CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship February 18, 2022


February 18, 2022

COVID-19 Hardship

February 18, 2022 

The inflation inequality edition. Daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to drop dramatically, as do hospitalizations. Deaths – finally – are following this trend, down significantly over the past two weeks. But a look at what is happening around the world reveals that the pandemic is far from over – which means we in the U.S. are not out of danger – not by a long shot. 

Although coronavirus restrictions are lifting in some countries as cases drop, the average number of global cases recorded each day this week remains more than double what it was at any point in 2020 or 2021. In South Korea, more than 90,000 cases were recorded this past Wednesday, an all-time high for a nation where the vaccination rate is over 80 percent.  

Meanwhile, here at home inflation rages at breakneck speed. While inflation is rising everywhere, affecting every income bracket, price hikes are particularly devastating to lower-income households with already tight budgets. Nearly all of these households’ expenses go to necessities – such as food, energy, and housing – which have seen some of the largest inflationary increases. 

The Washington Post recently analyzed 10 categories of pandemic inflation. Of the ten areas analyzed, lower earners spent a greater share of their total spending on seven of them. These included spending on things such as shelter, groceries, utilities, health insurance, and gasoline. Higher earners spent a greater share of income on vehicle purchases, home furnishings and appliances, and going out to restaurants and bars. 

“For low-income Americans, a small change in disposable income is very difficult to cope with,” Xavier Jaravel, a London School of Economics Professor, told the Post. “Every bit of additional inflation just reduces purchasing power. If you have a large income, which often goes with the fact that you’re saving a lot, then losing some of your purchasing power is not a big cost.” 

Congress can, and must, intervene to help allay inflation’s sting for lower earners and other working families. It could extend rental assistance and increase funding for housing vouchers. It could extend health care premium subsidies and rein in the cost of prescription drugs. It could make child care more affordable. It could increase nutrition assistance – hunger in America is again on the rise. 

There are many legislative vehicles available through which Congress could act. The two most pressing are passage of a full-year appropriations bill in the Senate that reflects the robust approach Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have adopted, and then, negotiating and passing – finally – a version of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. 



Down 68% /13%/40% 

On Thursday, February 17, 113,964 new COVID-19 cases and 2,306 deaths were reported in the U.S. That’s a 68 percent decrease in cases from 14 days ago and a 13 percent decrease in deaths. Hospitalizations also are way down, by 40 percent. Tweet this.



Lower-income families spend an average of 11 percent of their budget on food, compared with higher-income families, which spend 7 percent on food. This is just one example of how lower-income households are hit harder when inflation arrives. Tweet this.


Up 1 million 

The number of people reporting their household sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past 7 days rose from 21.1 million in early December to 22.1 million in the period from January 22 to February 7, rising from 9.7 percent to 10.1 percent. Tweet this.


Up 3.7 million 

From December 2021 to January 2022, 3.7 million children were pushed into poverty. More than 60 million children received the monthly Child Tax Credit in December, but it was halted in January. For all children, poverty rose by 41 percent. For White children, up 52 percent, Black children, 30 percent, Latino children, 42.5 percent, Asian children, 27 percent. Tweet this.


More than 7 million 


More than seven million adults in the U.S., or about 3 percent of the adult population, are characterized by health professionals as immunocompromised because of a disease, medication, or other treatment that weakens their body’s immune response, meaning that diseases such as COVID-19 can be more deadly to them and that vaccines offer less protection. This is one population disproportionately at risk when localities and states lift mask and vaccine mandates. Tweet this.


– 692,000/– 8.8 million 

Nearly 14 million children received breakfast and 19.8 million children received lunch on an average school day during the 2020-2021 school year, a decrease of 692,000 children and 8.8 million children, respectively, compared to breakfast and lunch participation rates in the 2018-2019 school year – the last full school year prior to the pandemic. The numbers would have been worse had Congress not approved waivers such as allowing kids to be fed during school disruptions. But the waivers expire in June, meaning more action is needed.



In 2021, investors purchased nearly one in seven homes sold in America’s top 40 metropolitan areas – the most in at least two decades. A brand new Washington Post analysis found sharp racial inequity surrounding the purchases – 30 percent of home sales in majority Black neighborhoods were to investors, compared to 12 percent in other zip codes. Investor speculation can destabilize the housing market, leading to higher prices for everyone and decreasing the availability of affordable housing stock.


1 million 


The U.S. has now recorded more than one million “excess deaths” since the pandemic began, according to data released this week by the CDC. Most of these deaths were directly related to COVID-19 – as of Tuesday, February 15, 911,145 COVID-19 deaths had been recorded – 91 percent of the total. For the remaining deaths, mostly due to heart disease, hypertension, and dementia, COVID-19 was said to be a contributing factor but not the primary cause.



Infants whose mothers were fully vaccinated with mRNA shots while pregnant were 61 percent less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in their first six months of life. It’s the first real-world evidence that maternal vaccination generates COVID-19 antibodies that could be passed on and become protective to the baby.



A major new study published Wednesday, February 16 involving 154,000 COVID-19 patients in the Veterans Health Administration system found that COVID-19 patients are much more likely to develop serious mental health issues than non-COVID-19 patients. Patients were 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression and 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety over the months following infection than people without COVID-19 during the same time period. In addition, they were 34 percent more likely to develop opioid use disorders and 20 percent more likely to develop non-opioid substance use disorders, including alcoholism.