Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  May 1, 2020
A closed deli in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid


New national poll on the pandemic: Huge support for maintaining lockdown measures

A new 50-state survey conducted by university researchers finds that just 7 percent of the nearly 23,000 Americans who took part favor immediate reopening of the economy, and the median respondent supports waiting four to six weeks. More than 80 percent of respondents support closing non-essential businesses and more than 90 percent favor closing schools and canceling sports events and other gatherings to tackle the coronavirus. Most people trust scientists and health experts far more than public officials. While those findings were largely bipartisan, support for President Trump’s handling of the crisis splits sharply along party lines. The survey authors include Harvard Kennedy School Professor Matthew Baum of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and John Della Volpe, director of polling for the School’s Institute of Politics, along with faculty members from Northeastern University and Rutgers University. The survey also provides state-by-state results on key issues and analyzes where people are getting their information about the pandemic (spoiler alert: Facebook is a major source).


Monitoring how countries are responding to employment challenges

Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy is assessing how nations around the world are responding to the colossal employment shock that has accompanied COVID-19. As countries respond to the health threats, how can they best support workers and employers through the crisis and beyond? Researchers in the Malcolm Wiener Center are collating detailed policy information on wages and support measures from more than a dozen industrialized countries, with links to sources of primary data and policy and implementation approaches. One example: Will countries with existing employment retention programs (Germany) fare better than those with brand-new programs (Britain)? Professor David Deming, faculty director of the Malcolm Wiener Center, is overseeing this project. Rachel Lipson, director of the center’s Project on Workforce, is coordinating the research on labor market policies. Read more COVID-19 policy analysis from Malcolm Wiener Center faculty and researchers.



HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf and economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin discuss federal response 


New study looks at models used to predict COVID-19 infections and deaths

Why have predictions of infection rates and deaths from the novel coronavirus pandemic varied so greatly in recent months? A new working paper by five social scientists, including HKS Professor Christopher Avery, examines types of models and underlying assumptions that have been used in epidemiology literature about the spread of the disease. The paper reviews the wide-ranging estimates of expected death tolls in early studies that were cited by political leaders to set policy, ranging up to 2.2 million deaths in the United States, and looks at the assumptions those models used. It notes potentially important features of the real-world environment that the standard models do not incorporate and discusses reasons why estimating critical parameters is difficult. These limitations may bias forecasts and lead forecasters to overstate confidence in their predictions. The study also was published today in a new COVID-19 online journal at the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London.

Those who favor asking people to stay home and avoid gathering in groups, Source: 50-state COVID-19 survey


COVID-19 requires more democracy, not less

Kennedy School Professor Archon Fung challenges the argument from some scholars that confronting the pandemic calls for sacrificing democratic impulses in favor of strong central authority. That view is misguided, says Fung, director of democracy programs for the School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. In commentary in the Boston Review, Fung says that “maintaining a robust participatory democracy is the best way to contain the pandemic and then to rebuild our society in its wake.” Enabling greater citizen action will not only check leaders’ power but will unleash creative steps “to hold our leaders accountable, advocate for social justice, correct experts’ mistakes, and innovate and lead locally.” Fung goes on to consider the impact of strengthened democracy on social justice, minority and worker rights, local leadership, and innovation.



The world is on the cusp of a geopolitical reset.

HKS Professor of Practice Meghan O’Sullivan, column in Bloomberg Opinion


  • We can protect the most vulnerable and reopen the economy [Graham Allison] The Hill

  • Americans are 'not ready' for the country to re-open, says Juliette Kayyem [Juliette Kayyem] WGBH

  • Economists urge Republicans to ignore the deficit [Douglas Elmendorf] Politico

  • Low prices, full storage tanks: What’s next for the oil industry [Meghan O'Sullivan] WBUR

  • The U.S. economy has lost nearly 16 million jobs in five weeks—Four experts react to the latest data [Jason Furman] CNBC

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