Background: It is increasingly recognized that policies have played a role in both alleviating and exacerbating the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been limited systematic evaluation of variation in U.S. local COVID-19-related policies. This study introduces the U.S. COVID-19 County Policy (UCCP) Database, whose objective is to systematically gather, characterize, and assess variation in U.S. county-level COVID-19-related policies.
Methods: In January-March 2021, we collected an initial wave of cross-sectional data from government and media websites for 171 counties in 7 states on 22 county-level COVID-19-related policies within 3 policy domains that are likely to affect health: (1) containment/closure, (2) economic support, and (3) public health. We characterized the presence and comprehensiveness of policies using univariate analyses. We also examined the correlation of policies with one another using bivariate Spearman's correlations. Finally, we examined geographical variation in policies across and within states.
Results: There was substantial variation in the presence and comprehensiveness of county policies during January-March 2021. For containment and closure policies, the percent of counties with no restrictions ranged from 0% (for public events) to more than half for public transportation (67.8%), hair salons (52.6%), and religious gatherings (52.0%). For economic policies, 76.6% of counties had housing support, while 64.9% had utility relief. For public health policies, most were comprehensive, with 70.8% of counties having coordinated public information campaigns, and 66.7% requiring masks outside the home at all times. Correlations between containment and closure policies tended to be positive and moderate (i.e., coefficients 0.4-0.59). There was variation within and across states in the number and comprehensiveness of policies.
Conclusions: This study introduces the UCCP Database, presenting granular data on local governments' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We documented substantial variation within and across states on a wide range of policies at a single point in time. By making these data publicly available, this study supports future research that can leverage this database to examine how policies contributed to and continue to influence pandemic-related health and socioeconomic outcomes and disparities. The UCCP database is available online and will include additional time points for 2020-2021 and additional counties nationwide.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Economic support; Health policy; Policy evaluation.
© 2022. The Author(s).