Daily Archives: May 21, 2020

The Coronavirus Crisis in the U.S. Is a Failure of Democracy

By David Litt – It’s become commonplace to refer to COVID-19 as “the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes.” But what has cost the United States so many lives and jobs during the pandemic is not, at root, a failure of public health. It’s a failure of democracy.

Despite our political polarization, and in the face of an unprecedented threat, the American people have been in remarkable agreement about what they expect from their government. From the time the virus was discovered, our scientists and public health officials urged aggressive action and put forward plans to save lives. Poll after poll has shown that a clear majority of Americans trust want our leaders to heed the experts’ advice. Yet that hasn’t happened. We were far too slow to implement social-distancing guidelines – a delay epidemiologists found is responsible for 90% of U.S. coronavirus deaths – and now we’re acting far too quickly to reopen the economy.

In other words, with lives on the line, our elected leaders are ignoring the people’s will, and Americans are dying as a result. In our shining city on a hill – the global model for representative government – how could this possibly happen? more>

Updates from McKinsey

Beyond contactless operations: Human-centered customer experience
As we look forward to the next normal, consumers are already demonstrating a preference for companies that deliver great service while reducing risks all along the customer journey.
By Melissa Dalrymple and Kevin Dolan – As the global fight against COVID-19 continues and much of normal daily life remains on hold, organizations are trying to navigate a rapidly evolving landscape. Many have moved beyond initial actions to protect the lives and livelihoods of their people and are working to tackle the concerns of the estimated millions of consumers who expect the effects of COVID-19 to be long lasting—customers who are making decisions about whether or not to engage with a company based on its actions to address safety concerns and the way it communicates changes. Beyond addressing safety concerns, organizations that find ways to rebuild the human experiences that existed before COVID-19—among everyone from suppliers to employees and customers—within a contactless world will differentiate themselves and gain customer loyalty.

Companies are moving quickly to institute new policies and processes that will allow them to reopen—or in some cases, remain open. Many are investigating opportunities to shift toward contactless service and operations, allowing the cores of their businesses to continue operating while assuring both employees and customers of their safety. Companies that develop a long-term strategy now to mitigate risks while delivering distinctive and human-centric experiences will emerge from the pandemic with stronger operational resilience, more agile organizations, and sustainable competitive advantage that can better respond to a changing economic context and any future shocks.

It will be important that companies work across silos to provide solutions that deliver effective, end-to-end employee and customer experiences, maintaining the value of their brands through the operational adjustments they make. A new, data-driven perspective, summarized as IDEA (identify interactions, diagnose and prioritize risks, develop and execute solutions, and adapt and sustain), can provide crucial structure and rigor in helping an organization see risks, assess their intensity, and create solutions to address them iteratively as the external environment evolves.

Leaders can then develop interventions and redesign critical customer and employee journeys, enabling their organizations to reopen or sustain operations while also building trust with both customers and employees, such as redesigning the way hotel guests check in by developing a completely digital experience without a check-in counter. Over time, IDEA can flex to include more human elements while keeping safety and security at its core. more>

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Optimizing Thermoelectric Energy Generation

By Elizabeth Montalbano – Deriving energy from the heat electronic devices emit so they can provide their own sustainable sources of power is a Holy Grail for scientists developing power sources for sensors that will drive the future of healthcare devices as well as the Internet of Things.

Researchers in Japan now have come up with a new thermoelectric generator that can convert temperature differences to electricity can be used to power small, flexible devices.

Scientists at Osaka University developed the device in the form of a bismuth telluride semiconductor on a thin, polymer film that weighs less than a paperclip and smaller than the size of an adult fingernail.

However, packed in the tiny device is a maximum output power density of 185 milliwatts per square centimeter, which “meets standard specifications for portable and wearable sensors,” Tohru Sugahara, an associate professor at the university’s Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, in a press statement. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How the Fed plans to pay the country’s bills
By John H. Cochrane – Public attention in the United States during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis has been largely on the disease itself, the massive social and economic shock of the shutdown, and how we can orchestrate a safe reopening. But we also need to pay some attention to the financial side of the current situation, and the Federal Reserve’s immense reaction to it. Whatever one thinks of that reaction, it’s important to understand what the bank did, what beneficial and adverse consequences there are, and how our financial and economic system and policies might be set up better in the future.

We face a severe economic downturn of unknown duration. If it is something other than a V-shaped downturn spanning months rather than years, there will be a wave of bankruptcies, from individuals to corporations, and huge losses all over the financial system. “Well, earn returns in good times and take losses in bad times,” you may say, and I do, more often than the Fed does, but for now this is simply a fact.

Our government’s basic economic plan to confront this situation is simple: the Federal Reserve will print money to pay every bill, and guarantee every debt, for the duration. And, to a somewhat lesser approximation, the plan is also to ensure that no fixed-income investor loses money.

To be clear, my intention here is not to criticize this plan. From a combination of voluntary and imposed social distancing, the economy is collapsing. Twenty million people, more than 1 in 10 US workers, lost their jobs in the first month of the COVID-19 shutdowns. That’s more than the entire 2008–09 recession, all in the course of three weeks. A third of US apartment renters didn’t pay April rent. Run that up through the financial system: most guesses say that companies have one to three months of cash on hand, and then fail.

If you want to know why the Fed hit the panic button, it’s because every alarm went off.

Is the plan really to try to pay every bill?

Yes, pretty much. This is not stimulus. It is “get-through-it-us.” People who lost jobs and businesses that have no income can’t pay their bills. When people run out of cash, they stop paying rent, mortgages, utilities, and consumer debts. In turn, the people who lent them money are in trouble. Businesses with zero income can’t pay debts, employees, rent, mortgages, or utilities either. When they stop paying, they go through bankruptcy, and their creditors get into trouble. If you want to stop a financial crisis, you have to pay all the bills, not just hand out some cash so people can buy food.

And that’s more or less the plan. more>

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