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Epidemiologist Says It's Less About Where You Live, More About What You Do That Determines Your Likeliness Of Catching COVID-19

Aerial image of the State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Florida.
Felix Mizioznikov
Adobe Stock
Zip code 32304 is considered one of Florida's poorest. Low-income families live alongside college students who are more likely to be infected with the coronavirus. But Epidemiologist Dr. Perry Brown says the risk college students present to families has less to do with living near each other and more to do with how they interact.

In the state's poorest zip code, 32304 in Tallahassee, low-income residents live side by side with college students. That's raising concerns since local coronavirus cases are rising among college-aged people, and low-income people tend to face more negative health impacts if they're infected.

The median age for Leon County residents who've tested positive with the coronavirus in the past few weeks is 19-to-21. That includes more than 1,200 Florida State University students. Some of those students live in the 32304 zip code, where many low-income families also reside. Epidemiologist Dr. Perry Brown says the proximity between those two groups could be concerning.

"The incidence of a particular condition may be greater in lower-income areas. Certainly, the results of being infected are often very different between lower-income and higher-income communities," Brown says.

32304 makes up about 30% of Leon County's total COVID-19 cases. But Brown says regardless of where someone lives, everyone is at risk for catching the disease.

"Every day, we are all at risk. Every time we have an interaction with an individual—we're all at risk," Brown says.

Brown says, just living next door to someone who has the virus doesn't necessarily mean you'll get it. He says it's more about what someone does that determines their risk of catching the disease.

Mayor John Dailey says all residents need to work together if they hope to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

"You don't police your way out of this. The city cannot be the only responsible party, nor can the university community. It's going to take everybody in Leon County working together. Social distance and wear your mask," Dailey says.