A multivariate spatiotemporal model for tracking COVID-19 incidence and death rates in socially vulnerable populations

Brian Neelon, Chun Che Wen, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies have produced inconsistent findings regarding the association between community social vulnerability and COVID-19 incidence and death rates. This inconsistency may be due, in part, to the fact that these studies modeled cases and deaths separately, ignoring their inherent association and thus yielding imprecise estimates. To improve inferences, we develop a Bayesian multivariate negative binomial model for exploring joint spatial and temporal trends in COVID-19 infections and deaths. The model introduces smooth functions that capture long-term temporal trends, while maintaining enough flexibility to detect local outbreaks in areas with vulnerable populations. Using multivariate autoregressive priors, we jointly model COVID-19 cases and deaths over time, taking advantage of convenient conditional representations to improve posterior computation. As such, the proposed model provides a general framework for multivariate spatiotemporal modeling of counts and rates. We adopt a fully Bayesian approach and develop an efficient posterior Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm that relies on easily sampled Gibbs steps. We use the model to examine incidence and death rates among counties with high and low social vulnerability in the state of Georgia, USA, from 15 March to 15 December 2020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1812-1835
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Applied Statistics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2023


  • Gaussian Markov random field
  • Laplacian matrix
  • Pólya-Gamma data augmentation
  • negative binomial model
  • penalized splines
  • random walk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


Dive into the research topics of 'A multivariate spatiotemporal model for tracking COVID-19 incidence and death rates in socially vulnerable populations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this