- A new interactive dashboard rates the “preparedness” of every US county for the coronavirus.
- Although the coronavirus hit US cities hard first, it’s spreading to more rural regions of the country.
- Rural and urban communities face different challenges in fighting coronavirus outbreaks. However, this dashboard compares them via factors like hospital beds and critical-care staff per capita, poverty, age, and projected outbreak peaks.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The coronavirus has already wreaked havoc in US cities and their surrounding areas, especially New York, but it’s now entering the more rural parts of the country — including Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
A new dashboard scores every county in the US based on how prepared they are for when coronavirus cases start to surge.
The tool gives a score for each county, based on several factors that affect how hard the virus is likely to hit. Those include the percentage of the population that’s 65 and older, the number of hospital beds and critical-care staff within a 40-minute drive, and the poverty level of the community.
You can explore it here.
How the map works
Map users can search for their county, explore their state, or order the map by ranking by score, from 100 to 0.
The preparedness scores are based on the following factors:
- The number of beds in licensed hospitals within a 40-minute drive.
- The number of critical-care staff such as specialists, nurses, and respiratory therapists within a 40-minute drive.
- The relative age of the population — specifically, the percentage of those 65 and older.
- A county’s score on the CDC’s social vulnerability index, which measures a county’s resilience to natural or human-caused disasters, including disease outbreaks, from 0 to 1 (higher is more vulnerable).
- When modeling suggests the county’s outbreak will hit its most severe point.
The projected peak of each county’s outbreak is based on the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s COVID-19 model. The map updates as the model does, since estimates of when a peak might come change based on how a community reacts to new cases (whether it effectively follows social distancing practices, for example).
What ‘preparedness’ scores can tell us
Rural and urban communities face different challenges when it comes to the coronavirus. Urban areas are more densely populated, and the virus can spread among more people in them more easily. But rural areas often face resource shortages: Hospitals can be hours away, for example, and have pre-existing staffing and equipment shortages.
For example, one study found that from 2005 to 2020, 170 rural communities’ hospitals have been shuttered — with 128 of them closing since 2010.
Take Grant county in Oregon, for example. The rural county has 655 hospital beds and 14 critical staff per 100,000 residents. 28% of the population above the age of 65, and it received a score of .58 on the CDC Social Vulnerability Index. It received a score of 2.
But Sullivan county in New Hampshire, across the country, is also rural. Still, it received a score of 84 overall. It has 2,610 hospital beds and 441 critical staff per 100,000 residents, and 20% of the population is above the age of 65. Also, it got a 0.17 CDC Social Vulnerability Index.
Some urban counties also scored low on the preparedness scale, often based on low scores on the social vulnerability index due to higher poverty rates, lack of access to transportation, and crowded housing.
For example, Clarke County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located, received a preparedness score of 12 out of 100. That’s because the county only has 25 critical-care staff and 207 hospital beds for every 100,000 residents.
San Francisco county in California got an overall score of 45. It has 1218 hospital beds and 169 critical staff for every 100,000 residents, and 15% of the population above the age of 65. Plus, it got a 0.22 the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index.
More prepared counties, whether rural or urban, tend to have closer and more accessible hospitals, with more staff. A low social vulnerability index helps — and higher income levels help with that.
“There are variations in terms of capacity and demographics in rural areas around the country, and those variations can have life-and-death implications in this pandemic,” Matt Dunne, the executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation, said, according to STAT.