Friday Facts: March 27, 2020

It’s Friday!

This is the second Friday Facts edition to focus on the coronavirus pandemic gripping the nation and Georgia, and the innovative approaches to reduce its impact.
View the March 20 Friday Facts here.
The Foundation has compiled a list of state-focused proposals, “Near-Term Proposals as Georgia Tackles COVID-19.”
Share your ideas: Email us at info@georgiapolicy.org.

Quotes of Note

“No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health. Even America’s resources to fight a viral plague aren’t limitless – and they will become more limited by the day as individuals lose jobs, businesses close, and American prosperity gives way to poverty. America urgently needs a pandemic strategy that is more economically and socially sustainable than the current national lockdown.” – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

“We should be most grateful to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff at the front lines of this thing. But also to the grocery staff and the delivery guys who are still working, without complaint and despite everything, while the rest of us stay at home. Thank you, thank you.” – Rich Lowry

“Since people, in a competitive or any other society, are by no means always just to each other, some regulation by the state in its capacity of umpire is unavoidable. What must be kept in mind is that the greatest injustice of all is done when the umpire forgets that he too is bound by the rules, and begins to make them as between contestants in behalf of his own prejudices.” – Felix Morley (1894-1982)

Healthcare

Status report: For the state’s daily COVID-19 report, visit the Department of Public Health website link here. The report is updated daily at noon and 7 p.m.

Coronavirus or allergies? While everyone is sensitized to the increasing sneezing, sniffling and coughing fits in metro Atlanta, that is not necessarily a symptom of COVID-19 infection. Tree pollen and mold counts are high, according to the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma pollen count. For symptoms of novel coronavirus, click here.

Volunteers needed: The Georgia Department of Public Health is seeking credentialed medical professionals and others to assist in the state’s COVID-19 response, including interpreting, answering phones and assisting at test collection sites. Find out more here.

Government

Governor’s actions: On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered bars and nightclubs around the state to close for two weeks and banned gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain a distance of 6 feet apart. On Thursday, he announced K-12 public schools would remain closed for in-person instruction through April 24. As of now, students would be allowed to return to school on Monday, April 27.

Necessary: Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce issued an emergency order allowing the Sterigenics plant near Smyrna to resume operations. Operations had been shut down amid claims of cancer-causing emissions from the company. Its ability to sterilize medical equipment has been deemed “crucial to fight against COVID-19,” the county announced in a news release. The Federal Drug Administration requested the reopening, citing the pandemic and the lack of personal protective equipment, such as medical gowns and masks. Source: Marietta Daily Journal

Elections: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will send absentee ballot request forms to Georgia’s 6.9 million voters in an effort to allow as many voters as possible to exercise their right to vote without leaving their homes.

Education

Brick-and-mortar alternatives: With Georgia’s K-12 students at home another month, parents may be seeking to expand online education resources. Education Week has a list here, including Great Minds, with written materials for math and daily instructional videos in math, science and English/Language Arts; Scholastic Learn-at-Home projects, for grades pre-K-9; Smithsonian’s Distance Learning Resources for grades K-12, and Khan Academy, with exercises, quizzes and tests across subjects for grades pre-K-12.

Transportation

Roads update: Statewide, interstate traffic is down 22% and freight traffic up is 5%, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. On nine main roads in metro Atlanta, traffic has declined 47%, while morning rush-hour traffic on the metro interstates is down 32%. Source: Governor’s Office

Free ride: MARTA announced a 30% cut in bus service beginning Monday. Rail will run on a weekend schedule. Bus passengers will use rear doors and ride free because, according to MARTA, fare collection boxes are at the front door. A total of $25 billion was included in the COVID-19 Senate bill to assist MARTA and transit agencies across the country, already struggling with declining ridership.

Repurposing: While public schools are closed, some districts’ school buses are being used to deliver meals to low-income students, while others are using their integrated WiFi as hotspots. “One [request] was for the students that don’t have access to the internet at home,” said John Styers, co-founder of startup Transportant. “[They asked,] ‘Is there a way we can take the buses and create sort of moving study halls? And have defined times that the buses will be at a certain location so students can log into their web backpack and upload homework or download [materials]?’” Source: News reports

Innovation

The mother of invention: One company is offering a “trash valet” service for residents practicing social distancing. A distillery has converted production to hand sanitizer. Fitness companies are offering free online workouts. Newspapers provide free online access. Stores offer curbside pickup and seniors-only hours. Read more about companies’ responses to COVID at on the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Taxes and spending                 

Tax Day postponed: Because of the pandemic, the Trump administration has moved Tax Day from April 15 to July 15, giving Americans an additional three months, without penalties or interest, to file their taxes. Georgia is following suit. Source: IRS.gov

Help at hand: The U.S. House is expected to approve the largest economic stimulus package in recent memory today, to give American families and businesses a financial shield against the ravages of the pandemic. The Senate has already approved the package, estimated at $2 trillion, that includes about $350 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses, $250 billion in increased unemployment insurance and $300 billion in direct payments to households.

Bailout premonitions: In a James Magazine article about contracting scandals plaguing the Atlanta airport, Dale Cardwell cites “documented cases of sham minority-owned businesses embedded into contracts that have inflated the price of projects as much as 30%.” As the state seeks federal (taxpayer) assistance in these trying times, it behooves policymakers to ensure that aid does not go to sham and recently established companies jockeying for position at the federal trough.

Many happy returns? WalletHub compared state and local tax collections and the quality of the services residents receive in each of the 50 states within five categories: education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution. Georgia ranks No. 5 in the nation for return on taxpayer investment, behind New Hampshire, South Dakota, Florida and Virginia. Worst in the nation? Hawaii.

Social media: Follow the Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In March 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Environmental Gobbledygook, Economic Gridlock.” It noted, “As Georgia considers the alternatives if Lake Lanier is lost to metro Atlanta as a drinking water source, legislators must accept that leadership lies in embracing two major solutions, both of which involve more water: expanded interbasin transfers and expanded reservoir capacity. Those who believe that the answer lies in water conservation alone, and in cutting off metro Atlanta, are miscalculating. Or are they just calculating?”

Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Near-term Responses to Ease COVID-19 Impact in Georgia,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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