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Tech Hubs in the US Are Fueling Regional Divides

Source: Brookings Institution

America’s high-tech innovation sector has exacerbated the nation’s regional divides, fueling growth in select metropolitan areas at the expense of other cities in the country. Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego have benefited the most from the tech boom, accounting for “more than 90% of the nation’s innovation-sector growth during the years 2005 to 2017.” 

A recent Brookings Institution report warned that the sector’s geographical concentration was a “grave national problem.” From spiraling home prices in tech hub cities to underdevelopment in regions left behind, “regional divergence is … clearly driving ‘backlash’ political dynamics.”

The report urges the U.S. government to immediately counter the trend by “creating eight to 10 new regional ‘growth centers,’” tying in tax and regulatory benefits to encourage the tech-innovation industry to expand beyond its concentrated hubs. The think tank estimated federal government investment for such an initiative to be $100 billion over 10 years — “substantially less than the 10-year cost of U.S. fossil fuel subsidies.”

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Voter Turnout in Elections This Year?

Source: Council on Foreign Affairs

Around the world, countries are taking precautionary measures to make sure the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect voter turnout in elections. Earlier this year, the Dominican Republic and North Macedonia — each suffering from a high number of COVID-19 cases — both saw large drops in turnout from its previous election. In Burundi and South Korea, however, voter turnout increased, despite coronavirus-related concerns. 

To combat the spread of COVID-19, many countries required mask usage in polling stations, checked voters’ temperatures, enforced social distancing and eliminated sharing materials. Other measures included staggering voter hours, providing alternative options to in-person voting and implementing special procedures for COVID-19 patients. However, most of these precautionary measures are expensive to implement, and countries have concerns about how to communicate such changes to voters.

Currently, more than 40 million ballots have already been cast in the upcoming United States presidential election. While the Pew Research Center found that the majority of registered voters are “very or somewhat confident that in-person voting places will be run safely, without spreading the coronavirus,” most states are currently seeing a sharp increase in cases.

The Impact of Climate Change on US Voters

Source: Pew Research Center

About 2 in 5 Americans surveyed consider climate change a “very important” issue when deciding which presidential candidate to vote for in the upcoming U.S. election. However, the economy (which 79% of voters call “very important”), health care (68%) and the coronavirus pandemic (62%) all ranked as more pressing concerns for voters in this election, according to Pew Research Center.

Climate change ranked last in importance for supporters of President Donald Trump when compared with 12 other issues — only 11% of Trump supporters say climate change is “very important” when deciding who to vote for, as opposed to 68% of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s supporters. 

Despite the evident partisan divides on the issue, climate change has been a growing concern amongst the U.S. public, especially with the recent ongoing California wildfire and a record-breaking hurricane season. Today, six-in-ten adults view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the country — an increase from 44% of respondents in a 2009 poll.

COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline Will Likely Extend to 2021 and Beyond

Source: Oliver Wyman; https://pandemicnavigator.oliverwyman.com/

Given the scale and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the typical vaccine development timeline of 8-15 years is unpalatable. It may be possible that a vaccine gets FDA approval by year-end, but operational challenges will extend the timeline for scaling the vaccine into 2021 and beyond. These challenges include high adoption and series completion, high volume production and equitable distribution, as well as Americans being less inclined to immediately take the vaccine.

Oliver Wyman modeling work suggests that vaccine uptake will need to be very high to suppress the pandemic — exceeding typical two-dose vaccination completion rates. Assuming two doses per patient, vaccinating 60% of just the adult population is about 6.5 billion doses. Production is further complicated by the range of vaccine platforms under development.

Lastly, vaccine production is centered in the U.S., China, and Western Europe, however people living in low- and middle-income countries account for 79% of the world population. Distribution logistics are also more complex than those of a typical vaccine. This week, the World Bank approved a $12 billion distribution strategy to help developing countries receive a future vaccine.

Views on Mental Health In The Workforce are Misaligned, From the Top Down

Source: IBM Institute

Less than half of workers surveyed worldwide believe their organization is doing enough to support their physical and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic — despite four in five employers’ belief that they are providing such support. At the same time, only about half of employees surveyed think their executives are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, according to a report by the IBM Institute for Business Value.

This research illustrates a stark contrast between how employers feel they handle the sudden shift to remote work and how employees feel it was actually handled. IBM interviewed 3,450 executives in 20 countries and sent online questionnaires to 50,000 people in eight countries. Many of the people surveyed also expressed how overworked and disconnected they are when working remotely.  

As many organizations consider their post-COVID business strategy, these findings show that executives must align with their employees’ priorities and needs. “Employers significantly overestimate the effectiveness of their support and training efforts,” concludes the report. To build successful businesses, IBM says that executives should “enable a diverse workforce to perform optimally.”

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