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EPE TIG Week: Environmental Evaluation and Life in a Post-Vaccine World by Dylan Galos

Hi I’m Dylan Galos. I’m an evaluator at the Minnesota Department of Health. My work focuses on community health improvement and health equity in COVID-19.

A year ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19, illness caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, a global pandemic. Mitigation measures included closures of non-essential businesses, travel restrictions, and mandates to work and learn remotely. COVID-19’s impacts on the U.S. economy and mental health have received much attention; COVID-19 has also had substantial environmental impacts. Going forward, I’m taking these lessons with me: 

Lessons Learned:

#1: Complex environmental problems touch many sectors.

With travel restricted to essential trips and many people teleworking, environmental changes ensued. Rates of biking and walking increased as gym closures led people to choose outdoor recreation for exercise, air quality improved as people drove less during strict restrictions, and with fewer cars, species normally not seen on roads found new refuge. However, some of these changes were short-lived, and not all impacts from COVID-19 have been positive.

Shared micro-mobility services (e.g., bike-sharing) adapted to COVID-19 as they tried to stay afloat with a smaller user base. Car-sharing services implemented COVID-19 cleaning protocols. Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, strategies to reduce use of single-use plastics in the food service industry, such as banning plastic straws, were gaining adoption. COVID-19 has led to increased plastic use, both from individual choices, such as reusable cups at restaurants and cloth grocery bags being banned, as well as medical need for personal protective equipment, such as disposable medical masks. This increased demand for plastics coincided with decreased prices for fossil fuels (from which many plastics originate), and has impacted the market, including for recycled plastic. Last, ridership of public transit in the U.S. plummeted, affecting the budgets of transit authorities whose revenues depend on rider fares, raising questions about the future of public transportation.

#2: Data sharing can have profound impacts. Innovative spatial analyses have led to insights on the COVID-19 pandemic. One example of this are estimates of social distancing compliance conducted by examining the locations of cell-phone data in aggregate. In addition, governments are conducting contact tracing efforts using geolocation to notify users of potential exposures. As people seek vaccinations, new technology systems notify people of available vaccine doses that would otherwise be disposed, increasing vaccine coverage and preventing waste.

#3: Interdisciplinary work is the future. In my current role in the COVID-19 response, I collaborate with urban planners, environmental statisticians, data scientists, other epidemiologists, and community liaisons. Innovative teams are needed to address the complex problems of the future. One interesting interdisciplinary approach I’ve seen recently is scientists using wastewater to assess the prevalence of COVID-19. As we transition into a post-vaccine world and begin new projects and continue existing ones, I want to leave this by highlighting the importance of understanding the various sectors that touch our environmental interest and the possibilities of interdisciplinary work to address complex problems, now and in the future.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EPE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

6 thoughts on “EPE TIG Week: Environmental Evaluation and Life in a Post-Vaccine World by Dylan Galos”

  1. I agree the pandemic has caused a lot of change in how we are living from a year ago. I’ve experienced how kids have been dealing with the pandemic from working at an elementary school. Having to get use to working alone or in a distance from their teachers and classmates, from a year a go them being able to enjoy the classroom setting. I also believe that even though we get over the pandemic that we would not ever go back to the way it was before.

    1. Thank you, Dylan, for flagging three relevant lessons, and much appreciated the hyperlinks to relevant resources. This is a very rich and insightful post, and is encouraging to see it coming as part of EPE and AEA!

  2. Covid-19 has thrown our population into a downward spiral. From escalating deaths to negative actions caused by isolation our people must get used to a new normal. I never thought of the environmental effects Covid-19 would have on the world, just the effects that it would have as a societal aspect; income, schooling, sales marketing. I really enjoyed reading your article and it definitely opened my mind to the other ways the pandemic may effect our world.

  3. Hey Dylan Galos,

    I am currently taking a course called Fundamentals of Program Evaluation I think you did a really great job explaining your thoughts and ideas for alternate means of exercise for those to avoid the risks of possibly getting the COVID-19. I also agree that COVID-19 has brought a lot of negativity. I also agree that we must adapt to the new guidelines that COVID-19 has recently had us form in order to reduce the risks we could possibly run into.

  4. Hello Dylan,
    The pandemic definitely put into perspective the number of things that would change when a catastrophe like this occurs in the modern world we live in. So it’s important to plan how to navigate through the possibilities of the plans changing.

  5. Hi Dylan! This COVID-19 pandemic has definitely affected our country drastically. We were hit hard and unexpectedly. Like many, I am dreaming of a life post the pandemic. But what does that life truly look like? I’ve often wondered if life as we knew it before the pandemic will ever return or if this will be our new normal. I agree, not all effects of COVID-19 have been positive by any means. As you mentioned, we have and must adapt to the new guidelines and life alongside COVID-19. I believe that the factors you mentioned leave us hope in what’s to come. This pandemic has brought things like environmental problems, data sharing and interdisciplinary work to light over the last year. I am hopeful for better days, Thank you for this discussion!

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