SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — Research shows your zip code can be one of the biggest predictors of your health, and in Pinellas County, the two zip codes with the highest number of COVID-19 cases help paint a picture of why.
TRACK FLORIDA'S DATA: New cases, hospitalizations, deaths: Florida COVID-19 numbers
“We have got to be more cognizant of what's going on,” said Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, who represents District 70 in the state legislature, which covers the zip codes of 33705 and 33712.
Those two zip codes are responsible for the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Pinellas County.
“The leading indicator is probably a lack of access to health care,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed of the Taneja College of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida.
These two zip codes are located in south St. Petersburg and disproportionately suffer from poverty and diminished socioeconomic opportunity. The population is overwhelmingly Black and the neighborhoods struggle in areas doctors say impact health the most.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, our well-being doesn’t start in the doctor’s office, it starts in our homes, communities and other social institutions like schools and workplaces.
These are called “social determinants of health,” which the ODPHP says are the “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”
Zip code 33712 is home to Jordan Park, a public housing development that over the years has struggled with poverty and crime. The median income is just $35,000.
It’s also home to Melrose Elementary School, which just a few years ago was ranked as the worst in the entire state. The area is also located in what many call a 'food desert,' with no major grocery store nearby and a weak transportation system to move residents through the community to school and work.
“As far as healthy fruits and vegetables, we have to go out to the outskirts to Walmart or to a Publix, but there's nothing in the community,” Newton said. “No one's been really deliberately trying to put nothing here. It's been a lot of rhetoric, a lot of talk, but there's no access to fresh fruits and vegetables in this community in the zip code.”
Together, 33712 and 33705 have more than 700 cases of COVID-19.
County health leaders recently held mobile coronavirus testing in Jordan Park to encourage more people to get tested for the virus.
“I’m hopeful that people get the message that this is real,” Newton said.
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