Friday Facts: July 17, 2020

It’s Friday!

Did you miss the opening keynote speaker at the 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum?

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was the opening keynote speaker Wednesday for the 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, an eight-week series on Zoom. (Find more information here.) View “An Education Conversation,” with DeVos and Foundation President Kyle Wingfield, on the Foundation’s YouTube Channel here.

The Zoom series continues on Tuesday, July 21, with the first panel session: “Opportunities for Education Adaptation.” Moderated by Foundation Senior Fellow Eric Wearne, the panel features Georgia State Rep. Jan Jones, House Speaker Pro Tempore; Angela Lassetter, Head of School at the Georgia Cyber Academy; Ana Martin, “The Libertarian Homeschooler”; and Kelly Smith, Founder of Prenda, a microschool network. Register here for this session.

There is no charge to register for this eight-week series, but participants must have a verified Zoom account. Read more here; register here for all sessions. The theme is “Wisdom, Justice, Adaptation,” a play on the state motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.” This year, the Forum comprises eight sessions, including two keynote sessions. The topics: Education; The Budget; Land Use and Transportation; The Economy; Housing; and Healthcare. View the program here for the agenda and speaker bios.

Quotes of Note

“Keeping schools closed to in-person learning in Fall 2020 poses potential educational risks for all students. Children and youth benefit from learning experiences that include support from a teacher and interactions with peers. Even when it includes virtual interactions, distance learning cannot take the place of in-person interaction. … The risks of not having face-to-face learning are especially high for young children, who may suffer long-term consequences academically if they fall behind in the early grades.” – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.” – John Stuart Mill

Economy

Getting back to work: Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.6% in June from 9.4% in May amid rehiring in many sectors shut down by the pandemic, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. The department has processed 3,085,261 claims since mid-March, when the pandemic shut down businesses. Of those, 1.4 million were considered valid claims.

Open for business: June retail sales – a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online – increased a seasonally adjusted 7.5% over May, the Commerce Department announced. Retail sales totaled $524.3 billion in June, up from $487.7 billion in May and nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. But, The Wall Street Journal reported, “the recent increase in coronavirus cases could again damp job growth and retail spending.”

Healthcare

Waivers: The Kemp administration is narrowing the scope of its waiver proposal under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Georgia withdrew plans to manage the $2.7 billion in subsidies residents receive each year for private health insurance, and to allow recipients to put the money toward plans that do not meet the ACA’s rigid, costly regulations. The state still seeks federal approval to exit the Healthcare.gov exchange, opting instead for privately run marketplaces that offer more choices; it also proposes a reinsurance program to offset premiums for Georgians with the highest medical bills, though the debut of that program would be delayed until 2022. Source: News reports

COVID-19 status updates: Georgia’s COVID-19 count is at more than 131,000 confirmed cases and 3,104 deaths, with more than 14,300 hospitalizations, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s status report on Thursday. Numbers are updated once a day at 3 p.m. The Georgia map provides reports on county-level cases and deaths. Visit the website here.

This chart on the Georgia Department of Public Health website Thursday shows the state’s COVID-19 cases by age group.

Reasons for hope: An analysis of 24 studies from around the world showed the overall death rate of COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units declined to 42% by the end of May from nearly 60% at the end of March. The findings, published in the British journal Anaesthesia, “may reflect the rapid learning that has taken place on a global scale” of how to treat the disease, researchers said. Source: Reuters

Lies and desperation: A Medscape article outlines how “professional study subjects” – people who participate in medical clinical trials for financial compensation – can skew the result of studies by lying about their medical history. “Their deception can ruin the chances of an otherwise effective agent reaching the market, potentially dashing the hopes and jeopardizing the health of real patients living with a variety of acute and chronic illnesses.”

Mask standoff: After local governments including Augusta, Atlanta, Savannah and Athens mandated the wearing of masks in public, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order this week that “strongly encouraged” facial coverings during the public health pandemic. It also expressly prohibited local governments from mandating masks. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms alleged President Trump, who visited Atlanta this week, had violated her “law” by not wearing a mask at the Atlanta airport.

Education

Foreign influence: The Department of Education has issued new guidance governing the disclosure of foreign gifts to colleges and universities, following recommendations from the National Association of Scholars. Federal law requires colleges and universities to report twice a year on foreign gifts and contracts in excess of $250,000 per year, a requirement “largely ignored,” according to the association. A new electronic reporting system, operational in time for the July 31 report, will collect and publicize the data.

Regulation

Growing list: The regulations suspended by federal, state and local governments for the duration of the pandemic now number at least 817, according to a list maintained by Americans for Tax Reform.

Trumping overregulation: President Trump visited Atlanta this week to announce his plan to reduce the “mountains of bureaucratic red tape in Washington, D.C.” that delay infrastructure projects. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), has long been criticized for its lengthy, onerous review processes: Federal agencies must assess the environmental impact and take public comments on proposed infrastructure projects before permits are issued, a process that can take years. Source: News reports

Media

In the news: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the Foundation’s first Zoom event of the 2020 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, the opening keynote speech by Betsy DeVos, U.S. Education Secretary.

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

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In July five years ago, the Foundation published, “Government ‘Charity:’ Unwarranted and Unsustainable.” It noted, “There’s one way to avoid a modern Greek tragedy: Reduce dependence on government. The first requirement? Stop encouraging dependence.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Gwinnett’s Billion-Dollar Transit Boondoggle,” by Dave Emanuel.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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