The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading throughout the United States, after making its way through much of Asia and Europe. Many experts have suggested that widespread infection is inevitable and people should do what they can to “flatten the curve,” or a deceleration of the spread of infection so fewer people are sick at one time. According to the National Institutes of Health, “the most concerning problem will be if a health system is overwhelmed in the wake of rapid transmission so that affected patients cannot receive the care they need.”
Flattening the curve takes some intervention but is usually simple. Johns Hopkin University suggests washing your hands thoroughly and regularly and practicing social distancing, whereby the majority of the population largely avoids interacting with others.
In addition to social distancing, places like South Korea have focused on ramping up testing in order to flatten the curve. According to Science Magazine, South Korea learned an important lesson about testing for viruses in 2015 after an outbreak of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that infected nearly 200 people and killed 36 was attributed to one patient with the illness. They’ve tested nearly 5,200 per million residents.
We can’t know exactly when or where interventions will take place or whether people will abide by them, but, like many experts, we’re assuming that most of the country will be affected by COVID-19 at some point and some areas are more vulnerable to its effects.
To gauge COVID-19 vulnerability, we ranked 107 cities across the United States based on health, financial, economic, and social vulnerability. It’s important to note that this ranking is not indicative of when or how COVID-19 will affect these cities, or what measures are being taken at the moment. Rather, this is an assessment of the each city’s vulnerability to the virus based on existing healthcare systems, economic and financial well-being, and social responsibility.
Toward that end, less vulnerable cities are still at risk, and should continue to take the necessary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus.