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A Tale of Two Epidemics: Understanding the Convergence of Coronavirus and Gun Violence in Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Joseph Richardson, African America Studies, will use a mixed-methods approach to measure twin epidemics of gun violence and COVID

Similar to the gun violence epidemic that affects the lives of Black Americans in many U.S. cities, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the health and mortality of Black Americans. In large cities across the US, the health and life expectancy of Black Americans is threatened by the convergence of these two epidemics, gun violence and COVID. Preliminary data based on zip codes, suggests that urban areas with high concentrations of poverty are suffering from high rates of gun violence and COVID related infections and deaths. Rates of fatal and nonfatal gun violence far exceed the national average within the same socially and economically disadvantaged communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Despite the implementation of shelter in place orders to reduce the spread of COVID, large cities in the US such as, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington DC have experienced an increase in gun-related homicides during this period. Baltimore is no exception. Gun violence in Baltimore has not abated despite mandatory COVID shelter in place orders. Despite the national scale and severity of this public health crisis, research on the epidemic of gun violence and COVID in U.S. cities, particularly in poor communities of color, has been limited due to the lack of federal funding for gun violence research. As both of these epidemics plague communities concurrently, it is imperative that statewide resources in Maryland are leveraged to prevent unnecessary deaths and develop innovative solutions to these intersecting and seemingly intractable problems. This study engages an innovative approach by using mixed methods research to investigate the tale of these two epidemics in Baltimore. Qualitative methods are designed to investigate how “essential” professionals, particularly within the healthcare and criminal justice systems (i.e., trauma surgeons, violence interrupters and law enforcement), have responded and adjusted their work during the pandemic to meet the complex needs of victims and offenders of gun violence. Furthermore, the study will investigate the victim-offender overlap in gun violence during the COVID crisis. Finally, this study will utilize geographic information systems to spatially map the incidence of COVID-19 and gun violence, furthering our understanding of the relationship between these related epidemics. Methodologically, this will be the first study to explore the convergence of two epidemics using a virtual qualitative and geographic information systems (GIS) approach.

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