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City Shutdown as a Response to COVID-19: Understanding Human Experiences and Mental Health Consequences of the Quarantine in Wuhan

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Epidemiology & Public Health, Mental Health & Wellbeing

Wuhan, where COVID-19 originated, is the capital of Hubei Province, with a population of over 11 million. The municipal government shut down the entire city since Jan 23, 2020, hoping to halt the COVID-19 outbreak. "[B]elieved to be without precedent" (New York Times), this largest quarantine in human history provides a natural case study to assess the impact of quarantine, as a public health response to COVID-19, on individuals and communities.

We will conduct five waves of online survey, each four months apart, to follow a diverse sample of 8,000 adults who lived in Wuhan during the quarantine. The survey will evaluate respondents' mental health, challenges encountered, and community services received during and after the quarantine. We will use survey data to identify individual and community risk factors for mental health outcomes during and after the quarantine, thereby determining the course of post-quarantine recovery and pinpointing the populations that need public health services the most. We will also conduct in-depth interviews with 120 adults who lived in Wuhan during the quarantine to examine, in much greater detail, how people understood, reacted to, and coped with the quarantine, and what local barriers, challenges, and needs existed in combating the COVID-19 outbreak. Our interviews will target vulnerable groups who have special healthcare needs (pregnant women, people with chronic conditions, and the elderly living alone) and people who are primary caregivers (people who care for family members with COVID-19, healthcare workers, and parents of young children). Spanning the fields of public health, sociology, demography, and disaster studies, this research will illuminate the feasibility of quarantine as a public health response to COVID-19, inform community and mental health service planning for post-epidemic recovery, and ultimately help to mitigate potential negative impacts of quarantine and the COVID-19 outbreak on individuals and communities.