Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  April 10, 2020


Harvard researchers join in first detailed study of pandemic in American prisons

A collaboration between Harvard University researchers and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has yielded the first detailed survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on correctional facilities in the United States. The survey was devised by HKS Professor Marcella Alsan and Harvard Law School Professor Crystal Yang, working with the commission. The ongoing survey has collected data from more than 320 facilities housing approximately 10 percent of the country’s inmates across 47 states. Between March 25 and April 3, the fastest rise in reported daily cases was among correctional staff, growing from 136 to 245 cases per day. The number of cases among inmates increased from 32 to 67. The cases were highly correlated to the pace of COVID-19 cases in the surrounding communities.

Also see: Q&A on the findings with Marcella Alsan and Crystal Yang


New resources for policymakers on pandemic’s impact on gender issues

Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) has created a special section of its Gender Action Portal that highlights research summaries that may be helpful to policymakers, practitioners, activists, and leaders working on the COVID-19 pandemic. The section—"Utilizing evidence-based research to incorporate a gendered lens for the COVID-19 pandemic"—addresses issues including the increased risk of gender-based violence and domestic abuse due to pandemic-related stay-at-home orders. Other issues covered include the gender leadership gap in health care (though women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce, they are typically under-represented in health care leadership and decision-making positions across the world) and special problems faced by working mothers and female caregivers. Academic Dean Iris Bohnet, the faculty co-director for WAPPP, said: “As we have seen in other global pandemics like Zika & Ebola, COVID-19 has significant socioeconomic implications for women and girls, including an increase in the prevalence of gender-based violence and a heightened need for women in healthcare leadership roles.”


Social connections built through online learning can be strong

As they switch to remote learning, universities are putting a premium on approximating the experience of in-person teaching—despite what many see as the limitations of Zoom and similar tools. But Harvard Kennedy School Senior Lecturer Marshall Ganz has a much more optimistic take on the promise of teaching over Zoom, gleaned from his experience running online executive education courses in leadership and public narrative since 2010. While building a learning community online is a different experience from the classroom, it is not necessarily a lesser one, he says, and instructors are really just beginning “to learn the possibilities of this medium.” One advantage is being able to see all participants’ faces clearly at once, which Ganz says helps support the ultimate goal of “building a relational community of learning.”


HKS researcher warns of COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ dangers

Harvard Kennedy School researcher Joan Donovan worries that heightened social media manipulation and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic could pose grave dangers. Donovan, an adjunct lecturer who runs the Technology and Social Change Research Project in the School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, cites the World Health Organization’s warning of an “infodemic” that can undermine public confidence in scientists and medical experts. The project also has started a newsletter, Meme War Weekly, focusing in part on the pandemic.



It’s not surprising that the countries that seem to have ‘done well’ are the countries that have well-developed infrastructures for taking care of society as a whole.

Professor Sheila Jasanoff, director of the Science, Technology and Society program, in The Nation


  • The wartime president who Trump should learn from [David Gergen] CNN

  • Why the coronavirus is making U.S.-China relations worse [Joseph Nye] The National Interest

  • Democrats and Republicans should agree on how to solve the coronavirus [Jason Furman] The National Interest

  • The United States can still win the coronavirus pandemic [Stephen Walt] Foreign Policy

  • To fight coronavirus, there’s no substitute for U.S. leadership [Samantha Power] New York Times

  • Oil markets provide a glimpse of the post-pandemic future [Meghan O'Sullivan] Bloomberg

  • Will COVID-19 remake the world? [Dani Rodrik] Project Syndicate

  • Online learning should return to a supporting role [David Deming] New York Times

  • The three equations for a happy life, even during a pandemic [Arthur Brooks] The Atlantic

This newsletter will arrive weekly during the COVID-19 crisis. 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.