This week, we discuss how the United States is responding to COVID-19; the dangers of misinformation during the pandemic; the role of telemedicine; effects on the economy; the move to online education; and some simple strategies to support sleep and overall well-being.
The new coronavirus has now been detected in all 50 U.S. states, with thousands of confirmed cases and more than 200 deaths reported in the country. Local orders have closed schools, stores, and restaurants to help stop the spread of the virus. And more broadly, Americans have been advised to practice social distancing and stay home if they can.
We asked RAND medical experts to answer a wide range of questions about the current state of the pandemic. They discussed how social distancing measures work, lessons from outbreak responses in Asia and Europe, what America's hospitals are doing to prepare, concerns over limited testing and the supply of medical equipment, and more.
“Truth Decay,” the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, has been especially apparent during the coronavirus outbreak. In a new Q&A, RAND's Jennifer Kavanagh explains how low trust in institutions, simmering fears, and a high volume of assertions by people who are not experts—but claim to be—have created a perfect storm for misinformation. If we don't make both individual and policy decisions based on the facts, then there may be serious consequences.
Social distancing in response to the coronavirus outbreak has brought U.S. business activity to a grinding halt, and the stock market has seen its sharpest decline since 1987. The White House and Congress are working on economic stimulus plans aimed at limiting the economic toll on businesses and individuals. What type of stimulus works in situations like this? Can the U.S. economy avoid a lasting recession? What sectors of the economy need resources most urgently? We asked RAND researchers these questions and more.
Telemedicine has been around for decades, but it has yet to transform health care. In fact, less than 10 percent of U.S. adults have ever had a virtual doctor's visit. The coronavirus crisis could be a tipping point, say RAND experts. Telemedicine still faces regulatory barriers that may hamper its widespread use, and there are some potential risks to expanding virtual visits in certain ways. But telemedicine is an ideal option for infectious disease control: It supports social distancing and can help with triage. Telemedicine could play a key role in responding to this unprecedented crisis.
With schools closed and many people working from home if they can, Americans' daily schedules have changed drastically. This can wreak havoc on sleep, says RAND's Wendy Troxel. But there are steps you can take to get the sleep you need—and help support your well-being and immune system. Troxel recommends setting a schedule for yourself and your family, exercising, staying connected (virtually), and doing a good deed for someone else.
In response to COVID-19, many colleges and universities have replaced face-to-face instruction with online learning. This may be viewed as temporary, but according to RAND experts, it's actually accelerating a shift toward distance learning that was already taking place. As technologies mature, this approach could help make higher education more accessible and more affordable in the long run. It's also possible that the U.S. higher education marketplace eventually splits into a “luxury” segment that provides the classic residential undergraduate experience and a lower-cost online or blended model.
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