A working paper by Abigail Wozniak of the Opportunity and Growth Institute of the Minneapolis Fed offers several important policy suggestions derived from analysis of a large Covid-19 Impact national survey that assesses multiple measures of well being during the Covid pandemic.

Wozniak cautions that this is analysis from the first round of the survey and would require further explorations as subsequent data over time is available. Also to note, this is a working paper, meaning it is a work in progress for further reflection and refinement. I report it here because if the insight is accurate we need immediate policy attention. Especially because of the increasing attention given to the use of face masks in public and the safety issues as restaurants, places of worship and other venues open fully to the public.

Preliminary data suggests people infected or with a known family member or friend infected with the Covid-19 virus might still be going to work. It appears this is because of economic necessity as they also appear to be relying on food aid to survive. The author further concludes:

However, respondents with greater risk or fever symptoms report significantly worse mental health, suggesting they are not unaware of their risk. Taken together, these results are concerning because they suggest individuals at greater risk of infecting others or suffering COVID complications are not altering their work or protective behavior.” 

The data suggests that the people with Covid symptoms did also reduce their social contact with others.

Those who experience a Covid death of a close family or friend are reducing their hours, but still working and also relying to a greater extent on food aid, indicating financial stress.

 If this is true, there are number of policy implications:

First, as the author suggests, our Covid Economic Policy should focus on those people and families who have been infected with Covid and provide them incentives to stay at home and recover. They might also require mental health support.

Second, cities such as Minneapolis, who are requiring face masks in public places, may help stop the spread of the virus by providing some level of protection to people who might come in contact with someone who is infected or help prevent others from getting sick through contact with them.

Third, as the author suggests, Covid economic policy should be targeted not just on place or location but in communities with lower pre Covid income and families with young children. Focus on minority communities is also important as the study finds Hispanic and Asian communities facing steeper job and income loss.

You can read the abstract of the study and access the full article at this link.