Southern Exposure: Lived Experiences of the COVID-19 Pandemic

James H. Johnson, Jr., Allan M. Parnell, Jeanne Milliken Bonds


The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc and disrupted the lives of low-income individuals and families throughout a state in the southeast region of the U.S. Many of the disruptions were shared by all, including isolation-induced mental health issues, adjustments to safety protocols, and financial challenges. Sone lost jobs. Some left jobs to protect family members. Some had major housing issues. Those with school-age children had multiple challenges, including access, reliability, and cost of broadband to support virtual learning; the inability to maintain or return to work because of children at home; and loss of free-and reduced meals at schools. Attitudes about vaccination varied considerably, with some adamantly refusing to be vaccinated, while others acknowledged uncertainty, but hesitatingly sought the vaccines. Others were eager to be vaccinated. Despite personal exposures and familial losses, study participants demonstrated great resiliency, creating ways to keep food on the table, supporting family and friends, finding the positive in having more time with children and other family members, and continuing to search for a way forward throughout the pandemic.

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