Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  April 3, 2020
Informed public policy helps flatten the curve


Examining the pandemic through a human rights lens

The Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy has begun a discussion series on how the pandemic intersects with human rights. In the first conversation, Carr Center Director Mathias Risse notes there’s no such thing as a purely natural disaster, and human choices determine how disasters affect people. Professor Kathryn Sikkink says the rights to health and life may conflict with other rights in a pandemic; people need to consider their responsibilities as much as their rights. Lecturer Timothy McCarthy says crises always bring into sharp relief the previous inequalities and injustice in a society. Read their full discussion.


Former diplomat assesses global leadership failures in a pandemic

As a career foreign service officer, Nicholas Burns saw leadership close up for decades; now, as a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations at the Kennedy School, Burns is sharply critical of what he sees as serial global leadership failures in responding to the pandemic. Burns says leaders have failed to mount the kind of global mobilization that has enabled the world to overcome previous crises. He names leaders of the United States, China, the European Union, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations as sharing the blame. Burns offered this analysis for the HKS extended community in the first in a series of Wiener Conference Calls on the pandemic as well as in a column in Foreign Affairs.


Curating pandemic resources on digital tools and data

The COVID-19 outbreak has shifted the way people are able to engage with the world, including how we handle pandemic mitigation. We rely on digital tools for mass communication, supply chain management, data aggregation and analysis, crowdsourcing information, and more, in an unprecedented way. As the pandemic unfolds, the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) project in the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is curating a list of initiatives that are applying digital technologies and skills to meet the demands of the COVID-19 response. The curated COVID-19 digital resource list provides vetted opportunities for volunteers using digital technologies in COVID-19 response efforts.

Also see: Housing-related resources related to COVID-19, compiled by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.


Call for more testing for people with disabilities

The constraints on coronavirus testing and expectations of medical rationing when hospitals reach their capacity are having an especially onerous impact on people with disabilities. Kennedy School student Ariella Z. Barker, who has battled multiple physical disabilities from the age of 3, described in a Boston Globe column how she has been effectively trapped at home to avoid risking exposure without the assistance of her part-time caretaker due to her potential COVID-19 symptoms and inability to get tested. Barker calls for government action to expedite regular in-home testing for all Americans with disabilities, as well as their caretakers and home-health providers, and to guarantee that all patients will receive critical care, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, if or when our hospitals reach capacity.



Matt Andrews of the Building State Capability program on how the pandemic will impact developing nations



Most people, when they really understand that we’ve got a crisis, are at their very best. Enlist their help.

Professor Dutch Leonard, speaking at a COVID-19 seminar for mayors offered by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative


  • A virus is raging. The economy is in free fall. Why Trump’s approval rating is still going up [Matthew Baum] Los Angeles Times

  • Canceling everything was the easy part [Juliette Kayyem] The Atlantic

  • How to apply past financial lessons to today’s coronavirus crisis [Carmen Reinhart] Reuters

  • Reshuffling the global power deck [Nicholas Burns] PRI

  • A detailed plan for getting Americans back to work [Amitabh Chandra] Harvard Business Review

  • COVID-19's painful lesson about strategy and power [Joseph Nye] Texas National Security Review

  • The time to worry about debt is after the pandemic: Harvard’s Furman [Jason Furman] Bloomberg

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