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Women in the Time of COVID-19

June 17, 2020

Women and men have been enormously affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but often in very different ways.

Initial job losses have been greater for women, making women the first to lose their income in this pandemic. The jobs lost were generally low-wage positions, which is especially concerning when coupled with the fact that the majority of those already living in poverty in our nation are women.

The jobs still held by women are centered in health care. Over 75 percent of our health care workforce are women. Of all care providers, approximately 20 percent have contracted COVID-19. And of those, three-quarters are women.

However, reports from China, Italy, and the United States, indicate that men are more likely to suffer severe forms of COVID-19 and die from the disease. At Women’s Health Research at Yale, we know this sex difference provides an important clue as to how the virus infects and harms us.

Our center is focusing attention on the health crisis by directly initiating and supporting research and interventions that are about COVID-19 and its effects. We have launched the first major study of its kind on sex differences in the immune response to this infection, producing data that are fundamental to understanding this disease and, thus, how to fight it.

We also are engaged in the vital work of our health policy partner, Elevate, showing how mental health interventions during the pandemic can successfully be provided remotely, in this case to under-resourced pregnant and parenting women.

Our work does not stop there. We are also extending our outreach to share scientific information and findings and ensuring our students are mentored during this time. Moreover, we are accelerating our research to understand and remediate the serious health conditions suffered by women and those that have clear sex-and-gender differences.

We recently funded three new studies that address enduring and pressing health concerns of women — endometrial cancer, stroke, and addiction to opioids. These conditions continue to cause high rates of morbidity and mortality, and we cannot delay our attention even as we recognize the clear need to concentrate on COVID-19.

As of this writing, there are over 1.5 million confirmed U.S. cases of COVID-19 with deaths from this disease approaching 100,000 and beyond. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the number of confirmed cases by race and ethnicity across age groups, yet data on race and ethnicity are provided for only half of the total cases.

Only estimates of “death counts” for women in contrast to men are available from the CDC.

Women’s Health Research at Yale has concentrated on COVID-19 since the health crisis began in our nation and on our clear vision to improve the nation’s health by integrating the study of women across all races and ethnicities, ages, and social and economic groups. In doing so, we know that women, men, and families will benefit. As a self-sustaining center, we thank you for your commitment to these efforts and this vision.


Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D.

Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor in Women’s Health Research

Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology

Director, Women’s Health Research at Yale

Submitted by Rick Harrison on June 15, 2020