Cities with high-usage public transportation systems displayed higher per capita COVID incidence at the beginning of the pandemic, a new study shows.

The findings held true when researchers accounted for other factors, such as education, poverty levels, and household crowding.

The association continued to be statistically significant even when the model was run without data from transit-friendly New York City.

Using data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey, researchers looked at the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas and each community’s likelihood of riding buses and trains. They then compared the numbers with the 838,000 confirmed COVID cases on the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering’s dashboard from January 22 to May 1, 2020.

The time frame covers the initial days, weeks, and months of the pandemic, before mask mandates were in place and prior to widespread social distancing. Ventilation on public transit had yet to be addressed, along with other public health measures that have since become the norm.

While the researchers don’t suggest that transit is the sole cause of the high incidence rates, they say it could have been an important factor early in the pandemic.

Read the full article about transportation and COVID-19 by Jason Maderer at Futurity.