OHIO/LOUISIANA — On Monday, March 9, 2020, both Ohio and Louisiana reported their first infections of the coronavirus, with Ohio reporting three cases to Louisania’s one. Since then, the rate of new infections and their medical impacts have been very different between the two states. Ohio now reports 564 infections and eight deaths as of Tuesday, March 24, while Louisiana confronts 1,388 infections and 46 deaths, according to the Health Departments of both states.

On Tuesday, March 3, before any infections were officially reported in the state, Ohio Gov. DeWine announced the cancellation of the Arnold Classic, a sporting event that typically sees over 20,000 participants from several countries around the world. This action can now be seen as the first in increasing restrictive steps that include closing schools and their related sporting events, restricting restaurants and bars to carryout and delivery services only, and, as of Monday evening, March 23, issuing a Stay at Home Order for all individuals in the state with only those businesses and workers deemed essential exempt.

While Louisiana has taken similar restrictive measures, the timing of their implementation differed. Ohio implemented a State of Emergency when the first cast appeared on March 9, and banned gatherings of 100 or more three days later on March 12. Louisiana issued its State of Emergency declaration on March 11, two days later than Ohio, and set the initial ban on large gatherings at 250 or more on March 13, one day after. Both states began their school closures on March 16.

The aggressiveness of actions taken is a matter of degrees. It’s just a day here, a couple days there. 100 people instead of 250, then 50. And now 10 or more people to a gathering is banned and a Stay at Home order broadly implemented - in Ohio.

Saving lives has been used to justify the speed and aggressiveness of these actions. “During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” Gov. DeWine said late into the evening on the day before the canceled primary election.

Have these steps been worth it? eight deaths versus 46 is a tough way to keep score. It’s tragedy laid bare while knowing tomorrow will be worse.

Medical outcomes are impossible to compare without a statistical analysis that takes local health trends and other factors into account. Still, the different trajectories in the two states remain stark. This is especially true given that Ohio’s population at around 11.7 million is more than double Louisiana’s 4.7 million.

County Health Commissioner Kim Rieman cautioned that more study would be needed to know for certain if the restrictions put into place are the cause of the different outcomes in the two states, saying, “While this graph shows that some of the social distancing measures put into place in Ohio seems to be related to a slower spread of the disease, continued study needs to be completed to determine the full effect of these measures.”