Epidemiologist On COVID Risk: Less Where You Live, More What You Do

Sep 15, 2020

In the state's poorest ZIP code, 32304 in Tallahassee, low-income residents live side-by-side with college students. That's raising concerns since local coronavirus cases are rising among college-aged people, and low-income people tend to face more negative health impacts if infected.

The median age for Leon County residents who've tested positive with the coronavirus in the past few weeks is 19 to 21. That includes more than 1,200 Florida State University students. Some of those students live in the 32304 ZIP code.

Epidemiologist Dr. Perry Brown says the proximity between those groups could be concerning.

"The incidence of a particular condition may be greater in lower-income areas. Certainly, the results of being infected are often very different between lower-income and higher-income communities," Brown says.

That 32304 area makes up about 30 percent of Leon County's COVID-19 cases. But Brown says regardless of where someone lives, everyone is at risk for catching the disease.

"Every day, we are all at risk. Every time we have an interaction with an individual — we're all at risk," Brown says.

Brown says just living next door to someone who has the virus doesn't necessarily mean you'll get it. He says it's more about what someone does that determines their risk of catching the disease.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey says all residents need to work together if they hope to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

"You don't police your way out of this. The city cannot be the only responsible party, nor can the university community. It's going to take everybody in Leon County working together. Social distance and wear your mask," Dailey says.