Pandemic Injustice: Spatial and Social Distributions of the first wave
of COVID-19 in the US Epicenter
We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and
their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S.
epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite
having only 2.5% of the US population, has ~6% of all
confirmed cases, and ~16% of all deaths, making it a
key learning ground for the social dynamics of the disease. Our analysis
focuses on the multiple potential social, economic, and demographic
drivers of disproportionate impacts in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as
well as population rates of testing. Findings show that immediate
impacts of COVID-19 largely fall along lines of race and class.
Indicators of poverty, race, disability, language isolation, rent
burden, unemployment, lack of health insurance, and housing crowding all
significantly drive spatial patterns in prevalence of COVID-19 testing,
confirmed cases, death rates, and severity. Income in particular has a
consistent negative relationship with rates of death and disease
severity. The largest differences in social vulnerability indicators are
also driven by populations of people of color, poverty, housing
crowding, and rates of disability. Results highlight the need for
targeted responses to address injustice of COVID-19 cases and deaths,
importance of recovery strategies that account for differential
vulnerability, and provide an analytical approach for advancing research
to examine potential similar injustice of COVID-19 in other U.S. cities.