While there are still many unknowns when it comes to coronavirus, researchers and health experts have made one thing clear: the more exposure you have to COVID-19, the more likely you are to be infected…and to die as a result. And, according to new research, there is one particular thing that is majorly putting people at risk of coronavirus death—especially in major cities.
Two new studies have found that public transportation for commuting increases your death risk for coronavirus—which may explain why African-Americans are dying at higher rates than white people from the virus—reports the Wall Street Journal. According to researchers at Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh, Black people are over 3.5 times as likely to die of Covid-19 than white people, while Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the disease as white people. Both bodies of research attempted to uncover why exactly this is the case.
The Secret May Be Public Transportation
The first study, conducted by University of Virginia economist John McLaren, found that the reason why there was such a discrepancy between the death rate of Black and white people when it comes to the highly infectious virus, is partially due to the fact that Black workers are more likely to rely on public transit than Caucasians to the tune of 10.4% to 3.4%.
The other study, courtesy of Christopher Knittel and Bora Ozaltun, both of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also found a link between dependence on public transportation and the risk of coronavirus death. Examining counties around the country, they determined that a 10% increase in the share of a county’s residents who use public transit versus those who telecommute increased COVID-19 death rates by 1.21 per 1,000 people. Like the first study, they also found race to come into play.
While they cite many factors that could be responsible for the differences, one is likely “the result of public transit use itself”—for example, the close proximity of passengers for long periods of time makes transmission of the virus more likely. They also pointed out that counties where people drove or walked to work (versus working from home) also showed an increased death rate. This could imply that simply leaving the house accounted for the higher death risk.
Rethink Your Commute
Obviously, these studies should make you rethink taking public transportation unless absolutely necessary. However, on a larger and more effective scale, researchers hope their findings will come in useful as economies reopen. As many people rely on public transportation to get to work, unless safety measures are taken on these vessels—for example, mask wearing, social distancing, regularly disinfecting surfaces—lives could be lost. In fact, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.