Category Archives: Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

Pandemics and Automation: Will the Lost Jobs Come Back?

Source: Tahsin Saadi-Sedik, Jiae Yoo, International Monetary Fund (IMF), IMF Working Paper No. 2021/011, January 1, 2021

From the abstract:
COVID-19 has exacerbated concerns about the rise of the robots and other automation technologies. This paper analyzes empirically the impact of past major pandemics on robot adoption and inequality. First, we find that pandemic events accelerate robot adoption, especially when the health impact is severe and is associated with a significant economic downturn. Second, while robots may raise productivity, they could also increase inequality by displacing low-skilled workers. We find that following a pandemic, the increase in inequality over the medium term is larger for economies with higher robot density and where new robot adoption has increased more. Our results suggest that the concerns about the rise of the robots amid the COVID-19 pandemic seem justified.

Inside a Long, Messy Year of Reopening Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, New Republic, March 8, 2021

Teachers unions were accused of being obstinate and compromising education. The real story is a lot more complex.

Last month in Chicago, after months of heated negotiations, the teachers union and Chicago Public Schools emerged with one of the most detailed school reopening agreements in the nation. Brad Marianno, an education policy professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been studying these agreements since last spring, called it the most comprehensive he’s seen, citing its inclusion of things like testing protocols, measures that might lead to reclosing schools, and vaccination commitments. Among other things, the union succeeded in negotiating accommodations for hundreds more members at higher risk of Covid-19 complications, or who serve as the primary caregiver for someone at higher risk, than the district had originally agreed to accommodate.

Stacy Davis Gates, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said one of the most important components of the agreement was the so-called “school safety committees” a demand the union put forward in December to hold leadership accountable to the health and safety promises it’s made. The school-based committees include up to four CTU members, the principal, the building engineer, and a “reasonable” number of other employees like janitors, lunchroom staff, and security guards. On a regular basis, they will flag to the principal any issues that arise and can hold the school liable if they go ignored. ….

COVID‐19 as an occupational disease

Source: Christopher Carlsten, Mridu Gulati, Stella Hines, Cecile Rose, Kenneth Scott, Susan M. Tarlo, Kjell Torén, Akshay Sood, Rafael E. de la Hoz, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 24, 2021

From the abstract:
The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 permeates all aspects of society worldwide. Initial medical reports and media coverage have increased awareness of the risk imposed on healthcare workers in particular, during this pandemic. However, the health implications of COVID‐19 for the global workforce are multifaceted and complex, warranting careful reflection and consideration to mitigate the adverse effects on workers worldwide. Accordingly, our review offers a framework for considering this topic, highlighting key issues, with the aim to prompt and inform action, including research, to minimize the occupational hazards imposed by this ongoing challenge. We address respiratory disease as a primary concern, while recognizing the multisystem spectrum of COVID‐19‐related disease and how clinical aspects are interwoven with broader socioeconomic forces.

COVID‐19 deaths by occupation, Massachusetts, March 1–July 31, 2020

Source: Devan Hawkins, Letitia Davis, David Kriebel, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, February 1, 2021

From the abstract:
Background
Exposure to COVID‐19 is more likely among certain occupations compared with others. This descriptive study seeks to explore occupational differences in mortality due to COVID‐19 among workers in Massachusetts.

Methods
Death certificates of those who died from COVID‐19 in Massachusetts between March 1 and July 31, 2020 were collected. Occupational information was coded and age‐adjusted mortality rates were calculated according to occupation.

Results
There were 555 deaths among MA residents of age 16–64, with usable occupation information, resulting in an age‐adjusted mortality rate of 16.4 per 100,000 workers. Workers in 11 occupational groups including healthcare support and transportation and material moving had mortality rates higher than that for workers overall. Hispanic and Black workers had age‐adjusted mortality rates more than four times higher than that for White workers overall and also had higher rates than Whites within high‐risk occupation groups.

Conclusion
Efforts should be made to protect workers in high‐risk occupations identified in this report from COVID‐19 exposure.

Tensions in State–Local Intergovernmental Response to Emergencies: The Case of COVID-19

Source: Bruce D. McDonald, III, Christopher B. Goodman, Megan E. Hatch, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst Published December 29, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The current outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19), has spurred a large governmental response from all levels of the U.S. intergovernmental system. The emergency and disaster response system of the United States is designed to be bottom-up, meaning responses are intended to begin at the local level with state and federal governments stepping in to assist with resources and oversight as needed (Rubin and Barbee 1985; Schneider 1995, 2008). The response to the current outbreak, however, has been something else entirely, as each level of government competes with the others over dwindling resources and the authority to respond to the crisis.

We examine how the U.S. intergovernmental system of emergency response is designed, how state and local governments have responded to the COVID-19 crisis thus far, and how this crisis has further exposed tensions in the state-local intergovernmental system. We use the National League of Cities’ (2020) COVID-19 Local Action Tracker to examine city and state responses to the pandemic. We argue state-local intergovernmental response is associated with many issues related to intergovernmental relations broadly, particularly conflict about the “best” emergency services provider. This leads some states to prefer a local response with state support and other states to prefer a more uniform, state-mandated response enabled by state preemption of local actions. The latter has revealed an often-dormant means of state preemption of local ordinances: the executive order preemption. Accessible through the emergency powers afforded to U.S. governors, this type of preemption is uncommon because it is overshadowed by legislative and judicial preemptions. This article seeks to explore descriptively the prevalence of executive order preemptions and discuss the implications of these preemptions in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These preemptions vary in their content, with some representing policy minimums, others maximums, and some a combination of the two. Yet all types of preemption have substantial effects on what local government administrators can do to respond to their constituency’s needs. Such constraints, when out of alignment with local needs, can be challenging in normal times but are potentially catastrophic in emergencies. Administrators will need to be creative in balancing responsiveness to their constituents within such a limiting policy environment.

COVID-19: The Potential Role of TANF in Addressing the Economic Effects

Source: Congressional Research Service, Insight, IN11241, Updated: December 4, 2020

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides grants to the 50 states, District of Columbia, American Indian tribes, and certain territories with the broad purpose of ameliorating and addressing root causes of childhood economic disadvantage. States may use TANF funds in any way they reasonably calculate could achieve the block grant’s statutory purpose. Some of the flexibility the block grant affords to states, tribes, and territories was used to address the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and the deep economic recession of 2007-2009.

Responsibilities and Rights of Employers and Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Joseph Maya, Julia Audibert, Zachary Sipala, Caroline Vandis, Calvin Carson, and Emily Prudente, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 71, Issue No. 4, Winter 2020
(subscription required)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA), Equal Employment Opportunity laws (which encompass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are long-standing pillars of employment law in this country. Collectively, they aim to ensure individual privacy, safe work environments, and equal treatment free from discrimination in the workplace. Given their appealing and sensical nature, it seems axiomatic that these statutes and agencies operate in concert. However, complying with their provisions during a global pandemic requires navigating murky waters. In practice, these laws present sometimes competing demands for many employers and employees trying to understand the new reality imposed by COVID-19. Striking an effective balance between these rights and responsibilities during the upheaval caused by COVID-19 incurs a host of relatively novel challenges. In this article, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. demystify how to serve the best interests of employers and employees and offer a comprehensive analysis of legal guidelines, both old and new, to inform our readers how to best achieve that balance.

Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Home Health and Home Care Agency Managers, Clients, and Aides: A Cross-Sectional Survey, March to June, 2020

Source: Susan R. Sama, ScD, Margaret M. Quinn, ScD, Catherine J. Galligan, et. al., Home Health Care Management & Practice, OnlineFirst Published December 11, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Home health and home care (HH&HC) agencies provide essential medical and supportive services to elders and people with disabilities, enabling them to live at home. Home-based care is an important alternative to facility-based care, especially for infection prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the HH&HC workforce is comprised of aides, who also are vulnerable to COVID-19. There are limited data on the COVID-19 experience of HH&HC agencies, clients and aides. A survey of Massachusetts HH&HC agency managers was conducted June 1 to 30, 2020 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on agencies, clients, and aides early in the pandemic and to identify needs for future pandemic planning. Of the 94 agencies with completed surveys, most (59.6%) provided services to clients with COVID-19 and 3-quarters (73.7%) employed aides who tested positive for COVID-19, were symptomatic, and/or quarantined. Most agencies (98.7%) experienced a decrease in demand for home visits, reflecting clients’ concern about infection, family members assuming care duties, and/or aides being unavailable for work. Simultaneously, managers’ workloads increased to develop more extensive infection prevention policies, procedures and workforce training and sourcing scarce personal protective equipment (PPE). The COVID-19 pandemic imposed substantial new infection prevention responsibilities on HH&HC agencies, clients, and aides. Specific HH&HC needs for future pandemic planning include complete information on the infection status of clients; ready access to affordable PPE and disinfectants; and guidance, tools, and training tailored for the industry. HH&HC should be incorporated more fully into comprehensive healthcare and public health pandemic planning.

Estimation of differential occupational risk of COVID‐19 by comparing risk factors with case data by occupational group

Source: Michael Zhang, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 1, January 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
The disease burden of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) is not uniform across occupations. Although healthcare workers are well‐known to be at increased risk, data for other occupations are lacking. In lieu of this, models have been used to forecast occupational risk using various predictors, but no model heretofore has used data from actual case numbers. This study assesses the differential risk of COVID‐19 by occupation using predictors from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database and correlating them with case counts published by the Washington State Department of Health to identify workers in individual occupations at highest risk of COVID‐19 infection.

Methods:
The ONET database was screened for potential predictors of differential COVID‐19 risk by occupation. Case counts delineated by occupational group were obtained from public sources. Prevalence by occupation was estimated and correlated with ONET data to build a regression model to predict individual occupations at greatest risk.

Results:
Two variables correlate with case prevalence: disease exposure (r = 0.66; p = 0.001) and physical proximity (r = 0.64; p = 0.002), and predict 47.5% of prevalence variance (p = 0.003) on multiple linear regression analysis. The highest risk occupations are in healthcare, particularly dental, but many nonhealthcare occupations are also vulnerable.

Conclusions:
Models can be used to identify workers vulnerable to COVID‐19, but predictions are tempered by methodological limitations. Comprehensive data across many states must be collected to adequately guide implementation of occupation‐specific interventions in the battle against COVID‐19.