People living in America’s most vulnerable counties are 32% more likely to have died from COVID-19

COVID-19 has not discriminated, but America’s response has

Since the start of the pandemic, people living in America’s most vulnerable counties are 32% more likely to have died from COVID-19 than those in the least vulnerable counties.

But more closely monitoring and targeting resources to highly vulnerable communities — those most at risk of the negative financial and health impacts of the pandemic — can help save lives.

This is one of the key takeaways from our new report Vulnerable Communities and COVID-19: The damage done, and the way forward,” which draws on our COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index and our new Precision for COVID Data Explorer, a tool made possible by support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

President Biden’s pandemic response plan includes a recommendation to ‘provide clear, consistent, and evidence-based guidance’ to help U.S. communities navigate the pandemic. We have the data to help achieve this.

Our new Precision for COVID Data Explorer dashboard provides federal, state, and local leaders a blueprint for ensuring an equitable pandemic response to help our most vulnerable communities. With this tool, they can plan for, prepare, and respond to COVID-19 with precision, targeting the right resources to the right communities at the right time.

The Vulnerable Communities and COVID-19report examines the one-third of all U.S. counties that score highest on our COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index.

A snapshot of vulnerable U.S. counties from the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index

It shows how communities across America are not all equally vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, and sends an important message: The virus has not discriminated — but America’s response has.

As COVID-19 has spread over the last 12 months, certain factors — such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, work environments, and healthcare systems — make some communities more vulnerable to its impact, and in differing ways.

Our report’s key findings are:

  1. Vulnerable populations have been 23% more likely to be diagnosed with and 32% more likely to have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
  2. Different types of vulnerable communities took turns in getting hardest hit, with communities with high rates of comorbidities being hit especially hard at the moment.
  3. The health systems in vulnerable communities have been under stress since tracking started in August; stress has reached “extreme” levels in vulnerable communities in January 2021.
  4. The unemployment gap between low and high vulnerable counties quadrupled as the pandemic hit and that gap has persisted to this day, especially hitting urban areas and those with pre-existing socioeconomic vulnerability.
  5. Rent payments are increasingly falling behind for everyone, but especially so in vulnerable states, where delinquency is 36% higher than in other states.
  6. Early disparities in COVID-19 test site access have improved with targeted resource allocation, though as of January 2021, 15 million people still have to travel 10 or more miles to get tested.
  7. Vaccine rollout is off to a slower start in vulnerable states, where rates of administered shots are as much as 20% lower than non-vulnerable states.
  8. Implementing national guidance on vaccine redistribution to vulnerable communities would only require diverting 6% of doses from low vulnerability areas, but would accelerate vaccination by 14% where it is needed most.

Read our detailed findings and see the Precision for COVID Data Explorer in action.



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