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Multivariate Analysis of Factors Affecting COVID-19 Case and Death Rate in U.S. Counties: The Significant Effects of Black Race and Temperature

By Adam Y Li, Theodore C Hannah, John Durbin, Nickolas Dreher, Fiona M McAuley, Naoum Fares Marayati, Zachary Spiera, Muhammad Ali, Alex Gometz, JT Kostman, Tanvir F Choudhri

Posted 22 Apr 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.17.20069708

Objectives: Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly around the world, and many risk factors including patient demographics, social determinants of health, environmental variables, underlying health conditions, and adherence to social distancing have been hypothesized to affect case and death rates. However, little has been done to account for the potential confounding effects of these factors. Using a large multivariate analysis, this study illuminates modulators of COVID-19 incidence and mortality in U.S. counties while controlling for risk factors across multiple domains. Methods: Data on COVID-19 and various risk factors in all U.S. counties was collected from publicly available data sources through April 14, 2020. Counties with at least 50 COVID-19 cases were included in case analyses and those with at least 10 deaths were included in mortality models. The 661 counties meeting inclusion criteria for number of cases were grouped into quartiles and comparisons of risk factors were made using t-tests between the highest and lowest quartiles. Similar comparisons for 217 counties were made for above average and below average deaths/100,000. Adjusted linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to evaluate the independent effects of factors that significantly impacted cases and deaths. Results: Univariate analyses demonstrated numerous significant differences between cohorts for both cases and deaths. Risk factors associated with increased cases and/or deaths per 100,000 included increased GDP per capita, decreased social distancing, increased age, increased percent Black, decreased percent Hispanic, decreased percent Asian, decreased health, increased poverty, increased diabetes, increased coronary heart disease, increased physical inactivity, increased alcohol consumption, increased tobacco use, and decreased access to primary care. Multivariate regression analyses demonstrated Black race is a risk factor for worse COVID-19 outcome independent of comorbidities, poverty, access to health care, and other mitigating factors. Lower daily temperatures was also an independent risk factor in case load but not deaths. Conclusions: U.S. counties with a higher proportion of Black residents are associated with increased COVID-19 cases and deaths. However, the various suggested mechanisms, such as socioeconomic and healthcare predispositions, did not appear to drive the effect of race in our model. Counties with higher average daily temperatures are also associated with decreased COVID-19 cases but not deaths. Several theories are posited to explain these findings, including prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Additional studies are needed to further understand these effects.

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