Over the last ten months, epidemics of COVID-19 have taken a variety of forms. In places like Northern Italy, the disease hit hard and fast. In other areas it seemed to move more slowly through the population.
According to new research from an international collaboration of scientists, including researchers in Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, many of these differences can be attributed to how tightly knit and interconnected these communities are.
They found that areas with small, tightly knit communities—where people mixed with the same neighbors in schools, stores, and other gathering places—had sharper, more intense epidemics. This type of epidemic is more likely to overwhelm a local healthcare system as lots of people get sick very quickly.