When the first case of the coronavirus in Silicon Valley was discovered in late January, health officials were faced with a barrage of questions: What city did the patient live in? Whom had he come in contact with? Which health clinic had he visited before he knew he was infected? Dr. Sara Cody, the chief health officer for Santa Clara County, which has a population of two million across 15 cities, declined to give details…As the coronavirus spreads across the United States the limited disclosure of data by officials would seem to be a footnote to the suffering and economic disruptions that the disease is causing…I. Glenn Cohen, an expert in bioethics at Harvard Law School, says the guiding principle during this crisis should be sharing more rather than less. “Public health depends a lot on public trust,” he said. “If the public feels as though they are being misled or misinformed their willingness to make sacrifices — in this case social distancing — is reduced…That’s a strong argument for sharing as much information as you can,” he said.
A podcast by Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs: Why would it take an Amazon worker, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have been tax increases on the rich, on the one hand, and campaign-finance reform on the other. But in this episode, we’ll explore the idea that retooling labor laws for the modern economy may be the most effective way to address both these issues. Harvard Law School’s Kestnbaum professor of labor and industry Benjamin Sachs, together with Sharon Block, executive director of the school’s Labor and Worklife Program, explain.
The director of the federal health department’s civil rights office said on Saturday that his office was opening a series of civil rights investigations to ensure that states did not allow medical providers to discriminate on the basis of disabilities, race, age or certain other factors when deciding who would receive lifesaving medical care during the coronavirus emergency. The office released a new bulletin on civil rights during the coronavirus crisis, days after disability rights advocates filed complaints arguing that protocols to ration lifesaving medical care adopted by Alabama and Washington State were discriminatory…The bulletin “represents an important first step in protecting the rights of people with disabilities in the current crisis,” said Ari Ne’eman, a visiting scholar at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University and a senior research associate at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. He said there was an “urgent need for comprehensive guidance.”
Rhode Island authorities on Saturday began searching for New Yorkers defying mandated self-quarantine as the state’s governor said the epidemic’s danger outweighed the appearance of persecution. The state’s National Guard said it was working with the police and health agencies to go door-to-door in coastal communities to identify New York residents and collect information on them. Those who defy the self-quarantine order face fines or jail, said Governor Gina Raimondo…Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, said Saturday that states aren’t required to ignore contagious diseases, but neither can they ignore America’s founding principles. Raimondo’s order “raises red flags,” he said in an email. The order doesn’t cover people arriving from hot spots besides New York, he said. “We need to be on the alert for discrimination against outsiders, including not just foreigners but Americans from other states, that isn’t strictly and objectively warranted by the facts,” he said. “As the Supreme Court put it in one famous case, our Constitution was founded on the philosophy that we must sink or swim together.”
An article by Sharon Block: By now, almost every worker in America has been affected by the coronavirus. As grocery stores ramp up, restaurants close, flights get canceled, and hospitals get swamped with patients, workers are on the front lines of dealing with the consequences of this crisis. For too many American workers, this crisis is happening to them, not with them. With only approximately 6 percent of the American private-sector workforce in unions, the vast majority of workers have no voice in the decisions that businesses are making in response to the pandemic. Our laws fail to ensure that workers have an adequate voice in important decisions that affect their lives. The current crisis highlights the ways that our labor law leaves workers out of these critical conversations.
An article by Ashley Nunes: The numbers are staggering. Delta Air Lines is parking at least 50% of its entire fleet. United Airlines reports passenger bookings are down 70%. And 75% of American Airlines’ international flights are to be cut. Across the pond, Virgin Atlantic is offering staff eight weeks of unpaid leave, Norwegian Air is furloughing 90% of its workforce, and Austrian Airlines has suspended flights altogether. The culprit for all this is COVID-19. The rapid spread of the virus — coupled with government-imposed flying restrictions — has caused travel demand to plummet. Airline execs liken the situation to the 9/11 attacks. The comparison has some merit. In the aftermath of those attacks, bookings dropped, and airlines were left reeling. In their desperation, free market loving airline execs turned to governments for help. Governments obliged, forking out billions in taxpayer cash to keep airlines afloat. With COVID-19, expect more of the same.
A cadre of right-wing news sites pulled from the fringes in recent years through repeated mention by President Donald Trump is now taking aim at Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, who has given interviews in which he has tempered praise for the president with doubts about his pronouncements. Although both men are seeking to tamp down the appearance of tension – “Great job,” Trump commended the doctor during the White House’s briefing on Tuesday – the president is increasingly chafing against medical consensus. He has found support from a chorus of conservative commentators who have cheered his promise to get the U.S. economy going again as well as his decision to tout possible coronavirus treatments not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…Over the weekend, Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote on Twitter, “Shouldn’t need to be said, but I personally couldn’t care less if Dr. Fauci said nice things to say about Hillary Clinton.” The “politicization of public health” means it very much does need to be said, according to Robert Faris, the research director at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. “Having Trump and Fauci on the same public stage at the same time is an untenable position for right-wing media,” he said. “Something’s got to give, and I don’t know what it is.”
The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite hold a major portion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket, including a multibillion-dollar clash between software giants Google and Oracle Corp. and cases that could affect President Donald Trump’s re-election chances. What was supposed to have been a drama-filled spring at the high court has instead become a season of waiting, especially for the lawyers and litigants in 20 arguments that had been scheduled for March and April. The court has postponed 11 of those cases and could do the same soon for the remaining nine…Similarly, the court had been aiming to resolve clashes over the Electoral College, the body that will formally select the next president, before any election controversies may arise. At issue in cases scheduled for argument April 28 is whether states can stop “faithless electors” who try to cast a vote for someone other the candidate who won their state’s balloting. “We’ve gotten no indication about whether it’s going forward,” said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and the lawyer for two groups of electors who say they have the right to vote as they please. But “we’re preparing as if it is.”
A podcast by Noah Feldman: Laurie Santos, a Professor of Psychology at Yale, shares tips for dealing with coronavirus-induced anxiety. For further listening, check out Laurie’s podcast “The Happiness Lab,” also from Pushkin Industries.
An article by Cass Sunstein: I have long been an enthusiastic defender of quantitative cost-benefit analysis, and recently wrote a book about it. I have also long been a critic of the precautionary principle, which calls for potentially expensive precautions against bad outcomes in the face of scientific uncertainty. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unusually challenging to engage in quantitative cost-benefit analysis. But the best available estimates, released within the last few days, suggest that the U.S. should continue with expensive precautions, even if they take a major economic toll. Back to normal by Easter, as President Donald Trump suggested? The new estimates show that that would be reckless. To adapt Patrick Henry, “Give me precautions, or give me death.” It should be acknowledged that Trump, and many others, have been right to emphasize the importance of balancing a range of considerations, and not focusing only on one. Some people in the public-health community like to look only at one side of the ledger. But a zero-risk mentality makes no sense.