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Evaluating Understandings of State and Federal Pandemic Policies: The Situation of Refugees from the Congo Wars in Tampa, Florida

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This article addresses underlying inequities for resettling refugees that have been exposed by COVID-19, including language barriers and access to public health information, food, health care, housing, and employment. It also speaks to theoretical concerns about the role of structural forces in creating increased health risks for vulnerable populations. Fieldwork that began in May 2020 investigated the extent to which refugees in Tampa understand and can operationalize the state and federal pandemic policies that have been put in place in the wake of the spread of COVID-19. The issues include understanding of COVID-19 and how it is transmitted, ability and willingness to practice distancing, access to food assistance, ability to help children with remote learning, and workplace disruptions, including the need to file for unemployment. Our method speaks to community-based approaches to anthropological fieldwork in pandemic situations, while demonstrating that critical language skills and in-depth cultural knowledge are essential for evaluating public health pandemic messaging and helping vulnerable populations.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Human Organization, v. 79, issue 4, p. 271-280