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The Evidence on Kids and COVID-19, China's Use of Big Data, Telemedicine: RAND Weekly Recap

September 4, 2020

We discuss the questionable evidence behind the theory that kids transmit COVID-19 less than adults; China's plans for big data analytics; whether telemedicine will succeed after the pandemic; what it will take for Lebanon to recover in the long run; improving law enforcement's response to homelessness; and a Pardee RAND Graduate School program that aims to foster inclusivity in public policy.

Instructional assistants help students maintain social distancing as in-person learning resumes at Wilson Primary School in Phoenix, Arizona, August 17, 2020, photo by Cheney Orr/Reuters

Photo by Cheney Orr/Reuters

Do Kids Transmit COVID-19 Less Than Adults? The Evidence Is Questionable

Many students across the United States returned to the classroom this week. For some school districts, the decision to resume in-person instruction was guided by the theory that children are unlikely to contract or spread COVID-19. Unfortunately, this is based on flawed science.

Epidemiological data may make it seem like children are less likely to get infected. But as Laura Garabedian of Harvard Medical School and RAND's Rebecca Haffajee explain, the truth may be that children are less likely to be diagnosed. What's more, the evidence on kids and COVID-19 is inconclusive. That's why adopting aggressive strategies to limit viral spread is still the best way to keep students and teachers safe.

Chinese flag with JavaScript code in the background, photos by daboost and mehaniq41/Adobe Stock

Photos by daboost and mehaniq41/Adobe Stock

How China Is Using Big Data

China aims to master big data analytics as part of its quest to become the global leader in artificial intelligence and achieve great-power status. A new RAND report finds that Beijing's applications of big data could span economic, military, intelligence, and police functions. In fact, Chinese security services are already using big data tools to target ethnic minorities—most notably, the Uighurs. The government also plans to employ such tools in its social credit system, which will assign a “reputational ranking” to every Chinese citizen.

Woman sitting on her couch having a virtual medical appointment on her laptop, photos by Agrobacter and SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by Agrobacter and SDI Productions/Getty Images

What Telemedicine Needs to Succeed Beyond COVID-19

Telemedicine has the potential to make health care more convenient, more accessible, and more efficient. But significant barriers have always prevented telehealth from going mainstream. Recent RAND research explores what happened when some of those barriers came down once COVID-19 hit, how physicians feel about providing virtual care, and ways telehealth can help expand access to specialized services. The findings provide insights into how telemedicine could work once the pandemic has passed.

The port of Beirut and its construction cranes, destroyed by an explosion of ammonium nitrate on August 4, 2020, photo by Karine Pierre/Hans Lucas Pictures/Reuters

The port of Beirut, destroyed by an explosion of ammonium nitrate on August 4, 2020

Photo by Karine Pierre/Hans Lucas Pictures/Reuters

Long-Term Recovery in Lebanon May Require Global Support

The situation in Lebanon was volatile even before the massive explosion in Beirut that killed hundreds of people last month. The country's economy was in shambles, corruption was endemic, and job opportunities were scarce. According to RAND experts, sustained global investment may be needed to help Lebanon recover in the long run. Waiting to provide this support until the country reforms on its own could push it further into chaos, increasing regional instability.

Police continue their patrols as officials begin what they are calling a slow and methodical clean-up and removal of a large homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River Trail in Anaheim, California, January 22, 2018, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Police patrol alongside a large homeless encampment on the Santa Ana River Trail in Anaheim, California, January 22, 2018

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

How to Improve Law Enforcement's Response to Homelessness

Police often are the first (and sometimes the only) point of government contact for people experiencing homelessness. To better understand the implications, RAND convened a group of experts, who identified several challenges. For one, law enforcement is not equipped to address the underlying causes of homelessness. That's why collaboration with community leaders and social service providers is key to helping people experiencing homelessness get the support they need.

Shearon Roberts at Pardee RAND's Faculty Leaders Program in July 2018, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Shearon Roberts at Pardee RAND's Faculty Leaders Program in July 2018

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Shaping the Future of Public Policy

Every summer, the Pardee RAND Graduate School invites a group of scholars to learn and practice policy analysis. Participants are typically professors from colleges and universities committed to serving students of color. The goal: bring more people from more backgrounds into the historically monochrome field of public policy. While this year's program has been postponed until summer 2021 because of the pandemic, recent protests against systemic racism have underscored the importance of its aim to foster inclusivity. After all, for public policy to effect change, it must better reflect the aspirations, lives, and perspectives of the people it serves.

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