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In 2020, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) began tracking the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts of nine communities across the United States with the goal of better understanding how the pandemic, and the local response to it, is impacting health, well-being, and equity in those communities. Lessons from these nine Sentinel Communities may also be informative to other communities on their journeys to respond to and recover from COVID-19 and to promote health and well-being more broadly.

Previous reports summarized the pandemic's early impacts (published July 2020), the ways cross-sector collaboration has contributed to ongoing response and recovery efforts (published October 2020), and the impact of the pandemic on children and families (published March 2021). In this report, over a year into the pandemic, we review efforts toward vaccination and community response and recovery across sectors—and the critical gaps that remain.

The past year has shown that recovery from COVID-19 has demanded a response across sectors—health, economic, housing, education, and more—and communities have approached their responses across these sectors in different ways. The American Rescue Plan also brings historic funding to local communities who have significant discretion over how funds are used. While some have used COVID-19 response and recovery resources to reaffirm their approaches to health and equity, other communities continue to encounter long-standing barriers to solving such entrenched community problems.

This report, based on information gathered through mid-May 2021, summarizes the year-long path that nine communities—Finney County, Kan.; Harris County, Texas; Milwaukee, Wis.; Mobile, Ala.; San Juan County, N.M.; Sanilac County, Mich.; Tacoma, Wash.; Tampa, Fla.; and White Plains, N.Y.—traveled with respect to COVID-19 vaccination, health and well-being, economic recovery, equitable housing, and in-person schooling. It also notes the gaps that must still be addressed to achieve truly equitable community recovery.

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