Unmasking America

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Dear News21 partners:

Thank you for your interest in the News21 project on the lingering toll of COVID-19. Our fellows and staff have produced a multimedia package of 14 main investigative and explanatory stories, 21 additional reports with illustrations in our Extras blog, plus 4, 20-minute podcast episodes and several video stories.

Thank you,
News21 Staff


We ask that partners list the following information when publishing content from the project.

Bylines and credit lines

Please include bylines of individual fellows whose work you publish, which are listed at the top of each story. For example: Jane Doe | News21. In addition, we appreciate your inclusion of the credit lines that you’ll find at the bottom of all stories sent to you. These acknowledge our contributing reporters.


We also appreciate a link to the full project. For example:

This report is part of Unmasking America, an investigation of the lingering toll of COVID-19 produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. For more stories, visit unmaskingamerica.news21.com.

You may want to provide a fuller explanation of the project with the link, as follows:

About this project: This report is part Unmasking America, a project produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project by top college journalism students and recent graduates from across the country. It is headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


Download the Unmasking America logo and News21 logo packs for svg files.


Outbreak of inequality: COVID-19 magnifies decades of injustices, inequities in U.S.

COVID-19 has laid bare the devastating cost of inequality in the U.S. More than 600,000 people have died from the virus. Black and Hispanic people are at least twice as likely as white Americans to die of COVID-19, according to the CDC. “The pandemic was a crisis nationwide, but it didn’t hit everyone equally,” one expert says. Families at opposite ends of America’s racial and class divide experienced widely different outcomes.

Photos, video clips and data visualizations available.


Medical mistreatment, inequity lead to vaccine hesitancy for Black Americans

Since the start of the pandemic in the United States, Black Americans have borne the brunt of the virus’ impact. Historic medical mistreatment, from the Tuskegee experiment to the use of Henrietta Lacks’ cells, and systemic racism in income, housing and transportation built the foundation of an “earned mistrust.” Black leaders have put themselves on the path to overcome the deadly results of the pandemic.

Photos and short documentaries available.


Child welfare system faced new challenges during pandemic

Prior to March 2020, state child welfare departments already faced placement capacity shortages and a pattern of racial and economic inequalities. Emerging from the pandemic are parents who wrestle with the child welfare system and struggle to support their children after losing jobs and stable homes.

Photos, short documentary and data visualization available.


From farm to table, immigrants feed America

Immigrants are the foundation of farm to table, especially during a pandemic. Immigrants work in fields, cook and package takeout orders in restaurants, and mop the floors and stock shelves at grocery stores. We tell their stories.

Photos, short documentary and data visualizations available.


How COVID-19 pushed Americans to the brink of homelessness

Across the country, as many as 1 in 5 renters say they have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic. For families who have no financial safety net to fall back on, the economic consequences of the coronavirus have pushed them to the brink of homelessness. An examination of how foreclosures and evictions have affected those that have lost their homes.

Photos and short documentary available.


'A cliff effect': As federal benefits drop, food insecurity may once again rise

As COVID-19 ravaged America, hunger soared and families suffered from uncertainty over their next meal, with more than 1 in 6 households reporting food insecurity, according to the Urban Institute. Through a dramatic expansion of food assistance benefits the federal government brought temporary relief. But those benefits may be ending.

Photos, short documentaries and data visualizations available.


Solutions and struggle: Native American tribes receive federal relief

Indigenous nations across the country have experienced chronic federal underfunding, which has led to disproportionate impacts tied to COVID-19 through housing, employment, public safety, food security, health care and economic outcomes.

Photos, short documentaries and data visualization available.


People with disabilities left behind during COVID-19

Challenges for people with disabilities have persisted for decades and were magnified by COVID-19 — inadequate benefits, low employment rates and wages and, generally, secondhand status for financial, social and emotional support.

Audio story for the visually impaired available. Photos and data visualizations available.


Rural health care providers became a critical lifeline for their communties

Access to quality health care has been a recurring issue for those who live in rural America, with pandemic health care providers having to find different ways to treat COVID-19 and vaccinate people in these communities.

Photos, video clip and short documentary available.


When a pandemic enters the food chain: COVID-19's impact on restaurants and businesses

Though many industries are gradually recovering, COVID-19’s impact on small businesses and restaurants lingers, a reminder of the pandemic’s effect. As the country wrestles with how to best balance public safety with personal risk, stimulus with unemployment and federal governance with local intervention, restaurants and small businesses continue to hang on and stay open.

Photos and video clips available.


COVID-19 limited access to mental health care

For millions of Americans with mental illnesses such as substance use, depression and anxiety, government and community resources grew more scarce during the pandemic. Poor people, those living in rural areas and those belonging to racial and gender minorities had even worse outcomes.

Photos and short documentary available.


Essentially ignored: How day cares powered the pandemic workforce

Across America, access to child care became increasingly limited during the pandemic. Programs closed and building capacity was restricted, putting a strain on the owners, workers, and ultimately, parents who relied on child care to get back to work.

Photos and data visualizations available.


Rural Americans travel a long road to recovery

The coronavirus dealt a blow to already bruised and battered communities in rural America, where the recovery may take years. Residents flee rural areas because of limited economic opportunities, leaving behind an aging population. And the distance to urban centers brings its own social isolation. But, in some communities, the coronavirus was a temporary financial injection.

Photos and short documentary available.


Separate and unequal: How some urban schools lost out in the pandemic

The federal government has issued three rounds of COVID-19 relief funding for K-12 schools – $190.5 billion – to address inequities magnified by the pandemic and preexisting ones that haven’t allowed all children in the country access to a quality K-12 education. For some urban schools in the U.S., that may not be enough.

Photos available.


Portraits of Survival

Sometimes, people needed a hand. Sometimes, they extended it to others. An intimate look at 15 people who shaped the pandemic community.

Special multimedia presentation – portraits and short documentaries available.

Carnegie Corporation
Knight Foundation
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication