Responding to COVID-19

Statement of Problem

As we follow the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, top of mind for us are the children and families facing significant health and economic challenges as a result of this crisis and the related shelter-in-place directives.

In addition to protecting children and families from the damaging health effects of this virus, it is also imperative that we plan for how to safely reopen society, prepare for a potential resurgence of COVID-19, and address the emerging humanitarian impacts resulting from social distancing, caregivers not being able to work and youth not being able to attend school.


At PolicyLab, we are grateful for the work of our team members, frontline health and service providers, and policy leaders in keeping families safe and healthy, getting caregivers back to work, and mitigating the long-term consequential impacts that the pandemic could have on the well-being of families. We outlined many of the priority areas we should be monitoring when it comes to protecting child and family health throughout the aftermath of the pandemic in this blog post. Below are some of the areas for which we are committed to digging in deeper alongside our partners (note we will update this webpage frequently as work continues):

Informing state & federal policy response to reopening society:

  • PolicyLab team members are part of an interdisciplinary team of global experts using actual case data to track and longitudinally project, in real-time, the COVID-19 epidemic across nearly 400 U.S. counties. Data from the model project cases by county for the next four weeks based on current social distancing practices. Data as of May 27 suggest that some communities, particularly in the southern and Midwestern regions of the country, are still at high risk for COVID-19 resurgence in the coming weeks, while many other counties appear to be flattening the curve. POLICYLAB RESOURCES: Click here to read more about our modeling projecthere to view a data visualization of our modelshere for a blog post on the implications of our recent findings, and here for a Washington Post article that uses our models to explain the risk of resurgence in some parts of the country.  
  • PolicyLab team members, alongside colleagues in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Infectious Diseases, compiled a policy review to support local jurisdictions and school administrators in their plans to safely reopen schools following their closure for the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource includes emerging evidence that can guide safety protocols, highlights where there is limited research, and features the experiences of school districts and universities across the world. POLICYLAB RESOURCERead the policy review here, as well as a WHYY piece that features this resource.
  • We developed a policy review that compiles evidence from multiple public health and sector-specific data sources on influenza and pandemic concepts, as well as COVID-19-specific proposals, which policymakers can consider as we work to safely reopen communities following the first peak of the epidemic in the U.S. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: Read the policy review here, as well as a New York Times piece that cites this resource.
  • We contributed to a memo focused on how we can safely reopen society based on emerging knowledge that COVID-19 is not as fatal as previously thought, but remains highly contagious. This memo emphasizes the importance of managing transmission of the virus to preserve health care capacity and protect high-risk groups, identifies strategies that are responsive to the needs of children and families, and much more. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: Click here to read the considerations for reopening society memo.

Behavioral health:

The uncertainty during this time is causing significant stress in lives of youth and their families, making it critical to consider mental health as part of the public health response. Our behavioral health researchers are sharing their insights via a collaborative blog post series focused on the mental health effects of the pandemic. This series touches on topics such as sleep, missed milestones (e.g., graduation), the impact of COVID-19 on those with preexisting mental health conditions, and the importance of access to care, particularly in setting such as schools that have largely closed. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: View posts in our behavioral health and COVID-19 blog post series here.

Partner materials & other resources:

Child care:

With their close connection to the child care community through various research projects, PolicyLab experts have been monitoring the impact of social distancing and shelter in place on the economics and long-term viability of child care centers. They are exploring how to ensure that these vital lifelines for families can remain open while also protecting the safety of staff and families through the course of the pandemic. As we identify solutions to support child care centers and families, we plan to share these recommendations broadly as well as with specific stakeholders. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: Click here for a blog post outlining how we can safely reopen, and keep open, child care centers.

Partner materials & other resources:

Child welfare/child maltreatment:

The pandemic has already profoundly affected the child welfare system, which is struggling to safely house youth in foster care, ensure visits between birth parents and their children and allow for timely reunification. We are also concerned about potential increases in child abuse. Families now face additional stress with fewer supports, and during times of social isolation, it will be more difficult to deliver needed prevention services and monitor families that may be at risk for safety issues. Our child welfare experts are closely monitoring the effects of the pandemic, including supporting state policymakers in ensuring health care access for youth in foster care during this time.

Partner materials & other resources:

Community resources:

In light of COVID-19, the team working on Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) community resource map,, accelerated its widespread launch. This site—which was developed through a partnership between the Division of Social Work, Healthier Together, Population Health, Safe Place, the Primary Care Network and others—is an online resource database that helps patients, families, and providers search for local community resources by zip code and key categories, such as food, financial support and more. The team quickly responded to the high level of family need during this crisis and partnered with community-based organizations and other health systems to actively update the site with community services specific to COVID-19. Additionally, new social resource information—with items such as where to access free meals during school closings—is being more readily provided in the CHOP Emergency Department, main hospital and primary care clinics.

Early intervention:

Shelter-in-place directives have limited, or even prohibited, many families from accessing needed public programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Early Head Start and energy assistance. Our researchers are leading a rapid-response study to understand the experience families with young kids who receive Early Intervention (EI) services are having with these programs, as well as with new virtual EI services. The information gleaned from this study should help with planning for future crises and pandemics.

Health equity:

The coronavirus is exacerbating inequalities in the U.S. In places where data is available, disparities in access to COVID-19 testing, incidence and fatality are becoming evident. At the same time, in many locations racial/ethnic data are not being collected, leading to concerns that these disparities will be even more difficult to address. Data regarding those with limited English proficiency is even harder to find, but anecdotal evidence also suggests severe disparities in this population being able to access care or information. Our experts are closely monitoring health equity issues related to the pandemic, and we are connecting with policymakers to help address these disparities. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: Click here for a blog post on how pediatricians can support immigrant populations during the pandemic.

Partner materials & other resources:


PolicyLab researchers have been supporting CHOP’s roll-out of increased telehealth services following the recent relaxation of federal and state guidelines. For example, we have helped organize a system for patient engagement with youth living with HIV and transgender youth who cannot visit clinic right now. POLICYLAB RESOURCE: Click here to read a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece on how telehealth is helping to overcome many of the long-standing barriers these vulnerable populations face to receiving the lifesaving care they need. 

Partner materials & other resources:


Next Steps

The health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are sure to have long-lasting effects on the well-being of children and families. PolicyLab will continue to be a voice for youth as we work to inform evidence-based policy solutions that directly address our response to this crisis, as well as our nation’s efforts to reopen society and manage future outbreaks.


Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Responding to COVID-19 [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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