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Hospitals' Critical Care Capacity, Unemployment Insurance, Farmworkers: RAND Weekly Recap

April 10, 2020

This week we discuss how hospitals can prepare for a surge of critically ill patients; the need to reform America's unemployment system; schools' shift to online learning; why it's important to support food supply chain workers; what happens if the ACA is overturned during the pandemic; and addressing the threat posed by quantum computers.

Ambulances seen outside NYU Langone Hospital's Emergency entrance during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York City, March 31, 2020, photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Ambulances outside NYU Langone Hospital's emergency entrance, New York City, March 31, 2020

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

How Hospitals Can Increase Critical Care Capacity

Hospitals can prepare for a surge of patients critically ill with COVID-19. But this will require them to adopt drastic and creative measures that challenge the standard way of providing care. A new RAND report can help hospital decisionmakers at all levels prepare for this challenge.

The report includes an easy-to-use online tool to help hospitals, health care systems, states, and regions estimate their current critical care capacity, and then explore ways to increase it. The study is RAND's first donor-supported research response to the pandemic—but not our last.

People wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of COVID-19 at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, April 6, 2020, photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

People wait in line to file for unemployment at a workforce center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, April 6, 2020

Photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

America's Unemployment System Is Broken

Nearly 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in the last three weeks, with 6.6 million seeking benefits last week alone. Stay-at-home orders could soon idle 20 percent or more of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, the country's unemployment insurance system has been “neglected to the point of obsolescence” for decades, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. The COVID-19 crisis highlights why it's crucial to strengthen the program, so it can help businesses and workers ride out economic shocks that are beyond their control.

Chrissy Brackett and grandson Caidence Miller learn to navigate an online learning system at her home in Woodinville, Washington, March 11, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Chrissy Brackett and grandson Caidence Miller learn to navigate an online learning system at her home in Woodinville, Washington, March 11, 2020

Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

RAND Experts Discuss Schools' Move to Online Learning

Nearly all U.S. schools have shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts are shifting to online classes—many for the first time—to help students stay on track. But what will be the effects of this unprecedented educational disruption? We asked four RAND education researchers to discuss whether the situation might exacerbate preexisting inequities, how teachers are innovating, what parents can do to help, and more.

Agricultural workers clean carrot crops of weeds amid an outbreak of COVID-19 at a farm near Arvin, California, April 3, 2020, photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Agricultural workers pull weeds from carrot crops at a farm near Arvin, California, April 3, 2020

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Protecting Food Supply Chain Workers

Farmworkers are essential first responders in keeping America's food supply going during the pandemic. According to RAND's Susan Marquis, difficult working and living conditions make it nearly impossible to contain the spread of COVID-19 among these workers. But if we don't take action now to protect farmworkers, then “the human toll will be tragic, and the effect on our food supply will be critical failure,” she says. Federal agencies and state governments could help by including farmworkers and their communities in emergency response plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2020, photo by Will Dunham/Reuters

Photo by Will Dunham/Reuters

What If the ACA Is Overturned During the Pandemic?

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act this fall. If the law is struck down, then more than 20 million people could lose their health insurance. And as the country battles COVID-19, the stakes for this decision couldn't be higher, say RAND experts. Mass insurance loss could put additional strain on the health care system, increase community transmission of the coronavirus, and result in more avoidable deaths.

Graphic depicting quantum computing, design by Alyson Youngblood/RAND Corporation

Image by Alyson Youngblood/RAND Corporation

Quantum Computers Will Break the Internet—but Only If We Let Them

The quantum computers of the future are expected to be millions of times faster than whatever device you're using right now. This spike in speed has the potential to undo the security measures that currently protect every piece of data sent over the web. But there's good news: Quantum attacks can be stopped if we act now. A new RAND report outlines actions that policymakers can take today to minimize the risk tomorrow.

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