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CSDE Seminar Series

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Panel: Social and Economic Impacts of COVID-19: Focus on Housing, Employment and Food Security

Marissa Baker, Assistant Professor, UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Rachel Fyall, Associate Professor, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance – UW

Chelsea Rose, Research Coordinator, UW Department of Nutritional Sciences


Register for Zoom Seminar HERE

12:30-1:30 PM PT


Population Health Initiative

Marissa Baker will present, “Experiences, Needs, and Risk Perceptions of App-Based Drivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

App-based drivers (e.g. Uber drivers) face work disruptions and infection risk during a pandemic due to the nature of their work, interactions with the public, and lack of workplace protections. Limited occupational health research has focused on their experiences. We surveyed 100 app-based drivers in Seattle, WA to assess risk perceptions, supports and controls received from the company that employs them, sources of trust, stress, job satisfaction, COVID-19 infection status, and how the pandemic had changed their work hours. Data were summarized descriptively and with simple regression models. We complemented this with qualitative interviews to better understand controls and policies enacted during COVID-19, and barriers and facilitators to their implementation.

Drivers expressed very high levels of concern for exposure and infection (86%-97% were “very concerned” for all scenarios). Only 31% of drivers reported receiving an appropriate mask from the company they drive for. Stress (assessed via PSS-4) was significantly higher in drivers who reported having COVID-19, and also significantly higher in respondents with lower reported job satisfaction. Informants frequently identified supports such as unemployment benefits and peer outreach among the driver community as ways to ensure that drivers could access available benefits during COVID-19.App-based drivers received few protections from the company that employed them, and had high fears of exposure and infection at work. There is increased need for health-supportive policies and protections for app-based drivers. The most effective occupational and public health regulations would cover employees who may not have a traditional employer-employee relationship. This work has informed City of Seattle policies, and will continue to inform ongoing research and policy efforts in Seattle and beyond. Read more about this research here.

Rachel Fyall will present, “Compounded Challenges and Policy Innovations in Housing and Shelter during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Social distancing and “stay-at-home” directives – concepts that became household terms during the COVID-19 pandemic – have particular implications for those who are precariously housed. Furthermore, the economic consequences of the pandemic increased housing precarity for many low-income renters as well as those hoping to exit homelessness. On the other hand, the relationship between COVID-19 and housing also catalyzed policy innovations, such as transforming the emergency shelter system and widespread implementation of eviction moratoria. Drawing from two mixed-methods research projects, this presentation highlights some of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic compounded challenges in housing and shelter, but also motivated previously unconsidered policy innovations. Project summaries and associated research reports for each project are available here and here.

Chelsea Rose will present, “Food Security and Food Access in Washington State During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted multiple components of the food system, affecting the food supply while at the same time creating economic conditions greatly reducing consumer purchasing power. The WAFOOD series of online surveys aimed to identify the impact of COVID-19 on WA State residents’ economic security, food access and food security with a focus on lower-income households. Wave 1 was fielded in June-July 2020 (n=2,615), wave 2 in December 2020-January 2021 (n=3,501),and wave 3 in July-August 2021 (n=3,074). Across all three waves of data collection, food insecurity among WAFOOD households was higher than the pre-COVID-19 WA state average of 10%. Food insecurity was higher among younger, non-binary, NH black, Hispanic, households with children, low-income households, those with some college or less, unemployed, and veterans and varied by occupation. Food assistance use increased across the three waves of data collection. The path to recovery may be long, with the possibility of widening of existing inequities. Health equity should be a focal point of assistance and policies moving forward. Continued monitoring is needed.

Marissa Baker is an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health sciences, and is also an affiliate faculty in the harry bridges center for labor studies. Her research centers on the occupational exposures and experiences of underserved and underrepresented workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic she has been working with labor and industry groups to characterize both physical and mental health outcomes related to the pandemic, and suggest interventions and controls.

Rachel Fyall is an associate professor at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. She is also a faculty affiliate of the West Coast Poverty Center and serves as the faculty co-chair of Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative. Her research examines the role of nonprofit service providers within public policy, particularly within the context of homelessness programs and low-income housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had the privilege of collaborating with academics and practitioners to conduct housing-related research that informs policy decisions.

Chelsea Rose, PhD, is a research scientist in the department of epidemiology and has worked at the UW for the past 6 years in the Center for Public Health Nutrition. Her research focuses on social, environmental, and economic predictors of diets and weight status throughout the life course. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rose has collaborated on several research projects that collected real-time data on how WA state residents have been coping with the pandemic, including projects with special focuses on tribal and WIC populations