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KPBS Midday Edition

Study shows the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on San Diego refugee communities

A COVID-19 testing site at San Diego State University. Jan. 15, 2021.
Alexander Nguyen
A COVID-19 testing site at San Diego State University. Jan. 15, 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic is in a stage of contradictions. We’re taking off masks on airplanes while new highly infectious subvariants emerge. We’re headed into a summer of vacations and concerts while the United States marks its millionth death from COVID-19.

To get a better grasp on where we are in this pandemic, KPBS Midday Edition spoke with UC San Diego epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller. Jeanine Erikat, a policy associate at the nonprofit organization Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, also known as PANA San Diego, joined the conversation to talk about a study the group co-authored on the effects of the pandemic on refugee communities in San Diego.

Fielding-Miller said that, although people are starting to let their guard down, the pandemic is still happening.

"We all just so badly want this to end, and I think that there has been a lot of, you know: 'The pandemic is over, we're done, we don't have to wear masks anymore — that chapter in our lives is done.' And it's exhausting to know and to think about the fact that it's not, that this is going to continue to be with us for a while," Fielding-Miller said.

She said COVID-19 cases were starting to rise again in San Diego and across the nation.

"I profoundly hope it won't be as bad as the omicron surge of January, but we are starting to see yet another uptick," Fielding-Miller said.

Erikat said one of the findings from the population health study is that refugees who have arrived in the United States relatively recently seem to have fared better during the pandemic than refugees who’ve been in the U.S. for years.

"For refugees who've been here for five years, what they've been experiencing is limited support because in many cases it's only within the first couple years that people have access to certain benefits, and, over the course of five years, people become ineligible for programs that could help them with rent or other forms of assistance," Erikat said.

According to the report, 84% of people from refugee communities in San Diego reported job and wage losses during the pandemic, and 49% reported worsening mental health.