Category Archives: Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

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.

Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes

Source: Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel, Health Affairs, Ahead of Print, September 10, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
More than 40% of all reported coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths in the United States have occurred in nursing homes. As a result, health care worker access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control policies in nursing homes have received increased attention. However, it is not known if the presence of health care worker unions in nursing homes is associated with COVID-19 mortality rates. Therefore, we used cross-sectional regression analysis to examine the association between the presence of health care worker unions and COVID-19 mortality rates in 355 nursing homes in New York State. Health care worker unions were associated with a 1.29 percentage point mortality reduction, which represents a 30% relative decrease in the COVID-19 mortality rate compared to facilities without health care worker unions. Unions were also associated with greater access to PPE, one mechanism that may link unions to lower COVID-19 mortality rates. [Editor’s Note: This Fast Track Ahead Of Print article is the accepted version of the peer-reviewed manuscript. The final edited version will appear in an upcoming issue of Health Affairs.]

Government Financial Management and the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Comparative Look at South Korea and the United States

Source: Sungho Park, Craig S. Maher, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious respiratory illness afflicting people to a degree not seen since the flu pandemic of 1968 when approximately one million lives were lost worldwide. What makes COVID-19 distinct is the rate at which it spread throughout the world, stress-testing health care systems and stymieing global economies. To confront this unprecedented crisis, nearly every country has been developing a wide range of policy responses, including fiscal measures. This study aims to discuss government fiscal responses to the pandemic from a financial management perspective. The core question is, “How does each country’s financial management system support its fiscal responses to the crisis?” We are particularly interested in reexamining commonly accepted norms about fiscal federalism and the fiscal condition of national and local governments heading into this pandemic. This study takes a comparative approach to the question, focusing on South Korea and the United States. Our findings suggest that the ability to respond to this pandemic in a comprehensive and effective manner is challenged by each nation’s financial management system that generates variation in policy coordination and responsiveness.