What if Wisconsin’s COVID-19 deaths struck the state’s smallest towns and communities first? How many Wisconsin communities which would no longer exist due to COVID-19?
February 21, 2021: Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Deaths
COVID-19 has killed 6,284 people in Wisconsin (WI DHS) and 496112 people nationwide (CDC) as of February 21, 2021. And yet the magnitude of death is hard to fathom. The population of Wisconsin, where I currently reside consists of 5,822,434 people. While 6,284 is a lot of dead mothers, brothers, partners, and people, comparing those individual losses to the faceless sense of mass humanity belittles the loss. Yet there is power to be gained by finding a way to understand the impact of this loss of life on a municipal scale. After all, if an individual loss is most keenly felt by individuals, a mass loss is most keenly felt on the societal level.
Arbitrary Boundaries Are Important
Whether a city’s neighborhoods or a town’s municipal boundaries, we place significance on where people live regardless of the numerical count of human bodies. I grew up in a community consisting of one medium sized city surrounded by a handful of small towns. While I consider Winona, MN my home growing up, if you asked where I lived I would answer Goodview. A non-resident would not be able to tell where Winona ended and Goodview began if they missed the population sign (circa 1990: Winona 25,399; Goodview 2,878), but it was clear for residents. Similarly, Goodview’s suburb of Minnesota City, MN (258 circa 1990) was its own independent entity. We and our Minnesota City neighbors would receive mail with the correct street address and zip code yet addressed to “Winona,” but it was obviously incorrect. The mislabeling stung much like being called “Matt” when you just introduced yourself as “Matthew.”
NoApologyAdvocate grew up in a Wisconsin town of less than 800 people. Her parents took a picture of her as a newborn next to the village population sign (“Here’s one more!”). My high school graduating class was the same size as NoApologyAdvocate’s entire high school. The small numbers do not change the pride of place, but they do offer a lens which intensifies pride of geographic area.
So what if we could plot Wisconsin’s COVID-19 deaths onto municipalities? The Washington Post back in November visualized COVID-19 deaths on the national scale. The volume shows whole swaths of the country emptied of people. The Post did a similar visualization in September 2020 if all deaths were centered around your house. For Wisconsin, giving the losses a hypothetical geographic location creates an understanding that the individuals lost shared more than a cause of death. They all called the Badger State home.
Below is a map designating the 55 Wisconsin communities which would no longer exist if the 6,284 Wisconsin fatalities from COVID-19 all lived in the same towns and villages. If they all lived within blocks of each other, the Town of Madison (not the city) in Dane, Co. would be a ghost town. If they all lived in the same county, Iron County would revert to wilderness.
And here is (hypothetically) an in memoriam listing of those communities with their former population.
|January 9, 2021 (Initial Post)|
|Anderson (Iron Co.)||59||Bear Bluff||138|
|Bell Center||114||Big Falls (Rusk Co.)||140|
|Big Falls (Waupaca Co.)||60||Butler (Clark)||97|
|Caswell||88||Catawba, Village of||107|
|Couderay, Village of||88||Finley||93|
|Kennan, Village of||132||Kingston (Juneau Co.)||89|
|Lynxville||130||Maiden Rock, Village of||116|
|Marquette, Village of||150||Mason, Village of||93|
|Monticello (Lafayette Co.)||131||Orienta||121|
|Ross||133||Scott (Monroe Co.)||130|
|Stockholm, Village of||66||Tipler||147|
|Tony||108||White Oak Springs||123|
|Wilkinson||42||Wilson (Rusk Co.)||120|
|Woodman, Village of||126||Wyeville||139|
|January 17, 2021|
|January 24, 2021|
|January 31, 2021|
|February 7, 2021|
|February 14, 2021|
|February 21, 2021|
|Richfield, Town of (Adams Co.)||159|
The list was constructed by taking the Wisconsin Department of Human Services count of COVID-19 deaths and comparing it with the Wisconsin Department of Administration Demographic Services Center’s estimate of the number of people living in each Wisconsin municipality as of 2019, the most recent list until the 2020 US Census numbers are released. The estimates differ from the localities’ population signs which are based off of the 2010 U.S. Census, however, I felt the estimates are a more accurate representation of how many people lived in these communities when the dumpster fire that was 2020 began.
“Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Deaths Visualized” was originally published on January 10, 2021.
- January 9, 2021: Deaths – 5,157; Single Municipality – Richland Center; 47 Communities.
- January 17, 2021: Deaths – 5,451; Single Municipality – Troy (St. Croix County); County – Florence; 49 Communities (added Fenwood and Alvin).
- January 24, 2021: Deaths – 5,691; Single Municipality – Waterford (Village of); 51 Communities (added Boaz and Meteor).
- January 31, 2021: Deaths – 5,896; Single Municipality – Elm Grove; 52 Communities (added Lime Ridge).
- February 7, 2021: Deaths – 6,054; Single Municipality – Lawrence; County – Iron; 53 Communities (added Carey).
- February 14, 2021: Deaths – 6,162; Single Municipality – Freedom (Outagamie, Co.); 54 Communities (added Long Lake).
- February 21, 2021: Deaths – 6,284; Single Municipality – Town of Madison (Dane Co.); 55 Communities (added Richfield).
The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Not Over
55 Wisconsin communities. 6,284 Wisconsin residents. I do not want to imagine what the loss of my hometown of Goodview would feel like. For 55 Wisconsin communities that could have been a reality.
Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Physically distance. Get vaccinated.