Without internet, vaccine appointments are hard to schedule

Andreas Milano

At his first news conference, President Joe Biden doubled his administration’s vaccine goal to 200 million shots by late April. For many, scheduling a shot has become a high-stakes, intense undertaking — refreshing laptop screens, setting alerts. And it’s largely done online. But what about those without internet access? What […]

At his first news conference, President Joe Biden doubled his administration’s vaccine goal to 200 million shots by late April.

For many, scheduling a shot has become a high-stakes, intense undertaking — refreshing laptop screens, setting alerts. And it’s largely done online.

But what about those without internet access? What are their options?

Vivian Ho, a professor of health economics at Rice University in Houston, Texas, said a colleague of hers found out a member of the building’s cleaning crew didn’t have reliable internet access at home. So, Ho’s colleague pulled out a laptop and signed that person up then and there to get vaccinated. Because there aren’t many alternatives.

“You can go to the city’s website to get a phone number, but well, then you need the internet to get that as well,” Ho said.

Appointment systems that rely almost exclusively on the internet ignore that there’s a digital divide in this country, said Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.

“That internet access problem is actually affecting the people that we need to be vaccinated the most: older people, people of color and other folks who have been traditionally marginalized,” Turner Lee said.

She said governments need to be willing to bring remote internet access to homeless shelters, elderly care facilities and housing projects to make sure those folks get signed up for a vaccination.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

Will more people be working from home once the worst of the pandemic recedes?

It’s still unclear whether remote work will remain widespread, but there is at least more data analyzing the costs and benefits of working from home. People might be saving on things like commuting and buying clothes, but they’re also finding that in order to make long-term remote work feasible, they’ll have to upgrade their living spaces. And that cost could outweigh savings. Chris Stanton, a Harvard business professor, said even a minor increase in working from home after the pandemic could add up to billions of dollars a year for workers.

I’m hearing a lot about interest rates. Is it getting more expensive to borrow money?

Expectations of higher inflation as the economy rebounds have investors demanding higher yields to compensate. In turn, the recent surge in bond yields is pushing up the interest rates consumers pay on mortgages and other loans. Economist Scott Hoyt with Moody’s Analytics said rising rates could dampen demand for housing a little and refinancing a little more. Other kinds of consumer spending are less likely to be affected. Interest on auto loans and credit cards are pegged to shorter-term rates, which haven’t been rising as much.

Next Post

Rural internet users say Ontario's broadband funding plan a long time coming

People in rural areas say Ontario’s budget commitment to spend an additional $2.8 billion on improving internet access across the province by 2025 is welcome but long-awaited news, as the pandemic has only exacerbated the decade-old issue. “We have areas where we have fairly decent broadband, and then we have […]