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Effect of socioeconomic factors during the early COVID-19 pandemic: a spatial analysis.



Spatial variability of COVID-19 cases may suggest geographic disparities of social determinants of health. Spatial analyses of population-level data may provide insight on factors that may contribute to COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization, and death.


Generalized additive models were used to map COVID-19 risk from March 2020 to February 2021 in Orange County (OC), California. We geocoded and analyzed 221,843 cases to OC census tracts within a Poisson framework while smoothing over census tract centroids. Location was randomly permuted 1000 times to test for randomness. We also separated the analyses temporally to observe if risk changed over time. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were mapped across OC while adjusting for population-level demographic data in crude and adjusted models.


Risk for COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were statistically significant in northern OC. Adjustment for demographic data substantially decreased spatial risk, but areas remained statistically significant. Inclusion of location within our models considerably decreased the magnitude of risk compared to univariate models. However, percent minority (adjusted RR: 1.06, 95%CI: 1.06, 1.07), average household size (aRR: 1.06, 95%CI: 1.05, 1.07), and percent service industry (aRR: 1.05, 95%CI: 1.04, 1.06) remained significantly associated with COVID-19 risk in adjusted spatial models. In addition, areas of risk did not change between surges and risk ratios were similar for hospitalizations and deaths.


Significant risk factors and areas of increased risk were identified in OC in our adjusted models and suggests that social and environmental factors contribute to the spread of COVID-19 within communities. Areas in north OC remained significant despite adjustment, but risk substantially decreased. Additional investigation of risk factors may provide insight on how to protect vulnerable populations in future infectious disease outbreaks.

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