Trust in the CDC, Teaching Students with Disabilities, Russian Mercenaries: RAND Weekly Recap

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April 9, 2021

We discuss declining public trust in the CDC; educating students with disabilities in the COVID-19 era; changes in the U.S. justice system; Russian mercenaries; why Biden should take the lead in promoting Japan–South Korea cooperation; and improving access to military behavioral health care.

The exterior of the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center, otherwise known as Building 19, located on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo by James Gathany/CDC

Trust in the CDC Declined Amid the Pandemic

Public trust in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fell by about 10 percent from May to October 2020, a critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's according to new RAND survey data.

The drop in trust was particularly significant among people who intended to vote for a candidate other than Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election or did not intend to vote at all. This suggests that views of the CDC are now strongly politicized, and the Biden administration may face an uphill battle in rebuilding trust in the CDC.

Key to winning this battle, RAND researchers say, is identifying who Americans view as trusted messengers regarding vaccines and public health policies. It's also important to help the public understand the scientific rationale for policy changes and guidance aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

A teacher and student wearing face masks talk to each other using sign language, photo by Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Educating Students with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Era

COVID-19 has led to major disruptions in the way that teachers educate students with disabilities. To learn more about these challenges, RAND surveyed nearly 1,600 teachers across the United States. About two in five respondents said that their schools offered alternative instructional arrangements for students with disabilities. Such arrangements were less common in schools serving more students of color and more students experiencing poverty.

A statue of Lady Justice wearing a face mask, photos by Ulf, Honcharuk/Adobe Stock; design by Peter Soriano/RAND Corporation

A statue of Lady Justice wearing a mask

Photos by Ulf, Honcharuk/Adobe Stock; design by Peter Soriano/RAND

America's Criminal Justice System During the Pandemic and Beyond

As COVID-19 swept through the United States last year, criminal justice entities—including law enforcement, court systems, and corrections facilities—had to adapt to slow the spread of disease. At the same time, national protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans created significant pressure for criminal justice reform. How has this unprecedented period affected the criminal justice system? And how might it shape the post-pandemic future? RAND convened a panel of experts to find out.

Russian trucks on the road heading to Deir al-Zor in Kabakeb near Deir al-Zor, Syria, September 21, 2017, photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Russian trucks near Deir al-Zor, Syria, September 21, 2017

Photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

Russian Mercenaries: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link?

Russia relies heavily on private security contractors—mercenaries—to threaten its competitors' interests. But the Kremlin's “little green men” may actually be “little green vulnerabilities,” say RAND experts. For one thing, Russian mercenaries are often unreliable. In at least a few cases, their will to fight appeared to be poor, and they have repeatedly shown that they will choose self-interest over state interests. The United States could exploit such weaknesses to thwart Russian efforts to undermine Western democracy.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2021, photo by Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo, March 16, 2021

Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via Reuters

How Biden Can Strengthen Ties Between Japan and South Korea

On April 16, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide will meet in Washington. According to RAND's Scott Harold, this summit may be an opportunity for Biden to push for U.S.-Japan allied cooperation with South Korea. If the United States doesn't take the lead, then actors that don't support Washington's agenda could pursue their goals. This could lead to negative consequences for the United States, says Harold.

A Special Tactics Airman surveys a target following close air support training during RED FLAG-Alaska 18-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, August 16, 2018, photo by Tech. Sgt. Sandra Welch/U.S. Air Force

A Special Tactics Airman surveys a target following a training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, August 16, 2018

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sandra Welch/U.S. Air Force

Accessing Military Behavioral Health Care: Geography Matters

U.S. service members who live more than 40 miles from a military health facility may struggle to receive high-quality behavioral health care. That's according to a new RAND study. More specifically, remote service members diagnosed with PTSD, substance use disorder, or depression are often less likely to receive the recommended treatment. The authors recommend monitoring the care delivered to remote service members and further expanding access to telehealth.

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