Celebrating Our Independence Independently

As protests about police violence put a spotlight on the nation’s history of racial injustice and the pandemic worsens inequality, Americans are rethinking what independence means this year.

Nearly nine-in-ten Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and a large majority say they feel angry and fearful about the state of the nation.

Rather than celebrating American liberty, one-in-three Americans say they feel less patriotic and eight-in-ten feel less free.

As a somber and uncertain mood takes over the nation, Americans also continue to worry about the health risks of partaking in holiday celebrations.

One-in-four say they don’t plan to celebrate Independence Day this year, while three-in-four plan to stay local for the holiday and spend less money.

More than half say they plan to restrict their celebration to a barbeque or picnic.

Meet Me Inside

The changing climate presents a number of risk factors for future pandemics. 

Deforestation, a major contributing factor to climate change, is drawing human and animal populations closer together.

This means animal-borne infectious diseases— like COVID-19, Ebola, Salmonella, malaria, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever— are closer to human population centers.

Six out of every 10 human diseases and three quarters of emerging infections are “zoonotic,” meaning that they jump from animals to humans.

As the world gets warmer, more and more tick and mosquito-borne illnesses like Lyme Disease, Zika and Eastern Encephalitis are present in a wider geographic range. And the insects have longer lifespans.

Flash flooding and sea level rise in low lying coastal areas put residents at risk of water-borne illness as well, while heat-related deaths are also on the rise.

While these conditions enable disease spread, fossil fuel pollution impacts air quality, leading to respiratory diseases and a greater likelihood of COVID-19 complications. The many health effects of high temperature and air pollution exposure include pregnancy risks, which have a disproportionate impact on Black mothers, according to research examining 32 million births.

A recent report found if carbon emissions continue to grow, three-quarters of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heat waves by 2100.

The World Turned Upside Down

Though the pandemic has hit millennials and Gen Z hard, with about a quarter experiencing job loss or unpaid leave, new data from Deloitte’s 2020 Global Millennial Survey shows some bright spots:

  • Though nearly half of millennials (44%) and Gen Z (48%) reported being stressed “all or most of the time” in a primary survey conducted from November through January, anxiety levels had fallen by eight percentage points for both generations by late April or mid-May. In a panel discussion, Deloitte Global’s Meredith Gonsalves suggested the surprising drop may be due to a shift during the pandemic in the “one-up culture” of younger generations and the role social media plays in perpetuating it. “Traveling to the best places or being backstage at a concert don’t exist in this reality, so the pressure to keep up doesn’t exist either,” Gonsalves said.
  • Having the option to work from home when the pandemic is over would relieve stress for more than 60% of millennials and Gen Z. More than half of respondents said that they would choose to live in cities where the cost of living is less if given the opportunity to work from home.
  • Both generations reported feeling a heightened sense of responsibility because of the pandemic. Almost 75% say it has made them “more sympathetic toward others’ needs and that they intend to take actions to have a positive impact on their communities.” The overwhelming majority said they will make a more concerted effort to support small local businesses post-crisis.

What Comes Next?

Experts at The Brookings Institution have released Reopening America: How to Save Lives and Livelihoods, a road map with recommendations on reforming government operations and improving congressional oversight to manage the ongoing pandemic.

Key prescriptions include:

  • Take scenario planning seriously. Communication gaps, legal hurdles and command and control questions among federal, state and local workers have impeded effective crisis response. Only a commitment to regular scenario planning on a range of possible crises can uncover vulnerabilities and trigger reforms.
  • Prepare for surge capacity. The U.S. should build a corps of “reservists” in the health care field (CDC reservists), in the emergency management field (FEMA reservists), and in the supply chain field (Commerce Department reservists). These individuals would train and be ready to augment those on the front lines during a crisis.
  • Explore dual use technology and supply lines. The U.S. must not completely cede drug manufacturing to China and India. The American health care industrial base must strengthen its dual use approach to health care technology.
  • Modify the system of inspectors general (IGs). Restoring congressional control over the agents it selects to safeguard taxpayer money and monitor government performance would bolster congressional oversight capacity.
  • Establish an independent “blue ribbon” commission to investigate the administration’s preparation for and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Continue to rely on the news media and outside groups to highlight problematic policies and outcomes.

Read more about how America is reopening in GPG’s latest Back to Work analysis.

Fed Looks at Small Businesses for Biggest Economic Impact

Recent congressional testimony from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and the Fed’s latest Monetary Policy Report indicate the next COVID relief package can best support the economy by focusing on small businesses.

The pandemic’s economic impacts have most burdened low-income workers— especially minorities and women. And the damage they sustain could be long term. 

Forty percent of households with annual incomes of $40,000 or less who were employed in February lost their jobs in March or early April. That compares with twenty percent for the overall population. And employment rates have dropped more for women than men and more for Hispanic, Black and Asian Americans than white Americans.

Furthermore, the report notes laid-off workers who return to their previous employers “tend to earn wages similar to what they were making previously, whereas laid-off workers who do not return to their previous employers experience a longer lasting decline in earnings.”

And since studies show lower-income workers are disproportionately employed by small businesses— typically with fewer resources to stay afloat in a pandemic— they are at greater risk of this earnings decline. 

Despite existing programs, a recent study from the National Federation of Independent Business found nearly half the business owners who applied for PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loans anticipate needing additional financial support over the next 12 months.

As Congress and the administration look to further stimulus measures, it seems clear that keeping small businesses open and incentivizing them to rehire laid-off workers could make a big difference in both the short and long term.

New Threats and Opportunities for Reproductive Care

Even as the Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges, women face increasingly restricted access to reproductive health care services during the pandemic.

Health and economic consequences are reinforcing existing inequities when it comes to reproductive services. Over 47 million Americans have lost their jobs due to COVID, leaving millions of people without employer-related health insurance during a global health crisis. Women are more likely than men to have lost their job, especially women of color.

During the pandemic, 39% of women reported having delayed or canceled a reproductive health care appointment and 25% report being more worried about being able to afford contraception.

These trends are even more common among women of color, low-income women and LGBTQIA+ women.

Many women are turning to telemedicine as a more affordable and safer way to access reproductive health care during the pandemic. A quarter of women using the birth control pill report switching to a telemedicine appointment with their health care provider to have their prescription refilled during the pandemic.

Advocates and a bipartisan group of legislators in Congress are calling for permanent expansions to telemedicine beyond the CARES Act’s temporary authorization.

Facebook Boycott Gains Steam

A boycott aimed at Facebook’s misinformation and hate speech moderation policies – particularly its permissive approach to posts from President Trump aimed at Black Lives Matter Protests – is gaining momentum.

As of this morning, more than 100 marketers have announced their intention to pause advertising on Facebook.

It’s a big deal. But the majority of the company’s $17 billion in annual ad sales come from millions of smaller businesses that rely heavily on the platform – even more so now that COVID-19 has moved the retail experience almost entirely online.

Many of those businesses won’t have the luxury of participating in the boycott, even if they believe in the principles behind it.

But major brands are taking action:

The #StopHateforProfit boycott has been mentioned nearly 200,000 times on Twitter since June 18. National news outlets have driven significant online conversation along with public figures including Hillary Clinton, actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Heidi Krassenstein and others. But members of Congress have yet to weigh in.

Race to the Bottom

Trump’s approval rating is taking the largest hit in the states where the COVID curve is flattening.

Eight of the top 10 states in terms of percent increase in total cases are also in the bottom 10 in terms of President Trump’s approval rating.

Vermont, the state with the lowest approval rating of President Trump (22%), had the 9th lowest percent increase in total cases (3.4%). Conversely, Florida, the state with the highest percent increase in total cases over the past week (41%) has the 27th highest approval rating (44%).

The glaring exception to this observed trend is California. The state where President Trump’s approval rating is only 26% (third lowest) also has a one-week percent increase in cases of 17.5% (12th highest).

Notably, many of the states that now appear to be effectively flattening the curve (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey) were some of the hardest hit states at the outset of this pandemic in the United States and have some of the highest total case numbers (and some of the largest U.S. populations). Thus, relative increases in the total number of cases are inherently minimal.