COVID-19 Attack Rate Increases with City Size
23 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020 Last revised: 9 Jun 2020
Date Written: March 30, 2020
The current outbreak of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) poses an unprecedented global health and economic threat to interconnected human societies. Until a vaccine is developed, strategies for controlling the outbreak rely on aggressive social distancing. These measures largely disconnect the social network fabric of human societies, especially in urban areas. Here, we estimate the growth rates and reproductive numbers of COVID-19 in US cities from March 14th through March 19th to reveal a power-law scaling relationship to city population size. This means that COVID-19 is spreading faster on average in larger cities with the additional implication that, in an uncontrolled outbreak, larger fractions of the population are expected to become infected in more populous urban areas. We discuss the implications of these observations for controlling the COVID-19 outbreak, emphasizing the need to implement more aggressive distancing policies in larger cities while also preserving socioeconomic activity.
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