COVID-19 Response

About the COVID-19 R2I2

Over the spring of 2020, Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics led a rapid response impact initiative (R2I2) to address issues of pandemic response. The Center’s rapid response led to twenty-three white papers, three policy roadmaps, new data structures and packages, and multiple op-eds and briefings for decision-makers over a four month period. The work had a direct and early impact on COVID response policy—receiving an endorsement from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and dissemination via the National Governors’ Association, and contributing to the development of legislation passed in the House and currently under consideration in the Senate. Especially impactful was our risk incidence level map released on July 1, 2020 in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI). Throughout, the success of the work has depended on partnership with entities at Harvard like HGHI, Partners In Health, the Petrie-Flom Center for Law and Bioethics, and the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. The work has also been dramatically catalyzed by external partners like the U.S. Conference of Mayors and New America.

Schools and the Path to Zero

The nation’s educators are living through extraordinary challenges. Recommendations to get students back for in-person learning are necessary, for the good of students, and reasonable, because safety can be achieved. The new report, “Schools and the Path to Zero: Strategies for Pandemic Resilience in the Face of High Community Spread” follows previous guidance on building pandemic resilient schools by the same group, published in July. 

Schools should use metrics of community spread as general points of information, not on-off switches for closure and opening, and should focus their own attention on developing ways to measure any in-school transmission and the quality of their infection control regime, in relation to the elements of infection control laid out below. For in-school transmission, the goal should be zero or near zero transmission.

These recommendations increase the workload on schools, however, by introducing the need for robust infection control programs, and short and long-term investment in our public education system’s infrastructure and workforce. Our nation's educators deserve full support from state and federal governments and the general public as they undertake the heroic labor of holistically transforming their practices to meet this urgent need.


Pandemic Resilience Roadmap

April 20, 2020:

Our COVID-19 Response Initiative, a bipartisan group of experts in economics, public health, technology and ethics from across the country, has released the nation’s first comprehensive operational roadmap for mobilizing and reopening the U.S. economy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

You can find the full report, Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience, here.

Associated op-ed: Danielle Allen, "The Three Key Ideas at Stake for a Post-coronavirus Future," Washington Post (April 20, 2020).

May 12, 2020:

Our COVID-19 Response Initiative has released Pandemic Resilience: Getting It Done, a supplement to the Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience.

July 1, 2020: 

We have issued an update to the Technical Handbook, TTSI Technical Advice Handbook for States and Municipalities, 2.0.

Click here to find The Path to Zero: Key Metrics for COVID Suppression, a full toolkit designed for policy makers and the public.

July 20, 2020: 


The Path to Zero and Schools: Achieving Pandemic Resilient Teaching and Learning Spaces. The single best policy to support school re-opening prior to the development of a vaccine or treatment is suppression of COVID to near zero case incidence. This can be achieved via universal mask wearing, rigorous social distancing, reduction or elimination of indoor congregant settings, and Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation (TTSI).


White Papers

The full series of peer-reviewed white papers of the COVID-19 R2I2 are below. 

White Papers Op-eds                    
Securing Justice, Health, and Democracy against the COVID-19 Threat, March 20, 2020.            Danielle Allen, "America Needs To Be on a War Footing," Washington Post (March 20, 2020).                  
When Can We Go Out?: Evaluating Policy Paradigms for Responding to the COVID-19 Threat, March 25, 2020. Danielle Allen, "A Better Way to Defeat the Virus and
Restore the Economy
," Washington Post (March 26, 2020).   
Mobilizing the Political Economy for COVID-19, March 26, 2020.                   Danielle Allen, E. Glen Weyl, Rajiv Sethi, and Santa Fe Institute,
"A 'Mobilize and Transition' Strategy Could Reduce COVID-19 Mortality while Cushioning the Economic Decline," SFI Transmission: Complexity Science for COVID-19, No. 007.1 (April 6, 2020).
Building Solidarity: Challenges, Options, and Implications for COVID-19 Responses, April 1, 2020. Danielle Allen, "Here's How We Might Save Both Lives and
the Economy
," TED Connects: Community and Hope (April 6, 2020). 
Outpacing the Virus: Digital Response to Containing the Spread of COVID-19 while Mitigating Privacy Risks, April 3, 2020.  Danielle Allen, "We Need Tech and Government to Help with Contact Tracing. That Doesn't Need to Mean Big Brother," Washington Post (April 3, 2020). 

Why We Must Test Millions a Day, April 8, 2020.

Testing Millions - Appendix

Testing Millions - Code (Code is adapted from

Danielle Allen, "The Best Way out of This Pandemic Is to Massively Scale up Testing. Here’s How to Do It," Washington Post (April 10, 2020).
Policing in a Time of Pandemic: Recommendations for Law Enforcement, April 10, 2020. Rosa Brooks, "In this pandemic, standard police practices risk spreading infection," Washington Post (April 24, 2020). 
Federalism Is an Asset, April 28, 2020.  
The Mechanics of the COVID-19 Testing Supply Chain: Version 2.0, April 22, 2020.   
Responding to COVID-19: Think through the Analogy of War, April 21, 2020.  
Toward Global Pandemic Resilience, April 23, 2020.  
Immunity Certificates: If We Must Have Them, We Must Do It Right, April 20, 2020.  
Interstate Compacts: A Primer, April 30, 2020.  
Desiging an Interstate Compact for a Pandemic Testing Board, May 4, 2020.   
Preparedness and Unpreparedness: The Military vs. Medicine, May 7, 2020.  
Mitigate/Suppress/Maintain: Local Targets for Victory Over COVID, May 14, 2020. Alex Tabarrok and Puja Ahluwalia Ohlhaver, "We Could Stop the Pandemic by July 4 if the Government Took These Steps," Washington Post (May 15, 2020). 
Educational Ethics During a Pandemic, May 16, 2020. Educating Ethically, Usable Knowledge (May 21, 2020). 
Ethical Implementation of Wearables in Pandemic Response: A Call for a Paradigm Shift, May 18, 2020.   
Who Is Dying, and Why?, May 29, 2020.  
Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Sites and Sources of Community Resilience, June 11, 2020.   
Pandemic Resilience on Campus, June 22, 2020.  

Digital Tools for COVID-19 Contact Tracing: Identifying and Mitigating the Equity, Privacy, and Civil Liberties Concerns, July 2, 2020.

Policy Lessons from the History of Pandemic Preparedness, September 3, 2020.  

We share these materials broadly and publicly in the hopes of encouraging wide engagement in supporting our elected decision-makers in this urgent and difficult period of collective planning.The initiative will bring scholarship to bear on the crisis by providing an avenue for swift dissemination of white papers focused on issues of ethics and governance (including of the economy), emerging from the effort to respond to the pandemic. This cross-disciplinary, rapid peer-review process aims to undo the disconnect among lawmakers, technical experts, bureaucracy, and the general public. White papers will engage topics of societal goals, education, the economy, the health system, the temporality of planning, triage in the justice system, volunteerism, and social solidarity.