We polled the nation in October 2020, December 2020, and March 2021 to illuminate how US communities have experienced COVID-19. We wanted to understand:
We know people have needed and sought help with challenges related to the pandemic, but we know less about what is preventing people from getting the help they need – so we asked the nation, what stopped you from getting help during COVID-19? In October and December 2020, we asked: thinking about March 2020 to present, which barriers stopped you from getting help? In the March poll, we asked: thinking about July 2020 to present, which barriers stopped you from getting help?
Many barriers have prevented people from getting the help they need. And while the number of respondents said they faced barriers to help peaked when we polled residents in December 2020, it is evident that many barriers remained even in later stages of the pandemic.
More people faced more barriers to help between March and December 2020 compared to all other periods. During this time, 55% of respondents encountered at least one barrier to help. Moreover, the percent of respondents who said they experienced each barrier was the highest during this time out of all polls – one in four respondents said fear of getting sick stopped them from getting help, and one in five said they were uncertainty about what help was available to them was a barrier. Another 20% said they had uncertainty about who could provide help, and yet another one in five said not being able to afford was a barrier.
The increase from October 2020 to December 2020 could be due to the increase in people who sought help, but it may also be related to the barriers themselves becoming more prevalent. By December 2020, the number of COVID cases continued to increase at an alarming rate while various channels of resources were sharing different information. Fear of getting sick, uncertainty of what kind of help is available and uncertainty of who can provide help all rose during this period. Information overload may have contributed to all of these barriers to help throughout the pandemic, but especially in the period between October and December 2020, a time in which more information than ever was being shared in an attempt to combat rising case counts.
Even in March 2021, COVID-19 was still a prominent issue. It is evident that barriers to help remained, even then, one year into the pandemic, as respondents continued to note many difficulties getting help. While the number of individuals facing barriers to help decreased between December 2020 and March 2021, it is important to note that barriers to help were at least as prevalent in March 2021 compared to October 2020, if not more. Fear of getting sick still remained the top barrier across all months, however, the slight decrease from December to March may be attributed to the vaccine rollout and progressive information providing guidance on how respondents should navigate during the pandemic.
Polling was completed with support of the Walmart Foundation for our project, Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.