The best and worst places for COVID in the U.S. & Canada

Updated: May 18

The COVID pandemic has rocked North America the way it rocked the entire globe. But there existed an interesting divide in results between two of the most intertwined economies, Canada and the United States.

In terms of the G20, the United States had the second-worst deaths per capita, slightly behind Brazil at 30 deaths per 10,000 residents. Canada fared much better at ten deaths per 10,000 residents. But both paled in comparison to Australia, where there were only three deaths per 10,000 residents.

With all of the similarities that exist between some states and provinces, the difference in COVID-19 outcomes can be quite surprising.

The worst place for COVID deaths in Canada is the province of Quebec with about 18 deaths per 10,000 residents. However, it pales in comparison to the worst U.S. states such as Alabama, Arizona & Mississippi where there were over 40 deaths per 10,000 residents.

Canadians may look at Alberta as a bastion of conservatism, but its deaths per capita were about half of Quebec and 4x lower than the worst U.S. states at around 10 deaths per 10,000 residents.

One might think that Alberta simply has a younger population than a state such as Alabama but that is not the case. The median age in Alberta is about 38 years while it is 39 years in Alabama. However, median age may be a factor in analyzing the absolute best place for COVID deaths in both nations.

Nunavut takes the trophy for the fewest deaths per capita at less than 2 deaths per 10,000 residents. Nunavuts' median age is about 26 years old. But looking further at the best places in Canada reveals that age may not be the ultimate factor at play.

The province of Prince Edward Island has also had less than 2 deaths per 10,000 residents from COVID and its median age is 42. The largest "city" in Nunavut is Iqaluit with about 7,000 people and in P.E.I. it is Charlottetown with a population of about 40,000. Tied for the best place in the United States is Vermont with about 10 deaths per 10,000 residents. The largest city in Vermont is Burlington with a population of about 45,000.

It is therefore quite evident that the places with the fewest deaths from COVID are disproportionately rural. Big cities are after all a paradise for respiratory viruses. This may at least partially explain why Gallup found that desire to live in small towns increased drastically in 2020.

If there is one example of an area with a very large city that fared the best for COVID it would be British Columbia. Vancouver has an urban population of over 2 million people and yet the province's deaths per capita from COVID was about 6 per 10,000 residents.

The increased desire to flock to small towns is quite worrying given the fact that large cities are far more environmentally friendly than small towns. British Columbia shows us that we don't need to reverse the long-term trend of urbanization just to avoid a respiratory virus.