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Blog COVID-19 in Maryland

Report: Baltimore City, Dorchester and Caroline Counties Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 Impact

Dorchester and Caroline counties, along with Baltimore City, are the most vulnerable Maryland jurisdictions when it comes to the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to data released Wednesday by the Surgo Foundation.

Close behind are Wicomico, Washington and Allegany counties. 

Using census tract data, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank compiled categories from the Center for Disease Control’s social vulnerability index with factors unique to the current public health crisis to create the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability index.

The COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index isn’t used to determine which areas will be hardest-hit on a viral level, but rather where the greatest need for relief will lie.

The CDC’s social vulnerability index uses a number of census factors to assist federal, state and local decision-makers in determining what communities will need the most aid when recovering from or preparing for the outbreak of disease or disaster. 

The CDC’s index system determines what areas will have the greatest need based on four factors:

  • Socioeconomic status, including people in low-income areas with limited educational opportunities
  • Areas with high concentrations of minority populations and language barriers
  • Household composition and disability, which encompasses minors, elderly and disabled populations, as well as single-parent households
  • Housing type and transportation, including apartment complexes, mobile and multi-family homes and houses with limited access to private or public transportation

The COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index uses these four standards as well as two factors specific to the coronavirus pandemic to determine areas that will see the largest disparities. These include: 

  • Epidemiologic variables, or a community’s health risk based on pre-existing conditions
  • Factors surrounding the limits of state and local healthcare systems

Overall scores and those for each of the six individual categories are then given at a state and county level, including Washington, D.C., on a scale of zero to one.

Those with the scores closest to one represent the most vulnerable locales. 

To determine scores, the Surgo Foundation used data from the CDC, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, among other organizations.

The state of Maryland’s overall score is .42 — ranking 30th out of 51. New Hampshire was the least vulnerable overall with a score of zero; Mississippi was the most susceptible state, receiving a ranking of one.

A data analysis conducted by the Surgo Foundation found that just over 70% of the nation’s most vulnerable populations live in the South. While Maryland is represented in this group, it ranked at the lower end of the spectrum just above Delaware and D.C.

Notably, Maryland’s vulnerability scores ranked 11th highest in the nation for the minority status and language category, and 16th for epidemiological factors.

In a breakdown of Maryland jurisdictions, Baltimore City came out on top with the highest overall vulnerability ratings. The lowest rating was seen in Queen Anne’s County.

Caroline County had the highest score for health care system factors; Somerset County was ranked most vulnerable for both socioeconomic and housing and transportation variables; Carroll County is projected to experience the greatest issue with epidemiological factors; Dorchester County may see the state’s biggest disparity regarding household composition and disability; and Prince George’s County is poised to see the highest ranking in minority vulnerabilities.

To see where each of Maryland’s 24 counties rate in all six categories, see the chart below: