The numbers of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and virus-related deaths continue to mount, both globally and in the US and Georgia . In fact, worldwide, America now has the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases. Social distancing measures appear to be having positive effects in slowing infection (“flattening the curve”) in current hot spots like New York, though death rates there continue to be very high. It appears that Georgia’s cases may well be weeks away from their peak. Further, the short and mid-term damage to our state’s economy has become even more clear as the weeks pass, with the filing of record highs of unemployment claims.

Limiting infection and improving the health outcomes for COVID-19 high-risk groups in Georgia is obviously a prime concern for all of us. And information about where people with those risk factors live is a critical element in doing that. We previously took a spatial look at older adult population age 65 years and at those with economic vulnerability.  Now, this post takes at concentrations for a newly identified vulnerable group: those with poorer cardiovascular health. 

% of All Emergency Room Visits Cardiovascular-Related (overlaid with COVID-19 Cases), County level

The map below uses state Department of Public Health data. It overlays the latest April 13, 2020  COVID-19 county-level confirmed cases (the numbers shown for each county) with the percent share (shading by level) of emergency room (ER) visits in 2018 that were related to cardiovascular health. As of April 13th, Fulton County has the highest number of  confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the number of deaths related to the virus, followed by Dougherty and DeKalb Counties. But here’s something of concern given the recent findings on heart disease and corona. Cardiovascular issues are a larger share of ER visits in counties where case loads are for now quite low–see the examples of northeast and southeast Georgia. When cases increase in those areas “least hit” to date, and models indicate that they quite likely will, patient outcomes in those areas might well be relatively poorer than in more urban counties that have been harder hit thus far, owing to the higher rates of heart disease.

% of Emergency Room Visits for those 65+ that are Cardiovascular-Related (overlaid with COVID-19 Cases), County level

The second map (again, below) takes the story a step further, by focusing on ER admissions for heart-related reasons in patients aged 65 and up. Remember: older age is itself a risk factor for both coronavirus infection and for poor outcomes once infected. COVID-19 county-level confirmed cases (numbers shown for each county) are overlaid on the percentage shares of all emergency room (ER) visits by those aged 65+ that are related to cardiovascular issues. Heart disease is a much more frequent cause of ER visits for those aged 65 and up than across all patient age groups.  And, as with the previous counties where case loads are for now quite low (northeast and southeast Georgia), patient outcomes could well be relatively poorer in counties where a higher share of 65+ admissions in those areas that are related to heart disease.