Tishra Beeson, DrPH, MPH

Tishra Beeson, DrPH, MPH

Institution: Central Washington University (CWU)

Project: Keys to Prevention: Reducing Community Spread of COVID-19 in Vulnerable Communities

Grant(s): COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award

We will examine prevention behaviors that minimize the spread of COVID-19 disease in Yakima County, Washington. In May 2020, Yakima County had the highest infection rate of any county on the West Coast of the U.S. with 519 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population. Yakima County is home to a high proportion of essential workers (63%), and 49% of residents identify as Hispanic/Latino—the racial/ethnic group bearing the highest burden of COVID-19 in the state. Yakima was ranked as the fifth worst city for short-term air quality, which may worsen respiratory outcomes. These dynamics make Yakima County especially vulnerable to COVID-19. We will collect phone interview data from a random sample of over 3,000 Yakima County residents to understand their current knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to three key prevention behaviors: handwashing, masking and staying home when sick. We will identify high-risk groups where prevention behaviors are least likely to occur and explore trends in risk and prevention behaviors over time.

Update:Between August 2020 and April 2021, the Keys to Prevention Study administered two household surveys. Findings revealed that residents report high use of prevention behaviors (masking, hand hygiene, and staying home when experiencing symptoms), yet structural barriers persist. For example, lacking access to home and community mitigation of poor air quality was associated with COVID-19-related outcomes, including mental distress. Increased exposure to poor air quality (PM2.5) was associated with higher rates of COVID-19 disease and mortality. This study will further investigate the relationship between social and environmental factors in the spread and severity of COVID-19 in Yakima County.

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