New study: Pandemic has affected jobs, housing and food

Sam Klomhaus – Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected a significant portion of Park County residents’ jobs, as well as housing and food security, according a survey conducted by the Park County Health Department.

The Health Department has released the data from the first round of its Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) survey.

The Health Department, along with volunteers, surveyed 112 households throughout Park County from Nov. 14 to Dec. 4 asking them about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had, including questions about finances, housing security, food, home life, mental health, transportation and childcare.

The survey, which was funded through the CARES Act, collected responses in 20 different census blocks in Park County, and responses were anonymous.

Health Department Communication and Outreach Specialist Molly O’Neil said Friday the top three things respondents reported the pandemic affecting were jobs, housing and food.

O’Neil said 36% of respondents reported having lost jobs/income because of COVID-19, and about 20% of respondents reported being concerned about the ability to pay rent or mortgages. Another 20% reported or being concerned about having enough food for their households.

There was a lot of intermingling in those categories among the respondents, O’Neil said.

In addition to financial and resource concerns, the pandemic has also taken a toll on residents’ mental health.

According to the survey results, nearly 30% of respondents reported having felt lonely and isolated during the pandemic, and just over 20% reported having felt down, depressed or hopeless.

Nine percent of respondents reported an increase in alcohol or drug use because of COVID-19.

Almost 20% of respondents reported increased snapping or yelling at family members, 13.4% of respondents reported increased conflicts with friends or family members and 12.6% reported increased conflicts with friends or loved ones.

The survey results weren’t particularly surprising, O’Neil said.

Survey respondents represented the entire spectrum of yearly household incomes, with 18% reporting less than $25,000 total, 14.8% reporting $100,000-199,999 and 16.4% declining to answer. Approximately 70% of respondents were homeowners. Just over 35% of respondents had a person age 65 or older living at home and just over 30% had children 18 and under living at home.

Respondents were asked if they planned on getting the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available, with 40% answering in the affirmative, 35% unsure and 25% not planning on being vaccinated.

The department plans on conducting another survey in May, and O’Neil said it will be interesting to compare the number of people who said they would receive the COVID-19 vaccine if offered to the number of people who have actually gotten it.

O’Neil said she was glad the Health Department was able to go door to door and talk to people face to face about the issues affecting them, which brought to light the different lives people are living in the county and community.

The next step is to send the results out to different partners in the community, O’Neil said. There’s only so much the Health Department can do, she said, and so she hopes other entities can use the responses to make sure they’re addressing the most important issues in the community.

“The CASPER survey provides real-time data that gives us the best possible information about the hardships in our county,” Park County Health Officer Dr. Laurel Desnick said in a press release that accompanied the results. “Now the work is for all of us, government, non-profits, and private citizens to use this information to make life better for our friends and neighbors.”