Friday Facts: October 16, 2020

It’s Friday! 

Quotes of Note

“The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms – in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble. There is no question that this Country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort. But the solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment.” – William S. Stickland IV, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania

“Joseph Allen, the director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard’s school of public health, wrote a 62-page plan with a dozen colleagues listing steps that schools could take to reduce transmission risk. … Notably, the recommendations did not include a hybrid model, with students in school a limited number of days per week to allow for social distancing – students did not need to be spaced out much more than usual, Allen said, as long as they wore masks. ‘There’s certainly no such thing as zero risk in anything we do, and that is certainly the case during a pandemic,’ he said in a conference call to present the plan. But, he added, ‘there are devastating costs of keeping kids out of school. When we have this discussion about sending kids back to school, we have to have it in the context of the massive individual and societal costs of keeping kids at home.’” – Alec MacGillis


Census

Extension: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that 2020 Census fieldwork could end Thursday, ending a legal battle over the deadline, which has been changed several times amid the pandemic. The Census Bureau is required by Congress to turn in its data by December 31 so that apportionment can take place, and the administration argued that data collection would need to end immediately to meet that deadline. Source: News reports

Headcount: As of October 13, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 99.9% of U.S. households had been counted in the 2020 Census. Georgia is among the states with 99.9% enumeration reported.


Elections

Voting update: The Secretary of State’s office predicted that more than a million Georgia voters would have cast their vote by Thursday. About 537,000 absentee ballots have been received, and in-person early voters make up the rest. After long lines the first few days, Fulton County began posting the live wait times for its polling sites. A record 7,587,625 Georgians registered to vote, according to the Secretary of State’s Office; voters can still request an absentee ballot at mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.


Economy

Better off: Gallup’s most recent survey found a clear majority of registered voters (56%) say they are better off now than they were four years ago, while 32% said they are worse off. Just 9% of Americans cited economic issues as the nation’s most important problem, Gallup reported, and “No other reelection year has featured less than 40% of Americans naming economic issues as the nation’s most important problem, making 2020 a remarkable year in this regard.”


Healthcare

Waivers: Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, joined Gov. Brian Kemp at a news conference Thursday to announce that Georgia’s healthcare waiver requests have been approved, both for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Find out more here; read the Foundation’s news release here.

Flu: Fears of a “twindemic” of the winter flu season and COVID-19 appear to be subsiding, The New York Times reports. According to the article, “Flu is ‘seeded’ in the United States each year by travelers from the Southern Hemisphere after the winter there ends. But this year their flu season was almost nonexistent – because they were socially distancing and, in some countries, wearing masks. And in this country, flu shots became available earlier than usual; so many Americans are rushing to get inoculated that spot-shortages are developing. If flu does arrive, those shots and our masks should blunt it.”

Sick and tired: Compliance fatigue is considered a contributing factor to the second wave of COVID-19 infections that has spread across Europe in recent weeks, The Wall Street Journal reports. As people tire of following precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining distance, they risk exposure. Countries are reimposing restrictions as cases rise and hospital beds fill again.

Still growing:  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has added 11 new telehealth services that Medicare will reimburse during the pandemic. CMS  announced March 17 it would temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services during the pandemic. Since then, CMS has added more than 135 services to the list, including emergency department visits and initial inpatient visits.  From March to August, over 12.1 million beneficiaries – over 36% – with Medicare Fee-For-Service have received a telemedicine service. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review 

COVID-19 status update: As of Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports 7,492 COVID-19 deaths and nearly 336,241 confirmed cases since the pandemic’s start. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here.


Media

Guide to the Issues 2020

Solutions for Georgia: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation released the “Guide to the Issues 2020” on October 1, a compilation of Georgia-focused recommendations for the state’s policymakers. Distributed by the Foundation to legislators and candidates since 1996, the Foundation’s Guide to The Issues 2020 is published online only this year. Its 13 chapters tackle K-12 educationhigher education and pension reform as well as healthcarelong-term careMedicaid and tort reform. The Guide also provides a state fiscal overview and policy ideas on tax reformwelfare reformoccupational licensing reform and criminal justice reform. Each chapter has been published in full on the Foundation’s website here and is linked to a printable PDF version.

Recent publications: Click here to read Kyle Wingfield’s commentary on the lack of accountability to and by Georgia’s K-12 students.


Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In October 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Yes, No and Maybe All Covered in New Federal Health Law.” It noted, “If ObamaCare is upheld as constitutional, Americans will spend a lifetime trying to understand the complexities and contradictions. Worse, every American is likely to be in violation of some aspect of the law at some time.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “For Millions, Healthcare Waivers Offer Hope,” by Kyle Wingfield.

 

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