What policy actions can we take to mitigate COVID-19’s damage to vulnerable communities across America?

Simply put, communities across America are not all equally vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. Certain factors — such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, work environments, and healthcare systems — make some communities more vulnerable to COVID-19’s impact, and in differing ways.

In fact, new Surgo Ventures analysis shows that, since the beginning of the pandemic, people in vulnerable communities have been:

23% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19

32% more likely to have died from COVID-19

29% less likely to be tested for COVID-19

35% more likely to be unemployed

Yet leaders at national, state, and local levels have too often failed to take this into account in preparing their response to the pandemic, because they lacked the detailed, localized data needed to identify vulnerable communities in advance. To put a fine point on it: The virus has not discriminated, but America’s response has.

The Surgo Ventures COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI) addresses this need, with two particular strengths:

  1. It predicts which communities are vulnerable to worse health, economic, and social outcomes once the virus hits — and why. The factors underlying each community’s vulnerability score are categorized into seven themes that help policymakers identify demographic and structural vulnerabilities.

The following map provides a snapshot of vulnerability to COVID-19 impact by U.S. county:

Surgo Ventures COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index

The CCVI incorporates data on a range of factors that make communities especially vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. These factors are grouped into seven themes:

  1. Socio-economic status

Thus, the CCVI data allows us to target resources efficiently for maximum impact, in each phase of the response:

So, how do we turn this knowledge into action? Here are examples of actions that policymakers and public health officials could immediately take for each area of vulnerability, depending on the needs of their communities.

Vulnerable communities have borne some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, but it does not have to continue that way. With comprehensive data, ongoing, focused attention to these communities, and a smart and targeted response, we can ensure that vulnerable communities receive the support and resources that they need to mitigate the impacts and sustain a long-lasting recovery.

Read the full report and see the CCVI in action.

We use all the tools available from behavioral science, data science, and artificial intelligence to unlock solutions that will save and improve people’s lives.