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Introduction to the Commentary Series: Inequalities and Divides as We Continue to Grapple with a Global Pandemic
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing  (IF4.5),  Pub Date : 2020-12-10, DOI: 10.1177/0743915620974614
Maura L. Scott, Kelly D. Martin

In this editorial update, we provide perspective regarding what has transpired since these commentaries were written and published online in July 2020 (Scott et al. 2020). We remain in the midst of a pandemic that has rapidly and catastrophically spread worldwide. Indeed, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it has underscored social inequalities and divides affecting the world. Though not comprehensive, here we highlight a selection of these pressing issues, which warrant additional critical examination. Namely, we discuss the racial inequalities, gender inequalities, and political divides that have been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2020, there have been over 50 million COVID-19 infections and over 1.25 million deaths from the disease. More than 6,000 people continue to die each day, with more than 1,000 of those coming from the United States (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirusdeaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants; Yan and Maxouris 2020). Public policy, marketing, and consumer psychology play a crucial role in how public health measures have been embraced or rejected. New terminology such as “COVID burnout” captures the exhaustion faced by individuals, organizations, and governments alike as they persist with steps to prevent the spread of the disease through mask wearing, social distancing, and hygiene practices as well as cope with the accompanying financial, social, and emotional costs (Blaschka 2020; Lufkin 2020). Governments face uncertainty in balancing, on the one hand, health priorities such as reducing the spread of disease to avoid the downstream impact of an overwhelmed healthcare system and, on the other hand, economic priorities such as minimizing bankruptcies among companies and individuals. Differing cultural norms and political infrastructures resulted in varied levels of stringency in governmental responses to COVID-19 in different parts of the world (e.g., containment measures taken, economic support provided, consistency of response; Hale et al. 2020). For example, South Korea, with 8.81 COVID-19 deaths per million, is identified as an exemplar of virus containment; in contrast, the United States and Brazil have struggled with containment, resulting in 679.06 and 744.26 deaths per million, respectively. These varied approaches have affected citizens’ perceptions of their country’s response; for instance, citizens of Australia, Denmark, and South Korea are satisfied with their country’s response, but citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom indicate that their countries have done a poor job (Devlin and Connaughton 2020). Individuals, communities, organizations, and governments have been coping with the impact and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has raged across the globe affecting nearly every aspect of life. Individuals face uncertainty about employment, financial stability, and food and housing availability; and the vulnerable—particularly those who lack financial resources, power, and/or advocacy—are disproportionately affected. For example, in the United States, individuals in nursing homes make up 40% of the COVID cases, laying bare the particular vulnerability of the elderly and the disabled (Alonso-Zaldivar 2020). Moreover, around the world, individuals in lower-power positions, such as ethnic and racial minorities and well as migrant workers, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and its associated policies (Jordan 2020; Quayyum and Kpodar 2020). Job loss, coupled with stay-at-home orders that keep children home from school, has shifted the way families function, and this has especially affected women. Large companies as well as small businesses