Preventing evictions remains critical to controlling COVID-19

Renter protection policies that have curbed mass evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have played a key role in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in U.S. cities, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

Opened envelope with an eviction notice inside on a table beside a discarded face mask.


Using an epidemiological model to predict how evictions and eviction moratoria would impact the epidemic, the researchers found, for instance, that in a city of 1 million in which 1 percent of households experience eviction monthly, this could lead to up to 49,000 excess COVID-19 infections. In Philadelphia alone, a fivefold increase in evictions, predicted by some economic analyses, could lead to 53,000 extra infections. The study was led by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our model shows clearly that policies to stem evictions are not only a warranted but a necessary component of COVID control. As long as the virus is circulating, ending these protections could have devastating implications in the United States,” says co-senior author Michael Z. Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology.

Record levels of unemployment have put millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes throughout 2020 and 2021. At the start of the pandemic, many cities and states enacted temporary legislation banning evictions, some of which have since expired. On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a national moratorium on evictions, which was extended in March 2021. This order is currently being challenged in various courts.

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