blog

Air Travel Data to Predict COVID Risk, Heatwave Planning, Caregiver Time Off: RAND Weekly Recap

June 12, 2020

This week we discuss a new RAND tool that uses air travel data to track the spread of the coronavirus; preparing for a heat wave during the pandemic; what might convince Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine; whether the United States should consider strengthening its relationship with Taiwan; why caregivers need more support from employers; and providing aid for struggling college students.

A map of the continental United States is shown with lines representing COVID-19 importation risk

Photo by RAND Corporation

Air Travel Data Can Help Predict COVID Risk

A new RAND tool analyzes COVID-19 cases and air travel data to predict the spread of the coronavirus. By providing estimates of the numbers of infected passengers, the tool can help policymakers respond to public health threats.

In fact, the tool has already revealed valuable insights. For example, by late January, one or two infected passengers per day were likely flying from China to international destinations. Around this time, it's also likely that the number of cases in China was 37 times higher than reported by Beijing. The tool also shows that the risk to Gulf Cooperation Council countries was greater from outside the region than from Iran, contradicting common narratives about how the virus was introduced.

Children cool off under the spray from an open fire hydrant in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan in New York City, July 17, 2013, photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Children cool off under the spray from an open fire hydrant in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, July 17, 2013

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Planning for a Heatwave During a Pandemic

New York City's new coronavirus heatwave plan offers important lessons about preparing for overlapping disasters, long-term heat, and climate preparedness. That's according to RAND's Jaime Madrigano. She warns that, even in the absence of a pandemic, some heat interventions may not reach people with limited means and mobility. That's why engaging across disciplines, geographies, and cultural and socioeconomic groups is vital. A holistic approach to planning could help save the lives of those who will be hit the hardest.

Research assistant Jae-Heon Kim conducts research on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus at a laboratory in San Diego, California, March 17, 2020, photo by Bing Guan/Reuters

A researcher in a lab at India's Serum Institute, the world's largest maker of vaccines, Pune, India, May 18, 2020

Photo by Euan Rocha/Reuters

How to Persuade Americans to Get a Vaccine

A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine would be cause for celebration. But if one becomes available, what will persuade Americans to take it? RAND experts stress the importance of delivering a clear and compelling message that focuses on defeating the disease rather than on the vaccine itself. Additionally, an effective vaccination program must address many different points of resistance, including safety concerns, anti-vax narratives, and religious exceptions.

A sign with flags of (R-L) Tuvalu, Nauru, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, and Palau is seen before a ceremony to donate masks to Taiwan's Pacific allies, in Taipei, Taiwan, April 15, 2020, photo by Ben Blanchard/Reuters

A sign posted prior to a ceremony recognizing the donation of masks to Taiwan's Pacific allies, April 15, 2020

Photo by Ben Blanchard/Reuters

Should the U.S. Strengthen Ties with Taiwan?

During the pandemic, China has been ramping up provocations against its neighbors and seeking to expand its influence. Meanwhile, Taiwan has assisted others in the global fight against COVID-19. In light of this contrast, RAND experts say that U.S. policymakers should consider advancing U.S.-Taiwanese cooperation. This could help enhance Taiwan's security, protect U.S. interests, and preserve stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Mother with teenage boy working from home, photo by martinedoucet/Getty Images

Photo by martinedoucet/Getty Images

Why Caregivers Need Time Off

Balancing a job and caregiving demands—a stressful challenge that disproportionately falls on women's shoulders—can be linked to physical and mental illness. As some workplaces reopen, caregivers will need more support from their employers. That's according to RAND's Heather Williams and Bobbi Thomason, a professor at Pepperdine University. It's crucial for companies to provide caregiver time off and create a culture where employees can use it, they say.

A man carries food donated by Alianza Ecuatoriana International at a food pantry in Queens, New York, May 16, 2020, photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

A man carries food donated by Alianza Ecuatoriana International at a food pantry in Queens, New York, May 16, 2020

Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Continuing Aid for College Students After the Pandemic

The federal government recently allocated funds to help college students who are struggling with food, housing, and other basic needs. But many students were vulnerable long before the pandemic. What can colleges do to help these students over the long term? RAND experts say that colleges can do more to understand the scope of the problem and target resources to students who need them most. Eliminating eligibility requirements could be one way to help ensure that students have easy access to support.

Listen to the Recap

Get Weekly Updates from RAND

If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.