COVID-19: A Fair and Just Recovery

A note from our director

two girls illustration photo

The COVID-19 pandemic is heaping untold suffering across communities and exposing the longstanding structures, policies and systems that have produced unfair differences in how long and well people live.

We must not look away. Rather, we must marshal our collective resources to create a future that leverages existing knowledge, accelerates implementation and catalyzes necessary innovations.  UWPHI pledges to “use what we have to do what we can” in this time of upheaval, uncertainty and loss.

Sheri Johnson

COVID-19: A Fair and Just Recovery

The UWPHI team is creating and curating must-read COVID-19 resources that focus on the social determinants of health and equity.

Our goal is to shape response and recovery strategies that lead to better health for all.  We hope to present diverse viewpoints on a balance of problems and solutions on issues aligned with our mission.  Our resources help clearly identify the root causes of the impacts of the pandemic on our communities.

We have organized these resources in the seven tabs below. The UWPHI Insights tab presents original material developed by members of the UWPHI team. We also share information from other sources about the Impact of COVID, various Responses to COVID, and Recovery steps.  We link to helpful sources for Data & Visualizations as well as General Information.  Finally, we describe our work with the Department of Health Services and the State Emergency Operations Center’s Community Resilience and Response Task Force (CRRTF).

Original discourse on COVID-19 created by the UWPHI team

Proposed LHIs are intended to reflect a balanced set of factors that contribute to overall health and drive equity. (Added 6/17/20)

UWPHI submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee for a hearing titled “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.”  The COVID-19 pandemic is heaping untold suffering across communities, especially communities of color. We cannot thrive as a nation when the factors that contribute to good health are available to some and denied to others. COVID-19 exploits structural racism, leading to a disproportionate impact on communities of color. We must marshal our collective resources to alleviate the disproportionate burden of COVID-19. (Added 6/11/20)

We must know who is being most impacted by COVID-19, but data must be released with context and explanation to help us understand inequity. (Added 6/3/20)

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milwaukee residents faced an imminent threat and cruel quandary: Vote in person and risk our lives. Don’t vote and lose our right to shape the future.

Public health pandemic responses should include automatic economic protection and swift relief for people already experiencing injustice.

This UW Global Health Institute webinar examines poverty, race and health in the state’s communities impacted by inequities. Sheri Johnson, director of the UW-Madison Population Health Institute, moderates the panel that includes Paula Tran Inzeo, director of the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) program, and Lakita Maulson, a UW medical student, class of ’21, in the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Nation.  (The webinar is first in the UW Global Health Institute webinar series “COVID & Equity: What We’ve Learned; Where We Go From Here”) (Added 8/31/20)

CHR&R work includes a partnership with the University of Chicago on the US COVID Atlas, a webinar series on response and recovery, and more!

Paula Tran Inzeo talks with Marisa Wojcik of PBS Wisconsin about A Fair and Just Recovery.  Video and transcript.  (Added 10/29/20)

Research by the UWPHI team


COVID-19 widens existing disparities that are deeply rooted within our social and economic systems. Even though anyone can be affected by COVID-19, it does not impact everyone in the same way. These resources ​acknowledge ​and describe that disproportionate impact.

By race and ethnicity

One reason why coronavirus hits black people the hardest (Racial equity, environmental justice and COVID) (Added 6/17/20)

The over-representation of Black death reported in Detroit, Michigan is a case study for this argument. Racism and capitalism mutually construct harmful social conditions that fundamentally shape COVID-19 disease inequities. (Added 6/18/20)

In documenting Covid-19 racial disparities, it is important to contextualize such data with adequate analysis. Disparity figures without explanatory context can perpetuate harmful myths and misunderstandings that actually undermine the goal of eliminating health inequities. (Added 6/23/20)

Racial disparities across all age groups in COVID-19 cases and deaths can be linked to many factors, including non-remote workplaces, less space in the home, and access to testing and treatment. (Added 7/15/20)

This collection documents the experience of COVID-19 on Black communities in America. Its intention is to create a collective conversation of material for teaching and learning about the contemporary effects of COVID-19 among Black communities as it is tied to the historical legacy of race in America. Topics range from data, health, criminalization, housing, protest, gender and sexuality, labor, music, poetry, and diaspora. (Added 7/15/20)

Racism, not race, is the cause of many health disparities. Racist medical and public health practices persist today, leading to worse health outcomes for Black people. (Added 7/20/20)

Explores and discusses potential explanations for the racial-ethnic disparities in hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19.  Disparities in COVID-19 outcomes likely stem from structural racism on many dimensions, including income, education, health insurance, access to medical care, access to food, health status, job characteristics, living conditions, and more. (Added 8/31/20)

An analysis of the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 points to underlying structural inequities. (Added 8/31/20)

“Race and ethnicity play a pivotal role in determining how and when care is accessed, and what the outcome is.” (Added 9/22/20)

Series of short videos developed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine featuring a discussion with Sheri Johnson, director of the UW Population Health Institute. (Added 9/22/20)

More than 75% of children dying of COVID-19 are minorities, a finding that echoes disproportionate death rates among adults. (Added 10/29/20)

Many Latino, Black And Native American households struggle to pay for essentials during pandemic. (Added 10/29/20)

By gender

On rural communities

Using data from the first five months of COVID-19, this study examined the intersections between rurality and race/ethnicity in COVID‐19 outcomes. (Added 9/16/20)

On cities and towns

This is the first report in the Impact of Coronavirus on Households Across America series, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Added 9/16/20)

Maps of the US compare the locations of the first 100,000 deaths and second 100,000 deaths. (Added 10/29/20)

On other types of communities

For the poor and disenfranchised, many social determinants of health are expected to worsen during the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath, namely, employment, housing, food, education, and health care. Public health professionals and policy makers need to proactively work with community partners to influence policies and other relevant sectors to ensure that health inequities do not intensify for the most vulnerable in our communities. (Added 6/18/20)

For more than two decades, Roberto Valdez has harvested crops in California’s eastern Coachella Valley… An undocumented immigrant, he is not eligible for federal relief during the Covid-19 pandemic, but while millions of people shelter in place, he continues to work in the fields with his wife. Here he tells about his life as an essential worker. (Added 6/23/20)

On different types of facilities

Nursing homes are experiencing shortages of staff and PPE. Facilities with COVID-19 cases among residents and staff, as well as those serving more Medicaid recipients and with lower quality scores, were more likely to report shortages. (Added 8/31/20)

On those with disabilities

Richard Besser (President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and Rebecca Cokley (Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress) discuss oversights in paid family leave policies, services, and prescription drug support are putting strain on people with disabilities and caretakers. Concerns grow over “othering” and discussions over the rationing of care. Call for better planning and protocols for people with disabilities in emergency response.

On Stress and Mental Health

Stress is a per-condition of COVID-19; systemic racism exacerbates chronic stress.  (Added 9/16/20)

Data visualizations and analysis of COVID-19 impacts including mental health and economic hardship. (Added 10/29/20)

On other considerations

Outlines key considerations for ongoing need to push for affordable, quality health care coverage; well-trained, diverse health care and medical research workforce; and accessible sources of care for all. Provides recommendations for immediately addressing needs of those who are most vulnerable.

COVID-19 and policy responses/ protocols are bringing to light new vulnerabilities for people/groups who were not considered vulnerable before COVID-19 and exacerbating already existing inequalities. A one-size-fits-all model is not appropriate for all members of society.

  • Beyond sex and gender analysis: an intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response (from the University of London Global Policy Institute).

A UK policy brief brings attention to the multiple intersecting factors that underpin the impact of the outbreak, encouraging us to go beyond analysis along single dimensions, such as gender and race and to incorporate other axes of disadvantages and inequalities.

The coronavirus has created new tensions. Staying at home has worsened abusive situations. Shelters worry about the spread of the virus. (Updated August 7, 2020)



Learn how Wisconsin and others across the nation have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with strategies and solutions that focus on promoting health equity.


Free download of book from National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine

Why race or place are considerations in equitable access to a vaccine. (Added 10/29/20)

Social Distancing, Stay At Home Orders, and Re-opening

Social distancing and staying at home are not privileges that everyone has. This article calls to attention disparities between race and income when it comes to COVID-19 infection and death rates, as well as peoples’ ability to work from home, or social distance.

By interviewing over 1,000 people about their social distancing behaviors, this study provides evidence that strict social distancing is an effective measure to prevent COVID-19 transmission. (Added 10/29/20)

Cloth Masks

From the Conversation, written by a scientist from the University of San Francisco. Discusses the evidence and likely results from mask-wearing.


In Philadelphia, a Black pediatrician who developed an infrastructure for testing has a high level of trust in the community. (Added 10/29/20)


Commentary from US News and World Report. By investing in efforts to address inequity, business leaders can make a lasting difference on community well-being.

From Fast Company. “The fact that we have this enormous fraction of the population, which is living pretty much right at the edge, and now threatens to go right over it, is no longer something that [companies] don’t have to worry about. It’s right here.”

Policy-makers and Local Decision-makers

A public health approach to preventing violence is ever more important: we need to examine the data, put community members in the lead, and work across sectors.

Where one lives, race, and income have implications for a person’s opportunity for a healthy life and the coronavirus will continue to illuminate inequities. This article provides recommendations for ways to address historic inequities, and urges us to use this time as an opportunity to protect communities.

COVID-Local and the Frontline Guide are a joint project of the Global Biological Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the Center for Global Development, and the Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security, in collaboration with Talus Analytics. Developed by a team of experts and former public health officials, in consultation with current state and local officials about the key issues they face. Its focus is on providing information for both slowing and suppressing the spread of the virus, and also on supporting community needs.

From the Journal for Health Politics, Policy and Law. This piece (by Alberti, Lantz et al) proposes a health equity framework for pandemic preparedness and response that recognizes the fundamental causes of social and health inequity while focusing on the upstream, midstream, and downstream effects of policy. (Added 6/23/20)

Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), reviews steps the federal and state governments have taken to ensure students’ access to healthy meals when schools are closed and what needs to be done to ensure continued meal access as all school systems face uncertainties about how to safely reopen for the 2020-2021 school year. (Added 7/27/20)

Addressing impacts on communities of color, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik joins the program to discuss how the city is coping with the pandemic, including the recent election, the upcoming Democratic National Convention, the city’s free mask program and more. (Added 8/31/20)

Federal Response in Tribal Communities

From the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center. (Added 8/3/20)

From the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center. (Added 8/3/20)

Despite a 2014 commitment to disaggregate public health data for Indigenous people including tribal nations in the United States, tribal communities do not have that data as they look to respond to the the long-term consequences of COVID-19. (Added 9/16/20)

Interview Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, reporter and deputy managing editor of Indian Country Today; when she could not find data on how COVID-19 is impacting tribal communities, she started collecting it herself. (Added 10/29/20)

Other Strategies:

Rural communities receive a disproportionately small share of foundation grants, only five to six percent. This lack of capital and associated business development capacity outside of urban areas contributes to widening income inequality.

The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals calls for employers to keep employees safe, and this matters to all of Milwaukee.

From Untokening. Untokening curated the Principles of Mobility Justice from the experiences of advocates, practitioners and community members from marginalized identities across the country to outline recommendations for mobility justice that are rooted in the liberation of our communities. In response to the current pandemic, their network convened a virtual conversation to share reflections and recommendations for mobility justice in the COVID-19 world.

Editorial from JAMA, by David Williams and Lisa Cooper. The striking racial/ethnic disparities reported for COVID-19 infection, testing, and disease burden are a clear reminder that failure to protect the most vulnerable members of society not only harms them but also increases the risk of spread of the virus, with devastating health and economic consequences for all.

From the Guardian. “Already one lesson of the pandemic is clear: America’s deep and brutal fault lines – of race, partisanship, gender, poverty and misinformation – rendered the country ill-prepared to meet the challenges of this disease.” (Added 6/23/20)

From Stat News. Had U.S. leaders taken the decisive, early measures comparable to S. Korea, Australia, Germany, and Singapore, between 70%-99% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. would have been prevented. (Added 6/23/20)

This video explores how institutions, including the World Health Organization and World Bank, have responded to the pandemic (watch the video here). What policies have guided the response? How can institutional bias be addressed? Who will ensure care is available to all? Ambassador John E. Lange, senior fellow for Global Health Diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation, moderates the panel that includes Stewart Simonson, WHO assistant director general; Graham Harrison, senior science and technology specialist with the World Bank’s Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) Impact Project, and Lori DiPrete Brown, associate director at the Global Health Institute.

Roundup of links and resources devoted to racial equity in response. (From Racial Equity Tools)  (Added 9/16/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is not gender neutral.  This article from NPR highlights responses that address challenges faced by women. (Added 10/29/20)


As we recover from the pandemic, let’s come together and learn from one another: how can we restructure our world into a better place, one that is more just and equitable? Here’s what recovery can look like.

Historically, recovery efforts have not deliberately tried to solve for issues facing low-income communities and communities of color. To navigate through COVID-19, the nation should follow the Common-Sense, Street-Smart Recovery principles of center racial equity, put people first, invest in community infrastructure, build equitable economy, and protect and expand community voice and power.

The outbreak is revealing compounding inequities, but also providing an opportunity in that policymakers are frantically willing to try new solutions that were seemingly unachievable before, in order to protect our most vulnerable populations. This article discusses relief measures being preserved and improved for systemic changes beyond the crisis period.

Article outlines considerations for employment, education, and the racial wealth gap that policymakers should take into account as they prepare to for recovery from COVID-19. Considerations are meant to help the country recover in a more resilient way that reduces racial disparities.

From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Health equity principles for communities to consider in designing and implementing their responses so they can recover fully. These principles provide a compass that points leaders toward an equitable and lasting recovery. (Added 6/17/20)

From Center for Health Equity Action for System Transformation at Families USA. Along with recommendations for changes in Medicaid and health insurance, this report also addresses some social determinants of health. (Added 6/17/20)

From the Fast Company. From postal banking to Medicare for All to baby bonds, this series of proposals to build our way out of the recession would also help build generational wealth in communities that have been shut out of opportunities. (Added 7/6/20)

From the Black to the Future Action Fund. COVID-19 has exposed the connection between rigged rules and their impacts: Black people are infected at higher rates, and comprise the majority of deaths from the disease in many cities across America. We need a plan for Black communities that protects families, provides access to needed care, and that builds new infrastructure to address current crises. The Black Agenda 2020 is a roadmap for making Black people powerful in all aspects of their lives. (Added 7/6/20)

From the Atlantic. Public health seeks to maximize health and equity across many domains — supporting racial justice and anti-police-brutality protests in a pandemic is aligned with public health ethics and science. (Added 7/6/20)

Instead of perpetuating failed approaches that do not take the American culture of individualism into account, the public health community needs to adopt an inclusive and targeted messaging strategy that frames public health measures in ways that speak to US culture. (Added 8/31/20)

Climate-resilient Recovery

UN Secretary-General warns of the approaching “point of no return” for the climate crisis and proposes climate-related actions to shape COVID-19 recovery.


Find helpful local, regional and national sources for data, dashboards, and visualizations on COVID-19.

From the University of Chicago and partners (including the County Health Rankings). The U.S. COVID-19 Atlas is a county-level clustering surveillance tool to provide quick access to county-level COVID-19 estimates, longitudinal exploration, and cluster detection.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The COVID-19 pandemic is a complex phenomenon but models can be useful. Here are tips for making sense of COVID-19 models for decision-making.

From FiveThirtyEight. A laypersons guide to how epidemiologists construct COVID-19 models

From the New England Journal of Medicine. Some models with apparently conflicting conclusions have received substantial press coverage, giving the impression that mathematical models are in general unreliable or inherently flawed. But infectious disease modeling is an expansive field with a long history, encompassing a range of methods and assumptions that are not necessarily directly comparable, or even designed for the same purpose.

From the US Census Bureau

From ColorLines published by Race Forward. In addition to wildly differing protocols at all levels of government, the fact remains: Science and data collection are anything but neutral.

From the Vox Video Lab. This video shows how to read a popular chart of coronavirus cases by country.

Opportunity Insights is based at Harvard University, where a team of researchers and policy analysts work together to analyze new data and create a platform for local stakeholders to make more informed decisions. Combines anonymized data from private companies to provide a real-time picture of indicators tracking the impact of COVID-19, such as employment rates, consumer spending, and job postings across counties, industries, and income groups.

Published in Medium by the Pew Research Center. This post walks through some of the differences in the data available from three widely used sources of information related to the geographic progression of the coronavirus outbreak.

From the Harvard School of Public Health. This describes how to use the methods of the Public Health Disparities Geocoding Project to Monitor COVID-19 Inequities and Guide Action for Health Justice

Comparing recent totals of deaths from all causes can provide a more complete picture of the pandemic’s impact than tracking only deaths of people with confirmed diagnoses. In nearly every state with an unusual number of deaths, that number is higher than the state’s reported number of deaths from Covid-19. Epidemiologists refer the gap between the observed and normal numbers of deaths as “excess deaths.” (Article updated 9/23/20)

From the Harvard Business Review. Incomplete or incorrect data can muddy the waters, obscuring important nuances within communities, ignoring important factors such as socioeconomic realities, and creating false senses of panic or safety.

From the Urban Institute. These data track losses of low-income jobs, defined here as jobs with annual earnings below $40,000, but exclude some workers, such as independent contractors and those working in the gig economy.

From a scientist with UW-Madison’s Applied Population Lab. COVID and physical distancing explained through gaming (Added 6/17/20)

From the Atlantic. A regularly refreshed dashboard offering disaggregated COVID data alongside corresponding population data for each racial or ethnic group and flagging where racial disparities are likely, given data limitations. (Added 6/23/20)

This is a collection of over 100 COVID-19 policy trackers and datasets in the areas of non-pharmaceutical interventions, economic and social policy responses, public attitudes, politics and media coverage (compiled by Lucas Lehner of University of Oxford). (Updated link 8/31/20)

From Emory University. Interactive map with every county in US depicted. Can compare your county to state and to nation based on COVID-19 cases, deaths, and risk factors (obesity, diabetes). Includes % of population that is African-American. (Added 6/23/20)

From Our World In Data (University of Oxford). Country-by-country data on confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Added 6/23/20)

From NPR. Researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute are leading a collaboration of top scientists at institutions around the country who have joined forces to create a unified set of metrics, including a shared definition of risk levels — and tools for communities to fight the coronavirus. (Added 7/6/20)

The Household Pulse Survey is designed to deploy quickly and efficiently, collecting data on a range of ways in which people’s lives have been impacted by the pandemic. Data will be disseminated in near real-time to inform federal and state response and recovery planning. (Added 7/6/20)

Updated every two weeks, the ongoing Color of Coronavirus project monitors how and where COVID-19 mortality is inequitably impacting certain communities—to guide policy and community responses to these disproportionate deaths. (Added 8/31/20)


Find the Community Resilience & Response Task Force (CRRTF) overview, tools and resources here.