Social Disadvantage, Politics, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Trends: A County-level Analysis of United States Data

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 May 18;72(10):e604-e607. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1374.


Background: Understanding the epidemiology of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is essential for public health control efforts. Social, demographic, and political characteristics at the United States (US) county level might be associated with changes in SARS-CoV-2 case incidence.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the relationship between the change in reported SARS-CoV-2 case counts at the US county level during 1 June-30 June 2020 and social, demographic, and political characteristics of the county.

Results: Of 3142 US counties, 1023 were included in the analysis: 678 (66.3%) had increasing and 345 (33.7%) nonincreasing SARS-CoV-2 case counts between 1 June and 30 June 2020. In bivariate analysis, counties with increasing case counts had a significantly higher Social Deprivation Index (median, 48 [interquartile range {IQR}, 24-72]) than counties with nonincreasing case counts (median, 40 [IQR, 19-66]; P = .009). Counties with increasing case counts were significantly more likely to be metropolitan areas of 250 000-1 million population (P < .001), to have a higher percentage of black residents (9% vs 6%; P = .013), and to have voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 by a ≥10-point margin (P = .044). In the multivariable model, metropolitan areas of 250 000-1 million population, higher percentage of black residents, and a ≥10-point Republican victory were independently associated with increasing case counts.

Conclusions: Increasing case counts of SARS-CoV-2 in the US during June 2020 were associated with a combination of sociodemographic and political factors. Addressing social disadvantage and differential belief systems that may correspond with political alignment will play a critical role in pandemic control.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; politics; social disadvantage.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Politics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • United States / epidemiology