Social Impacts of COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Measures

In addition to the direct health impacts of COVID-19, the disease and corresponding containment policies have social implications as well. Canadians have had to adapt the ways and places they work, move, shop, and socialize. These human and social outcomes of the pandemic are the topics of research in a collaboration between DSP and researchers at York University’s CEMPPR Lab for Disaster and Emergency Management research and the Faculty of Health

The multi-faceted project involves several mixed-methods studies, including a large-scale nationally representative survey, interviews, and policy analyses. Within DSP, researchers are using qualitative methods to study attitudes toward vaccines, risk perceptions, and trust as they pertain to COVID-19.  

The project includes: 

  1. Survey-based research on a wide range of experiences relating to COVID-19. This survey was conducted multiple times over a two-year period to allow for rich, longitudinal analysis of the social impacts of the pandemic. Thousands of Canadians contributed to this research.  
  2. Several months before the first COVID-19 vaccine was available, we conducted in-depth interviews with residents of Ontario about their opinions on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Understanding the diversity in lived experiences of the pandemic allowed us to explore how people perceived a possible future vaccine and their hopes and concerns for such a vaccine. Participants discussed sources of information and whom they trust when it comes to decision-making about vaccination. The main findings of the vaccine interviews can be read here. 
  3. After the first lockdown, parents and school-age children faced difficult decisions and experiences in returning to school. We conducted in-depth interviews with parents of school-aged children in Ontario about their experiences with schooling during the pandemic. Participants discussed initial school closures, remote learning experiences, and back-to-school decision-making. Parents’ perspectives of the impacts of the pandemic on their children more broadly were also discussed. The main findings of the school interviews can be read here. 
  4. After two years of living with and through COVID-19, we conducted interviews with Canadians from across the country about their reflections on how they have changed as a result of COVID-19, and how they perceived society and the world around them has changed. We heard stories from individuals from all walks of life and as many different occupations and backgrounds as possible. The main findings of our pandemic narrative interviews can be read here. 

This project was supported by SSHRC through the first round of  Federal Research Funding during the COVID-19 outbreak.   

Public Input into Pandemic Planning

As governments and policy-makers begin to consider easing restrictions on COVID-19 related business closures and physical distancing measures, public input is critical to policy developments. What are the trade-offs that come with easing restrictions, and how should we manage them? What are we willing to live with and what are non-starters? The Discourse, Science and Publics (DSP) lab at the University of Guelph is involved in hosting online public deliberations on pandemic policy in British Columbia. The first topic up for discussion is the use of contact tracing apps and the associated potential benefits and drawbacks.

For more information about this project, visit the main project website.