Does Nebraska have one of the lowest death tolls, or is there simply little or no data for their death toll?
I'm highly skeptical of their reported COVID death toll for the same reason I'm highly skeptical of every state's self-identified COVID death toll: there's just too much gray area when it comes to naming a cause of death. For example, someone gets a severe case of COVID, goes on a ventilator, and eventually recovers, but with severe cardiovascular problems as a result of the infection. Two months later, he drops dead of a heart attack, while COVID-negative. Is that a COVID death? Someone gets into a car accident and goes to an ICU. While there, he gets COVID, and then ends up dying from internal injuries while his body is trying to simultaneously deal with those and the COVID infection. COVID death?
With all the judgment calls states can make about when to list COVID as a contributing factor and when not to, the numbers that get reported up end up being apples-to-oranges comparisons. That's why I prefer excess death numbers. Simply determine what percentage of the population has tended to die in a particular week in a particular state, based on five-year averages. Then compare the percentage that actually died that week in that state during COVID. The difference is excess deaths.
So, for example, in the five years before COVID, during the first week of January, an average of 0.019% of the population of Nebraska died. If the first week of January this year had been average, 370 people would have died in Nebraska. Instead, it was 469 people who died. So, that's 99 excess deaths, or about 26.8%. Compute that for every week since the pandemic hit, and you can count how many excess deaths there have been, total, and what percentage that is. That winds up being a far more meaningful comparison between states, because while states are wildly inconsistent about how they attribute particular deaths, they're all pretty good at counting corpses, since they've been reporting nearly all deaths to the CDC for many years before COVID ever hit. The only complicating factor is some states are tardier than others in feeding those reports up, so you can't rely much on the last few weeks of data, but before that, you have a pretty good comparison.
That doesn't tell us what those people died of. For example, in theory those 99 extra deaths in the first week of January might have been from more car accidents during a bad blizzard in the state. But, before COVID, excess deaths tended to be very low (+/- 1% or so), from year to year, as factors like good or bad weather averaged out across the year. So when suddenly you have most states showing 10%-20% excess deaths during the pandemic, it's reasonable to assume the vast majority of that is attributable to COVID, either directly or indirectly (e.g., indirectly by way of more people dying of other things thanks to ICU's being overburdened by the virus).
Anyway, that calculation does, indeed, say Nebraska did well. It was the only red state among the ten states with the lowest excess death percentages. There were probably a number of factors. It's got low population density and very low median age, for example. But that didn't save a lot of other states, so that's why I think there's something to this article. While Nebraska probably suffered more than necessary because they didn't lock down very well, didn't require masks very broadly, and didn't encourage vaccination enough, they still did better than any other red state, and the question is why. I think these boring "good governance" approaches might explain that.