COVID-19 Pandemic Policies and Health

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted rapid and innovative policymaking around the world at the national, regional, and local levels. The projects below seek to document and characterize new and expanded local U.S. pandemic-era policies to better understand how policy variation and implementation have impacted health and health disparities.


The U.S. COVID-19 County Policy (UCCP) Database

The goal of this study is to create a national database of local COVID-19-related public health and social policies and to test the hypothesis that these policies have affected racial and socioeconomic disparities in mental health and healthcare utilization. The UCCP database seeks to collect systematic, comparable information on county and state policy responses to COVID-19 and aims to provide a reliable record of what local governments have done in response to the pandemic. The policies collected in the database have been grouped into three categories 1) closure and containment policies (e.g., bar and restaurant closures), 2) economic response policies (e.g., housing support), and 3) public health policies (e.g., mask mandates).

We are gathering weekly county- and state-level policy data for 2020-2021 for a nationwide sample of over 300 counties (see list below), selected to ensure coverage of over half of the U.S. population in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as diversity in racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and urban/rural composition. We will then examine which local COVID-19-related policies contributed to or ameliorated pandemic-related disparities in mental health, health behaviors, and healthcare utilization by linking the policy database with national health data that provide individual-level information on self-reported psychological distress, smoking, alcohol use, and drug use. Led by researchers at the SPHERE Center, the UCCP Database is a collaboration with UCSF and the Louisiana Public Health Institute. The project also involves partnering with an advisory board of policy stakeholders to ensure this work is relevant and has maximum impact.

FundingNIMH U01PCORI award

Relevant Materials:

List of Counties in UCCP Database

Data Collection and Interpretation Guide

Publicly Available Data: The datasets used for the current study are available to any investigator at openICPSR, a service of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research:

Webinar Recording: COVID Consortium Meeting

Recent Publications: 

Pandemic-Related Stressors and Health Disparities

California was at the forefront of instituting new social and economic policies to help families, including increased SNAP (CalFresh) benefits and stimulus checks. While these additional social supports helped, they could not eliminate all of the new stressors families faced during the pandemic. In addition to anxiety around the disease itself, school closures, lockdowns, and employment disruptions put stress on caregivers and children. The SPHERE Center has collaborated with researchers at UC Berkeley and UCANR to conduct surveys among low-income California families to describe their experiences with social stressors and safety net policies during the pandemic.

Funding: NIMH U01, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tipping Point

Recent Publications: