Population Health

August 12, 2021

Initiative-funded COVID-19 economic recovery grantees report final results

Image of storefront with a closed due to COVID-19 signThe University of Washington Population Health Initiative awarded 18 COVID-19 economic recovery research grants to teams of UW faculty researchers in June 2020. These grants were intended to support UW researchers in quickly responding to the vast array of economic-related challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funded project teams were composed of individuals representing 13 different schools and colleges at the UW. The $333,000 in initiative funding was partially matched by additional school, college and departmental funds, bringing the total value of these awards to roughly $495,000.

Over the course of their projects, the research teams realized significant findings and impacts, with many projects continuing on beyond the period of performance. Highlights of each of the 18 projects are shared below:

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 summary
The goal of this project was to begin to understand specific local and sectoral economic impacts of COVID-19 on three distinct communities: 1) small cities in rural areas, represented by the City of Sultan, 2) communities of color threatened by gentrification and displacement, represented by the King County community of Skyway, located between Seattle and Renton, and 3) agricultural producers in the Puget Sound region, specifically in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Across all three communities, interviewees expressed that recovery from the effects of the pandemic will require ongoing resources and long-term solutions that will assist them in adapting to unfolding situations in a time of uncertainty. They also became more interested and aware of building communities to help one another. Common themes included financial investment in the local economy, mental health support, pod learning for children, housing assistance and simplifying the grant application process.

The team plans to share their findings with the Washington Department of Commerce, the Washington Association of Cities, King County and the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association, as well as seek appropriate publication channels.

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 summary
This project aimed 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 were conducted by and with members of the local African immigrant community to better understand their situation and context regarding COVID-19. The project was led by a coalition of African Community Organizations, in collaboration with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the UW faculty and staff.

Several respondents expressed major fears of contracting COVID-19, especially from the workplace, because they reported a lack of control of their work environment. At the same time, respondents were concerned about their ability to survive financially. At times, their financial situation was so difficult that many felt they had to make trade-offs between their health and financial well-being. Overall, most responses referenced heightened stress in all the above categories, citing their immigrant status and communities as barriers.

The participants expressed appreciation for being considered for this study. They hoped that their voices and messages would be heard by key stakeholders, including government, academia, local community and health agencies, to advocate for improvement in their conditions.

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 summary
This study examined how the pandemic has affected the operation of social service and healthcare organizations that support Washington’s 1.7 million older adults (60+), including 107,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Forty-five leaders from this initial group completed an interview and a short survey about the clients/patients they serve, their funding, and the services they provide.

Senior leaders describe rapid declines in the physical and mental health and functioning of their older adult patients due to the pandemic. Providers believe that a high number of older adults are not seeking care for existing or new conditions, which will have important downstream effects on the health of older adults. Many sub-groups may be falling through the cracks of Washington State’s service systems, including those with low incomes, those living alone or unhoused, Latinx immigrant and migrant older adults, people with limited English proficiency and tribal elders, as well as a digital divide preventing access to care.

This report has been broadly disseminated and deposited for public access in the UW Libraries’ digital institutional repository, ResearchWorks. The report has been cited in local media, widely distributed through the state’s aging network and shared by the Seattle Mayor’s office. Now we are turning to peer-reviewed journal article publications and eventually submit to gerontology journals.

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 summary
The project’s aims were 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. It was planned to 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.

The survey results had been ‘infected’ with so many fraudulent responses that there was nothing scientifically salvageable. The UW was hit by widespread fraud when the office that monitors Tango cards found that one or more persons using the same email address to claim Tango cards had completed UW surveys almost 500 times. The project’s survey was targeted by that person 47 times. Based on the results of a second confirmation survey, it is estimated that of the 1,494 participants who completed the survey, the researchers can only be confident about the validity of 7.3% of their observations.

Christine Leibbrand from the Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology hosted a workshop on survey fraud and how to prevent it through designs and avoidance of common practices that make research more susceptible. More information can be found on the CSDE website.

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 summary
This study investigated patterns of economic vulnerability for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) using national and King County data. The researchers examined 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, which now have new meanings.

As of October 2020, NHPI reported the highest per 100,000 incidence rate of initial unemployment claims compared to other groups. NHPI are working in highly impacted industries but are at least likely to be employed and continue to work at similar rates to other groups nationally. Several factors may contribute to these results, including disproportionality in the dataset. Overall, the focus groups revealed that challenges experienced financially were devastating for many, but the groups readily identified their cultural resources and extended support within the community.

The research team will seek input from its partners at the Pacific Islander Community Association (PICA-WA) and NHPI COVID-19 Task Force to develop the project’s future direction. The team will also publish its main findings on unemployment and industry among NHPI and the findings from the focus groups and examine additional funding sources while expanding its model of economic vulnerability and recovery and look at factors such as health insurance, household size, internet access and food security.

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 summary
Working with a community partner, the City of Puyallup, this study examined 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. Throughout its surveying period, the researchers received 204 consumer responses and ten business responses. Some general highlights include statistically significant gender and age-based differences in comfort levels for certain public health interventions such as face masks, controlling internal traffic flow, and temperature assessment.

The main results of the survey regarding public health messaging were that while people were generally encouraged by public health measures that were passive (e.g., hand sanitizer at the doors) or that required the effort to be on the part of the restaurant (e.g., table distancing), some were less encouraged—and even discouraged or strongly discouraged—by those public health measures that required action on their part (e.g., face masks).

The complete economic impact analysis now that fourth-quarter 2020 data is available. The research team is currently looking into underlying cultural, biological and economic reasons why facemasks and contact tracing engender any concerns related to public health action measures. These include an exploration into the related fundamentals of US capitalism and simulation models of ambiguity aversion.

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 summary
This research asked how spatial design, technology and urban context mediate economic resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic for Seattle’s food retail industry. At their peak in May and June, physical distancing policies placed strict limits on food retail services in Seattle. This research expanded on a study to examine business continuity with field surveys of 20% of Seattle’s pre-pandemic food retail industry across these two periods and explored the financial performance through interviews of a subset of surviving businesses.

Certain aspects of sampled businesses increased their probability of staying open during the first peak period of physical distancing. These include operating a fast-food business, the presence of on-site parking, operating in neighborhoods with relatively high median household income, operating in a residential neighborhood with lower population density, and in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of young population. The effects of most of these factors were weakened to the point of insignificance by November and December. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, 60% of businesses surveyed suffered losses of 50% or more monthly revenue in May, and 45% of businesses exceeded a 50% decline in monthly revenue in November. In both periods, higher percentages of online delivery use tended to help the businesses by decreasing the probability of suffering more than 50% monthly revenue loss.

The results have been joined with another COVID-19 economic recovery research grant project, “Economic Impact of Office Workplace Transformation Due to COVID-19: How Can Buildings and Surrounding Areas Recover?” on the office sector, for a series of publications that culminate in a city-wide perspective on the economic effects for journals in architecture, urban planning, urban studies, health and urban economics.

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 summary
In partnership with the King County Department of Community and Human Services, the UW research team sought to understand the impact of this resource-intensive intervention to inform future strategic responses to homelessness in the County.

Data demonstrate the shelter de-intensification strategy limited the spread of COVID-19 among individuals who moved to hotel locations compared to those who stayed in congregate settings. The study found favorable outcomes including increased feelings of stability, improved health and well-being, overall well-being, reduced interpersonal conflict, more time to think about and take steps towards future goals and higher exits to permanent housing.

The study also identified features of the intervention that, the researchers believe, are most responsible for the positive outcomes—private space, security protocols, storage of personal belongings, consistent access to meals and 24/7 access. It is hoped that these findings are broadly applicable beyond this specific intervention.

The research team looks forward to working with other researchers who have studied similar interventions with a slightly different focus—either in terms of geography or target population.

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 summary
This study investigated causal pathways from recession-induced declines in work quality to changes in health behavior to poor health outcomes using a novel survey population recruited from the health app Smart BP. In September and October 2020, 767 responses were collected from participants with recorded blood pressures between February 2020 and October 2020. Information on respondents’ income, work hours, benefits, employment contract type, overtime pay, union participation, decision-making ability at work and promotion opportunities to construct a Precarious Employment Score (PES) were also collected.

Initial results show that changes in employment quality toward more precarious employment are associated with higher stress and increased food insecurity over the study period, but not with changes in high blood pressure status. The same associations with unemployment for those who lost their jobs after February 2020 were also realized.

The researchers are currently developing models to analyze the data to better understand the relationships between employment quality, stress, food security and high blood pressure. After developing models, the team plans to use them to investigate whether there is heterogeneity in its results for racial and ethnic minorities, women and workers with less education, the groups that have experienced the highest levels of employment disruption during the pandemic. The researchers also plan to link survey respondents’ location information to state and local level pandemic shut-down policies, unemployment benefits and COVID rates.

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 summary
The goals of this research project were 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.

This project ran 132 ads on Facebook and Instagram targeting audiences from a survey that identified them as having low rates of mask adoption. The results from the targeted ads showed that direct, encouraging and instructive messages were the most effective. They also found that still ads had higher engagement (interaction with the content), while videos had higher impressions (views). The ads reached 23% of the adult population of Washington, and they received engagement from 7.6%. The results of the research encompassed three broad areas. First, social media platforms offer much promise as a vehicle for communicating public service health messages. Second, it is critical to research and understand what the intended audience cares about and how they best receive the health message. Third, there is much further research to be done into promoting the adoption of behavioral health interventions.

This project raised awareness of the value of communicating health advice through social media and increasing general understanding of the need to balance “lives and livelihoods.” Restart Partners were invited to apply for several research grants from the State. In July, they were invited to apply for a research contract from the State of Washington, Department of Labor & Industries to help them make their print and web-based materials designed to communicate health information around PPE use in business and industry more accessible and approachable.

The #WearAMaskWA campaign received 600 video submissions from people giving their reasons for wearing a mask. The researchers surveyed 1,000 adults nationally to determine who wore a mask when engaged in various indoor and outdoor activities and their reasons for not doing so or doing so. The video submissions, as well as the results of the survey, can be found by visiting the Restart Partners website.

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 summary
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 to bring together a range of spatially sensitive worker, economic, and occupational data for Washington State.

The data was 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 map view can be changed to view infection risk, unemployment risk, and occupation risk by clicking on the appropriate tab above the map and a word cloud with Twitter’s most frequent keywords relating to COVID.

The project team plans to hold a launch event to introduce this smart dashboard to UW scholars at an event held by the Center for Labor Studies. Additionally, the team plans to spread the word through news outlets and extend their work through additional map features and grants.

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 summary
During the grant period of July 1, 2020, to November 30, 2020, Professor Jennifer Fan, director of the University of Washington School of Law Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (“Clinic”), Dr. Elizabeth Umphress from the UW Foster School of Business, and The Seattle Public Library’s (“SPL”) Library to Business Program, collaborated to provide much-needed pro bono business and legal resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Washington State.

The collaborators had three main program components: 1) five negotiation training sessions taught by Dr. Umphress; 2) 65 one-on-one legal consultations with volunteer attorneys or Professor Fan; and 3) a list of curated resources to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs during COVID-19.

From August 5, 2020, to September 30, 2020, the researchers hosted bi-weekly negotiation training sessions taught by Dr. Umphress. There were 20-40 attendees at the trainings each week. Each session was recorded and uploaded to the Clinic and Library’s website, where transcripts in English, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Spanish were also provided. From August 1, 2020, to December 1, 2020, the website page hosting these materials had 586 views.

During the grant period, the project consisted of 12 employment law consults, 25 corporate law consults, and 28 IP law consults. Based on respondents’ answers, the researchers saw a diverse participant pool, with 7.4% of participants being of Hispanic or Latino origin, 18.5% describing their race as African American, 26% describing as Asian, and 29.6% describing as Caucasian. In addition to the training sessions and consults, the collaborators curated a resource list for small businesses navigating business and legal issues caused by COVID-19.

Moving forward, the Clinic intends to continue the important and impactful work completed during the first phase of this initiative. The Clinic will continue its partnership with SPL by coordinating frequent consultations and programming. SPL will host the Clinic through its Library to Business Program and offer seven free programs for individuals wishing to learn more about specific areas of business and law, with topics ranging from when to hire a lawyer to IP basics. The currently available resources, including the COVID-19 resource list, the transcripts of negotiation training sessions in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese, and recordings of the USPTO’s training sessions will continue to be hosted on the Clinic’s website for anyone who wishes to access them.

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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 summary
This study will contribute to the ongoing efforts to strengthen and support Latinx communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and inform future research in Latino food retail environment by adding an economic sustainability component to its intervention to support the important social and economic role tiendas (shops) have in their communities.

Responses were collected between July and August 2020. Key findings are based on 27 tienda’s managers who completed the interview. A stand-out statistic was that 85.2% of managers responded that they needed more information in Spanish with clear and reliable messages about how to have better behaviors during the pandemic to protect their health and their employees and their costumers’. One-quarter of the participants (25.9%) mentioned the need for financial support to get personal protective equipment for their employees and customers.

King County is focusing on reaching out to as many businesses as possible to provide them with information in Spanish about preventing and containing the virus’s spread. They have increased bilingual staff in different departments, such as the Department of Local Services. All press conferences and media outreach events are being conducted in Spanish and English or interpreted simultaneously. This way, the Latinx community can access the same information as other ethnic groups do.

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 summary
To support economic recovery in rural Okanogan County following the COVID-19 related recession, this pilot research project was co-designed in partnership with local leaders and the University of Washington to achieve three key aims: 1) identify indicators of economic recovery following a pandemic that can be utilized in data-poor rural areas; 2) map recovery trajectory across individual communities using the identified indicators; and 3) help community leaders and public health organizations assess economic recovery trajectories within populations across rural Okanogan County and use this data to make resource allocations decisions.

To assist decision-makers apply data within each recovery indicator to a hyper-local context, the research team developed an interactive data visualization dashboard informed by community leaders. This pilot economic dashboard will be integrated into an Okanogan COVID-19-specific website and further developed with input from community leaders and decision-makers. The five key indicators were: Previous Poverty, Loss in Revenue & Income, Access to Government Intervention, Dependence on Direct Assistance & Public Sector Employment and Spread of COVID-19.

This pilot research project in rural Okanogan County can inform Governor Inslee’s 2021 Poverty Reduction Work Group’s 10-year strategic plan to dismantle poverty in Washington State. Community partners will once again review the completed Pilot economic dashboard in February 2021 before it is made public.

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 summary
University of Washington labs have partnered 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. This project sought 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.

From August to December 2020, the team tested 25 buses and found a positivity rate ranging from 2.3% to 6.1%. While the project began with the goal of widespread population monitoring with testing many buses frequently, it was found that current techniques for testing RNA at such low Limits of Detection (LOD) are not very scalable, being costly in terms of experimental materials and person-hours. Therefore, current results are insufficient to achieve widespread population monitoring but indicate that metro monitoring is possible if scaled methods can be developed.

The team envisions that the project’s next steps are to pursue efficient, scaled methods, such as species detection using DNA strand displacement computation methods based on nanopore barcodes developed in the MISL Lab. The team is also sharing their results with the King County Metro leaders and through scientific journals.

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 summary
The primary goal of this project was to characterize risk perceptions, knowledge around COVID-19, the burden of mental health outcomes and stressors and barriers to a safe work environment for transit workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including app-based drivers and bus drivers. This was assessed using a telephone-based survey.

Regarding COVID-19 exposure at work, most respondents were very concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 in their vehicle due to passenger behavior and lack of access to personal protective equipment and handwashing facilities. Similarly, concerns related to contracting COVID-19 were high, with 97 respondents expressing they were very concerned about contracting COVID-19 due to their work. More than half of respondents had a perceived stress score indicating moderate or high levels of stress, and 30 respondents thought they might have had COVID-19.

The project team has planned for their next steps using the data gathered. The researchers plan to publish a mixed-methods manuscript with project results, outlining both survey results and areas for intervention from qualitative interviews. Additionally, they plan on preparing communication to be accessed by the general public regarding how to protect app-based drivers through a combination of blogs, social media and newspaper op-eds.

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 summary
This research project was an empirical forecast study and aimed to investigate: 1) compliant strategies of office layouts with respect to physical distancing; 2) economic impact of mitigated layouts to buildings as well as the surrounding community and their future recovery; and 3) recovery actions through innovative building codes against future pandemics.

The project results suggest that having the flexibility of transforming the space through generative design allows us to maximize the use of the floorplan while considering physical distancing and safety at all distances (6ft, 8ft, 10ft, and 12ft). Occupancy levels improved compared to more static-based software determinants (e.g., OfficeSpace). The results indicate that physical distancing restrictions can lead to a 40-70% decrease in building occupancy levels overall and a $25-40 million decrease in spending power on an annual basis per building.

The researchers have already presented their findings at the American Real Estate Society annual conference (ARES 2021). They are preparing two manuscripts for publication, one focusing on the design elements and another on the real estate implications. This research is also joined with another Population Health Initiative Economic Recovery Grant, “Technology & Spatial Transformation as Mediators of Economic Recovery from COVID-19 for Food Retail Businesses and Communities.”

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 summary
The project explored how remote technology access and assistance helps recently unemployed workers. The research team from the University of Washington Information School worked with the City of Seattle and the Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) to investigate Digital Bridge, a pilot program to provide job seekers with a laptop, internet connection (through a wired connection or a hotspot), and remote technical support to meet their needs, develop digital skills, and prepare for new careers. The project goals were to gather feedback and analyze key questions related to program design and implementation.

The researchers found that participants integrated the technology into their lives, both for leisure and personal and professional business activities. However, it was found that a significant amount of person-to-person interaction is needed to get participants connected and online. Case managers spent a large percentage of their time assisting their clients with technical assistance and questions. During interviews, participants expressed a desire for additional, formalized hands-on assistance. Participants had access to a 3rd party technology assistance hotline but instead reached out to people they already knew.

The rapid implementation timeline meant that processes were still being developed while SJI started distributing the technology. In the focus group, the case managers recognized these gaps and attempted to provide connections to participants within the constraints of the program. The UW research team plans to publish academic papers and practitioner-based outputs.

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Media coverage of several of these projects can be found by visiting our News page.