‘Some bright spots’ in recent survey of students regarding pandemic impact

Results of a survey of about 65,000 middle and high school students across the state of Washington includes cause for concern, as well as some positive notes about the impact of COVID-19 on the county’s kids.

“Throughout this past year, I have often times thought of our youth, the experiences they have endured and the life lessons that have been imparted on them,” said April Heikkila, who is the Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services COVID-19 response operations section chief. “Although some of the findings give me pause, there are certainly some bright spots.”

Heikkila said, “Grays Harbor schools participated in this survey and to me these findings represent hope for our youth in our community. It represents that our local coalitions, Harbor Strong and MY TOWN, are continuing to make strides with reducing substance use, that protective factors with families supporting each other has been important, and that our youth continue be optimistic about what the future holds.”

Some students reported concerns about the financial impacts of COVID-19 on their families. According to the survey, 32% of high schoolers and 43% of middle school students worried about their parents or guardians losing their jobs.

About 27% of the high school students surveyed and 37% of the middle schoolers worried about being unable to afford housing. And 17% of the high school students and 27% of the middle school students surveyed worried about not having enough to eat.

“Of those surveyed, 58% of high school students and 45% of middle school students reported feeling sad or depressed on most days during the past year,” said Heikkila. “Remote learning was challenging. Nearly 70% of middle and high school students said they felt it was harder to do their schoolwork this year than it was last school year.”

On the plus side, the survey indicates substance use was down. Students reported lower levels of cigarette, electronic cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use during the pandemic compared to data collected from pre-pandemic state data sources.

“The survey results also show resilience among many students,” said Heikkila. “More than 90% of participating students in each grade were at least slightly hopeful, and nearly 60% of all responding students reported feeling optimistic or hopeful about the future.”

The survey was funded and supported by the Washington State Health Care Authority and implemented by a team at the University of Washington, with further partnership around content, design, and distribution from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington State Department of Health.


Heikkila again stressed the importance of boosting the county’s vaccination numbers.

“We can do better and must do better to support restrictions lifting,” she said.

A total of 64,817 doses have been delivered in the county, according to public health data, with 899 doses given the week of June 26-July 1. About 50% of the county’s population age 16 and up is fully vaccinated.

Public health continues its outreach, trying to get vaccines to people in outlying areas. During the week of June 25-30, 135 vaccines were given by the health department, 83 at the Pearsall Building and 52 mobile vaccinations. Vaccines are readily available and free. Schedule an appointment locally at healthygh.org/covid19-vaccine-appointment, or through the state’s vaccine locator, vaccinelocator@doh.wa.gov.

Just 15 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the county the week of June 24-30, and four hospitalizations.