Unpreparedness and uncertainty: a qualitative study of African American experiences during COVID-19 pandemic
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During disasters, vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected. COVID-19 disproportionately affected African American (AA) families, increasing their risk for COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. The pandemic also exacerbated existing negative milieu such as economic opportunity and access to social and healthcare services. We explored AA families’ experiences of indirect pandemic effects. Data were collected through semi-structured in-depth telephone interviews with 11 AA parent/grandparents of school-aged child (5–17 years). Line-by-line coding and thematic analysis were used to analyze and interpret the data. Three emergent themes highlighted the salient indirect effects of COVID-19 pandemic on AA families: (i) access to healthcare, (ii) access to food, and (iii) disaster unpreparedness. Participants expressed frustration with virtual healthcare services and inability to schedule in-person hospital appointments for health conditions unrelated to COVID-19. Lack of food products in stores and limited financial resources due to pandemic-related job layoffs were important food insecurity factors discussed. Unpreparedness on the part of institutions, state, and the nation, created heightened perceptions of vulnerability. Given the social vulnerability spectrum in the U.S., pandemic planning approaches that promote equity are critical if public officials are to develop effective adaptation, mitigation, response, and recovery plans that mobilize and serve diverse populations.