Institute of State and Regional Affairs looks at COVID-19 medical risk across PA

Outline of Pennsylvania over image of coronavirus image
Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — The Institute of State and Regional Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg has released a report to help guide strategic planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania. The report compares counties in Pennsylvania based on medical risk factors relating to COVID-19. The institute found that the three Pennsylvania counties with the highest relative risk, Sullivan, Northumberland and Juniata, are not yet showing high rates of infection.

“Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania have been strong and grounded in the best available evidence. This analysis provides new information that may aid strategic efforts to promote the health and safety of communities at greatest risk,” said Institute Director Philip Sirinides.

Rather than mapping current hot spots of COVID-19, this report's purpose is to highlight areas where the outcomes from COVID-19 may be more severe. To highlight which Pennsylvania counties have the most vulnerable populations, the institute collected data relating to age, prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, available hospital staff and beds, and nursing home populations, all factors associated with COVID-19 risk identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions.

The Medical Vulnerability Index (MVI) combines these factors to provide an indication of how high the relative medical risk is for each county. The percentage value for MVI represents to what percentage a county ranked across each indicator, where 100% would indicate that a county ranked highest among each indicator.

Values for MVI ranged from 19.4% (Dauphin) to 52.3% (Sullivan). Additional testing and strict adherence to public health recommendations are important tools to slowing the spread and may be most needed in three counties with the highest MVI values: Sullivan (52.3%), Northumberland (48.2%), and Juniata (45.9%). 

The Institute of State and Regional Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg leverages unbiased data expertise and the resources of Penn State to provide multifaceted data and research support services. The institute is comprised of the Pennsylvania State Data Center, the Center for Survey Research, the Economic Development Course in Pennsylvania, and the ISRA Integrated Technology Center.

For more information about the COVID 19 medical risk report, visit the Institute of State and Regional Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg at, or contact the institute at 717-948-6173 or [email protected].