Document Type



This paper examines the spatial and temporal trends in county-level COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the United States during the first year of the pandemic (January 2020–January 2021). Statistical and geospatial analyses highlight greater impacts in the Great Plains, Southwestern and Southern regions based on cases and fatalities per 100,000 population. Significant case and fatality spatial clusters were most prevalent between November 2020 and January 2021. Distinct urban–rural differences in COVID-19 experiences uncovered higher rural cases and fatalities per 100,000 population and fewer government mitigation actions enacted in rural counties. High levels of social vulnerability and the absence of mitigation policies were significantly associated with higher fatalities, while existing community resilience had more influential spatial explanatory power. Using differences in percentage unemployment changes between 2019 and 2020 as a proxy for pre-emergent recovery revealed urban counties were hit harder in the early months of the pandemic, corresponding with imposed government mitigation policies. This longitudinal, place-based study confirms some early urban–rural patterns initially observed in the pandemic, as well as the disparate COVID-19 experiences among socially vulnerable populations. The results are critical in identifying geographic disparities in COVID-19 exposures and outcomes and providing the evidentiary basis for targeting pandemic recovery.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).

APA Citation

Jackson, S. L., Derakhshan, S., Blackwood, L., Lee, L., Huang, Q., Habets, M., & Cutter, S. L. (2021). Spatial disparities of covid-19 cases and fatalities in United States counties. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(16), 8259.

Included in

Geography Commons