Many of the states best prepared to face the second wave of coronavirus infections, such as New York and California, are also the states where residents are acting most responsibly to prevent coronavirus infections. This is especially important because as the summer progresses, we’re seeing the first wave of infections ramp up, not fall, in many places across the United States.
Public health authorities — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine — have confirmed that when people consistently wear masks in public places or stay at home, new COVID-19 infection rates decrease. And yet, many folks across the United States have taken issue with mandates when it comes to facial coverings and sheltering in place.
All this data led us to wonder: Where are people being the most and least personally responsible for preventing the spread of COVID-19? To rank the 10 best and worst states for resident responsibility during the coronavirus crisis, we compared the adoption of face coverings, the percentage of people sheltering in place, and the number of administered coronavirus tests.
YouGov recently released data on the percentage of American adults in each state who say they wear a face mask when in public. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) is tracking the average number of people staying at home instead of venturing into public. The number of coronavirus tests per 100,000 residents is pulled from data provided by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Whenever possible, sheltering in place is the most effective form of coronavirus prevention. When venturing out in public, we know that masks are 100 percent ineffective if they are not worn, and that proper mask usage helps protect everyone.
That’s why we’re ranking coronavirus responsible behaviors by state. In this article, we’ll also discuss other health-related behaviors that can decrease your likelihood of coronavirus infection or fatality, including methods for protecting your mental well-being during this trying time.
The 10 MOST Responsible States During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As we all know, the preventative behaviors required for fighting COVID-19 have become hot-button issues from coast to coast, leading to uneven action between states.
The states where individuals are exhibiting the most responsible personal behaviors during the coronavirus outbreak are concentrated in the Northeastern and Western United States.
Many of these states, especially New York and California, were hard hit in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents in these states learned to live in quarantine and got used to the regular wearing of masks.
We now know that such actions help not only slow the spread of coronavirus infections but also allow economies to reopen in safer ways for both consumers and workers.
From Alaska to Rhode Island, these states are effectively fighting the coronavirus through both government action and individual behaviors. These 10 states have an average of 49.2 percent of adults self-reporting they wear a mask in public. Another 26.2 percent of folks in these states are staying home when possible to shelter in place.
Let’s count down the states we’re ranking as most responsible for taking individual responsibility to fight the spread of COVID-19.
#10 – Responsible: Illinois
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 43%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 23.1%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 11,222
Starting off our rankings of the states where residents are being proactive about COVID-19 prevention is Illinois. In the initial wave of coronavirus infections, Chicago, the state’s largest metro area, was hit especially hard.
With 11,222 coronavirus tests per 100,000 people, the state of Illinois is taking both testing and virus tracking seriously. As you can see in the video below from Chicago’s ABC 7, the seriousness with which Illinois and its residents have taken this pandemic is allowing them to reopen responsibly.
More great coronavirus news for the state of Illinois: Only 7.9 percent of residents don’t have health coverage, which is good when facing a public health pandemic like the coronavirus. For those looking for affordable health insurance, we’re here to help you find it. Even during a time like the current pandemic, it’s important to not buy more health insurance than you actually need.
#9 – Responsible: Nevada
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 45%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 25.8%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 8,318
Thankfully, Nevada has yet to be hit hard by the coronavirus on a large scale, though the pandemic is wreaking havoc on the state’s economy, which is largely tourism-based. Though Nevada’s virus numbers have been relatively low, the state is being proactive about all three indicators we tracked.
Impressively, 45 percent of Nevadans report wearing a mask in public, even though the state is requiring very few residents to wear them by mandate.
With over a quarter of Nevadans staying at home during the continued pandemic, it’s important to know the ways to keep your home and vehicle coronavirus free.
#8 – Responsible: Connecticut
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 47%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 22.7%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 11,262
Nearly half of the Constitution State’s 3.57 million residents report wearing a mask when in public. But what’s really putting Connecticut on our list of the states acting most responsibly in fighting the coronavirus: The high number of coronavirus tests that have been performed here.
As you can see in the video below, Hartford HealthCare has partnered with the state government to successfully raise the level of testing available to Connecticut’s residents.
#6 – Responsible: Alaska
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 42%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 27%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 13,031
The anomaly on this list, Alaska is a largely rural state where nearly half of the population lives in its largest city, Anchorage. That being said, the state has made a concentrated effort to test its residents, which seems to be working considering the relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Last Frontier.
As you can see in the video below, in the early days of the coronavirus crisis facing New York City, Alaska sent many medical workers to fight on the front lines of the pandemic.
#5 – Responsible: Massachusetts
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 46%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 25.5%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 11,519
Headed back to the East Coast, Massachusetts lands at No. 4 on our list of states where residents are acting responsibly to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Testing rates have been high in the Bay State, which is not surprising given that the Boston area is home to some of the finest medical institutions in the world. One of these institutions, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is offering a great public service: a series of videos on regulating emotions and building resiliency during a pandemic.
Massachusetts has long been known for taking its health care seriously. In fact, the state currently has the lowest uninsured rate. Only 3.3 percent of Massachusetts residents don’t have active health coverage.
When the Obama administration finalized its signature Affordable Care Act, it turned to Massachusetts’ state health insurance exchange as a model to be replicated nationally.
#4 – Responsible: Rhode Island
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 52%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 22.1%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 21,280
What takes the Ocean State to the 4th spot on this responsibility ranking? Testing. Rhode Island has currently administered more coronavirus tests per capita than any other state across the country.
Wearing masks has also become fairly normalized here, especially in the Providence area. With 52 percent of Rhode Islanders reporting that they don a face covering when in public, we have hopes that the state will continue to flatten the curve of its coronavirus infections.
At the first White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting in more than two months, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reminded us about the importance of acting responsibly, including wearing a mask. He said:
“You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility. We can either be part of the solution or part of the problem… The only way we’re going to end it is by ending it together.”
Places like Rhode Island and much of the Northeast are taking Dr. Fauci’s advice seriously. Their actions are working to slow the spread of this deadly virus.
#3 – Responsible: District of Columbia
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 56%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 34.4%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 11,983
No. 3 on our list of the places where folks are taking the most personal responsibility in fighting this pandemic is the District of Columbia, home to our nation’s capital.
COVID-19 hit just as the District’s prime tourist season was approaching. You can see how eerily empty the area felt in the video below from the Washington Post.
Luckily, the District took the initial wave of coronavirus infections so seriously that it’s now able to open back up slowly and responsibly. Currently, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered that face coverings be worn when District residents venture out in public, including on public transit.
As more District residents hit the road, it’s important to take safety precautions beyond face coverings. We found Washington, D.C., to be the nation’s most dangerous place to drive. Drivers in the District get in an accident every 4.7 years on average, compared to a national average of 10 years between crashes.
#2 – Responsible: New Jersey
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 56%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 25.5%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 14,589
With high levels of coronavirus tests per capita and adults reporting they wear facial coverings when in public, the Garden State lands at No. 2 on our rankings. Tragically, as of July 6, 2020, New Jersey has the highest coronavirus death toll. This could also be leading the state’s residents to be more cautious.
New Jersey is flanked by two major metro areas (New York City and Philadelphia) that saw significant rates of infection during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s good now to find New Jersians still taking COVID-19 so seriously.
New Jerseyans have some of the longest average commute times and distances in the United States. With so many residents working from home or sheltering in place while on furlough, it might be a good time to consider usage-based auto insurance, which is often a more affordable option for drivers hitting the road less. Usage-based insurance rates average 10 percent lower than typical plans.
#1 – Most Responsible: New York
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 53%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 30.1%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 18,176
New York City, the most densely populated area of the Empire State, was the epicenter of the coronavirus as it reached the United States. New York City alone has over 219,000 confirmed cases and nearly 22,000 COVID-related deaths at the time of writing. But the state took and is taking the fight against the novel coronavirus very seriously.
A high share of New Yorkers are sheltering at home, and a majority of adults self-report wearing masks when in public. Additionally, only Rhode Island has conducted more coronavirus tests per capita than the state of New York.
New York is taking the virus so seriously that as infections bloom in other parts of the nation, the state is joining New Jersey and Connecticut in mandating a 14-day quarantine on travelers from COVID-19 hotspots.
As we face another round of coronavirus infections or a never-ending first round, New York is in a good spot to fight back. The state has a large number of physicians — 375.1 for every 100,000 residents — and only 6.6 percent of New Yorkers don’t have health insurance.
Sadly, not all states are taking the coronavirus as seriously as New York and its neighbors on the first half of our rankings.
The 10 LEAST Responsible States During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The states where individuals are exhibiting the least responsible personal behaviors during the coronavirus outbreak are concentrated in the Midwest and Southern United States, as you can see in the map below.
We were surprised to see Midwesterners, people living in a region known for its commitments to personal responsibility, exhibit fewer preventative behaviors regarding COVID-19 than folks in other parts of the United States. This could largely be because these states were largely unaffected in the initial round of coronavirus infections.
Major industries in many of these states, such as manufacturing and agriculture, do not allow workers to continue work from home. Thus, the pandemic response becomes a question of not only personal and public health, but also economic survival.
Individuals can take the most responsibility when it comes to wearing a mask and staying at home whenever possible. They can also seek out a coronavirus test, but availability is admittedly not even across the United States. Many state governors have prioritized securing testing capabilities in their states; conversely, many governors have not, such as several of the state executives on this list.
#10 – Irresponsible: Oklahoma
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 37%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 19.8%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 7,565
Oklahomans’ primary problem in fighting the coronavirus: Many Sooners are refusing or unable to shelter in place. The state is largely rural outside of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and much of the state’s economy relies on agriculture and oil and gas, both industries not capable of letting many employees work from home.
That being said, many non-essential activities are drawing residents of Oklahoma out of their homes and into public spaces. One prominent example: President Trump held his first public rally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tulsa on June 20, despite calls to cancel it from public health officials. Yahoo! Finance covers the controversial rally in the video below.
A June 2020 coronavirus study by the CDC found that 82 percent of Americans agree that groups of 10 or more should not be allowed.
And yet, mixed messages on appropriate behaviors during this pandemic from all levels of government and public officials will only put more people at risk of spreading the infection across the United States.
#9 – Irresponsible: Kentucky
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 32%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 20.7%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 7,513
Kentucky has the second-lowest level of mask adoption of the states on this list. Only 32 percent (or less than a third) of adults in the Bluegrass State self-report wearing a mask when in public. In contrast, 43 percent of adults in Illinois, Kentucky’s neighbor to the north, are committing to wearing masks.
In a recent press conference, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear told his fellow state residents:
“Understand that a mask is the best way to show that you care about other people.”
We couldn’t agree more. Wearing a mask is a known deterrent to virus spread that protects everyone. Sadly, if Kentuckians contract COVID-19, major medical insurance may become necessary to cover the costs of the virus, which at this point are largely unknown for the long term. Unlike most regular health insurance policies, major medical insurance typically offers a stop-gap loss provision, which caps the amount you will have to pay regardless of your medical costs.
#8 – Irresponsible: Missouri
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 37%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 21.4%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 5,338
Though a higher percentage of Missourians are wearing masks than most other states on this list, only a fifth of people in the Show-Me State are staying home whenever possible. This is especially true outside of the state’s two major urban areas, Kansas City and St. Louis.
A global health pandemic, unrest over social justice issues, and now a COVID-fueled economic recession are leading many people to lash out. That’s why it’s important for us all to have the best, most reliable health information and to realize that we’re all in this fight together during this unprecedented time.
That’s why we’ve conducted this study with data from only reliable sources such as the CDC and Johns Hopkins University.
#7 – Irresponsible: South Dakota
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 32%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 19.5%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 8,510
Though South Dakota is administering more tests per capita than any other state on this list, this rate of testing may be giving the state’s residents a sense of false security.
By and large, South Dakotans are not wearing masks when in public and not staying home when possible, which is a bad formula as we see coronavirus infections rise in largely rural states like The Mount Rushmore State.
South Dakota Governor Kristi L. Noem has refused to put many coronavirus lockdown measures in place. In a recent press conference, she told reporters:
“South Dakota is not New York City, and our sense of personal responsibility, our resiliency and our already sparse population density put us in a great position to manage this virus.”
Though lower population density can certainly help states delay infections, a slower response from the federal government means that Americans will be traveling to places like South Dakota from all over the country this summer, as the state’s many national parks and treasures like Mount Rushmore are seen as safer vacation options. Though this may be true, as outdoor spaces are recommended for fun this summer over indoor, this also means that the state will see more travel and thus more infections in the coming months.
#6 – Irresponsible: Alabama
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 38%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 17%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 7,340
Though many Alabamans are wearing masks in public, the state has the lowest share of residents staying at home of any state we placed on this list.
Unfortunately, the “Safer at Home” is not much of an order and issues some of the laxest guidelines of any order across the nation.
This lack of strong guidelines could lead to even more trouble for Alabama, especially considering that as of mid-June, Alabama saw a 92 percent increase in its seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases.
#5 – Irresponsible: Indiana
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 36%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 20.1%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 6,454
Landing in the 5th spot on our ranking of the states exhibiting the fewest responsible behaviors to fight the coronavirus is the Hoosier State.
Though testing levels are fairly decent in Indiana, only a fifth of the state’s residents are staying at home whenever possible despite recent spikes in Indiana COVID-19 infections.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recently postponed the state’s final stage of COVID-19 reopening, which would have allowed bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity. In many states where infection spikes have been most prominent, such as Texas and South Carolina, bars have been seen as particular hotspots for the spreading of COVID-19.
#4 – Irresponsible: Ohio
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 33%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 21.1%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 5,823
The most populous state on our list of the least responsible states during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio struggles to provide enough testing for its diverse population.
Though Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was initially praised for his strong coronavirus response, many fear his lifting of restrictions places Ohio at risk moving forward. You can learn more about his reasoning in the PBS News Hour video below.
We hope that despite widespread reopening across the Buckeye State, more Ohioans will choose to stay home when possible and to wear a mask in public than currently are.
Sadly, if the residents don’t take the virus seriously now their economy could be shut back down, leading to longer-term implications than are necessary if action is taken.
#3 – Irresponsible: Idaho
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 31%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 22%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 4,437
Idaho is a growing state. Many people are drawn to the state’s many business opportunities, especially in the Boise area, and the low cost of living. Idaho has the third-cheapest homeowners insurance in the nation. You can expect to pay only $703 a year for Idaho home insurance versus a national average of $1,192.
Unfortunately, if coronavirus infections continue to rise in the state, Idaho’s growth may slow substantially during the COVID-fueled recession.
To reverse this trend, the state and its residents need to take the pandemic more seriously by expanding testing, the rate of mask adoption, and the share of people staying home when possible.
#2 – Irresponsible: Kansas
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 32%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 21.3%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 5,554
When it comes to safety, Kansas is typically known as a cautious state where folks take care of each other. The state legislature recently passed a No Pay/No Play law to encourage more drivers to purchase auto insurance. The law severely limits drivers from collecting damages if they suffer bodily injuries in an accident and do not have the proper auto insurance coverage.
But when it comes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic responsibly, it appears Kansas is lagging behind most other states.
Barely more than a fifth of Kansas are staying at home during this pandemic, and fewer than a third are reporting that they wear a mask when in public.
Though the state is striving to expand coronavirus testing availability across the largely rural state, all Kansans must step up to fight this global health pandemic.
#1 – Most Irresponsible: South Carolina
- Adults Wearing Masks in Public: 37%
- People Staying Home When Possible: 18.3%
- COVID-19 Tests Given per 100K Residents: 6,259
We’re ranking South Carolina as the state exhibiting the least responsible behaviors in fighting the current coronavirus pandemic. Though testing rates are fairly high in the Palmetto State, and a large share of South Carolinians report wearing a mask in public, very few are choosing to stay at home, and the state government is not mandating them to do so. This is leading to some of the worst coronavirus stats in the nation.