As the COVID-19 pandemic moved beyond the initial heavily impacted and urbanized Northeast region of the United States, hotspots of cases in other urban areas ensued across the country in early 2020. In South Carolina, the spatial and temporal patterns were different, initially concentrating in small towns within metro counties, then diffusing to centralized urban areas and rural areas. When mitigation restrictions were relaxed, hotspots reappeared in the major cities. This paper examines the county-scale spatial and temporal patterns of confirmed cases of COVID-19 for South Carolina from March 1st—September 5th, 2020. We first describe the initial diffusion of the new confirmed cases per week across the state, which remained under 2,000 cases until Memorial Day weekend (epi week 23) then dramatically increased, peaking in mid-July (epi week 29), and slowly declining thereafter. Second, we found significant differences in cases and deaths between urban and rural counties, partially related to the timing of the number of confirmed cases and deaths and the implementation of state and local mitigations. Third, we found that the case rates and mortality rates positively correlated with pre-existing social vulnerability. There was also a negative correlation between mortality rates and county resilience patterns, as expected, suggesting that counties with higher levels of inherent resilience had fewer deaths per 100,000 population.
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Published in PLOS ONE, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2021.
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Huang, Q., Jackson, S., Derakhshan, S., Lee, L., Pham, E., Jackson, A., & Cutter, S. L. (2021). Urban-rural differences in COVID-19 exposures and outcomes in the south: A preliminary analysis of South Carolina. PLOS ONE, 16(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246548