How did COVID Impact Chelsea 

Positivity Analysis and Community Impact Survey

A city of mostly low-wage Latinx immigrants, Chelsea is known for having overcrowded and substandard housing, high levels of poverty, and food insecurity. While the underlying social and economic realities of this community might have predicted a major catastrophe with the arrival of COVID in March of 2020, public health professionals and medical researchers were shocked when an exploratory study carried out in April found antibodies to COVID among 30% of Chelsea residents (Saltzman, 2020). By the week of June 10, 2020, Chelsea had recorded 2839 cumulative cases of COVID, at a rate of 7537 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 38.14% which contrasted with the state positivity rate of 15% (Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 2020). These data showed that Chelsea had a COVID-19 rate almost six times higher than the state average and that many of those being tested were positive, an indication of both a high rate of disease as well as low rates of testing (Barry, 2020)

To understand trends and frequencies among COVID cases, we carried out data analysis for the city from March through August 2020. Data analysis continued through March of 2021 to monitor trends in who was most likely to get COVID and what were their outcomes. You can learn more about positivity analysis for COVID in the early part of the pandemic below.

Following the positivity analysis, we developed a survey to understand the economic and psycho-social impacts of COVID-19 on Chelsea’s Latinx community. The target population was predominantly Latinx, low-wage workers who were likely impacted by job loss and other economic and social shocks due to the pandemic. The survey was administered through multiple means, including social media and email blasts sent to La Colaborativa members and followers, directly targeting individuals in the food and diaper pantry lines at La Colaborativa and by phone banking. Phone banking was conducted during October and the first week of November and was the most successful survey recruitment method. Learn about the impact of COVID on Chelsea residents below.

The results demonstrate that the impact and social response to COVID in Chelsea exacerbated existing vulnerabilities while activating and expanding its strengths. On the one hand, Chelsea was disproportionately impacted by COVID by having a higher rate of COVID cases, higher rates of unemployment, and higher reliance on social protection systems than other cities in Massachusetts. At the same time, Chelsea organized to meet the needs of its residents and reinforced a collective sense of belonging and purpose in a way that few other cities have replicated. Latinx values of family loyalty, community obligation, and an understanding that God is ultimately benevolent were among the attributes that were so notable and contributed to the community’s resilience. These inherent cultural strengths enabled the community to survive and should be highlighted in re-building a healthier, stronger Chelsea.