As the U.S. nears 1 million Covid deaths, it’s more important than ever that we have timely and comprehensive data tracking its effects. Today, we’re  releasing our latest Pandemic to Prosperity: South report, an overview of the Covid-related impacts on Southerners’ lives and livelihoods, governments, civic institutions, and overall well-being.  

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Covid has accelerated many pre-existing trends. In this rapidly changing context, leaders must be strategic with their investments. State and local governments prioritizing projects for the American Rescue Plan can use these findings to target structural disparities that ultimately undermine community resilience. Some new key findings in the report can be found below.

  • LONG COVID: 10 out of 12 Southern states have among the highest rates of possible long Covid infections. Medical experts are still understanding the diagnosis, but recent studies show that long Covid largely affects immune and circulatory systems, as well as the brain and lungs. This can result in additional sickness, debilitating exhaustion, brain fog, and shortness of breath.
  • DRUG OVERDOSES: Fatal overdoses have skyrocketed over the course of the Covid pandemic. Several Southern states are among those with the highest drug overdose death rates. In West Virginia, the drug overdose death rate skyrocketed from an already elevated level of 52.8 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019 to 81.4 in 2020.
  • DIFFICULTY PAYING HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES: 37% of Southerners reported difficulty paying usual household expenses in the last 7 days, compared to only 33% of non-Southerners. The three states with the highest percentage of adults reporting difficulty were in the deep South: 46% in Louisiana, 45% in Mississippi, and 42% in Arkansas.
  • MEDICAL DEBT: One in five Southerners hold medical debt in default, reaching up to 40-50% of residents in some Southern counties.

Thank you for your continued engagement with this work — please reach out to [email protected] with any questions!

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