Politics, Markets, and Pandemics: Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

Michael Hartney

Michael Hartney, professor of Political Science, has recently put out a working paper examining school reopening policies across the country. Hartney and Leslie K. Finger, a political scientist at the University of North Texas, found that local political conditions, rather than public safety or COVID-19 severity, generally guided reopening decisions. According to the researchers, “Mass partisanship and teacher union strength best explain how school boards approached reopening.” The findings have been featured in The New York Times as well as BC News.

You can read the full working paper here.

The Case for Masks

Dean Hashimoto

Dean M. Hashimoto, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School and Chief Medical Officer for Workplace Health and Wellness at Mass General Brigham, gave a presentation supporting mask use and further measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Based on his upcoming book, his lecture for the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College explains why masks are the most critical public health tool for controlling the pandemic. His legal research revolves around recognizing and enforcing rules within organizations, primarily hospitals, and has recently focused on coronavirus masking policies.

Watch the Lecture on the Clough Center YouTube.

How Ready Are We to Support Kids Through This Trauma?

Heather Rowan-Kenyon

Heather Rowan-Kenyon, Associate Professor and Director of the Educational Leadership & Higher Education Program at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development, has recently published a report on supporting students through trauma in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rowan-Kenyon and Mandy Savitz-Romer, at Harvard University, surveyed counselors to aggregate their needs in a time that is uniquely challenging to students’ mental health. In Education Weekly, they write: “It will be tempting for schools to direct resources and attention this fall to bolstering the instructional core, given well-founded fears of learning loss and the widening of academic inequities. But our research suggests that districts need to focus just as much on deploying staff and policies that promote students’ social and emotional development. School counselors have a critical but often overlooked role to play in meeting this urgent need.”

Read the full editorial in Education Weekly.

COVID-19: The Internationalization Revolution That Isn’t

Hans de Wit
Phillip G. Altbach

Hans de Wit and Phillip Altbach recently authored an article on COVID-19’s effects on higher education: “The COVID-19 crisis will have major implications for global student mobility, with declines overall, most probably from China. Additional implications will be felt concerning internationalization generally. Universities and national systems relying on international student enrollments for income are likely to suffer a significant blow. However, overall, it is likely that the broader trends of recent years will continue, but only after considerable disruption.”

Read more in International Education’s special 2020 edition.

Association Between Universal Masking in a Health Care System and COVID-19 Spread Among Health Care Workers

Dean Hashimoto

Dean M. Hashimoto, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School, along with several other researchers recently authored an article discussing the effectiveness of masks in health care systems among health care workers. Studying an intervention within the Mass General Brigham health care system, they found universal masking substantially limited the spread of COVID-19.

Read the full article in Jama.

Studying the Experience and Sustainability of Work-From-Home

Wen Fan

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in U.S. found themselves suddenly working from home and, with the closing of schools and childcare centers, working from home coupled with a change in family life.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Wen Fan has launched a research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, that will examine the experience of remote work from a variety of methodological angles as well as the potential sustainability of the work-from-home model post-COVID.

‘The pandemic resulted in a sea change in working conditions and family lives, effectively introducing a large-scale social experiment,’ explained Fan, the principal investigator for the ‘RAPID: Remote Work in the Time of COVID-19’ project.” — from BC News

Read more

Tracking seismic noise and human activity during the time of COVID-19

Alan Kafka

COVID-19 lockdowns are resulting in a reduction of background noise recorded at many seismic stations: We’re seeing quieter seismic stations around the world, including at BC campus and at Weston Observatory.


Tom Lecocq (of the Royal Observatory of Belgium) explains the story very well in the middle of this news report: https://www.today.com/video/how-the-earth-sounds-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-82956358000


Read the full article in Science
doi: 10.1126/science.abd2438


Read More: BC News | Boston Globe |


Here are some of my findings:

Air pollution interventions: Global research report released by BC’s Schiller Institute and partners identifies top five actions to benefit health and climate

Philip Landrigan

“Climate change and air pollution are major threats to human health and economic development that must be addressed. The COVID pandemic has raised the stakes considerably,” says report co-author and Professor of Biology Phil Landrigan, M.D., director of the Schiller Institute’s Global Observatory on Pollution and Health. “It is essential to understand the extent to which these issues can be tackled together. Policymakers can use this report to prioritize investments that are the most effective in generating co-benefits across health and climate.” —from BC News

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Improving Ventilator Rationing Through Collaboration With Experts on Resource Allocation

Utku Ünver
Tayfun Sönmez

As the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic evolves, questions regarding the fair allocation of scarce medical resources, such as ventilators, antiviral drugs, and vaccines, abound. Piscitello et al1 provide a valuable summary of US state ventilator allocation guidelines during public health emergencies. Even if guidelines for ventilators have not been widely implemented during the current pandemic, the principles they articulate are an important statement of social values. The variation among guidelines that Piscitello et al1 uncovered suggests that there is no consensus on the adequate balance between different ethical considerations.

Pathak PA, Sönmez T, Ünver MU. Improving Ventilator Rationing Through Collaboration With Experts on Resource Allocation. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e2012838. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.12838

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Moral Distress in Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, it is becoming increasingly evident that many on the frontlines are, understandably, distressed. Distressed by the high volumes of patients and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Anxious about not having enough ventilators as they face unprecedented resource allocation decisions. Grieving from watching patients die alone, health care workers, first responders and chaplains may experience moral distress due to the COVID-19 crisis, and this can affect them psychologically, morally and spiritually. It is incumbent on Catholic hospitals and long-term care facilities to care for their personnel, with particular focus on the frontliners who are experiencing more of this kind of harm.

Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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Bereavement in the Time of Coronavirus: Unprecedented Challenges Demand Novel Interventions

Deborah Carr
Deborah Carr

COVID-19 fatalities exemplify “bad deaths” and are distinguished by physical discomfort, difficulty breathing, social isolation, psychological distress, and care that may be discordant with the patient’s preferences. Each of these death attributes is a well-documented correlate of bereaved survivors’ symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger. Yet the grief experienced by survivors of COVID-related deaths is compounded by the erosion of coping resources like social support, contemporaneous stressors including social isolation, financial precarity, uncertainty about the future, lack of routine, and the loss of face-to-face mourning rituals that provide a sense of community and uplift. National efforts to enhance advance care planning may help dying patients to receive care that is concordant with the preferences of them and their families. Virtual funeral services, pairing bereaved elders with a telephone companion, remote counseling, and encouraging “continuing bonds” may help older adults adapt to loss in the time of pandemic.

Journal of Aging & Social Policy 32:4-5, 425-431

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Editorial | COVID-19 and Clean Air: An Opportunity for Revolutionary Change

Philip Landrigan

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 9 million infections and a half million deaths. It has caused disease in every country. Like all pandemics, it has laid bare and exploited social inequalities and
caused disproportionate damage to the poor and the weak, minorities and the marginalized.

Read more