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Experts Discuss COVID-19: RAND Weekly Recap

March 20, 2020

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.

A woman visits her mother who has tested positive for coronavirus at a Seattle-area nursing home, the epicenter of one of the biggest outbreaks in the United States, in Kirkland, Washington, March 11, 2020, photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

A woman visits her mother who has tested positive for coronavirus at a Seattle-area nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, March 11, 2020

Photo by Jason Redmond/Reuters

U.S. COVID-19 Cases on the Rise: Q&A with RAND Experts

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.

A man wearing a face mask looks at his phone at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, March 12, 2020, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

A man wearing a face mask looks at his phone while waiting at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, March 12, 2020

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Misinformation Is Spreading Along with the Virus

“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.

A man wears a mask while walking past the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, March 17, 2020, photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

A man wears a mask while walking past the New York Stock Exchange, March 17, 2020

Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Can the U.S. Economy Survive Social Distancing?

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.

Mother on a video call with doctor with sick teenage son, photo by Courtney Hale/Getty Images

Photo by Courtney Hale/Getty Images

How Telemedicine Could Help Infectious Disease Control

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.

A traveler takes a nap following reports of the coronavirus, Galeao International Airport, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 6, 2020, photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

A traveler takes a nap at Galeão International Airport following reports of the coronavirus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 6, 2020

Photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Why Prioritizing Sleep Is So Important Right Now

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.

University of California, Berkeley Professors Lisa Wymore and Greg Niemeyer look at the Zoom screen showing students in their online Collaborative Innovation course in Berkeley, California, U.S., March 12, 2020, photo by Nathan Frandino/Reuters

University of California, Berkeley professors look at a screen showing students in their online collaborative innovation course, March 12, 2020

Photo by Nathan Frandino/Reuters

Will Learning Ever Be the Same After COVID-19?

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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