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New report shines light on COVID-19 population shifts

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

We’re starting to get a look at how the pandemic has affected population across New York state, thanks to a new report released by Cornell’s Program on Applied Demographics, or PAD.

Cornell University demographer Jan Vink said experts are keeping a close eye on new census data showing the earliest effects of the pandemic.

"Population estimate is very important for policy makers, but also it's used for all kinds of funding formulae," said Vink.

The new analysis from PAD looked at the period between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, in New York state. All regions saw a rise in deaths and a fall in births during that time. More than half of New York’s counties lost population due to more people moving out than moving in since that last census.

However, Vink said in many regions, the rate of those losses went down in the pandemic era. That includes central New York.

"Almost 3,000 more people were moving out than moving in due to domestic migration to elsewhere, but that used to be around 5 or 6,000," said Vink.

Between July 2020, and July 2021, both the Capital Region and the North Country saw more people moving in than moving out.

As demographers expected, the biggest pandemic population losses were in New York City. The Southern Tier saw the second largest percentage decrease, likely due to colleges and universities in that area shifting to virtual instruction.

But Vink said the pandemic picture is far from complete.

"We are kind of used to taking the last census and doing our own estimates and predictions based on that census, but yeah, we're really struggling with, ‘What are the assumptions for the future?’” Vink said.

Vink said demographers are already eager to see next year’s data to start getting an idea of how many people were only moving temporarily until COVID-19 numbers decreased.

You can see the full report here.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.