Friday Facts: June 12, 2020

It’s Friday!

This is Week 13 of the Friday Facts’ focus on the coronavirus pandemic across the nation and in Georgia, and the last day of the public health state of emergency declared by Gov. Brian Kemp. View previous editions here. View the Foundation’s near-term proposals here. Share your ideas: Email us at info@georgiapolicy.org.

Quotes of Note

“The shift to dispersed work …  opens up unique opportunities for parts of the country that have not enjoyed the benefits of tech growth. With two out of three tech workers now willing to leave San Francisco, Big Tech can get bigger while spreading talent and wealth more widely. Rather than steering high-wage employment places where earnings tend to disappear through inflated living costs and taxes, much of the workforce now will be able to live closer to where they can afford to live comfortably, raise a family and lift up local economies.” – Joel Kotkin

“[A]ny call to action will be empty if it does not move us to individual responsibility. We all have a role to play in moving our country forward, in ensuring that our democracy delivers not just for those who have but also for those who seek and for those in need.” – Condoleezza Rice

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” – Frederick Douglass

Events

Mark your calendar! The 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum begins July 21 with the first of a series of sessions via Zoom. Details to follow!

Elections

Primaries: Georgia’s primary elections took place Tuesday, and voters in some precincts waited hours to vote. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger singled out “certain precincts in Fulton and DeKalb counties,” and noted: “Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties. But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote.”

Healthcare

What, WHO? One day after saying transmission of COVID-19 by asymptomatic people is “very rare,” the head of the World Health Organization’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit backpedaled, saying her comments were a “misunderstanding.” Dr. Maria van Kerkhove’s comments had been denounced as irresponsible and confusing; many pandemic lockdowns were justified as preventing asymptomatic individuals spreading the virus. Source: News reports

To mask or not: While Gov. Brian Kemp and public health officials suggested that Georgians wear protective masks in public, some Georgia businesses (including Costco) mandated them. In California’s Orange County, the public health officer resigned after outrage over her mandate that all residents wear masks in public.

Status updates: The Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 daily status reports map cases and deaths in each Georgia county. Visit the website here.

Telehealth: Telehealth visits by beneficiaries covered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) grew from 12,000 weekly visits to “well into six figures” during the pandemic, and both President Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma aim to continue those benefits, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. CMS expanded access so all beneficiaries are covered for audio and video visits during the pandemic, and updated coverage rates to pay the same rate as in-person visits.

Traffic in metro Atlanta is slowly picking up as the state reopens, but use of the toll lanes is lagging. When a wreck blocked three lanes Tuesday morning on I-75 South in Cobb County, however, the toll lanes were a welcome alternative.

Economy

Decline: The nation’s economy reached a peak in February before officially entering a recession and ending the longest period of growth on record, according to a new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The NBER defines recessions as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, normally visible in production, employment and other indicators.” The 128-month growth period was longer than any other since at least 1854. Source: IndustryWeek.com

Picking up the pieces: U.S. machine shops’ and other manufacturers’ capital-equipment orders fell 26.3% from March to April 2020. The $225.8 million total was the lowest single-month total for the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report since May 2010, according to the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT). “Data confirms that U.S. industrial production dropped lower than during even the Great Depression,” said AMT President Douglas K. Woods.

Government

Legislature: The Georgia legislative session resumes on June 15, with one major order of business: the state budget, which must be balanced. Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered all state agencies to find 11% in budget cuts amid the pandemic-related economic decline.   

Policy proposals: The Foundation proposed a series of policies for near-term relief during the pandemic, as well as principles to guide and oversee policy reforms and an Issue Analysis tackling fiscal policy considerations for Georgia. Additionally there are several commentaries from Senior Fellows on fiscal opportunities, school choice and education funding.

Shutdowns: Georgia’s public health state of emergency is scheduled to end today and Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order implementing new  reopening measures effective June 16-30. On June 8, Kemp ended the state of emergency that mobilized the National Guard in response to protests and riots over the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd after he was restrained by a police officer.

Education

Popularity grows: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschooled children doubled from 1999 to 2016, and now almost 2 million students are homeschooled, more than 3% of America’s student population. Source: American Enterprise Institute

Pensions and COVID-19: In California, the total unfunded liability of the state teacher pension fund going into the pandemic was already greater than the state’s annual K-12 education budget. If pension plans seek federal or state bailouts, assistance “must be conditional on structural changes that would prevent similar pension funding problems from reoccurring in the future,” Andrew G. Biggs and Cory Koedel write in EducationNext.

Technology

Compromised:  Security vendor Mimecast’s 2020 State of Email Security report points to an increase in the overall volume of email-based attacks in the past year.The fourth annual report found 58% of respondents saw an increase in phishing attempts, and 85% see no decline in the coming year. Additionally, 82% experienced downtime from an email-based attack, 77% believe weak passwords are a particular problem, and 60% of organizations were hit by an attack that spread from one user to another.

Energy and environment

No hold on coal: While developed nations are embracing a post-pandemic world of “green deals,”recent report from the International Energy Agency found that “global approvals of new [coal] plants in the first quarter of 2020 (mainly in China) were at twice the rate seen in 2019,” with a long pipeline of projects under construction. Wood Mackenzie, a consulting company, estimates that there will be a net increase in global coal-fired power capacity this year, with 22 gigawatts of closures in Europe and the United States more than offset by 49 gigawatts of plants opening in Asia. Source: Forbes

Of particulate interest: Despite far less driving during the pandemic, federal air-quality monitors found levels of particulate matter (PM 2.5) have not been lower during the lockdowns and have, in fact, been higher than the median level of the last five years. “This result indicates that, in most places, human-caused pollution is small relative to natural sources,” notes the Institute for Energy Research. “The pandemic has shown that a significant reduction in the human contribution makes only a small difference to PM 2.5 levels, which were already under the national standard.”

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In June 10 years ago, the Foundation published, Consumerism: The Cure for Healthcare’s Ills.” It noted, “The future is not the opiate of government, but the empowerment of ‘healthcare consumerism:’ transforming health benefit plans by putting economic purchasing power and decision-making in the hands of participants.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Reforming Policing while Preserving Law Enforcement,” by Chris Denson.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our website at georgiapolicy.org.

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