We discuss the number of lives saved during the early U.S. vaccination effort; how to help the world's refugees; what leaving Afghanistan says about U.S. commitments elsewhere; the pandemic's effect on unemployment; insights into the new school year; and the global competition for virtual-reality dominance.
The daily COVID-19 vaccination rate in the United States has increased in recent weeks—likely due to concerns about the delta variant, which is ravaging unvaccinated populations and pushing hospital capacity to the brink. As Americans endure yet another wave of the pandemic, it's worth reflecting on just how effective the nation's early vaccination campaign was at slowing the spread of the virus and preventing death.
A new study by researchers at Indiana University and RAND estimates that vaccination in the United States prevented nearly 140,000 deaths and 3 million cases of COVID-19 by the second week of May 2021. This underscores the fact that further, coordinated efforts to vaccinate Americans—and people around the world—will be critical to controlling the pandemic.
There are 30 million refugees around the world, and this number is growing. A new RAND report finds that only one-third of displaced people return home after 10 years. As this problem becomes increasingly urgent, the authors consider what governments, donors, and international organizations can do to facilitate safe solutions for refugees over the long term—and how to promote the well-being of both refugees and the countries that host them.
Strategic competitors like China benefit from the narrative that withdrawing from Afghanistan is a “blow to U.S. reliability.” But this argument doesn't hold up, says RAND's Jeffrey Hornung. The reasons for leaving Afghanistan and the rationales for other U.S. commitments are vastly different, he says. And the United States remains committed to defending the likes of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan against Chinese aggression.
At the end of June, the U.S. labor market had 10.1 million job openings. But 8.7 million workers were still unemployed in July. This may be explained by pandemic-related “frictions” in the labor market, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. For instance, people may be concerned about contracting COVID-19 when they go back to work. Perks like higher wages won't assuage concerns about the virus, she says, so this issue could persist until the pandemic is contained.
As millions of kids head back to the classroom, new RAND survey results provide insights into what schools are doing differently in the pandemic era—and what hasn't changed. Many schools have expanded services for the 2021-2022 school year, including mental health support and tutoring. More schools are also providing students with personal computers. However, much of the academic offerings for this year will remain the same.
Virtual reality has broad applications in law enforcement, health care, counterterrorism, and beyond. If the United States does not foster growth in this field, then it could lose an edge in global competition. That's according to Will Shumate of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and RAND's Timothy Marler. Even though the United States has an early lead in virtual reality development and applications, China could end up dominating VR—and reaping the benefits.
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