Background: Studies examining the role of geographic factors in COVID-19 epidemiology among rural populations are lacking. Methods: Our study is a population-based longitudinal study based on rural residents in four southeast Minnesota counties from March through October 2020. We used a kernel density estimation approach to identify hotspots for COVID-19 cases. Temporal trends of cases and testing were examined by generating a series of hotspot maps during the study period. Household/individual-level socioeconomic status (SES) was measured using the HOUSES index and examined for association between identified hotspots and SES. Results: During the study period, 24,243 of 90,975 residents (26.6%) were tested for COVID-19 at least once; 1,498 (6.2%) of these tested positive. Compared to other rural residents, hotspot residents were overall younger (median age: 40.5 vs 43.2), more likely to be minorities (10.7% vs 9.7%), and of higher SES (lowest HOUSES [SES] quadrant: 14.6% vs 18.7%). Hotspots accounted for 30.1% of cases (14.5% of population) for rural cities and 60.8% of cases (27.1% of population) for townships. Lower SES and minority households were primarily affected early in the pandemic and higher SES and non-minority households affected later. Conclusion: In rural areas of these four counties in Minnesota, geographic factors (hotspots) play a significant role in the overall burden of COVID-19 with associated racial/ethnic and SES disparities, of which pattern differed by the timing of the pandemic (earlier in pandemic vs. later). The study results could more precisely guide community outreach efforts (e.g., public health education, testing/tracing, and vaccine roll out) to those residing in hotspots.
- Cohort study
- Public health
- Social determinants of health
- Socioeconomic status
ASJC Scopus subject areas