The two Allen County ZIP codes with the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are southeast Fort Wayne's 46806 and 46816 – which also have higher numbers of minorities and lower-income residents than other county ZIP codes.
It's not that members of those populations are more physically susceptible to the virus, one local researcher says. It's that they face living situations that align with how the virus spreads.
“You have decidedly vulnerable populations that have been exposed to a virus that does not discriminate but has a path of transmission that puts these two groups at greater risk,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute of Purdue Fort Wayne.
According to numbers posted by the Indiana Management Performance Hub, the largest number of confirmed cases in one Allen County ZIP code, 375, are in 46806, which stretches north to south roughly from Pontiac Street to Paulding Road and west to east from Clinton Street to beyond Adams Center Road.
The second largest number, 286 cases, is in 46816, which is directly south of 46806 and stretches east beyond Minnich Road in New Haven and roughly follows Decatur Road with a dogleg to the St. Marys River.
Both ZIP codes' cases translate to about a 1.6% infection rate, based on their populations. The cases in those areas make up about one-third of Allen County's confirmed cases reported as of Tuesday.
The next three ZIP codes in the top five are: 46805 with 173 cases or 0.81% of the population, 46825 with 156 cases or 0.56% of the population and 46835 with 147 cases or 0.44% of the population.
Blakeman said the two top ZIP codes were not a surprise.
“Those are two that are majority minority populations and (have) high levels of low-income residents,” she said, adding the data back up the idea that vulnerable populations are bearing the brunt of COVID-19, not just in other parts of the nation but also locally.
Census data from 2016 show that while Allen County as a whole is 11.3% black/non-Hispanic, the 46806 area is 45% black/non-Hispanic. The 46816 area is 33% black/non-Hispanic. The two areas have 42% of Allen County's black population.
As for incomes, in 2016 the median income was $27,203 in 46806 and $32,485 in 46816 – when Allen County's overall median income was $49,574.
Several characteristics of those in the two ZIP codes might account for the higher numbers, Blakeman said. Minorities tend to work in high-risk jobs, such as customer contact or health care, where they can't work from home.
“So that puts them at a higher rate of exposure to someone with COVID-19,” she said.
Minority and low-income residents also are less likely to have access to health care and more likely to live in more dense housing conditions. That might make it more difficult to isolate at home if infected and lead to spread to a higher number of family members, Blakeman added.
She said it wasn't surprising that the 46835 area came in with a high number of confirmed cases as it has the largest population of any ZIP code in the county and more people than some entire Indiana counties.
But it and 46825, both in northern Fort Wayne, are also more than 90% white and have median incomes above the county's $49,574 in 2016 – 46835's was $57,962 and 46825's stood at $51,864.
Both 46806 and 46816 are among the top 20 African American ZIP codes for COVID-19 in Indiana, according to the state-released data. The top 20 Latino ZIP codes include 46806.
In a statement, the Allen County Health Department said it was aware of several larger testing operations at some workplaces in 46806 and 46818 that “likely resulted in the identification of cases affecting certain populations living within these areas.”
The department's statement added it cannot say “with certainty” if COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting African Americans. That's because the state department of health has taken over management of local case investigations and has not turned over demographic data, the statement says.
The statement did not provide specifics about upcoming measures the department would take to curb the spread but recommended residents follow previous instructions.
“People need to stay home when they are sick, follow isolation and quarantine guidelines if they are positive, wear a mask in public, practice good hand hygiene and socially distance at all times. These preventive measures will work in every population,” the statement said.
Allen County reported four more deaths Tuesday and an additional 39 confirmed cases, bringing the totals to 2,243 cases and 91 deaths. DeKalb County health officials reported two new cases Tuesday.
Sharon Tucker, D-6th, who represents both 46806 and 46816 on Fort Wayne City Council, said the numbers did and did not surprise her.
Tucker had been under the impression at the start of the outbreak that southeast Fort Wayne was not hit harder than other areas, but these numbers show differently.
“It feeds right into the narrative that those who are in poverty or low-, low-income and those of other races are the last to get the things that are needed,” she said. The numbers “just lend truth and support for the outcry we are hearing for access to health care and access to testing and (personal protective equipment).”
Tucker said some of the cases could have been prevented if testing had happened earlier.
“We just had testing” in those neighborhoods, she said. “It was too late.”
At a glance
Here are Allen County ZIP codes' number of COVID-19 as reported Monday by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. Some ZIP codes extend beyond Allen County into neighboring counties.
ZIP Cases Percent
46806: 375 cases 1.59%
46816: 286 cases 1.58%
46805: 172 0.81%
46825: 156 0.56%
46835: 147 0.48%
46807: 99 0.62%
46803: 99 1.00%
46808: 92 0.48%
46815: 87 0.33%
46802: 62 0.56%
46818: 55 0.29%
46774: 53 0.33%
46706: 53 0.28%
46845: 52 0.24%
46809: 35 0.39%
ZIP Cases Percent 46819: 28 0.32%
46741: 23 0.49%
46814: 27 0.22%
46748: 16 0.31%
46765: 11 0.21%
46788: 9 0.28%
46743: 8 0.41%
46797: 8 0.20%
46774: 7 0.19%
46745: 6 0.33%
46723: 6 0.08%
46783: 6 0.09%
46798: Less than 5
Source: Indiana Management Performance Hub