Living with Risk Daily Briefing – April 8

Published on April 8, 2020 / Leer en español

Center for a New Economy

Edited by
Sergio M. Marxuach


Five things you should know today

1) Domestic violence surges during lockdown

Analysis by María Cristina Santos, Program Associate at CNE

“We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19, but they can trap women with abusive partners.” This is how United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres presented the sharp rise in domestic violence around the world. “Over the past weeks, as the economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence,” Guterres said. This NPR article exposes the sharp increases in domestic violence cases in France, South Africa, Lebanon, Malaysia, Australia and Turkey, which begs the question: how are women faring in Puerto Rico?

Since the lockdown began in Puerto Rico, many victims of domestic violence have been stuck at home with their aggressors. It would also be worth investigating if victims of domestic violence are generally less likely to report abuse at a time when there is nowhere safe to go. Some may be apprehensive of leaving their homes and risking getting infected with COVID-19. According to an article in El Nuevo Día, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of women that are turning to shelters to escape domestic violence since the lockdown began, which points not to a reduction in domestic violence cases, but to an increase in victims that are staying under the same roof with their attackers.

Last week, the Puerto Rico Senate passed a bill establishing a new telephone number (0-0-0) to deal exclusively with domestic violence reports. Will this measure be enough to help these women? When discussing differential vulnerability and how some are more vulnerable than others during a crisis, women are one of the groups that are more at risk. Stranded at home, coexisting with aggressors, victims are more at risk now than ever before.

2) How is Latin America dealing with the pandemic?

Analysis by Deepak Lamba-Nieves, PhD, Research Director at CNE

It’s no surprise the spread of the coronavirus in the US is one of the top news stories across the globe. With almost 390,000 confirmed cases to date, it’s hard not to stay tuned to how the battle against the virus is being waged and what governments at all levels are doing to outflank its nefarious effects. Latin America, on the other hand, has yet to show up more prominently in our news radars. This is perhaps due to our own information biases, or the fact that the crisis is just starting in some countries down south. Nonetheless, for those interested I would recommend listening to “El Hilo”, the latest news and current events podcast produced by the team that created Radio Ambulante, one of the best podcasts ever made in Spanish. In the first-ever episode, we hear straightforward explanations about the spread of the virus from a Latin American epidemiologist working at Imperial College.

We are also transported to Mexico, a country that took swift action early on but has since struggled to deal with the crisis amidst disastrous economic scenarios. The weekly audio program has also produced stories on how a number of Latin American migrants have remained trapped in different places due to closed borders and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) response to the pandemic.

For those not fluent in Spanish, I also recommend Goats and Soda, NPR’s global health and development blog, which covers global affairs and includes fascinating articles on Latin America.

3) Another look at the post-pandemic world

In the Living With Risk Daily Briefing for Monday, April 6, we shared a couple of articles analyzing how the post-pandemic world may evolve. We noticed, however, that all authors we recommended tended to believe that the post-pandemic world would be significantly different. But other analysts have a different view, and argue that life after the pandemic will not be all that different. That’s why we include here a link to a piece by Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Affairs, who argues that “the world following the pandemic is unlikely to be radically different from the one that preceded it.” A view that is echoed by Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government, who argues that “No one should expect the pandemic to alter – much less reverse – tendencies that were evident before the crisis. Neoliberalism will continue its slow death, populist autocrats will become even more authoritarian, and the left will continue to struggle to devise a program that appeals to a majority of voters.” These are obviously complicated matters about which reasonable people can, and perhaps should, disagree. We leave it to our readers to decide for themselves which perspective they find more persuasive.

4) Mandatory vs voluntary social distancing: A lesson from the 1918 flu pandemic

There has been an ongoing debate about the costs and benefits associated with mandatory shelter-in-place policies relative to voluntary social distancing measures. This piece from the New York Times suggests that cities that implemented strict policies in reaction to the 1918 Flu Pandemic not only had lower mortality rates but their economies appear to have “fared better.” Compare that insight with this analysis from the New Yorker about the “wait and see” attitude taken by Mississippi’s governor to handle the current COVID-19 pandemic.

5) The COVID-19 pandemic and racial and ethnic disparities

As we have stated before, the pandemic affects us all, but some populations are more vulnerable than others and not only due to pre-existing medical conditions. It is important to understand what drives those social disparities in order to properly design public policies to address them. As Professor Ibram X. Kendi writes in The Atlantic, African-Americans and Latinos across the United States are dying from COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers. For example, African-Americans make up approximately 30% of the population in Louisiana, but account for 70% of all COVID-19 related deaths in that state. The question is, why?

Quote of the Day

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Note from the editor

Donald G. McNeil, Jr., science writer for the New York Times, wrote in late February that there are essentially two ways to fight epidemics: the medieval and the modern. The modern entails widespread testing, isolation, and contact tracing. Call it the South Korean approach. The medieval approach requires brutal lockdowns, quarantines, and the closing of borders. Call it the Wuhan approach. In Puerto Rico the decrepit state of our public health system didn’t leave us much choice: it was either go medieval or do nothing. So the medieval option it was.

However, we no longer live in the 14th century and there are things the government should be doing to implement a more refined approach. Coordinating shelter-in-place orders to avoid kilometric lines at supermarkets would be a good place to start. Not to mention, increasing testing, assuring we have enough hospital beds, staff, and equipment to handle an unexpected surge in cases, and planning for the eventual lifting of shelter-in-place restrictions.

Governor Cuomo of New York recently said that while his government could not prevent all deaths from the coronavirus, he can prevent loss of life due to bad public health planning, lack of state resources, or poor government performance. And that is his goal. Is that too much to ask?

This is the end of today’s briefing.
Stay safe and well informed!