Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  April 17, 2020
A delivery driver in New York City bringing takeaway meals to the elderly. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Research: Chances of testing positive far greater in low-income and minority neighborhoods

New York City is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. A new working paper by Harvard Kennedy School Professor George Borjas merges information on the number of tests and infections at the city zip code level with demographic and socioeconomic information. He finds that those in poor or immigrant neighborhoods were less likely to be tested, but that tests given there—and in neighborhoods with larger households or predominantly black populations—were more likely to be positive. In other words, the correlations observed between a community’s socioeconomic characteristics and rate of COVID-19 infection in New York City aren’t telling us the complete story. Read Borjas’ paper.


Obama offers COVID-19 response insights for mayors, municipal officials

During a virtual seminar hosted by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, 750 mayors and officials representing nearly 300 U.S. cities got advice from top executives who led the nation’s response to the Ebola epidemic, on how to help their cities cope and prepare for reopening in the coming weeks or months. Among the speakers: former President Barack Obama. “The biggest mistake that any of us can make in these situations is to misinform, particularly when we’re requiring people to make sacrifices and take actions that might not be their natural inclination,” Obama said. He urged the mayors to speak truthfully but with compassion. The event was one in a series being offered for municipal leaders on COVID-19 responses. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates have also addressed seminars. The Bloomberg Harvard initiative, led by faculty director and HKS Senior Lecturer Jorrit de Jong, is based at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Also see: A new resource page from the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership on volunteer opportunities for those wanting to help respond to the pandemic.


Kennedy School project curates resources for Native American communities

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development has released a new digital toolbox offering resources for Native American tribal nations responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Included are resources to build governance capacity, illustrate best practices by tribes, provide trusted information about the virus itself, and supply tribal health ordinances to meet immediate needs as tribal governments navigate their own responses. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, co-founded in 1987 by HKS Professor Joseph P. Kalt (emeritus) and based at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, works to understand and foster conditions for sustained, self-determined social and economic development among American Indian nations through applied research and service.


Fact sheets on global economic responses to the pandemic

The Economic Diplomacy Initiative in the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is producing fact sheets on the economic responses to COVID-19. The initiative, directed by Professors Nicholas Burns and Lawrence Summers and run by Belfer Center Executive Director Aditi Kumar, investigates the critical role that economic relationships play in enhancing global security. As nations seek to limit the human and economic costs of the transnational COVID-19 pandemic, global policy coordination is more important than ever. These fact sheets, which include contributions from several HKS students, highlight areas where nations can work together to contain the spread of disease and its economic fallout. The first examines how European central banks have responded; the second looks at how the U.S. Federal Reserve has responded.



David Gergen on WBUR talking about leadership in a time of crisis: what’s needed is straight talk.



HKS alumni are taking action during the pandemic.


  • Rheostat government: Replacing the on/off switch with a dimmer [Stephen Goldsmith] Governing

  • How the COVID-19 era will change national security forever [Samantha Power] TIME

  • A coronavirus leadership manual for Trump: It's clear, direct and takes an hour to read [Wendy Sherman] USA Today

  • National governments have gone big. The IMF and World Bank need to do the same. [Lawrence Summers] Washington Post

  • After social distancing, a strange purgatory awaits [Juliette Kayyem] The Atlantic

  • Coronavirus death: Who is this plague targeting? [Graham Allison] The National Interest

  • The United States is getting infected with dictatorship [Stephen Walt] Foreign Policy

  • Suspend emerging and developing economies’ debt payments [Carmen Reinhart] Project Syndicate

  • We do what we can to be decent [Jeffrey Seglin] Tribune Content Agency

This newsletter will arrive weekly during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you do not wish to receive these weekly updates, please click "update your preferences" below.
Insight. Policy. Action. Ideas from Harvard Kennedy School.

Copyright © 2020 Harvard Kennedy School, all rights reserved.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.