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Like a rubber ball bouncing down a hardwood hallway, COVID-19 continues to spread across the USA, hitting some neighborhoods hard while touching other parts of the same metro area only lightly, according to a USA TODAY analysis of ZIP code-level data.
The analysis shows neighborhoods with the highest rates of infection from the deadly virus are more densely populated, and they have lower household incomes and higher percentages of nonwhite residents.
USA TODAY’s exclusive analysis draws from reported cases of COVID-19 by ZIP code of residence of those testing positive for the virus. It affirms a set of trends revealed by case counts available in April, when far fewer jurisdictions reported such data.
Overall, data for more than 8,500 ZIP codes – about 26% of all U.S. ZIPs – was collected during the week of June 15 from 49 state, county and local health departments that publish data at that geographic level. Although far from comprehensive, the reports include slices from every U.S. census region.
USA TODAY matched the ZIP code data with 2018 U.S. census demographic data to examine income, race and population disparities in neighborhoods with varying infection rates.
The map and charts below show how unevenly the virus has spread across communities and neighborhoods since the first case was reported in January.
INCOME: The analysis shows that COVID-19 is more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods. In ZIP codes where median household income is less than $35,000, the overall infection rate is more than twice as high as in neighborhoods with household income of more than $75,000.
RACE: In neighborhoods with a majority of nonwhite residents, the overall COVID-19 infection rate is nearly five times higher than in areas where nonwhite population is less than 10%.
CROWDED CONDITIONS: Overall infection rates were twice as high in neighborhoods with the most people and housing per square mile, where it’s more challenging to practice social isolation and distancing. A major differentiator for high case rates: population density of more than 1,000 residents per square mile.
Mark Nichols is a data journalist for USA TODAY. Mitchell Thorson and Carlie Procell produce digital graphics for the news network. Dak Le contributed to this report.
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