This is the third 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 edition here and March 27 here.) View the Foundation’s near-term proposals here. Share your ideas: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quotes of Note
“Regardless of how long this goes on, now is the crunch time for us to lessen the peak, to make the bull’s eye smaller so that we don’t overrun our healthcare network.” – Gov. Brian Kemp, announcing stay-at-home order
“What may be an even greater danger than government expansion is the precedent this crisis action has produced. Now, even more Americans will look first to the government to bail them out of a crisis, costing billions and saddling them with all the more liberty-limiting regulations as the bureaucratic state grows exponentially.” – Thomas Gallatin
“Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them. Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.” – Federal Bureau of Investigation
We’re growing: Douglasville native Chris Denson has joined the Foundation as Policy and Research Director. A graduate of Princeton and the University of Georgia, Denson’s career includes a stint as a staffer for former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and nearly a decade in the healthcare arena. Find out more here.
Events update: The COVID-19 outbreak changed the Foundation’s plans for three events. The event that had been scheduled for March 18, “Brexit: The Good, The Bad and The Messy,” will be rescheduled. Two events that had been scheduled for April will be streamed live online. Details will follow on how to view these live events online: Tony Lowden on Second Chance Month on April 22, and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review Institute on socialism on April 30.
Governor’s actions: Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday ordered K-12 public schools closed through the rest of the school year. On Thursday, citing new CDC data estimating that 25% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, Kemp issued a statewide stay-at-home order that begins today and will end April 13. This extended his earlier orders: On March 24 Kemp had ordered bars and nightclubs closed for two weeks and banned gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain a distance of 6 feet apart. On March 26, he had announced K-12 public schools would remain closed for in-person instruction through April 24.
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.
Repurposed: The Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins estimates the nation has 160,000 mechanical ventilators, but would need 740,000 in the event of a “severe” pandemic. Amid a massive shortage of personal protective equipment for medical personnel, the private sector has stepped up. Factories across the nation are pivoting production to manufacture ventilators, masks, gowns, face shields, mattresses and pillows and hand sanitizer. Retailers are donating proceeds from sales to coronavirus charities. For a list of what some of the companies are doing, visit Gearpatrol.com.
Masks off market: Atlanta-based Home Depot said this week it has halted retail sales of N95 masks and “redirected” them to be donated to hospitals, healthcare workers and first responders treating patients during the pandemic. The N95 mask is a tight-fitting respirator that offers more protection than a standard facemask. Source: USA Today
Generosity I: Healthcare and biomedical engineering company Medtronic announced it is making available to anyone the full design specifications, product manuals, design documents and, in the future, software code for its portable ventilator, “to enable participants across industries to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19.” Source: TechCrunch.com
Generosity II: The Georgia Power Foundation is contributing $1 million to support the state in COVID-19 recovery, in addition to the $1.5 million the utility has already committed to nonprofits. The contribution will focus on food insecurity, homelessness and displaced worker assistance. The company also suspended residential disconnections for 30 days beginning March 14. Source: Coosa Valley News
Educate online: The U.S. Department of Education has clarified that schools have flexibility to educate disabled students during the pandemic. A fact sheet noted that some educators “have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true. We remind schools they should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.”
Art education: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, in Washington, D.C., are closed temporarily because of COVID-19. Take a digital tour of their digital resources, including online exhibitions, a huge library of videos and blog articles, and thousands of artworks recently released under a creative commons (CC0) license as part of the Smithsonian’s Open Access initiative.
Sinking: COVID-19 took its toll on employment for the second week in a row, in Georgia and in the nation. The Georgia Department of Labor reported it processed 133,820 unemployment claims for March 22-28, the highest number processed in a week in Georgia and an increase of 1102% over the week ending March 21, which had 12,140 claims. Nationwide, a record 6.65 million filed claims last week as more states enforced stay-at-home measures. That is a 99% increase over the previous week, when 3.3 million claims were filed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Silver lining: Georgia’s economy is the nation’s least-exposed state to the coronavirus fallout, according to a new WalletHub ranking. It found Georgia to have the least vulnerability to its “high impact industries and workforce.” The state ranked 18th for its share of employment in the hospitality and marketing businesses but 40th in the vulnerability of its arts, entertainment and recreation workforce. At greatest risk is Louisiana.
New normal: As stay-at-home orders demonstrate employees’ ability to work from home, CEOs say “shedding office space will be a high priority once things get back to normal,” writes Marshall Toplansky in Newgeography.com. He warns the economic impact could be significant. “According to IBIS World, the total U.S. commercial real estate market (including retail space) is $1.2 trillion per year. Therefore, the remote work trend could deliver a blow of between 2% and 5% to total industry revenues.”
Taxes and spending
Tough times ahead: Three forces will affect state budgets amid COVID-19, the Independent Women’s Forum points out. The lack of tourism dollars will affect states like Florida, Nevada and Louisiana, which depend on the sales tax for hefty chunks of their budget. The volatile stock market will affect California and New York, both heavily dependent on capital gains taxes. Layoffs will affect the 31 states that rely on income taxes for most of their revenue.
This month in the archives: In April 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “New Center Brings a Dose of Budget Reality to Georgia.” It noted, “The key to controlling taxes is controlling expenditures, and controlling government’s growth is key to that.”
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Hybrid Home Schools Offer Families Options Amid Coronavirus Uncertainty,” by Eric Wearne.
Have a safe weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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