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A Proposed COVID-19 Cure, Economic Decline, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

May 1, 2020

This week we discuss the proposed use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19; long-term economic effects of the pandemic; why household workers need more support; U.S.–North Korea relations after Kim Jong Un; Americans' views about the news; and helping Egyptian women overcome barriers to employment.

Laura Ng, who has lupus and had to recently call at least five pharmacies before she could find a place to fill her hydroxychloroquine prescription, in Seattle, Washington, March 31, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Laura Ng, who has lupus, had to call at least five pharmacies before she was able to fill her hydroxychloroquine prescription, in Seattle, Washington, March 31, 2020

Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

The Unintended Consequences of a Proposed COVID-19 Cure

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are proven treatments for malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. While these drugs have recently been discussed as potential therapies for COVID-19, there is no definitive evidence that they would be effective. According to RAND experts, this discussion has limited the drugs' availability for proven treatments, fueled the counterfeit anti-malarial drug market in Africa, and worsened trade tensions. But there are opportunities to address these unintended consequences.

Residents carry boxes of free groceries distributed at a pop-up food pantry by the Massachusetts Army National Guard in Chelsea, Massachusetts, April 24, 2020, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Residents carry boxes of free groceries distributed at a pop-up food pantry, Chelsea, Massachusetts, April 24, 2020

Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

A Second Wave of Economic Destruction?

In the largest decline since 2008, the U.S. economy fell by 4.8 percent in the first quarter. And this isn't the only evidence to suggest that the United States will experience a prolonged recession as a result of COVID-19. According to RAND experts, negative consumer sentiment is another troubling sign. It could mean that Americans will take a long time to return to their former spending habits after the pandemic passes. If that happens, then the economic effects could take years to shake.

Housekeeper washing the dishes wearing a mask, photo by FG Trade/Getty Images

Photo by FG Trade/Getty Images

Protecting Household Workers During the Pandemic

Many small businesses that can't meet their payroll due to COVID-19 are eligible for federal aid. But household employers are excluded. This affects hundreds of thousands of nannies, housekeepers, and others who are employed in private homes. How could the government help these workers? RAND experts say that policymakers could consider making direct payments to household employers who keep paying their employees. This could reduce the number of workers who join the unemployment rolls or feel compelled to work during the crisis.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un sits in his vehicle after arriving at a railway station in Dong Dang, Vietnam, at the border with China, February 26, 2019, photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Kim Jong Un sits in his vehicle after arriving at a railway station in Dong Dang, Vietnam, February 26, 2019

Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

North Korea After Kim: 'How' Matters More Than 'Who'

Rumors are swirling that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seriously ill, leaving many to ask who might succeed him. But this isn't the most important question, says RAND's Soo Kim. What matters more is what the new regime does to establish legitimacy and how the United States and its allies respond. If there is new leadership in Pyongyang, then Washington may be tempted to reset relations on a path toward normalization. But there are hazards to even exchanging pleasantries with any successors.

A crowd of people surrounding images representing the news, design by Alyson Youngblood/RAND

Design by Alyson Youngblood/RAND

What Do Americans Think of the News?

Facts are on the decline in U.S. public life—a phenomenon that RAND researchers call Truth Decay. This problem, which has become even more apparent during the pandemic, poses a threat to democracy as we know it. A recent RAND study seeks to better understand the issue by analyzing where Americans get their news, whether they think it's reliable, and more. The findings provide some clues about what it might take to ensure that data and analysis remain at the heart of public discourse.

Women at Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt, October 2008, photo by Claudia Wiens/Alamy

Women at Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt, October 2008

Photo by Claudia Wiens/Alamy

Helping Egyptian Women Overcome Barriers to Employment

In Egypt, young women face persistent barriers to securing employment. It's likely that COVID-19 will only worsen these challenges, so what policies might help economically empower Egyptian women? A new RAND report outlines a number of recommendations, including subsidizing childcare; providing safe transportation for women; and reforming laws that address gender discrimination, mobility restrictions, and sexual harassment.

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