ABSTRACT

Recent scholarship has documented how the coronavirus pandemic itself has exacerbated existing inequalities in the United States. Less attention has been paid to the unequal impacts of pandemic responses. In this chapter, I draw on two years of ethnographic fieldwork (four months during the pandemic) to explore how blanket pandemic response policies interact with underlying structural inequalities. By building on a framework that describes community vulnerability, I argue that the second-order effects of such policies operate to widen spatial inequality. The chapter considers the case of Central Delta County, an impoverished rural community in the Mississippi Delta that has experienced decades of persistent depopulation and systemic racism.