Welcome to Recovery Lab: Health

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The Covid-19 pandemic is a crisis with no parallel in America for a century: a deadly global contagion combined with a deep economic downturn that has caused massive shocks throughout our society and economy. Our health care system has struggled with the volume of patients and the unprecedented challenge of vaccinating the entire population. Millions of jobs have ceased to exist and others have been completely restructured. Schools and universities have reconfigured curricula and schedules. Technology has become even more integral to how we shop, work and learn, making the digital divide wider than ever. Daily life has been completely altered, and it’s a good bet that our economy will never be the same.

If it feels like life under Covid has become a huge experiment, well… It has. The coronavirus pandemic has galvanized a level of get-it-done innovation America hasn’t seen in generations, as leaders from the neighborhood level to Washington pivot and brainstorm to meet vast and unexpected public challenges, from strengthening public health to rethinking education to bringing back jobs and saving businesses. Decision makers at the state, federal and local levels are trying new ideas and innovating in real time as we adjust to the dislocations and work our way to recovery — physical, economic and social.

Recovery Lab is new series from POLITICO highlighting the best ideas emerging from around the country for getting to recovery. Inspired by the idea that the states are 50 laboratories of democracy and policy, each edition of Recovery Lab will be a deep dive into a challenge posed by the pandemic. And since recovery depends first and foremost on vanquishing the virus, we’re launching the series with Health.

In our overview story, How Covid-19 could make Americans healthier, POLITICO executive editor for health Joanne Kenen reports that while the coronavirus exposed massive weaknesses in the U.S. health care system, the pandemic also provides an opportunity to fix problems that have festered for decades. In fact, if public health officials manage it right, the country could emerge from the pandemic with a much-strengthened health care system, one better equipped to keep Americans healthy, not just treat them when they’re ill.

Perhaps no single effort will have more effect on the course of the pandemic than the Covid-19 vaccination drive, which got off to a slow and sometimes fitful start. In response, POLITICO convened a virtual policy hackathon over Zoom with some of the smartest state officials and health experts from around the country to brainstorm ideas for getting vaccination right. Health policy reporter Sarah Owermohle moderated the session and outlines the hackers’ key takeaways in our report, How to fix vaccination. And for a snapshot at which states are outpacing their peers in vaccinations and lowering death rates, check out 9 states getting it right, a standalone graphic compiled by health policy reporter Tucker Doherty.

In coming weeks, we’ll build out this edition of Recovery Lab with additional health-focused stories, including a look at New York state’s ambitious Covid-19 testing program, a report from California on the link between climate change and racial disparities during the pandemic, and a big swing at the future of the nursing home, how to build better and less deadly housing for seniors. In coming months, we’ll turn our attention to other crucial policy areas, including Education, Work and Infrastructure.

We’re planning on building out our reporting with your input and ideas, so stay tuned for opportunities to engage with POLITICO reporters, editors and outside thought leaders as we live through this national experiment together.

Welcome to Recovery Lab: Health.

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