COVID-19 Community Response: Emerging Themes Across Sentinel Communities

What can we learn at the intersection of resilience, well-being, and equity?

The coronavirus pandemic has elevated and exacerbated deep-seated inequities in communities across the United States. Localities large and small, urban and rural, well resourced and under resourced, are responding to distinct challenges.

The Sentinel Communities project follows the experiences of 29 diverse communities and their efforts to promote health and well-being. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have studied nine of these communities—Finney County, Kansas; Harris County, Texas; Milwaukee, Wis.; Mobile, Ala.; San Juan County, N.M.; Sanilac County, Mich.; Tacoma, Wash.; Tampa, Fla.; and White Plains, N.Y.—in depth to understand impacts on community members and local mitigation efforts.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation seeks to understand how the pandemic is affecting Americans by examining evolving social conditions, including access to work, school, social supports, and other critical aspects of health and well-being. 

Previous reports summarized the pandemic’s early impacts (released July 2020) and how cross-sector collaboration contributed to recovery efforts (released October 2020). 

The latest research finds that the economic, social, and educational impacts of COVID-19 on children and families have been devastating. Communities have struggled to address the acute needs of these families, like ensuring access to healthy food and the internet for school. 

As communities look toward recovery, they are trying to determine how to allow the economy to move forward while also prioritizing the well-being of children and families, particularly those with low incomes and from communities of color. 

Through our Sentinel Communities research, we highlight how different communities have fared through this crisis and why.

Featured Sentinel Communities

Volunteers wearing masks sort produce.

The COVID-19 Response and Links to Community Efforts

Nine diverse communities are responding to the coronavirus crisis. Follow their journeys to see how they fared from the start of the pandemic through:

July 2020: Spotlight report

October 2020: Collaboration in Communities report

March 2021: Impacts on Children and Families