Coachella Valley COVID-19 Needs Assessment
Authors: Manfred Keil, Robert Kleinhenz, Fernando Lozano, Ken Miller, Johannes Moenius, Barbara Sirotnik
Publication: Health Assessment and Research for Communities (HARC)
Date: June 2020
With support from generous funders Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill, John P. Monahan Foundation, a Donor Advised Fund of the U.S. Charitable Gift Trust, and Western Wind Foundation, HARC was able to conduct this important COVID-19 Needs Assessment. The assessment was conducted from June to July of 2020. The purpose of this needs assessment was to get a deeper understanding of how COVID-19 has effected the Coachella Valley. Our community has a high proportion of people considered to be at high-risk of COVID-19 complications, such as older adults and those living with compromised immune systems, which makes this needs assessment particularly important.
HARC recruited participants through social media and e-blasts who were Coachella Valley residents and 18 years or older. Local partners of HARC also helped to publicize the survey to increase the number of participants reached. Data collection spanned approximately one month. This needs assessment also included qualitative data from key informant interviews with local residents regarding the impact of COVID-19; the participants were obtained through a partnership with the Center for Health Disparities Research at UC Riverside (HDR@UCR).
A total of 624 Coachella Valley residents participated in this needs assessment, representing our entire Valley from Desert Hot Springs to the Salton Sea. About a third of the participants identified as Hispanic/Latino, and most (64.7%) were female. About half of the participants were making less than $50,000 a year, and about half have a college degree or higher. On average, the household size was 2.6 people; approximately 24.2% lived alone. Approximately one quarter of participants (26.3%) live in households with at least one child. About half of participants (49.3%) had been diagnosed with one or more of these major diseases.
COVID-19 Symptoms and Testing
The majority (66.0%) of participants have not attempted to get a COVID-19 test. Most participants reported that if they learned they acquired COVID-19, they would either quarantine themselves for 14 days (37.1%) or go get tested for COVID-19 (20.6%).
Of the 1.9% (12 participants) who tested positive for COVID-19, all stayed home in quarantine. One participant indicated that they were in the hospital for eight days.
The majority of participants “strongly agree” (71.4%) with the shelter-in-place order for themselves. On that note, 42.8% of participants have complied with the shelter-in- place order “all of the time”. However, 3.9% report complying “less than half the time”, “some of the time”, or “none of the time”, indicating high risk levels.
Most participants (57.6%) indicated they are able to stay at least six feet away from people when they go outdoors. Approximately 41.9% try but can’t always maintain six feet distance from others—most mentioned that it is difficult to do in grocery stores. A few participants (0.5%) simply do not stay six feet away from others. Most participants (94.0%) “agree” or “strongly agree” with social distancing requirements and recommendations for themselves; however, 2.3% of participants “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the recommendations, and thus, are likely not practicing safe behaviors.
Slightly less than three-quarters (70.7%) of participants wear masks all of the time and a quarter (25.5%) of participants wear masks most of the time/more than half of the time However, about 3.8% of participants wear a mask less than half of the time to none of the time. About 90.4% of participants wear a mask correctly (by covering nose and mouth) all of the time. However, the remaining 9.6% of participants do not wear a mask correctly, which is much less effective.
Impact of COVID-19
When asked, “How much is/did COVID-19 impact your daily life?” The majority of participants (74.6%) were “extremely” or “very much” impacted by COVID-19. Many indicated that the major impacts were social isolation and a loss of employment. Those who were not heavily impacted by COVID-19 indicated that they had little social life before the pandemic or were able to work remotely already. Nearly half of participants (41.5%) indicate they have been extremely impacted by COVID-19, while another third (33.1%) have been very much impacted.
Most participants (61.9%) were employed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020. However, 1 in 5 of these workers (22.9%) are no longer employed. Most who lost their jobs were laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19. Among those currently employed, 18.1% are “extremely worried” that they will lose their jobs in the coming months. This economic insecurity is extremely stressful. About a third of local workers are still physically going into work, which may be exposing them to COVID-19. Economic Participants who were initially employed prior to the pandemic were asked how COVID-19 has affected them financially. Results show that over a third (37.6%) report decreased income, while another third (37.0%) report that they were not affected financially. Among participants who lost employment or have a decreased income, these individuals report struggles in paying rent/mortgage (45.0%) and difficulty paying their utilities (37.9%).
Mental Health and Well-Being
A total of 19.3% of participants reporting feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge “most or all of the time”. Another 20.4% of participants had trouble sleeping “most or all of the time”. In other words, about 1 in 5 residents are experiencing anxiety and having trouble sleeping nearly every day of the week. About 11.9% of participants report feeling depressed “most or all of the time” and another 11.6% report feeling lonely “most of all of the time”.
The majority of participants have been experienced increased stress (60.2%) and increased anxiety (59.1%) since they started sheltering in place. There were some positive mental health changes as well, however; about half of the participants (51.8%) report cooking more and eating more healthily since sheltering in place, and about a third stated that they have been spending more time with friends and family. Additionally, 27.5% of participants feel hopeful about the future nearly every day.
Approximately 37.0% of participants did not consume any alcohol in the past month and are considered non-drinkers. The other 63.0% are considered active drinkers. On average, most active drinkers consume alcohol about three days per week, and on the days that they drink, most (75.9%) consume one to two drinks. However, 6.5% of active drinkers consume five or more drinks each time that they drink, and are likely having health problems. About a third (33.6%) of active drinkers report that they are drinking more since the shelter-in-place order, indicating poor (and potentially dangerous) coping mechanisms emerging.
Needs and Resources
Food banks/food pantries/delivered meals are some of the most often utilized resources for participants. Food banks are routinely listed as useful organizations by participants, emphasizing the need for continuing support of food banks. Unmet needs include assistance with paying bills, cleaning/disinfectant supplied, and again, the issue of emergency food support.
Focus on Special Populations
Some community demographics are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 or are at an increased risk. As such, three special populations were disaggregated in this needs assessment: households with children, lower-income, and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
Households with Children
Workers with children are significantly more likely to physically go into work than working remotely. This may be because it is difficult for parents to work from home with the distraction of children in the home. Participants with children are also more likely to have difficulty paying their rent/mortgage, their utilities, and to be able to afford food. Participants with children in the home are less likely to drink alcohol than people who do not have children in the home; however, they are more likely to say that their drinking has increased since the shelter-in-place order, and thus, may catch up to their counterparts without children quickly.
For these comparisons, “lower-income” is defined as households making less than $50,000 a year before taxes. Results show that lower-income workers are more likely to physically go into work and less likely to work remotely, increasing their chances of getting COVID-19. They are also significantly more concerned about losing their jobs in the near future; more than 1 in 4 lower-income workers are “extremely worried” about losing their jobs in the coming months. Lower-income participants experience higher levels of psychological distress than their higher-income counterparts. Specifically, lower-income participants are twice as likely to frequently feel lonely or depressed than higher-income participants.
Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)
BIPOC participants are significantly more likely to report that COVID-19 had an extreme impact on their day-to-day lives than non-BIPOC participants. BIPOC participants are more likely to physically go into work and less likely to be able to work remotely, resulting in disproportionate exposure risk. Additionally, BIPOC participants who reported loss of jobs or loss of income struggle more than non-BIPOC participants; for example, BIPOC participants are twice as likely as non-BIPOC participants to struggle paying rent/mortgage and utilities. BIPOC participants also experience more psychological distress than non-BIPOC participants; they are significantly more likely to frequently have trouble sleeping and to feel nervous, anxious, or on-edge.
The aim of this needs assessment was to provide results that local organizations can use to better serve community members during the pandemic. Results show that COVID-19 continues to be a life-changing pandemic for our Coachella Valley. This conclusion details some of the ways that everyone can help—at the organizational level and at the individual level. The majority of residents agree with sheltering in place, social distancing guidelines, and properly wear a mask. However, there are still many who do not observe guidelines, or properly wear a mask. Consequently, this could result in additional community transmission of the virus. Some of the effects of COVID-19 described in this needs assessment includes lost employment, decreased income, difficulties paying bills, and increased stress and anxiety. BIPOC and individuals who were lower- income before the pandemic are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and more likely to continue to be exposed to the virus. Assessments of needs and resources emphasize the importance of food banks and food distribution sites. There’s also a great need for educating and assisting the public with positive coping strategies.
In that section, we focus on two aspects of the general economic situation in our region:
- future structural changes needed in the Inland Empire for it to be a successful geographic area,
- its relative economic performance since the Great Recession and in particular during the Coronavirus recession and the subsequent recovery.
The report is therefore both forward and backward looking. On the one hand, we describe how the region survived the Coronavirus downturn that started in March 2020, and we look at the current state of the recovery. This is done both by analyzing Inland Empire data by itself and by looking at the Inland Empire’s relative performance compared to the rest of Southern California, the state, and the nation. Perhaps more importantly, the report examines future developments that are of importance to the region, and we discuss structural changes that may be needed to survive and thrive in the “new normal”.