Category Archives: Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

Street protests in times of COVID-19: adjusting tactics and marching ‘as usual’

Source: Maciej Kowalewski, Social Movement Studies, Advance Access, November 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Protests offline, under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations such as a stay-at-home, require the adaptation of existing tactics and/or the use of innovative tools in the contention repertoire. This adaptation concerns restrictions related to pandemic measures, the lockdown of businesses/institutions, and social distancing along with access to resources, protesters’ security, and the no-harm principle. This paper provides examples of protests which have occurred since March 2020, under four categories: (1) tactics adjusted to pandemic-related limitations, (2) tactics that are an essence of such limitations, (3) tactics related to opposition to the lockdown, and (4) protest tactics use framed as ‘pandemic’. In the first section, I show how street protest (if permitted at all) is strengthened by symbolic action and how inability to refer to the ‘logic of numbers’ subjects the tactics to the ‘logic of bearing witness.’ However, the challenges and tactical limitations do not apply to the opponents of lockdown, breaking the rules of the sanitary regime. The demonstrations against the lockdown preserve the positive effects of street protests and even strengthen them. Discussion concerning high-risk protest actions under threat of infection results, however, in medicalization of political contention.

Assessment of County Needs in Economic Recovery from COVID-19

Source: National Association of Counties, October 2020

From the abstract:
County leaders have witnessed firsthand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their neighbors and constituents and are well-informed on needs arising in their local communities. While county governments are uniquely positioned to support recovery efforts, counties, themselves, need support to meet those needs and secure the physical and economic well-being of their residents moving forward. This report outlines what county leaders have identified as primary concerns, priority actions and resources needed to create equitable long-term economic recovery.

Helping America’s distressed communities recover from the COVID-19 recession and achieve long-term prosperity

Source: Timothy J. Bartik, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, September 2020

From the summary:
Even before the COVID-19 recession, distressed communities across the United States lacked sufficient jobs. The pandemic’s effects will further damage these local areas, while pushing even more places into economic distress. Without intervention, even a robust national recovery may leave many communities behind. Communities’ responses will be hindered by a lack of resources, and their residents will suffer from lower earnings and increased social problems.

As a solution, this paper proposes a new federal block grant to create or retain good jobs in distressed communities and help residents access these jobs. The block grant would provide long-term flexible assistance to increase local earnings and ensure those gains are broadly shared.

Takeaways from the Rockefeller Institute’s Webinar on Public Sector Management Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Joseph Popcun, Rockefeller Institute of Government blog, September 24, 2020

On September 10, 2020, the Rockefeller Institute of Government hosted a webinar with senior leaders from state and local government who reflected on the management challenges and opportunities that arose during the response to—and ongoing recovery from—the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The goal of the conversation was to understand how the public sector rapidly adopted new policies and adapted operations to meet new demands, particularly in support of a workforce that was able to work remotely to deliver essential services to constituents virtually. Based on their experiences over the past six months, panelists informed the audience of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers about dramatic changes to the public sector landscape—changes that may be features of the “new normal” for months and years to come.

This post explores some of the key themes that the panelists shared about how government was, and can continue to be, reimagined to ensure accessibility and continuity of services, as well as to attract and retain a workforce that makes government work for the people. The panelists discussed the “nuts and bolts” of how specific agencies devised new management approaches, leveraged remote work options, deployed public health and safety precautions for essential in-person work, and identified ways to improve resiliency and ensure continuity of their operations. These lessons are an invaluable resource to state and local governments throughout the United States as they continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19 and face a potential resurgence of viral transmission within their communities.

The COVID crisis in community colleges — what does the data say?

Source: Kent Phillippe, Community College Daily, September 7, 2020

The novel coronavirus has affected all aspects of society and the economy. But what do the data say about the impact of the pandemic on community colleges?

Getting timely and reliable data on two-year colleges is challenging. Many of the key metrics are not systematically collected nor reported nationally. This article will look at some of the available data to get a sense of the effects of COVID-19 on this sector of higher education.

Collective Action Is How We Shake Ourselves Free of Pandemic Isolation

Source: Barbara Madeloni, Labor Notes, September 30, 2020

The pandemic has made me see more clearly why it works when workers get together to solve problems collectively.

With no public health system to access and a disorganized, inept, and neglectful response from the government, individuals have been cast out alone to deal with the pandemic. Decisions about working—and risking one’s health and safety—have become individual.

School districts have surveyed parents and educators, asking what individuals wanted for themselves. Unions that simply let members fill out their surveys alone reinforced the message: you are on your own, do what is best for you.

Which is why the contrast when workers come together to talk is so pronounced and powerful right now.

COVID-19 Economic Crisis: By State

Source: Michael EttlingerJordan Hensley, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy, September 18, 2020

KEY FINDINGS
Every state in the country is well down from its February employment levels. Thirty-nine states have lost over 5% of their jobs and the same number of states are still down more jobs than during the Great Recession.

Thirty-three states added fewer jobs in August than they did in July.

In every state lower wage industries have lost far more jobs than high wage industries.

Hard hit states with more COVID-19 cases in August saw worse job growth.

Occupational Heat Stress and Practical Cooling Solutions for Healthcare and Industry Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Josh Foster, Simon G Hodder, James Goodwin, George Havenith, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Advance Articles, Published: September 21, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Treatment and management of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2, which causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), requires increased adoption of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn by workers in healthcare and industry. In warm occupational settings, the added burden of PPE threatens worker health and productivity, a major lesson learned during the West-African Ebola outbreak which ultimately constrained disease control. In this paper, we comment on the link between COVID-19 PPE and occupational heat strain, cooling solutions available to mitigate occupational heat stress, and practical considerations surrounding their effectiveness and feasibility. While the choice of cooling solution depends on the context of the work and what is practical, mitigating occupational heat stress benefits workers in the healthcare and industrial sectors during the COVID-19 disease outbreak.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: David Michaels, Gregory R. Wagner, JAMA, September 16, 2020

With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the US is facing an unprecedented, massive worker safety crisis. Thousands of workers are at risk for workplace exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as they provide care for patients with COVID-19 or perform other “essential” services and daily functions and interact with other workers or the public. By law, employers in the US are required to provide workplaces free of recognized serious hazards. Enforcement of this law is the responsibility of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While OSHA could be making an important contribution to reversing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and mitigate risk to workers, their families, and communities, the federal government has not fully utilized OSHA’s public safety authority in its efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 150 000 hospital and nursing home staff have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus at work, and more than 700 have died, although the actual numbers are unknown because of inadequate data collection systems. As the epidemic has spread, many other workers, including emergency responders, corrections officers, transit workers, and workers in meat and poultry factories, farms, grocery stores, and warehouses, also have been infected with SARS-CoV-2…..

Corporate Culprits Receiving Covid Aid

Source: Philip Mattera and Mellissa Chang, Good Jobs First, September 2020

This new report combining data from Covid Stimulus Watch and Violation Tracker shows how many CARES Act recipients have a history of corporate misconduct.

More than 43,000 businesses and non-profit organizations that received CARES Act funds have a history of misconduct, collectively paying $13 billion to settle civil and criminal penalties over the last decade.

Together, the same companies received $57 billion in grants and $91 billion in loans through the federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress to mitigate the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the violations are workplace safety issues, leading in one case to the death of a worker, flouting of environmental standards, wage theft and defrauding the federal government. They raise the question whether greater scrutiny should be given to how recipients are using taxpayer dollars.