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Study indicates COVID-19 risk higher in suburbs than densely-populated urban areas

Posted at 7:04 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 09:04:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A newly released study performed by the University of Utah suggests higher population density does not mean a higher risk for COVID-19 spread.

The study was published in the Journal of American Planning Association.

Co-author Reid Ewing, distinguished professor in the U's Department of City and Metropolitan Planning, says compact areas are more likely to provide access to health care and follow social distancing guidelines, reducing risk of infection and especially death.

The researchers looked at 913 US cities throughout 18 weeks of the pandemic and concluded that population size played a much bigger role in COVID-19 mortality than density.

They found both large cities and sprawling suburbs to be more dangerous than smaller areas like Salt Lake City.

"Our death rate is about 0.6 persons per 10,000," Ewing said. "Whereas in these large metropolitan areas with flow of people back and forth between counties, they're in the 2, 3, 4, person per 10,000."

The study was similar to other research in that it suggests the most at-risk groups include African Americans, the elderly, and blue collar workers.

You can read the full study here.