Population Health

June 16, 2020

Initiative announces award of 18 COVID-19 economic recovery research grants

Image of storefront with a closed due to COVID-19 signThe University of Washington Population Health Initiative announced the award of approximately $333,000 in COVID-19 economic recovery research grants to 18 different faculty-led teams.

These teams are composed of individuals representing 13 different schools and colleges. Funding was partially matched by additional school, college and departmental funds, bringing the total value of these awards to roughly $495,000.

“The sacrifices our country has made during the pandemic is saving lives, but at a tremendous cost to our economy,” said Ali H. Mokdad, the university’s chief strategy officer for population health and professor of health metrics sciences. “We believe the 18 projects selected for funding will quickly help us to better understand, mitigate, or reverse the economic impacts of COVID-19, particularly for vulnerable populations that have borne the brunt of the economic losses.”

The awardees are:

Understanding the Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Communities of Color, Rural Communities, and Small Agricultural Producers in the Puget Sound Region

Branden Born, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Design and Planning
Jennifer Otten, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

Project abstract
This project will help understand specific local and sectoral economic impacts of COVID-19 on three distinct communities: 1) small cities in rural areas, 2) communities of color threatened by gentrification and displacement, and 3) agricultural producers in the Puget Sound region. While there are overlaps across the three with regard to people, business, and economic context, here we mostly focus on the specific needs of each as representative communities. For economic recovery purposes it is crucial to answer our research question: what have been the challenges, opportunities, and successful strategies each has faced or employed during the pandemic, and what does this imply for recovery?

This will allow the design of appropriate governmental and private sector responses in different communities. Our goal is twofold: develop new knowledge for potential policy and program response, and explore partnership with the Washington State Department of Commerce and King County to assist in developing local community planning and economic development strategies.

The project will interview 10 to 15 stakeholders from each of the communities. We have unique access to these communities, King County, and the Department of Commerce through relationships with UW’s Livable City Year and the community-based projects of our departments, and long-standing work in governmental and private sector regional food and agricultural development.

We will code the interview responses looking for significant themes, and summarize our findings in a project report, including possible public and private recovery responses. We will share the findings with state agency, city, and county representatives, and professional organizations statewide.

Voices of African Immigrants Regarding COVID-19 in King County: Identifying Barriers and Opportunities for Economic Recovery

Ahoua Koné, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health
Julia Robinson, Clinical Instructor, Department of Global Health and School of Social Work
Farhiya Mohamed, Executive Director, Somali Family Safety Task Force

Project abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has disproportionally impacted Blacks, including Africans in the diaspora, regarding both the infection and death rates. Over 40,000 African Immigrants currently reside in King County and they are at greater risk given their already limited access to social, health and economic services. Immigrants and people of color hold a greater proportion of caregiving and service jobs within hospitals, adult homes, nursing homes, retirement communities, and delivery services, which may disproportionally increase their exposure to COVID-19. Immigrants and people of color are also more likely to hold jobs that are difficult or impossible to do from home, resulting in a greater proportion of furloughs or layoffs during Stay Home, Stay Healthy mandates from state and city governments.

This project aims to assess COVID-19 perceived health and economic risks of African immigrants in King County and reported actions being taken – or that could be taken – to mitigate these risks. Qualitative interviews will be conducted by and with members of the local African immigrant community to better understand their situation and context regarding COVID-19. The project will be led by a coalition of African Community Organizations in collaboration with Public Health-Seattle King County, and the UW faculty and staff. Recommendations will be made to key stakeholders to improve the safety and economic conditions of this high-risk community.

Economic Challenges and Emerging Practices for Providing Social Services and Healthcare to Diverse Older Adults in Washington State during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Clara Berridge, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Carolyn Parsey, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology
Maggie Ramirez, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services
Scott Allard, Daniel J. Evans Endowed Professor of Social Policy, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Ian Johnson, Doctoral Student, School of Social Work
Callie Freitag, Doctoral Student, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

Project abstract
Washington’s social services and healthcare sectors save patients, families, and local and federal governments tremendous sums by supporting vulnerable older adults, including those living with dementia. The COVID-19 pandemic presents grave health and economic risks by disrupting services that prevent institutionalization, emergency room visits, and other catastrophic expenses. Among these services are chronic condition management, health and dementia care, coordination for in-home supports, pandemic-specific resource communication, socialization, benefits access, and prevention of caregiver burnout.

While most sectors have moved services online, the digital divide is cutting off many older adults and caregivers. Social isolation and delayed health care are rippling through the economy. The digital divide and COVID-exacerbated home aide shortage are more apparent in rural communities and communities of color, where unreliable and costly Internet and cellphone services undermine efforts to reach these vulnerable older adults. There is an urgent need to understand and document service barriers and fiscal/operational impacts of the pandemic on these sectors serving older adults.

This mixed methods study includes 1) in-depth interviews with directors of social services and healthcare service nonprofits in Western, Central, and Eastern Washington to understand COVID-related service barriers and emerging practices to address them (n=40), followed by 2) a web-survey of a larger sample of these nonprofits to capture operational adaptations and fiscal health (n=125). This study will document the economic impact of COVID-19 on these aging services sectors and result in a disseminated actionable report of best practices to mitigate disparities in access to essential services across the State.

Children, COVID-19, and its Consequences (the "Triple C" Study)

Sara Curran, Professor, Jackson School of International Studies, Department of Sociology, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Anjum Hajat, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology
Christine Leibbrand, Acting Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
Liliana Lengua, Professor, Department of Psychology
Soojin Oh Park, Assistant Professor, College of Education
Holly S. Schindler, Associate Professor, College of Education

Project abstract
Evidence from past economic downturns suggests that the financial losses stemming from COVID-19 will increase child poverty, food scarcity, and economic insecurity. These trends pose a serious threat to family functioning, and parent and child well-being. Children will face a double jeopardy from the virus – they may face increased economic disruption and may suffer from disrupted family relationships and functioning. The consequences of COVID-19 may be particularly pronounced for children of color and those in lower socioeconomic status households, since the virus’s economic and health impacts have exacerbated existing systematic inequities.

The project’s aims are to 1) describe the magnitude and scope of resulting economic insecurity faced by families at different income levels, 2) investigate how economic insecurity is related to child and family well-being, and 3) analyze how COVID-19 exacerbates class and racial/ethnic disparities in economic circumstances, family functioning, and child well-being.

To accomplish our aims, we will conduct a survey with 600 parents of children ages 5 to 11 in King County, with a purposive over-sampling of respondents of color and lower socioeconomic statuses. Notably, this study is part of a larger study with colleagues studying impacts in three other cities (Durham, Pittsburgh, and New Brunswick), and is the first to provide a comprehensive portrait of the economic insecurity and well-being of children and families across multiple cities during the pandemic. Findings from our study will inform practice and policy responses to the crisis—current and future—to help buffer the potentially negative impacts on children and families.

Economic Vulnerability and COVID-19 in Small Populations

Michael S. Spencer, Presidential Term Professor, School of Social Work
David Takeuchi, Associate Dean for Faculty Excellence, School of Social Work
Marguerite Ro, Chief of Assessment, Policy Development, and Evaluation unit and Director of the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention section of Public Health – Seattle & King County
Nadine Chan, Assistant Chief of Assessment, Policy Development, and Evaluation, Public Health – Seattle and King County and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology
Joseph Seia, Executive Director, Pacific Islander Community Association
Santino Camacho, Doctoral Student, School of Social Work

Project abstract
The National Academy of Sciences argues that the advancement of population health science can be more fully achieved through paying systematic attention to small populations such as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). NHPI have among the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in King County as well as high levels of poverty and economic stress. Pre-existing economic conditions were probably exacerbated by the pandemic.

This study will investigate patterns of economic vulnerability for NHPI using national and King County data. Economic vulnerability comes from the WHO in examining economic data for small countries and we expand on this concept to study relatively small communities. We examine conventional economic factors (poverty, loss of wages) and COVID-related risks for economic vulnerability such as health insurance status, essential worker status, household size, food security, and internet access that now have new meaning.

Our goal is to construct a community and data-driven model of economic vulnerability for NHPI communities and identify pathways for economic recovery. Through national and local data, we plan to provide evidence of key factors and patterns of economic vulnerability and prepare reports with recommendations targeted to community networks and health departments. We compare these data with other racial/ethnic groups in the state. We will use a community advisory board to guide our model development and conduct focus groups with the NHPI community to understand qualitatively how their lives have been changed by COVID-19, providing detailed examples of patterns of economic stress, resilience, and recovery.

Perceptions in Puyallup: Analyzing the Role of Public Health Prevention Measures and Economic Uncertainty During Phase 2/Phase 3 Restaurant Reopening

Margo Bergman, Senior Lecturer, Milgard School of Business, UW Tacoma
Meredith Neal, Economic Development Manager, City of Puyallup

Project abstract
As Washington moves into the next Phases of the Safe Start plan, it is necessary to determine why people may still choosing to stay home: concerns over public health measures or concerns about the economy. Since these apprehensions can share causes, both demographic and theoretical, differentiating between them can help city planners determine whether updates need to be made to public health messaging; or whether investment in economic recovery plans is a better use of limited city funds.

Working with a community partner, the City of Puyallup, this study will examine the public health messaging, public perceptions, and revenues of restaurants in two regional growth centers as Puyallup moves into Phase 2, and potentially Phase 3 of Safe Start. Preliminary work by the community partner has shown that both economic concerns, and public health uncertainty; as well as push back on public health transmission reduction measures such as contact tracing, are affecting decisions to return to dining out activity.

This work will expand on these findings, differentiate between these uncertainties, and determine impacts on economic activity. It will also compare perceptions between the regional growth centers, which have different demographic characteristics, as well as potentially different levels of community trust. All data and analysis will be shared in real-time with the community partner to allow timely incorporation into economic and public health strategies.

Technology and Spatial Transformation as Mediators of Economic Recovery from COVID-19 for Food Retail Businesses and the Communities They Serve

Jan Whittington, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Design and Planning,
Gundula Proksch, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Sofia Dermisi, Professor, Department of Real Estate
Qing Shen, Professor, Department of Urban Design and Planning

Project abstract
How do technology and spatial transformation mediate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for essential business in the food retail industry and associated communities? Preliminary evidence from a sample of food services in Seattle (e.g., supermarkets, restaurants, farmer’s markets) suggests that to survive the most confining period of physical distancing policy (May, 2020), businesses increased reliance on technology (e.g., websites, third party apps), and reconfigured space (e.g., dining to storage, doorways to take-out windows, parking to curbside pick-up), in ways that reinforce one another.

However, the feasibility of such interventions appear to vary by tenancy (building ownership) and broader socio-demographic characteristics. During economic recovery, maintaining a physical distance of six feet or more remains the most effective means to limit the reproducibility (R0) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As policies allow for increased activity but pressure remains focused on physical distancing, the pace and direction of recovery for the food service business may vary with the technological and spatial strategies they employ to regain pre-pandemic levels of service.

This empirical mixed-methods research follows the current sample of food services (n=1189) with field observations and semi-structured surveys during the recovery period (July to November, 2020). In this study, surveys and interviews will examine how variation in the uses of technology and re-design of interior and exterior spaces, including urban rights-of-way (i.e., public sidewalks, parklets, and streetscapes), influence variation in the rate of survival, rate of recovery, and overall economic success of businesses over time, especially for small businesses in marginalized communities.

An Analysis of Investments in Non-Congregate Emergency Shelter in King County during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Gregg Colburn, Assistant Professor, Runstad Department of Real Estate
Rachel Fyall, Assistant Professor, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Christina McHugh, Housing and Homelessness Evaluation Lead, King County Department of Community and Human Services

Project abstract
A vibrant and equitable economic recovery from this public health crisis must ensure the health and safety of all people, including the most vulnerable in society. In King County, this includes caring for the roughly 13,000 households that experience homelessness on a given night. Failure to do so could lead to extensive loss of life and may jeopardize the ability of our community to return to the activities of daily life that are essential for a robust economic recovery. This project seeks to evaluate the merits and efficacy of a novel response to homelessness implemented by King County in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Beginning in March 2020, King County took the unprecedented step of moving over 800 people out of congregate shelters and placing them in hotel and motel rooms. Early anecdotal evidence suggests that this “unplanned experiment” has produced very positive results that offers hope, not only for public health, but for improving the social and economic outcomes of our most vulnerable community members.

The UW research team, in partnership with King County Department of Community and Human Services, seeks to understand the impact of this resource-intensive intervention to inform future strategic responses to homelessness in the County. These future investment decisions, to be influenced by this research, have the potential to improve the experiences and outcomes of people experiencing homelessness as well as the County’s ongoing pandemic response and economic recovery.

Employment Quality and Health Behaviors in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Melissa Knox, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics
Jessica Jones-Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Health Services
Vanessa M. Oddo, Affiliate Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services, and Assistant
Professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project abstract
Researchers have identified relationships between work quality and recessions, as well as between recessions and health, but causal pathways from recession-induced declines in work quality to changes in health behavior to poor health outcomes have not yet been established. This study investigates these pathways using a novel survey population recruited from the health app Smart BP.

We combine survey-based measures of work quality and health behavior with blood pressure data collected from the app to provide real time insights on the changing quality of work during the pandemic recovery and the ways in which these changes contribute to rates of chronic disease in the U.S. Our findings will also provide evidence for the hypothesis that declining work quality is a social determinant of health and a contributor to health disparities in the U.S. They will additionally inform policy makers of potential changes in work quality in the early stages of the economic recovery from COVID-19, and create insights for those who wish to mitigate the impacts of these changes on health and economic well-being.

Restart Washington Safely

Sandra O. Archibald, Professor, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Akhtar Badshah, Senior Lecturer, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Alex Stonehill, Head of Creative Strategy, Department of Communication
Lisa Goodman, Adoption Strategies, Restart Partners

Project abstract
Restart Washington Safely is a broad collaboration among university, government, business, and non-profit sector partners to develop and implement effective science- based strategies to safely restart Washington State’s economy. We have received support and insights from IHME, WHO, BMGF, Challenge Seattle, Seattle Foundation, Microsoft, Amazon, Association of Washington Business and various chambers of commerce as we implement our approach to safely restart Washington.

It is clear that increasing consumer confidence is fundamental to re-opening the economy. Strategies that reduce risks of virus transmission are key to increasing both employee and consumer engagement in the economy. Recent evidence suggests that wearing cloth masks appropriately in situations where transmission is likely can reduce COVID 19 transmission allowing people engage with a degree of confidence in economic activity in the workplace, shops, transportation, recreation, and entertainment. Strategies to increase and sustain adoption of masks requires a detailed social science behavior approach as well as a comprehensive adoption model to reach different groups, We are particularly interested in policies and strategies to reach the most vulnerable and hard to reach populations such as the homeless, migrant workers and other high risk segments that have been dis-proportionately impacted.

The goals of this research project are to : (1) design and implement a statewide communications strategy to encourage mask wearing based on crowd-sourced competitive models; (2) develop behavioral science based messaging and marketing strategies to reach the reluctant adopters; (3) research effective policies and strategies that are being applied nationally and internationally to explore the extent to which different policy, communications and marketing strategies have potential to improve consumer confidence.

Building a Smart Dashboard to Characterize Risk to Washington Workers During the COVID-19 Economic Recovery

Bo Zhao, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
Marissa Baker, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Kim England, Professor and Harry Bridges Endowed Chair of Labor Studies, Department of Geography

Project abstract
This project takes a solution-oriented and data-driven approach to characterize COVID-19 risks (health and economic) to workers in Washington State by constructing a smart dashboard. This dashboard will build on an existing dashboard (https://hgis.uw.edu/virus) to bring together a range of spatially sensitive worker, economic, and occupational data for Washington State. The data will be compiled into a suite of indicators, and visualized as coordinated maps, dynamic charts and downloadable spreadsheets, with the goal of understanding how workplace and economic risks to Washington’s workers may differ by region, occupation, and other demographics.

This smart dashboard can illustrate area-focused and geographically differentiated analyses in order to enable local governments, communities, and workplaces to enact health- and economic-protective policies for workers during this period of economic recovery. In addition, the proposed project will contribute to raising public awareness about the importance of worker health during COVID-19 economic recovery, and raise awareness about the precarity of worker groups during this pandemic. The smart dashboard also has the potential to be up scaled to all states and counties in the U.S., which will amplify its impact after this project period has ended.

Helping Minority-Owned Small Businesses Survive and Thrive Post-COVID-19

Jennifer Fan, Assistant Professor of Law, School of Law
Elizabeth Umphress, Associate Professor and Evert McCabe Endowed Fellow, Foster School of Business

Project abstract
Our project intends to share legal and business knowledge with small businesses and entrepreneurs within Washington State with an emphasis on underrepresented business owners—Asian Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous, and LatinX. We propose a three-stage approach that provides business and legal support on both the population and individual levels that includes: (1) a COVID-19 resource list for small businesses available in multiple languages, (2) a series of negotiation trainings, and (3) one-on-one pro bono legal consults for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Our project will use the existing infrastructure of the University of Washington Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, the Washington Pro Bono Patent Network, and The Seattle Public Library’s Library to Business Program. In addition to these resources, we will partner with the UW Foster School of Business Consulting and Business Development Center, which has connections to a national audience via the Ascend Network in 13 major cities.

By surveying the participants of our program, we can get some insight into whether the type of approach we suggest would mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 and serve as a national model for other similar types of partnerships. In addition, it will provide data on the legal and business needs of small business owners to help develop more substantial mitigation efforts for future economic downturns. We have already rolled out a pilot phase of this work and anticipate that funding would help us to continue our research and provide much-needed help during the summer months and through most of the fall.

Shop Healthy Seattle

Barbara Baquero, Associate Professor, Department of Health Services
Victoria Breckwich Vasquez, Affiliate Assistant Professor, School of Nursing & Health Studies, UW Bothell
Mariel Torres Mehdipour, Regional Health Administrator, Public Health – Seattle & King County Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention
Giselle Zapata-Garcia, Latinos Promoting Good Health Co-Director and Latinx Health Board

Project abstract
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, food retailers became essential businesses providing food and household supplies. For Latinos, food access and security may be more challenging due to unfair immigration policies that limit their ability to access food assistance programs available during the COVID-19 crisis. Tiendas are independent Latino food retailers that serve an important social and economic function for Latino communities. Tiendas provide critical food access and support to Latino families and are a vital part of the small business network in many Seattle communities, contributing to the economic vitality of the city. Additionally, tiendas are trusted places in the Latino community that can serve as a setting to disseminate health information regarding COVID-19. However, these businesses may need guidance and support on how to operate while following health guidelines.

This study will contribute to the ongoing efforts to strengthen and support Latino communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and inform future research in Latino food retail environment by adding an economic sustainability component to our intervention to support the important social and economic role tiendas have in their communities. Through a community-based participatory and health equity approach we will identify the links between economic sustainability, social value, and health in tiendas by accomplishing the aims of the study: (1) Identify challenges, opportunities, and strategies tiendas used to continue to operate during the pandemic. (2) Evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of a toolkit for tiendas to operate profitably and safely during the pandemic.

Understanding Factors that Increase Facial Mask Utilization in Rural Washington COVID-19 Economic Recovery Efforts Through Innovative Small Business Branding

Maya Magarati, Research Scientist, Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, School of Social Work
Elana Mainer, Co-Founder, Rural People’s Platform and County Lead, Okanogan
County Coalition for Health Improvement
Polly Fabian, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

Project abstract
Rural Okanogan County has struggled to meet the Washington State (WA) Department of Health’s targets for a Phase 2 variance: residents continue to test positive COVID-19 while mask utilization and adherence to social distancing norms are poor. Small businesses, which comprise a substantial portion of the Okanogan County’s economy (4032 businesses accounting for 17,432 jobs) are struggling to remain open and report that many active customers choose to not wear masks, leading some mask-utilizing consumers to avoid their establishment for fear of exposure and placing their employees at high risk for exposure to coronavirus. Socioeconomic and health disparities are pervasive in Okanogan, WA’s largest county and one of its poorest (17% poverty rate compared to 10% state-wide), and it ranks 34th out of 39 counties in overall health rankings.

This novel community-academic collaborative pilot project aims to better understand factors that increase mask utilization to keep small business workers and customers safe, and increase customers’ willingness to utilize their services in this COVID-19 environment. The aims will be achieved by identifying four high-traffic businesses, developing community-specific messaging, printing masks from a local distributor with the business’s logo; and distributing these masks for free to all customers in participating small businesses.

Workforce Mobility Enablement via Environmental Monitoring of King County Metro Air Filters for Trace COVID-19

Shwetak Patel, Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Georg Seelig, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Luis Ceze, Professor, Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Jason Hoffman, PhD student, Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Joe Breda, PhD student, Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Matthew Hirano, PhD student, Biological Physics, Structure, and Design
Parker Ruth, Undergraduate student, Computer Science and Bioengineering

Project abstract
Economic recovery from the effects of prolonged social distancing practices will require workers returning to in-person work on a large scale, including commuting. Monitoring COVID-19 viral presence in the air filters of King County Metro Buses, and other environmental touchpoints, can enhance the safety of commuting and reveal unique views into the effects of policy changes during this recovery period.

Specifically, UW labs are partnering with King County Metro to collect and sample metro bus air filters as a methods development and proof-of-concept deployment for environmental monitoring of viral spread. We aim to develop techniques to measure the presence and prevalence of the virus, monitoring population transmission on a temporal and geospatial basis as urban citizens return to regularly utilizing public transportation. We are motivated to develop these techniques by recent literature on environmental wastewater and HVAC filter sampling, as well as the potential to help workers understand the safety of commuting via transit as a fundamental element enabling the reopening of the urban economy. We believe that combining PCR-based virus identification with correlated metro data can lead to the creation of a new map of COVID-19 spread in the city.

This project, if successful, will provide unique insights to regulators into the effectiveness and safety of policy changes on a regional and local level, and provide helpful data to workers on the safety of commuting via public transit, increasing labor mobility for safe and rapid personal and community economic recovery.

Health and Safety on the Road to Economic Recovery: Improving Outcomes for Transportation Workers and Riders

Marissa Baker, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Nicole Errett, Lecturer, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Ann Bostrom, Professor, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Joshua Welter, Teamsters Local 117
Danielle Julien, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1576

Project abstract
During a public health emergency such as COVID-19, transportation workers play an essential role, putting them at increased risk of exposure to disease while working, and at risk for other adverse job-related outcomes such as stress, job insecurity, or job displacement if they are unable to continue to work. As economies begin to re-open, both bus operators and app-based drivers will continue to be at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. The health and safety of transportation workers is vital to a successful economic recovery as other occupations rely on a functioning transportation system to be able to commute to work, and the health of transportation workers can directly influence the health of the riding public and community at large. This underscores the importance of transportation worker health and safety for a successful economic recovery.

Here, we propose a survey to assess the safety and health of transit workers, and identify needs to improve their health and safety outcomes. We will work with two transit unions (Teamsters and Amalgamated Transit Union) to disseminate an online survey to municipal bus drivers and app-based drivers (Uber, Lyft drivers), and collect key informant interviews from managers and union representatives to identify opportunities for improving workplace health and safety for these two groups of transportation workers. The overall goal of the proposed project is to improve metrics of safety and health for transportation workers and the riding public, in turn promoting a healthier economic recovery.

Economic Impact of Office Workplace Transformation Due to COVID-19: How Can Buildings and Surrounding Areas Recover?

Sofia Dermisi, Professor, Department of Real Estate
Hyun Woo Lee, Associate Professor, Department of Construction Management
Jan Whittington, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Design & Planning
Gundula Proksch, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Youngchul Kim, Associate Professor,Civil & Environmental Engineering, KAIST

Project abstract
COVID-19 spread from person-to-person through airborne droplets, creates significant challenges for the office workplaces/buildings, which led to their closures by governors’ mandates. The question now becomes, how would office buildings become safer through workplace transformation, maintain their competitiveness as well as the areas, while companies reassess their physical vs. virtual footprint?

The combination of remote working (56% of current workforce), the perception of potential infection risk of returning office occupants to their buildings (51% of survey respondents) and government regulation is motivating companies to implement safety measures (83% of CFOs) and reconfigure the workplace (73% of CFOs). The goal of office building managers/owners is to maintain the safety/well-being of their occupants with the type of COVID-19 spread requiring a layered safety approach to alleviate occupant safety concerns. The implementation of visible measures will additionally maintain the building values allowing the surrounding area to thrive.

In response, this research aims to investigate: 1) compliant strategies of office layouts with respect to physical distancing; 2) economic impact of mitigated layouts to buildings as well as surrounding community and their future recovery; and 3) recovery actions through innovative building codes against future pandemics. As this is an empirical forecast study for downtown Seattle, we aim to 1) integrate spatial and economic analysis of physical distancing in office buildings and their surrounding area by comparing office and health sector building codes in the US and abroad, and then 2) plan on making recommendations on how the area can maintain safety and vitality.

Exploring Physically Distant Technology Access and Assistance to Support Workers in a New Economy

Chris Jowaisas, Senior Research Scientist, Technology and Social Change Group, Information School
Stacey Wedlake, Research Coordinator and Analyst, Technology and Social Change Group, Information School
Matthew Houghton, Workforce Development Advisor, Office of Economic Development, City of Seattle
Meghan Sebold, Inclusive Creative Industries Policy Advisor, Office of Economic Development, City of Seattle
David Keyes, Digital Equity Program Manager, Information Technology Department, City of Seattle
Ryan Davis, Executive Director, Seattle Jobs Initiative

Project abstract
In the Seattle area, the massive job losses triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted lower wage jobs, workers of color, younger workers, and those with lower levels of education. As businesses reopen, some people will return to work, but many others will need to retrain for new careers. Living wage jobs increasingly require digital skills, but many of the recently unemployed are less likely to have the digital literacy required to access these careers and many lack computers and Internet at home. Physical distancing requirements have closed in-person resources and moved job seeking and career preparation entirely online.

To address some of the challenges these job seekers face, the City of Seattle in partnership with the Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) will pilot a small-scale program to provide job seekers with home technology and remote support to develop digital skills and prepare for new careers. Researchers from UW will work with the City and SJI to investigate key questions related to the program design, implementation, and participant experience to increase the understanding of participants’ needs, implications for future program design, and the impact on those who received services. The research will involve audio diaries and interviews with program participants and analysis of additional program data provided by the partners resulting in new, novel knowledge about these types of emerging interventions. The results will help to inform the City in decision-making and planning for future programs to support ongoing economic recovery efforts for people in vulnerable situations.