Association between population density and infection rate suggests the importance of social distancing and travel restriction in reducing the COVID-19 pandemic


Background: Currently, the 2019-nCoV has spread to most countries of the world. Understanding the environmental factors that affect the spread of the disease COVID-19 infection is critical to stop the spread of the disease. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether population density is associated with the infection rate of the COVID-19.
Methods: We collected data from official webpages of cities in China and in the US. The data were uploaded on Excel spreadsheets for statistical analyses. We calculated the morbidity and population density of cities and regions in these two countries. We then examined the relationship between the morbidity and other factors.
Results: Our analysis indicated that the population density in cities in Hubei province where the COVID-19 was severe was associated with a higher percentage of morbidity, with an r value of 0.62. Similarly, in the US, the density of 51 states and territories is also associated with morbidity from COVID-19 with an r value of 0.55. In contrast, as a control group, there is no association between the morbidity and population density in 33 other regions of China, where the COVID-19 epidemic is well under control. Interestingly, our study also indicated that these associations were not influenced by the first case of COVID-19. The rate of morbidity and the number of days from the first case in the US has no association, with an r value of -0.1288.
Conclusions: Population density is positively associated with the percentage of patients with COVID-19 infection in the population. Our data support the importance of such as social distancing and travel restriction in the prevention of COVID-19 spread.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

This work was partially supported by funding from merit grant I01 BX000671 to WG from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Memphis, TN, USA, and grant 90DDUC0058 to CG from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

N/A. not a clinical trial

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.


I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).


I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.


Data Availability

Data are all available from public websites.

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