outbreak began. Without evidence to the contrary, we have to assume public health officials are fulfilling their duties without political interference.
There are inconsistencies in reported data from one country to the next. We do know that Great Britain is not reporting deaths from Covid-19 in the same way as continental Europe. Britain, for example, is excluding nursing home deaths from national statistics, whereas on the continent deaths in nursing homes are included. Nursing home deaths account for 50% of the Covid-19 deaths in Italy and similar amounts in Spain and France.
Again, without evidence to the contrary, we must assume consistency in reporting Covid-19 deaths in and out of nursing homes across the thousands of counties in the United States.
Madison County Indiana is reporting nursing home deaths. The bulk of the deaths in Madison County are from nursing homes. There have been as yet no similar outbreaks in Kern County.
There could also be more cases in Madison County than elsewhere because they are testing more people than others. This is true for the three counties chosen. Madison and Dauphin counties are testing comparatively the same amount. Kern County is only testing two-thirds the number of Madison County.
However, this discrepancy only affects the number of cases and not the number of deaths or deaths per capita. A death is a death as long as all deaths from Covid-19 are recorded as such.