Category Archives: Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

Always Essential: Valuing Direct Care Workers in Long-Term Care

Source: Kezia Scales, Michael J Lepore, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 30, Issue 4, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the United States and worldwide, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disproportionately impacted the long-term services and supports (LTSS) sector, which serves those individuals who are most at risk of morbidity and mortality from the disease. Although devastating, the crisis also, importantly, heightened the visibility of the direct care workforce—thanks to increased attention on the LTSS sector and extensive news coverage of the responsibilities and risks shouldered by these workers (Almendrala, 2020; Lyons, 2020; Quinton, 2020; Woods, 2020)—and catalyzed action to improve direct care job quality. This new momentum to improve direct care jobs builds on decades of efforts to reinvent the financing mechanisms, laws and policies, and regulatory processes that have historically marginalized this workforce. However, with the largest payer for LTSS in the United States being Medicaid, a means-tested public assistance program, past efforts to improve LTSS and elevate direct care jobs have tended to achieve incremental progress at best, and more often have ended in political gridlock or inertia (Lepore, 2019). Drawing on empirical data and historical and theoretical analyses of direct care work in the United States, this article examines how efforts to improve direct care jobs have historically been stymied by the incongruence between the moral value and material value attributed to this work (Lepore, 2008). We argue that this incongruity of values has not been sufficiently emphasized in past LTSS reform efforts, and recommend an approach for aligning these values in the post–COVID-19 era.

National Snapshot of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums

Source: American Alliance of Museums and Wilkening Consulting, November 2020

From the summary:
Between October 15-28, AAM and Seattle-based Wilkening Consulting conducted the second iteration of a survey of 850 museum directors to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the museum field. The survey asked the same questions as the first National Snapshot of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums conducted in June, and gathered some new data and benchmark metrics for members. Museum directors responded to the AAM survey on behalf of their organizations, representing a broad cross-section of the field geographically, by size, and by discipline.

The sample of 850 museums provides a confidence level of 95 percent with a confidence interval of 3 percent for the population of AAM member museums. The data filters (by museum type, geographic region, and museum operating expenses) have smaller numbers and therefore higher margins of error. The research was conducted by AAM and Seattle-based firm, Wilkening Consulting.

Findings from the new AAM survey show museums are suffering prolonged stress and are anticipating a difficult and slow recovery:

  • Nearly 30% of museums in the United States remain closed due to the pandemic.
  • Nearly one-third of museum directors surveyed confirmed there was a “significant risk” (12%) of closing permanently by next fall, or they “didn’t know” (17%) if they would survive.
  • Over half (52%) of museums have six months or less of operating reserves; 82% have twelve months or less of operating reserves.
  • Over half (53%) of responding museums have had to furlough or lay off staff. Overall, respondents indicate that approximately 30% of staff are currently out of work. Positions most impacted by staffing reductions included frontline (68%), education (40%), security/maintenance (29%), and collections (26%) staff.
  • To prepare for reopening, each museum spent, on average, $27,000, with this figure cited as high as $750,000.
  • On average, each respondent has lost $850k in revenue due to the pandemic so far this year.
  • On average, respondents anticipated losing approximately 35% of the museum’s budgeted operating income in 2020 and are anticipating losing an additional 28% of normal operating income in 2021.
  • While museums are creatively replacing traditional revenue models, digital fundraising event revenues are falling 34% short of these traditionally in-person activities.
  • Museums are operating at, on average, 35% of their capacity–an attendance reduction that is unsustainable long-term.

Related:
Press Release

Health Benefits In 2020: Premiums In Employer-Sponsored Plans Grow 4 Percent; Employers Consider Responses To Pandemic

Source: Gary Claxton, Anthony Damico, Matthew Rae, Gregory Young, Daniel McDermott, and Heidi Whitmore, Health Affairs, Vol. 39 no. 11, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The annual Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey is the benchmark survey of the cost and coverage of employer-sponsored health benefits in the United States. The 2020 survey was designed and largely fielded before the full extent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had been felt by employers. Data collection took place from mid-January through July, with half of the interviews being completed in the first three months of the year. Most of the key metrics that we measure—including premiums and cost sharing—reflect employers’ decisions made before the full impacts of the pandemic were felt. We found that in 2020 the average annual premium for single coverage rose 4 percent, to $7,470, and the average annual premium for family coverage also rose 4 percent, to $21,342. Covered workers, on average, contributed 17 percent of the cost for single coverage and 27 percent of the cost for family coverage. Fifty-six percent of firms offered health benefits to at least some of their workers, and 64 percent of workers were covered at their own firm. Many large employers reported having “very broad” provider networks, but many recognized that their largest plan had a narrower network for mental health providers.

The Risk Of Severe COVID-19 Within Households Of School Employees And School-Age Children

Source: Thomas M. Selden, Terceira A. Berdahl, and Zhengyi Fang, Health Affairs, Vol. 39 no. 11, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Across the United States, school districts are grappling with questions of whether and how to reopen and keep open elementary and secondary schools in the 2020–21 academic year. Using household data from before the pandemic (2014–17), we examined how often people who have health conditions placing them at risk for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were connected to schools, either as employees or by living in the same households as school employees or school-age children. Between 42.0 percent and 51.4 percent of all school employees met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) definition of having or potentially having increased risk for severe COVID-19. Among all adults with CDC-defined risk factors for severe COVID-19, between 33.9 million and 44.2 million had direct or within-household connections to schools.

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.