Northeastern’s COVID-19 researchers in the Press
A majority in the US supports making mail-in voting easier, new study shows
The results, which come as states across the country are planning for what could be a drastically different election in November, show that 60 percent of U.S. residents support making it easier to vote by mail.Read more
People in the US started moving around more before stay-at-home measures were lifted
Even before most states began loosening the measures intended to keep people physically distant and slow the spread of the coronavirus, people were starting to travel further and see each other more, according to research from Northeastern’s Network Science Institute.Read more
New survey shows growing partisan divide in support for reopening the US
Even as states begin to reopen, a majority of U.S. residents oppose immediate measures—though such opposition is beginning to slide, and a crack along partisan lines is beginning to widen, according to new results of a national survey led by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities. The report, published Friday, represents the second set of results from a survey that began in mid-April, and illustrates changes in behavior and attitudes as the pandemic wears on.
Researchers surveyed more than 20,000 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between May 2 and May 15. They found that the vast majority (89 percent) of Americans oppose the immediate reopening of state economies—though the figure slid 5 percent from late April, when 94 percent of people opposed immediate reopening.
And, though the figure still represents a majority of those surveyed, it masks a growing divide in attitudes between Republicans and Democrats in the country.
Support among Republicans for immediate reopening jumped from 9 percent in late April to 19 percent in early May, the survey shows. Support among Democrats, meanwhile, barely moved—from 2 percent in late April to 3 percent in early May.
The net effect of this shift is that a majority of Republicans now prefer reopening in four weeks or less, compared with over four in five Democrats preferring to wait six or more weeks, according to the report.
“The partisan divide is worrisome,” said David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer and information sciences at Northeastern, and one of the researchers who conducted the study.
“We could get into a situation where the economy isn’t recovering because Democrats refuse to go out, and the pandemic isn’t ending because Republicans refuse to stay in,” he said.
A similar trend is emerging in the number of Americans who support or oppose public health policies to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The widest gap was in support for the closure of non-essential businesses: 66 percent of Republicans support the measure, while 90 percent of Democrats do. The smallest gap was in support of restricting international travel: 94 percent of Republicans support the measure, and so do 96 percent of Democrats, according to the study.
When researchers calculated the average difference between Republicans and Democrats who support these and other public health policies, they found a 14-point difference overall. This is up from the average 8-point gap the researchers found in late April.
While this partisan gap is growing, Lazer and his colleagues emphasized that even the policies with the least support still have the approval of the majority of those surveyed—Republicans and Democrats alike.
The researchers also polled people in the U.S. on their attitude toward mail-in voting, as lawmakers and other officials start planning for November’s presidential election amid a pandemic that may prevent in-person voting.
They found that a majority (60 percent) of Americans support making it easier to vote by mail. Only 18 percent oppose the concept, and 24 percent neither supported nor opposed it.
This, too, shows signs of partisanship, though. Overall, 80 percent of Democrats support making it easier to vote by mail, and 5 percent of them oppose it. Among Republicans, 45 percent support such a measure, and 32 percent oppose it. Independents responded somewhere in the middle—56 percent support it, and 14 percent oppose it.
Finally, researchers found drastically stratified results when it came to the economic and consequences of the disease and the measures to slow its spread.
People with lower income and less education were more likely to have lost their jobs during this pandemic, the researchers found. Twenty-four percent of people who earn less than $35,000 annually reported losing their jobs, as compared to 13 percent of people who earn more than $100,000 annually.
Similarly, they found that only 14 percent of those earning less than $35,000 started working from home, compared to 56 percent of those earning more than $100,000.
“The dominant pattern seems to be that the affluent and educated have been able to retain their jobs and insulate themselves from the pandemic by working from home,” the researchers wrote in their report. “In contrast, the less affluent and educated have been much more likely to lose their jobs or, if still employed, having to continue working outside or their homes, with the associated increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
There were also “enormous” differences in the health concerns of different racial groups, Lazer said.
While 25 percent of white people indicated they were very concerned about being infected, 40 percent of Hispanic, 42 percent of African American, and 36 percent of Asian American respondents said that they were very concerned.
Another question about access to healthcare echoed these stratified results.
Seventeen percent of white people surveyed indicated they were very concerned about being able to receive healthcare, compared to 31 percent of Hispanic, 33 percent of African American, and 27 percent of Asian American people surveyed.
“These vast differences may not be shocking, given the coverage such disparities have received in the news,” Lazer said, “but these numbers are huge, and that matters. It’s really important to document these kinds of differences.”
Could a new tool for diabetes patients solve the problem of coronavirus testing?
Ming L. Wang, distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been perfecting a new home testing kit to monitor diabetes using saliva. Now, he’s redesigning the sensors within it to test for SARS-CoV-2.Read more
How will the economy bounce back?
How well, and how quickly, state and federal economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis has everything to do with the choices that officials make now, says economist Alicia Sasser Modestino. “The sky is falling, but we might have some ways to put the pieces back together.”Read more
US public is 'firmly opposed' to reopening the economy immediately
A majority of people in the U.S. want to continue physical distancing measures, even as the federal government and some state governors are pushing to re-open the economy, according to a new national survey led by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, and Rutgers.Read more
The coronavirus was in the US in January. We need to understand how we missed it.
SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was circulating in major U.S. cities as early as January, says Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute. And if we want to keep our communities safe going forward, we need to understand how we missed a virus that was right under our noses.Read more
Herd immunity won’t come anytime soon for COVID-19
Herd immunity is the idea that a disease can’t spread through a population once a large enough percentage is immune, either because they’ve recovered from an infection or received a vaccine. But that won’t work with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, said Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor who runs the Emergent Epidemics lab at Northeastern.Read more
Pantyhose? Toilet paper? Coffee filters? Which materials make the best masks?
The techniques Loretta Fernandez uses to study hazardous environmental pollutants could help determine the best recipe for do-it-yourself face masks to protect people from inhaling the novel coronavirus.Read more
This model can help hospitals prepare for a surge of COVID-19 cases
Engineering professor James Benneyan helped create a tool to calculate when hospitals might run out of essential resources, such as staff and ventilators, as COVID-19 cases peak.Read more
Should pharmaceutical companies give up their patent protections to find a vaccine for COVID-19?
The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is on, and public health officials are calling upon pharmaceutical companies to share their intellectual property—a move that could speed up research and make any eventual treatment more widely (and easily) available to the masses, says Northeastern law professor Brook Baker.Read more
Which ‘social distancing’ policies are actually working?
Bans on large gatherings. Restaurant and bar limits. School cancellations. Babak Heydari, an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, found out which state policies work best to keep people at home.Read more
Network scientists identify 40 new drugs to test against COVID-19
Researchers at Northeastern mapped the way proteins within human cells behave after a cell is hijacked by the virus to find new and existing drugs that might be able to fight COVID-19. The team is now working with other experimental researchers to begin testing those drugs.Read more
Northeastern models are helping shape US COVID-19 policy
Northeastern researchers are part of the network of teams creating models to advise the Trump administration on the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., White House officials said Tuesday. They said data from the models formed the basis of the decision to extend “social distancing” guidelines through April.Read more
What China can teach us about managing the COVID-19 pandemic
Northeastern researchers joined forces with colleagues around the globe to analyze the efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Their findings provide a roadmap for other countries to follow.Read more
‘Social distancing’ is only the first step toward stopping the COVID-19 pandemic
After days of closures and requests—or orders—to stay home, many people caught in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic are wondering if these efforts will be enough. Network scientist Alessandro Vespignani says the answer depends on the ways that local, regional, and federal governments use the time.Read more
Time is precious. Drugs are, too. How can hospitals make the most of both to battle COVID-19?
To prepare for an influx of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals should strive to cut wait times, move to virtual care, and work closely with pharmacists to predict the availability of certain drugs, says Jacqueline Griffin, an assistant professor of engineering who specializes in healthcare optimization.Read more
Unsure what to do about COVID-19? Take this 60-minute course.
COVID-19: How to be Safe and Resilient, an hour-long course that is free and accessible to anyone, was launched Friday morning by Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute. Its purpose is to make reliable skills for surviving the pandemic available in one place.Read more
People who might have COVID-19 are benefiting from virtual healthcare. Everyone else may, too.
To avoid overcrowding waiting rooms, U.S. hospitals and doctors’ are screening patients remotely for symptoms of COVID-19. This widespread adaptation of telemedicine may help patients during the pandemic, and will almost certainly help other people down the road, says Janet Rico, who is leading a team of researchers to establish best practices for virtual care.Read more
The global medical supply chain is not immune to COVID-19
“We’re all so used to going to CVS and whatever we need is there,” says Nada Sanders, Distinguished Professor of supply chain management. The pandemic is reminding us not to take those things for granted.Read more
Companies can help employees working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic
In response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, some companies are requiring their employees to work remotely. But managers should account for several potential obstacles, says management professor Barbara Larson.Read more
Closing borders can delay, but can’t stop the spread of COVID-19, new report says
Travel restrictions will not stop the spread of COVID-19, but observing quarantines and avoiding public events gives us a chance to slow the epidemic, says Matteo Chinazzi, a research scientist in the Network Science Institute. “Closing airports will buy you time, but it’s not enough.”Read more
One way to predict the spread of COVID-19? Follow the memes.
Network scientist Samuel Scarpino shows how epidemiologists can more comprehensively map infectious disease outbreaks, which follow the same complex spreading patterns as social trends.Read more
Here’s why we shouldn’t refer to COVID-19 as simply ‘coronavirus’
Since mid-February, the disease caused by the coronavirus has been known as COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019, though “coronavirus” is still often used as shorthand to refer to the disease. That’s not entirely accurate.Read more
How can we stop the spread of false rumors about COVID-19? Better math.
Rumors travel fast, just like all information on the internet. Northeastern professor Alessandro Vespignani and doctoral student Jessica Davis want to model how those rumors spread, as well as the conditions that allow for their propagation.Read more