loading page

Spatiotemporal Associations Between Social Vulnerability, Environmental Measurements, and COVID-19 in the Conterminous United States
  • Daniel Patrick Johnson,
  • Niranjan Ravi,
  • Christian Braneon
Daniel Patrick Johnson
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Corresponding Author:dpjohnso@iu.edu

Author Profile
Niranjan Ravi
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
Author Profile
Christian Braneon
Author Profile


This study introduces the results from fitting a Bayesian hierarchical spatiotemporal model to COVID-19 cases and deaths at the county-level in the United States for the year 2020. Two models were created, one for cases and one for deaths, utilizing a scaled Besag, York, MolliƩ model with Type I spatial-temporal interaction. Each model accounts for 16 social vulnerability variables and 7 environmental measurements as fixed effects. The spatial structure of COVID-19 infections is heavily focused in the southern U.S. and the states of Indiana, Iowa, and New Mexico. The spatial structure of COVID-19 deaths covers less of the same area but also encompasses a cluster in the Northeast. The spatiotemporal trend of the pandemic in the U.S. illustrates a shift out of many of the major metropolitan areas into the U.S. Southeast and Southwest during the summer months and into the upper Midwest beginning in autumn. Analysis of the major social vulnerability predictors of COVID-19 infection and death found that counties with higher percentages of those not having a high school diploma and having minority status to be significant. Age 65 and over was a significant factor in deaths but not in cases. Among the environmental variables, above ground level (AGL) temperature had the strongest effect on relative risk to both cases and deaths. Hot and cold spots of COVID-19 cases and deaths derived from the convolutional spatial effect show that areas with a high probability of above average relative risk have significantly higher SVI composite scores. Hot and cold spot analysis utilizing the spatiotemporal interaction term exemplifies a more complex relationship between social vulnerability, environmental measurements, and cases/deaths.