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Article

The Role of Structural Inequality on COVID-19 Incidence Rates at the Neighborhood Scale in Urban Areas

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Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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Department of Political Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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Department of Mining Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84109, USA
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Department of Life, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, TX 79016, USA
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Division of Epidemiology, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Andrea Fiorillo
COVID 2021, 1(1), 186-202; https://doi.org/10.3390/covid1010016
Received: 26 June 2021 / Revised: 26 July 2021 / Accepted: 28 July 2021 / Published: 4 August 2021
The lockdown policies enacted in the spring of 2020, in response to the growing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, have remained a contentious policy tool due to the variability of outcomes they produced for some populations. While ongoing research has illustrated the unequal impact of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on minority populations, research in this area has been unable to fully explain the mechanisms that produce these findings. To understand why some groups have been at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, we employ structural inequality theory to better understand how inequality may impact disease transmission in a pandemic. We used a novel approach that enabled us to focus on the microprocesses of structural inequality at the zip code level to study the impact of stay-at-home pandemic policies on COVID-19 positive case rates in an urban setting across three periods of policy implementation. We then analyzed data on traffic volume, income, race, occupation, and instances of COVID-19 positive cases for each zip code in Salt Lake County, Utah (USA) between 17 February 2020 and 12 June 2020. We found that higher income, percent white, and white-collar zip codes had a greater response to the local stay-at-home order and reduced vehicular traffic by nearly 50% during lockdown. The least affluent zip codes only showed a 15% traffic decrease and had COVID-19 rates nearly 10 times higher. At this level of granularity, income and occupation were both associated with COVID-19 outcomes across all three stages of policy implementation, while race was only predictive of outcomes after the lockdown period. Our findings illuminate underlying mechanisms of structural inequality that may have facilitated unequal COVID-19 incidence rates. This study illustrates the need for more granular analyses in policy research and adds to the literature on how structural factors such as income, race, and occupation contribute to disease transmission in a pandemic. View Full-Text
Keywords: COVID-19; social distancing; environmental justice; public health policy; traffic density; pandemic policies; income; race; minority status; occupation COVID-19; social distancing; environmental justice; public health policy; traffic density; pandemic policies; income; race; minority status; occupation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mendoza, D.L.; Benney, T.M.; Ganguli, R.; Pothina, R.; Pirozzi, C.S.; Quackenbush, C.; Baty, S.R.; Crosman, E.T.; Zhang, Y. The Role of Structural Inequality on COVID-19 Incidence Rates at the Neighborhood Scale in Urban Areas. COVID 2021, 1, 186-202. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid1010016

AMA Style

Mendoza DL, Benney TM, Ganguli R, Pothina R, Pirozzi CS, Quackenbush C, Baty SR, Crosman ET, Zhang Y. The Role of Structural Inequality on COVID-19 Incidence Rates at the Neighborhood Scale in Urban Areas. COVID. 2021; 1(1):186-202. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid1010016

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mendoza, Daniel L., Tabitha M. Benney, Rajive Ganguli, Rambabu Pothina, Cheryl S. Pirozzi, Cameron Quackenbush, Samuel R. Baty, Erik T. Crosman, and Yue Zhang. 2021. "The Role of Structural Inequality on COVID-19 Incidence Rates at the Neighborhood Scale in Urban Areas" COVID 1, no. 1: 186-202. https://doi.org/10.3390/covid1010016

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