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Data: Hamilton County zip codes where people live closer together showing higher rates of COVID-19

Population density one of many risk factors
Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 18:42:34-04

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CINCINNATI -- The new coronavirus is hitting people harder who live in Hamilton County zip codes with higher numbers of apartment complexes, condominiums, rehab centers and nursing homes, according to county health data.

Zip code 45213 in Cincinnati covers parts of Pleasant Ridge and Kennedy Heights and has nearly 13 cases of coronavirus per 10,000 residents, more than any other zip code in the county. It also has a high rate of residential developments and facilities that put people in close proximity to one another.

Cincinnati Health Department supervising epidemiologist, Dr. Maryse Amin, said those neighborhoods have nearly twice the number of COVID-19 cases -- the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"When there's a higher rate of people living in close proximity together, you're going to have a greater risk of exposure," Amin said. In zip code 45213, Amin said five cases were discovered at Pleasant Ridge Care Center nursing home, and the rest were individuals living in apartment buildings.

"I think (people living in apartment buildings) are a little more protected than those in a nursing home facility because they have the ability to self-isolate in their unit," Amin said. "Whereas in the nursing care facility, there are lots of exchanges."

David Dupras lives in a 45213 apartment complex. Out walking his dog -- one of the few reasons he goes out these days -- he said he's noticed fewer people out in the neighborhood, in attempts to observe social distancing recommendations.

"People are realizing this pandemic is serious, and they're taking it seriously, and they're staying inside as much as they can," he told WCPO. "I can't be too careful."

Amin said testing is another factor: Care providers are only administering COVID-19 tests to high-risk patients in Hamilton County, and until testing becomes more universal, case density can be skewed by how tests are distributed and administered.

Other explanations for COVID-19 geographical clustering include where a community sits along a supply chain, according to University of Toronto School of Cities professor and The Atlantic contributor Richard Florida. Zip code 45213 isn't just dense in multi-unit housing developments and facilities; it also sits directly along Interstate 71, a heavily-used road corridor for truck freight moving north through Ohio.

"Cities differ along many dimensions -- population size, age, education level, affluence, religiosity, the kinds of work people do, levels of social capital, and more. All of these factors and others may affect their vulnerability to the coronavirus," Florida wrote in CityLab earlier this month.

Data also indicates that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the county's minority communities.