Published January 20, 2021
As our screens fill with images of a new administration taking power in Washington D.C., other narratives remind us of what isn’t new—pandemic dangers, environmental angst, political brinksmanship, and other painful realities. To help make sense of events as they unfold, media outlets frequently turn to experts in the Rutgers community for their insight and knowledge.
Following an inauguration ceremony held in an atmosphere that was unimaginable a decade ago, many question Joe Biden’s ability to work harmoniously across the political spectrum. But Biden “is on record on so many occasions as advocating reconciliation, mutual understanding, and bipartisanship,” says Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker in USA Today. “And if he goes right into battle mode, puts on that flak vest immediately, I think much of the sense that this is a decent human being and a good guy would be lost. And that really is his stock and trade…I just don’t think he can do it any other way.”
Climate policy will surely be different under the Biden administration, but what will it look like? USA Today explores the topic with input from Robert Kopp of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, who says a comprehensive strategy is the only viable one. “What you have to do is take every mechanism we use to make decisions and integrate climate into it,” said Kopp. “With a supportive Congress, they can change laws [and] tax incentives and make the infrastructure investments needed to grow the clean energy economy.”
Catholics are sharply divided on how they view Joe Biden, only the second Catholic to be elected president of the United States. Dugan McGinley, a religion instructor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, tells northjersey.com, “I think his Catholicism will also drive him to want to look out for the underdog and the marginalized. I’m sure he sees himself as a Pope Francis style of Catholic: he reflects that people-over-doctrine approach, along with the ideal that humans have the capacity to make the world better.”
Although stimulus payments are going to people in a wide range of income brackets, the extra $600 is of life-or-death importance for too many recipients. Meanwhile, vague attitudes toward “waste” and “handouts” persist. “Anecdotally, you’ll hear about a few people who spend money in the wrong way,” says Rutgers University–Camden sociology professor Laura Napolitano in the Philadelphia Inquirer, but “research shows that, generally, people aren’t frivolous.” Napolitano draws a link between biases against low-income citizens and conservative-led efforts to decrease crucial public-funded safety nets.
Philadelphia Inquirer | How low-income people are spending their $600 pandemic stimulus payments
Delaying or skipping your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could make the vaccine less effective, says Reynold Panettieri, Rutgers’ vice chancellor for translational medicine and science. “It’s sort of like priming a well,” he tells The Star-Ledger. “You get the water up, [and] the next time you pump, you’re going to get a big rush of water. And it’s the same thing with the immune system. That’s why you don’t want these separated—one dose and then six months later, a second dose—because basically, you’re starting from scratch.”
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very easy to forget that we are still fighting an HIV epidemic,” begins a Star-Ledger op-ed coauthored by School of Public Health dean Perry Halkitis. Arguing that New Jersey has fallen two years behind in its ability to fight HIV, the op-ed urges Governor Phil Murphy to enact a 2018 statewide task force plan that targets “a 75% reduction of new HIV infections, increased access to testing so that 100% of persons living with HIV/AIDS will be aware of their status, and enhanced linkage to care so that 90% of persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS achieve viral suppression.”
Illustration by Tibor Janosi Mozes