Understanding the reasons for the differences in the spread of COVID-19 in different cities of China is important for future epidemic prevention and control . This study analyzed this issue from the perspective of population migration from Wuhan (the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China). It reveals that population outflow from Wuhan to other cities in Hubei Province (the province where Wuhan is located) and metropolises and provincial capitals outside of Hubei province exceeded those to other cities . This is broadly consistent with the distribution of confirmed COVID-19 cases . Additionally, model analysis revealed that population outflow from Wuhan was the key factor that determined the COVID-19 situations . The spread of COVID-19 was positively correlated with GDP per capita and resident population and negatively correlated with the distance from Wuhan and the number of hospital beds, while population density was not a strong influential factor . Additionally, the demographic characteristics of population migration from Wuhan also affected the virus transmission . Particularly, businesspeople (who tend to have a high frequency of social activities) were more likely to spread COVID-19 . This study indicated that specific measures to control population outflow from the epicenter at the early stage of the epidemic were of great significance.