These 3 Florida Counties Have the Highest COVID Death Rates. Is "Exposure Density" to Blame?

Malinda Fusco

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It's no secret that COVID-19 hit some areas of Florida much harder than others. Some of our state's counties have a higher death rate than others. But is there a commonality between the three Florida counties with the highest death rates?

This article analyzes the three Florida counties with the highest death rates from COVID-19 and uses data from both the US Facts COVID Tracking System and Stacker.

Highest COVID Death Rate: Union County

Union County has the highest COVID Death rate, ranked by cumulative deaths per 100k residents in order to account for varying residential amounts across the counties.

Here are some stats for Union County:

  • Number of Cumulative deaths per 100k residents: 486 (74 total deaths)
  • 174.6% more deaths per 100k residents than Florida Average
  • Ranked #82 highest rate among all counties nationwide

Second-Highest COVID Death Rate: Highlands County

Highlands County has the second-highest COVID Death rate, ranked by cumulative deaths per 100k residents in order to account for varying residential amounts across the counties.

Here are some stats for Highlands County:

  • Cumulative deaths per 100k: 345 (366 total deaths)
  • 94.9% more deaths per 100k residents than Florida Average
  • Ranked #324 highest rate among all counties nationwide

Third-Highest COVID Death Rate: Jackson County

Jackson County has the third-highest COVID Death rate, ranked by cumulative deaths per 100k residents in order to account for varying residential amounts across the counties.

Here are some stats for Jackson County:

  • Cumulative deaths per 100k: 340 (158 total deaths)
  • 92.1% more deaths per 100k residents than Florida Average
  • Ranked #336 highest rate among all counties nationwide

Why do these three Florida counties have the highest COVID death rates?

So, why do these three Florida counties have the highest COVID death rates? Is population density alone to blame? Although biostatisticians and experts claim that a dense population makes infection rates rise, it's not the only factor in the equation.

Constantine Kontokosta, an urban planning researcher, thinks that “exposure density” is the real culprit for infection spread.

Exposure density is the about of neighborhood activity levels compared to the spread of the disease. Are people responding to the pandemic in a safe and cautious manner? Or are activity levels the same as pre-pandemic conditions? According to Constantine, this matters a lot.

“This question of how people respond, and how people behave and change their behavior, is a really important component in the context of the overall levels of risk and transmission that may occur in a given place."

What do you think?

Do you think that Constantine Lontokosta's theory of exposure density is correct? Or do you think that population density matters more? Or, perhaps, both are equally important?

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