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Learn about our studies on risk perceptions, information preferences, and the actions people are taking to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic.

RAPID: Risk Perception, Information Seeking, and Protective Action in COVID-19 is a study that will survey adults in the states of New York, Louisiana, and Washington about their risk perceptions, information preferences, and the actions they are (and are not) taking to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to capture any changes in these patterns for each state over time, the survey will be conducted every month for six months. These changes become even more critical as states move to reduce restrictions on people’s movements and the looming probability of a second wave of COVID-19 later this year.

This study will improve the research and health community’s understanding of how people perceive risks, particularly when the threat itself is not visible. This study will also provide critical insights into behavioral influences on health during a pandemic in fulfillment of NSF’s mission to advance national health, prosperity, and welfare. Looking at risk perceptions, preferences, information sources, and protective actions at multiple points in time is important as the scale and severity of this pandemic have evolved rapidly, as have state-level responses to those changes.

This study on these dynamic patterns in communication preferences and perceptions across these three states at six points in time contribute to NSF’s commitment to the progress of science by offering a unique lens into the evolving nature of pandemics, pandemic responses, and potential resurgences of pandemics that can be applied to the ongoing COVID-19 response and other disasters that evolve over time. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, capturing these monthly changes at the state-level will help emergency managers, health care practitioners, government officials, and other parties involved with the pandemic response that must adapt their responses to these dynamic conditions as the pandemic continues to unfold.

These insights also contribute to NSF’s mission to secure the national defense by providing necessary knowledge to stave off unintended consequences attending future infectious diseases in the United States. By involving undergraduate students as research assistants on the project, and by integrating findings into classroom instruction and making the data available for thesis and dissertation research, this study will also support the education of the next generation of emergency management and public health practitioners.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2028412. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Research Team

Samantha Penta, PHD

Samantha Penta is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Preparedness in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at SUNY Albany. She earned her Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Sociology and an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and History with Distinction at the University of Delaware. Previous to her appointment at SUNY Albany, she worked for several years at the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Penta’s research focuses on health and medical care in crises, decision-making in preparedness and response, and humanitarian logistics. She has worked on projects examining disaster donations behavior, planning and implementing international crisis medical relief, risk perception, and protective actions.

In her research, she looks at these issues at the organizational and individual levels of analysis for a range of hazards including hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and epidemics/pandemics in United States and international contexts. She uses multiple research methods in her work including interviews, observation, document analysis, quick response field work, and surveys. 

Samantha Penta

Lauren Clay, Phd

Lauren Clay is an Associate Professor in the Health Administration and Public Health Department at D’Youville College and Affiliate Faculty at the Population Impact, Recovery, and Resilience Center at New York University School of Global Public Health.

She earned her PhD in Disaster Science and Management from University of Delaware and Master of Public Health from Drexel University. Dr. Clay’s research focuses on public health impacts of disasters with a focus on understanding community influences on household and individual outcomes.

She has studied health following several disasters including Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the 2013 tornadoes in Moore, OK, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Florence, and COVID-19.

Lauren Clay

Amber Silver, pHD

Dr. Amber Silver is an Assistant Professor for the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany. She received her Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Management from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Her primary research interests focus on how individuals and groups make decisions before, during, and after disasters. More specifically, she is interested in the roles that public attention, risk perception, and communication play in protective action decision making during extreme events.

Her most recent research has focused on the ways that new technologies, including social media, influence how individuals obtain, interpret, and respond to official and unofficial warning information.

Other key areas of interest include: the impact of environmental disasters on sense of place and place attachment; the use of social media as a risk and crisis communications tool; and the role of new media in collective sense-making during and after disaster.

Amber Silver

Research Briefs

Clay, L. Penta, S. Silver, A. (2020) "Risk Perception, Information Seeking, and Protective Actions during COVID-19 among New Yorkers (May-July 2020)", in A Multi-Wave Study of Risk Perception, Information Seeking, and Protective Action in COVID-19. DesignSafe-CI.


For questions and opportunities, connect with the Disaster Research Lab.