Local Risk Management Process and Influence on Community Risk Perception During the COVID-19 Shelter-at-Home Orders: Multiple-Case Study of the South Texas Counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Nueces

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This study examined local public health organizations’ (LPHOs) risk management processes in the three South Texas counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Nueces during the COVID-19 pandemic local Shelter-at-Home orders. The research primarily focused on each LPHOs' risk management processes during the COVID-19 Shelter-at-Home orders to ensure effective collaborative governance between local governments and their agencies and risk communication activities on the Facebook social media platform. The risk management process discussed in this study included these two guiding principles: collaborative governance and risk communication. In addition, this study refers to the LPHOs’ risk management process as the public health emergency management network (PHEMnet). PHEMnet focuses on the emergency management activities of the LPHOs, from issuing orders to communicating them to the public using Facebook. The risk perception theory was used to assess the influence of the risk communication messages published on Facebook to the public during the shelter-at-home orders and amendments. This study employed a multiple-case study using a mixed methods approach to gather data and research findings. The content analysis focused on the local Shelter-at-Home orders and amendments issued. The sentiment analysis assessed the LPHOs’ Facebook posts and community comments to determine their overall sentiments about the local mandates and community risk perception. In addition, the types of unified command approaches were identified through the content analysis of the orders and LPHOs' Facebook activity during this period. This research found a correlation between the sentiments expressed on Facebook and the type of unified command approach used by each jurisdiction. The research concludes that the jurisdictions that had established stronger PHEMnets had lower sentiment polarity values among the public, demonstrating the community's trust toward their LPHO and overall acceptance of the Shelter-at-Home order. However, weaker PHEMnets had the highest sentiment polarity values among the community, further demonstrating the importance of fostering an effective PHEMnet with necessary public health stakeholders to build a positive and active community presence to have an effective risk management process for current and future emergencies.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Policy, Public Administration, Public Health