Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  May 8, 2020
A shopping mall in Houston reopens. REUTERS/Adrees Latif


Eight insights for economic recovery

How do we avoid a disastrous humanitarian crisis in developing countries as we emerge from the pandemic lockdowns? (Hint: cash transfers could be key.) Will economic justice be harder or easier to attain after COVID-19? (Easier.) How do we get our nation back to work? (Preserve existing jobs; don’t fire workers.) Should we focus on the surging federal debt? (Not yet.) These questions raise some of the central challenges as the United States and the world shift toward the recovery phase of the crisis. We have collected insights from Harvard Kennedy School faculty that can translate into practical choices being made by political leaders and administrators at the federal, state, and local levels. Among the contributors: Chris Avery, Linda Bilmes, Amitabh Chandra, David Deming, Karen Dynan, Rema Hanna, Carmen Reinhart, and Dani Rodrik.



Fighting mass infection will likely mean mass invasion, this time of our privacy. The whole premise of testing and tracing is that data can protect us…. The promise of the approach, however, depends on being utterly honest — about your symptoms, vitals, movements and interactions.

Nancy Gibbs, Director of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy, in the Washington Post


Assessing tradeoffs of moving fast to reopen vs. slowing to prevent spread

In 2018, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs launched its Technology and Public Purpose Project, led by the Center’s director, Professor Ash Carter, the former U.S. secretary of defense. This project is even more relevant in the face of COVID-19. Its latest publication examines the very painful tradeoffs leaders make when they seek to expedite or even eliminate traditional safeguards in the name of trying to move at “pandemic speed.” From vaccines to therapeutics and diagnostics, the report raises fundamental questions about risks, rewards, and responsibilities. The report, “Considering Public Purpose in the Time of COVID-19,” steps back from the daily news flow to look at challenges that will shape the next phase of crisis response. As the paper notes, “This is a phase where we not only prevent the spread, but also build public resilience.”



Why so many of us are watching films like "Outbreak," a Q&A with HKS Senior Lecturer Chris Robichaud


New policy tool helps countries carry out “data-responsive” containment

Professor Asim I. Khwaja, director of the Center for International Development (CID) at the Kennedy School, and Professor Matt Andrews, director of the Building State Capability Program at CID, are among members of a multi-university research team that has released a new proposal to help governments and agencies make informed choices to contain the pandemic. The proposal goes by the acronym SCALE – as outlined in Smart Containment with Active Learning: A Proposal for a Data-Responsive and Graded Approach to COVID-19. The methodology is being tested in Pakistan and other places with research team members supporting official responses. One goal is to generate the right data to enable graded decision making based on predicted impacts from different choices. One example: based on the number of people with health vulnerabilities, what’s the right pace for phasing out a lockdown and reopening? The proposal seeks to empower decision-makers with tools to conduct data-based analysis and drive policy by assigning each community to one of four alert levels – from green to red – and suggesting operational strategies for each level.


  • Given what we’re losing in GDP, we should be spending far more to develop tests [Lawrence Summers] Washington Post

  • Our narrative of success leads to unhappy retirements [Arthur Brooks] The Atlantic

  • Trump turned the death count into a story about himself [Juliette Kayyem] The Atlantic

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