This week we discuss how to make a COVID-19 vaccine accessible and affordable; what more can be done to address a rise in domestic violence; the pitfalls of poor data analysis; the pandemic's historic economic effects; planning hospital needs for ventilators and respiratory therapists; and what the future of warfare might look like.
The race to develop a vaccine to combat COVID-19 is on. Optimistic projections peg an approved vaccine in a matter of months, but most experts don't expect one to be available until the middle of 2021. However long it takes, there's little time to lose in devising a blueprint to ensure that the vaccine is accessible and affordable for all, say RAND experts. Important challenges to address include the complex issues of financing, intellectual property rights, and global production.
One of the most worrying and consistent trends during the pandemic is an increase in domestic violence. Stay-at-home orders force victims to remain under the same roof as their abusers and can also make it harder to get help. Governments across the globe are taking different approaches to address this problem. But according to RAND experts, more needs to be done. Although securing adequate resources for support services is vital, it's important to acknowledge that family members and friends can also help—by reaching out to make sure their loved ones are safe.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced world leaders to make difficult public health decisions based on incomplete information. At the same time, an overabundance of new data sources and the free sharing of information has made it easier to draw spurious conclusions. RAND researchers have highlighted two recent examples to showcase the pitfalls of incomplete analysis and insufficient data. These illustrate why analysts, journalists, and policymakers must apply the best methods possible and be clear about the limitations of findings.
Numbers released last week indicate that the U.S. unemployment rate soared in April to its highest level since the Great Depression. But even if this hadn't happened, the economic effects of the pandemic would still be historic. This is because the unemployment rate doesn't tell the whole story. According to RAND experts, to get a complete view of the seismic downturn Americans are living through today, it's important to consider other factors. For example, discouraged workers—those who are not currently looking for work—are left out of unemployment rate calculations.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many hospitals have run short on ventilators, as well as the respiratory therapists who operate them. RAND experts developed a model that can help administrators prepare for and respond to these shortages. The model can be used to assess ventilator needs, allocate patients or resources efficiently across hospitals, and drive protocol decisions. It could also help states develop guidelines for ventilator management during pandemics.
Where will the next war occur? Who will fight in it, and why? How will it be fought? A new series of RAND reports seeks to answer these questions by examining the many factors that shape conflict, including trends in geopolitics, the global economy, and even climate change. The authors find that the United States will face a grand strategic choice: become more selective about committing its forces, or maintain or even double down on its commitments, knowing that doing so will come with significantly greater cost—in treasure and, perhaps, in blood.
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