Blacks In Tampa, Florida Seem Less Likely To Contract COVID-19. Why?

A three story apartment complex fenced off because its still under construction
Haley Pk 15 photo by Florida Community Loan Fund is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
2016 construction of Tampa's Haley Park Apartments, which offer affordable rent to seniors, veterans and people who were experiencing homelessness.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (the Foundation) recently shared stories about COVID-19 responses in nine locations across the US.1 Tampa’s story stands out because COVID-19 levels are roughly in line with the city’s race and ethnicity distribution. This is unlike national patterns, and indeed international patterns where Black people are in a minority. In these situations, Black people have generally been much more likely to be infected than white people.

Tampa’s Black residents’ average incomes are lower than their white neighbours, and their access to publicly funded health care is very limited. Since both of these ought to mean more COVID-19 infections, the Foundation looked for other factors that might explain the lower infection rate in Tampa’s Black population.

The Foundation identified two possibilities. Tampa residents are less likely to live in high rise buildings, where residents may have difficulty practicing social distancing as they use elevators and hallways to reach their homes. Lower density housing may make it easier to practice social distancing.

Next, the City has improved the quality of housing for its poorest residents. Housing quality includes crowding and running water as well as other factors. Less crowding and running water may make it easier to implement quarantine and safe hygiene practices when someone in a household has been exposed to the coronavirus.

The link to Tampa’s response, Sentinel Communities Insights: Spotlight on COVID-19 – Tampa, Florida, is at the foot of this page: COVID-19 Community Response: Emerging Themes Across Sentinel Communities

Will this promising trend in Tampa continue? The Foundation plans to continue to track the Sentinel communities and will report next in the fall.


  1. They include: Tacoma, Washington; San Juan County, New Mexico; Finney County, Kansas; Harris County, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Sanilac County, Michigan; White Plains, New York; and Tampa, Florida. It is part of the Foundation’s Sentinel Communities Project, where it is tracking how communities across the US work towards health. Reports from each of the communities as well as a summary of findings from all nine communities are available at this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation page: COVID-19 Community Response: Emerging Themes Across Sentinel Communities