South Dakota ranked third-worst in the world.
Both states also have the lowest rates of face mask use in the nation.
The rates are what health experts would expect in a war-torn nation — but not in the U.S., the scientists said.
“How could we allow this in the United States to happen?” Dr. Ali Mokdad, a health professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, told USA Today. “This is unacceptable.”
It’s a situation “as bad as it gets anywhere in the world,” complained Dr. William Haseltine, president of Access Health International, who blamed state leaders for failing to adopt lifesaving health measures.
North Dakota, which first hit the top of the FAS global mortality charts last month, tallied 18.2 deaths per million last week, and South Dakota had 17.4 deaths per million, according to the FAS analysis.
North Dakota finally moved last week to require masks in certain settings and imposed business restrictions. “Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said in a somber video message Friday after health care workers pushed for a mask mandate.
But South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican favorite of President Donald Trump, remains adamantly opposed to a mask mandate and frequently questions if masks are any use in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
She also welcomed mass gatherings in her state this summer, including the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the state fair — action Haseltine equated to manslaughter.
“The facts are simple: mask mandates, harsh lockdowns, massive testing and contact tracing haven’t worked — in the United States or abroad,” Noem’s spokesperson Maggie Seidel falsely insisted in an email Monday to The Associated Press. Scientists and medical and public health experts armed with actual evidence strongly disagree.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s model predicts that under current conditions, total deaths in North Dakota and South Dakota will more than double by March 1. That means more than 3,000 more people are expected to die of COVID-19 by then in the two states with a combined population of fewer than 2 million people.
As of Monday, 749 residents had died of COVID-19 in North Dakota, which has nearly 12,000 active cases. Hospitals are so overwhelmed that they’re allowed to use health care workers who are infected with COVID-19 provided they’re asymptomatic.
South Dakota reported 23 new COVID-19 deaths on Sunday after a record daily death toll of 53 the previous day, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. There are more than 18,000 active cases in the state, and, as of Monday, a total of 644 people had died.
Cases are surging across the nation. The virus has killed 1,000 Americans a day over the past week.
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