Understanding inequalities in SARS-CoV-2 transmission associated with the social determinants of health could help the development of effective mitigation strategies that are responsive to local transmission dynamics. This study aims to quantify social determinants of geographic concentration of SARS-CoV-2 cases across 16 census metropolitan areas (hereafter, cities) in 4 Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
We used surveillance data on confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases and census data for social determinants at the level of the dissemination area (DA). We calculated Gini coefficients to determine the overall geographic heterogeneity of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in each city, and calculated Gini covariance coefficients to determine each city’s heterogeneity by each social determinant (income, education, housing density and proportions of visible minorities, recent immigrants and essential workers). We visualized heterogeneity using Lorenz (concentration) curves.
We observed geographic concentration of SARS-CoV-2 cases in cities, as half of the cumulative cases were concentrated in DAs containing 21%–35% of their population, with the greatest geographic heterogeneity in Ontario cities (Gini coefficients 0.32–0.47), followed by British Columbia (0.23–0.36), Manitoba (0.32) and Quebec (0.28–0.37). Cases were disproportionately concentrated in areas with lower income and educational attainment, and in areas with a higher proportion of visible minorities, recent immigrants, high-density housing and essential workers. Although a consistent feature across cities was concentration by the proportion of visible minorities, the magnitude of concentration by social determinant varied across cities.
Geographic concentration of SARS-CoV-2 cases was observed in all of the included cities, but the pattern by social determinants varied. Geographically prioritized allocation of resources and services should be tailored to the local drivers of inequalities in transmission in response to the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2.