In Depth Analysis

Why We Created a New Vulnerability Index Specific to COVID-19

COVID-19 poses unique challenges to communities that are not captured in the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading rapidly across the United States, we recognized that the disease’s impact would be felt differently for communities across the country. Surely some places would prove more vulnerable than others — not only to the spread of the infection itself, but also to lasting social and economic damage.

1. Vulnerability has different dimensions geographically.

The different types of vulnerability captured by the CCVI and the SVI are not evenly distributed across the US. For example, certain communities whose vulnerability is driven by socioeconomic factors may be less vulnerable epidemiologically (i.e., they have lower rates of chronic conditions and/or a lower population density).

2. CCVI vulnerability scores differ from SVI vulnerability scores.

The CCVI adds a great deal of nuance to the social vulnerabilities captured by the SVI. When we include epidemiological and healthcare-system themes, we see many counties across the US diverging substantially in their CCVI and SVI scores — in effect creating two sets of vulnerable communities.

3. Why are we seeing these differences? The answer lies in COVID-specific epidemiological and healthcare-system themes.

The fact that some counties have a higher CCVI score than SVI score indicates that epidemiological and healthcare-system themes add an important piece to the puzzle that is missing from the SVI.

Technical Notes:

  • Want to find out how we created the CCVI? All methodology can be found on our website here.
  • Want to analyze the numbers for yourself? The CCVI data is publicly available at census, county, and state level (link).
  • The SVI can be found here.
  • Questions, concerns, comments? Get in touch at covid19@surgofoundation.org.

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