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COVID-19 vulnerability maps warn of NYS counties' risk factors

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Thu, Apr 16th 2020 08:50 pm

While New York City remains the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, some rural upstate counties may be the state’s most vulnerable if they experience a localized outbreak, a Cornell University analysis shows.

Demographers from the Cornell Population Center (CPC) and the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics (PAD) ranked New York’s 62 counties according to risk factors known to complicate cases of COVID-19, including age, living arrangements and underlying health conditions.

The team produced its rapid report and mapping tool to assist county officials with preparedness planning; members are working with state health policy and data analytics experts to communicate findings and incorporate more data.

The results present “a cautionary tale,” said Matthew Hall, associate professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology and CPC director. “If the more rural parts of the state don’t strictly follow the social distancing guidelines that the governor has put in place, then the potential health consequences of a COVID outbreak are serious.”

The initial version presents a pair of interactive maps depicting counties ranked by demographic and health vulnerability, based on risks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said are associated with COVID-19 complications and hospitalizations.

“While the metro New York City area has borne the brunt of New York state’s crisis, the parts of the state that are likely to be most vulnerable are in rural upstate, particularly in the Adirondack and Chautauqua-Allegheny regions,” the report states.

“If there were to be an outbreak and if social distancing were to be relaxed, then those areas upstate have the kind of the underlying demographic and health conditions that could overwhelm their health systems,” Hall said.

Planned map enhancements are expected to add the numbers of intensive care unit and other hospital beds by county, improving understanding of how one county’s vulnerability could affect neighbors.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

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