Across LI, researchers explore COVID-19’s impact

Researchers in the business, medical, science and social work communities across Long Island are studying the impact of coronavirus on the region. At Stony Brook University alone, more than 180 studies launched since the start of the pandemic from 45 academic departments. Here is research being conducted and, in some cases, instructions on how you can participate:

Measuring Long Island’s mental health

Title: Mental Health in the Region: A Look into Depression on Long Island

Investigators: The Long Island Health Collaborative

The study: The study analyzes levels of depression and anxiety among Long Islanders over the past several years. According to researchers, depression can lead to the development of additional diseases throughout a patient’s lifetime and cost employers billions in lost productivity each year. Substance abuse is also a concern for those suffering from depression. The study ultimately determined that levels of depression on Long Island are slightly lower than the national and state averages, the reseachers stressed that many cases often go unreported due to societal stigmas about mental health illnesses.

Stage: Study completed. Read more here.

What’s the impact?A major goal of the study was to “provide a region-specific analysis of the current measures of depression in Nassau and Suffolk County compared to New York State and national averages. By identifying instances of mental health crisis, the data enables professsionals to more easily treat those who suffer from anxiety and depression.”

Studying impact on LI’s economy

Title: Nassau + Suffolk COVID-19 Economic Impact

Investigators: HR&A Advisors, with support from Nassau County IDA and Suffolk County IDA

The study: The study was designed to analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Long Island’s economy, in addition to outlining ways for the region to begin recovery efforts. The study concluded that out of the 220,000 jobs lost on Long Island due to the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs whose employees were paid under $61,000 a year, those with only a high school diploma and the Hispanic/Latino community were most negatively affected by the shutdown. Industries hit the hardest on Long Island include hospitality, healthcare/social assistance and retail. The region’s hospitality industry saw a 2/3 decline in employment during the initial months of the crisis, according to the report. This included a high number of Hispanic and Latino workers, 27% of the industry’s employees vs. 17% of all workers.

Stage: Study completed. See full results here.

What’s the impact? The county executives used the study’s results to renew their call to Congress for direct financial relief to both counties in the next federal recovery bill.

“This pandemic has caused hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders to lose their jobs, shuttered businesses, and turned our local economy upside down,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This report makes clear that federal aid from Congress is necessary if our region is going to rebound and recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Checking in with local businesses

Title: Poll of Small Business Owners in Nassau County and Suffolk County

Investigators: Hofstra University

The study: This poll surveyed 1,282 businesses, half from each county, and was conducted online between May 19 and May 20. It is part of a regional effort to find out the needs of the business community for future federal and state funding pushes. The top reopening challenge identified by the participants was customer fear of visiting businesses because of the threat of catching the coronavirus.

Stage: Poll completed. See full results here.

What’s the impact?“The pain and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 for our small businesses, their employees and families remain constant,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Finding answers in the sewage

Title: Track Disease Prevalence in New York State Communities Through Monitoring Novel Coronavirus in Sewage

Investigators: Chris Gobler, Endowed Chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University

The study: According to Gobler, early detection of infectious disease is critical to help control outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. Because viral load in sewage can come before symptoms, it is a potential leading indicator of infection which communities could be targeted for heightened intervention. The researchers are collecting samples of sewage from multiple Long Island communities to track densities of COVID-19, with the goal of developing an early warning system for pathogen detection that can serve as an early warning system for any “second wave.”

Stage: Sample collection

What’s the impact? “Because this approach detects the virus carried by symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals and because infections only become symptomatic after an individual has had an active infection for one to two weeks and because hospitalizations happen a week or more after that, this approach has the potential to identify second waves of infections emerging in communities before patients begin to show up and overwhelm hospitals,” said Dr. Gobler.

Tracking family violence

Title: Family Relationships in the Era of COVID-19

Investigators: Rachel Kidman, Department of Preventive Medicine and Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University; Amy Hammock, School of Social Welfare and Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University; Jhumka Gupta, George Mason University

The study: Anecdotal reports suggest that child abuse and intimate partner violence are escalating during the pandemic given the stay-at-home orders. However, there are not systematically-collected data on the magnitude, severity, and experience of family violence, making it difficult to create responsive programming and policy. The goal of this study is to fill this gap by collecting data about family violence using a short, online, anonymous survey available in both English and Spanish. The anonymous online questionnaire takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and covers intimate partner violence, child abuse, social distancing behaviors during COVID-19, stability of employment, mental health, supportive relationships and resources, COVID-19 symptoms and experiences.

Stage: Data collection – if you or anyone you know would like to take the survey visit and learn more here.

What’s the impact? “Given how little is currently known about how family violence manifests in these unprecedented times, we think it’s important to collect first-hand accounts of these experiences, which is why the survey has a section for folks to write about their experiences in their own words. Such information will help us uncover any new forms violence and help-seeking that have occurred during the pandemic, as well as what types of support and services would be most helpful to victims during such times. We know that it is important to not only collect this data but do something about what we find. Therefore, after we analyze the data, we plan to bring together a workshop of organizations and entities dedicated to ending family violence on Long Island, to elicit feedback on the study findings, identify data-driven strategies that may be acceptable and effective to prevent or mitigate violence in the era of COVID-19, and guide emergency preparedness for future pandemics, including decisions about business closures and social distancing requirements,” said Professor Hammock.

Monitoring social distancing impact

Title: Understanding the Impact of Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Outbreak on Mental Health and Substance Use Among Young Adults in New York

Investigators: Sana Malik and Ijeoma Opara, School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University

The study: While social distancing measures were deemed necessary in reducing transmission of COVID-19, it can lead to significant psychological problems such as loneliness, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Given the recent attention on racial disparities in access to testing, care, and associated health outcomes, this mixed methods study investigates mental health and substance use outcomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic among young adults in New York. A online survey and focus groups will be used to elicit data about mental health and substance use outcomes, behaviors, and care seeking attitudes.

Stage: No results available yet.

What’s the impact? “This study intends to highlight the effects of social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use on young adults in New York. By understanding specific risk and protective factors including a focus on neighborhood context, findings from this project will advance the field of substance use and mental health prevention and disparities research,” Malik says.

Title: Examining the Role of Mental Health Disparities and Impact on Educational Outcomes

Investigators: Melissa Bessaha and Sana Malik, School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University

The study: This study examines the experiences of graduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a combination of online surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews, this research will address three central research questions: (1) What are the mental health experiences and needs of graduate students during COVID-19, with a focus on disparities in diverse populations? (2) How have challenges related to COVID-19 impacted the educational expectations, experiences, and plans of graduate students during COVID-19? (3) What innovative and equitable educational initiatives can higher education leaders support to meet graduate students’ needs in times of crisis? Additional questions include knowledge and impact of COVID-19, experiences of discrimination during COVID-19 crisis, needed university and educational resources, mental health status, barriers to mental health use, how cultural values can inform these beliefs, and disparities in help-seeking behaviors.

Stage: Data collection

What’s the impact? “The COVID-19 crisis is a time of tremendous change, challenge, and opportunity for institutions of higher education on Long Island as well as across the country and globe. By examining the experiences and needs of graduate students who are at the epicenter of this crisis in the New York metro area, it is anticipated that other higher education institutions will be more equipped to serve this student population both now and in response to future waves of disease and/or other large-scale crises,” says Bessaha.

Exploring unprecedented pandemic decisions

Title: Social Status and Utilitarian Moral Judgement

Investigators: Jiyin Cao, College of Business at Stony Brook University

The study: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us many unprecedented situations and morality dilemmas. For example, to what extent young people should be prioritized over elderly people for limited medical resources? To what extent doctors and nurses should be encouraged to continue working without enough PPE? At what level government should balance between economy and health? The study will get at the struggle to find these answers through surveys and social experiments.

Stage: Data collection

What’s the impact? “In this study, I explore how socioeconomic factors at the individual level and community level influence people’s opinions in these dilemmas. The study contributes to our understanding of the wide range of people’s reactions toward the crisis and help policymakers to better engage the public,” says Cao.

These are highlights of research being done here. Comment below or email with other projects.