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Preparing for a COVID Surge, Reducing Police Violence, Media Literacy in Schools: RAND Weekly Recap

July 2, 2020

This week we discuss a RAND tool that helps hospitals prepare for a surge in COVID-19 infections; how Los Angeles is redirecting police funds; what might happen if the Affordable Care Act is repealed; how changing police culture could reduce police violence; improving U.S. pandemic preparedness; and how teachers perceive students' media use and literacy.

Ambulances line up outside a New York City hospital emergency room waiting for the next spike in calls, May 4, 2020, photo by Bob London/Alamy

Ambulances line up outside a New York City hospital waiting for the next spike in calls, May 4, 2020

Photo by Bob London/Alamy

COVID Could Surge Anywhere. This Tool Can Help Hospitals Prepare

As an emergency physician and a RAND researcher, Mahshid Abir knows what hospitals could face if they get hit with a surge of COVID-19 patients. She also knows that hospitals may need help preparing for such a surge.

That's why Abir and her colleagues created a tool that shows how to get the most out of critical care space, staff, and supplies. This is especially important because the next COVID surge could happen anywhere, she says. “New York was the epicenter in the spring; who knows where it will be in the fall and winter? All hospitals need to have surge-capacity plans in place and be ready, because it could be their city.”

A woman holds a placard as people protest outside Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters to demand that the Board of Education defunds school police in Los Angeles, California, June 23, 2020, photo  by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A woman holds a sign at a protest outside Los Angeles Unified School District, June 23, 2020

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

L.A. Takes Step Toward 'Defund the Police'

In the wake of numerous police killings of Black Americans, calls to “defund the police” have grown louder. In response, Los Angeles is moving forward with a plan to reallocate $150 million from the LAPD to social supports, such as job programs and health services. RAND research provides some evidence to back up this approach. For example, one study found that a supportive housing program helped people experiencing homelessness achieve high rates of stable housing and low rates of felony re-arrests.

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?

Last week, the Trump administration filed a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If the ACA is struck down, then more than 20 million people could lose their health insurance. As the country continues to grapple with the pandemic, the stakes for this decision couldn't be higher. RAND experts say that mass insurance loss could further strain the U.S. health care system, increase community transmission of the coronavirus, and lead to more avoidable deaths.

Police officers stand guard across Central Park West during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New York City, June 5, 2020, photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

NYPD officers stand guard in Central Park during a protest against the killing of George Floyd, June 5, 2020

Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

To Reduce Police Violence, Change Police Culture

It's estimated that police in the United States killed more than 1,000 people last year. According to RAND experts, addressing this grim statistic may require changes in areas such as recruitment, training, and liability. But perhaps most importantly, it will require transforming the culture of policing, which is too often viewed as “us against them.” That kind of cultural change may be achieved by focusing on the entire system, rather than merely blaming individual officers.

How to Improve U.S. Pandemic Preparedness

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in U.S. pandemic preparedness and response. That's according to a recent congressional testimony by RAND's Daniel Gerstein. Specifically, Gerstein explains shortcomings of the Strategic National Stockpile of drugs, vaccines, and other medical products. Although the stockpile was used in the COVID-19 response, it was never intended to handle a truly national crisis. Fortunately, there are ways to address the problem. For one, public health must be prioritized and funded as a national security issue, he says.

Classmates preparing for exams in the library, photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Teachers' Concerns About Students' Media Literacy

Teaching media literacy is one way that schools can help combat the diminishing role of facts in American public life—a trend we at RAND call “Truth Decay.” According to results from our new national survey, teachers and schools across the country are already taking steps to address students' media literacy and use. However, many teachers reported concerns, including how much media students consume and their limited ability to determine whether what they read online is credible.

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