Mortality from Covid-19 in New Jersey is much higher than in the nation as a whole. In New Jersey, the mortality rate is 8.9%, and nationwide it is 3.7% (defined as the total number of deaths divided by the total number of cases). Yet, even within New Jersey the mortality rate varies substantially.  An example is the the mortality rate in Cumberland and Gloucester counties, which are both less than 7%, compared with the mortality rate in Sussex and Warren counties, which is more than twice that at 15.6% 13.4%, respectively.

Similarly, the growth in cases (and deaths) varies a lot around the state. On April 15, 2020, the counties with the highest number of cases per 100,000 population were Union, Passaic, Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties, which all had more than 1000 cases per 100,000 population. In contrast, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May counties all had fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 population.  But between April 15-May 15, the disease grew very differently. During this time period, for example, Bergen county saw only a 58% growth in cases, while Atlantic, Salem, and Cumberland saw growth rates of more than 500%.  

A new study led by WRI Faculty Director Sarah Allred and Emily Greenfield, an associate professor of social work at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, will seek to understand these patterns, not just at the county level, but also at the municipality level.  Why is mortality so high in some counties compared to other counties? Is it because of long term care facilities? The underlying age of the population? More pre-existing conditions? Proximity to New York and Philadelphia?  Or is it related to community -level factors, like poverty, race and ethnicity, or community cohesion?   

The study is funded through the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness at Rutgers University and will look at multidisciplinary research on neighborhoods, social inequalities, and health to explore links between local environments and COVID-19 mortality by examining trends across municipalities and counties in New Jersey during the early months, March through May, of the outbreak. Read more.