COVID-19

Race and medicine scholarship is beset by a conundrum. On one hand, some racial justice scholars and advocates frame the harms that racial minorities experience through a medical lens. Poverty and home­lessness are social determinants of health that medical frameworks should account for. Racism itself is a public health threat. On the other hand, other scholars treat medicine with skepticism. Medical frameworks, they argue, will reify racially...

“If I can be provocative, shouldn’t this study be done in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care, a bit like some studies on AIDS or among prostitutes. We try things, because we know they . . . are highly exposed and they don’t protect themselves. What do you think about that?” Jean-Paul Mira, […]

THE SOCIAL COST OF CONTRACT

David A. Hoffman* & Cathy Hwang**

When private parties perform contracts, the public bears some of the costs. But what happens when society confronts unexpected contractual risks? During the COVID-19 pandemic, completing particular con­tracts—such as following through with weddings, conferences, and other large gatherings—will greatly increase the risk of rapidly spreading disease. A close reading of past cases illustrates that when social hazards sharply increase after formation,...

The COVID-19 crisis has tragically revealed the depth of racial inequities in the United States. This Piece argues that the disproportion­ate impact of the pandemic on racial minorities is a symptom of a failing approach to public health, one that privileges individual behaviors over the structural conditions that generate vulnerability and inequitable health outcomes. Despite clear racial disparities in illness and deaths, the...