Friday Facts: December 31, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Did you miss a commentary in 2021? Find them all in one place on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s website. Click here. 

Memory Lane 

In celebration of the Foundation’s 30th anniversary in 2021, the Friday Facts included “a trip down Memory Lane,” with photographs, news clips and articles through the past three decades.

Through the years: When Georgia political titan and former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson passed away on December 19, the state lost a champion and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation lost a longtime friend and cheerleader. In this 2007 photo at a Foundation event in Atlanta, Isakson (center) chats with legendary Georgia conservative columnist Jim Wooten (left) and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. Also in 2007, the Foundation established the Isakson Scholarship, to be awarded to the Valedictorian of Tech High, in appreciation of his leadership and character. In 2011, he was there when his friend, former Foundation CEO Rogers Wade, received the Foundation’s prestigious Freedom Award. He will be missed. Read the Foundation’s tribute to “Johnny” here.   

Quotes of note

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” – Desmond Tutu (October 7, 1931–December 26, 2021) 

“A beggar’s mistake harms no one but the beggar. A king’s mistake, however, harms everyone but the king. Too often, the measure of power lies not in the number who obey your will, but in the number who suffer your stupidity.” – R. Scott Bakker, “The Judging Eye” 

“In addition to the thousands of local and national programs that aim to help young people avoid these life-altering problems, we should figure out more ways to convince young people that their decisions will greatly influence whether they avoid poverty and enter the middle class. Let politicians, schoolteachers and administrators, community leaders, ministers and parents drill into children the message that in a free society, they enter adulthood with three major responsibilities: at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.” – Ron Haskins

Healthcare 

Time to regroup: Just before Christmas, the Biden administration rejected Georgia’s Medicaid waiver proposal over its work requirement linked to coverage for uninsured low-income, able-bodied adults (up to age 64) without dependents. Georgia was the last state standing with a proposal already approved by the Trump administration that would have included such eligibility requirements: 80 hours of work, training or volunteer hours each month for beneficiaries to retain coverage. Source: News reports

Medical aid: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of about $9 billion in Provider Relief Fund payments to reimburse healthcare providers for pandemic-related revenue losses and expenses. The average payment is $58,000 for small providers, $289,000 for medium providers and $1.7 million for large providers. HHS reports having made more than 500,000 payments already. Source: RevCycle Intelligence 

Omicron: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its estimate of the Omicron COVID-19 variant to be 58.6% of the U.S. variants circulating as of December 25. The agency also changed the Omicron proportion of cases for the week ending December 18 to 22% from 73%, citing additional data and the rapid spread of the variant that in part caused the discrepancy. Delta, the dominant strain in the past few months, accounted for 41.1% of all U.S. COVID-19 cases as of December 25, CDC data showed. Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb noted on Twitter that if the revised Omicron estimate is precise, it would suggest a good portion of current hospitalizations may still be driven by Delta infections. Source: Medscape.com 

Georgia update: Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to prepare for deployment at hospitals and testing sites as the state reported a record-high 13,670 COVID-19 cases, Capitol Beat reports. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports cases, deaths and vaccination rates on its website here. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, as of December 28, seven-day COVID-19 case averages have risen in 41 states (including Georgia), flattened in four and dropped in five.

5 days you won’t get back: Saying the change is “motivated by science,” the CDC announced “revised” quarantine recommendations for asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. Instead of 10 days of quarantine, the CDC now recommends five days, followed by five days of wearing a mask around others. Businesses, especially airlines, had pleaded with the CDC to revise the recommendation; staff shortages led to thousands of canceled flights over the holidays. Read more here.

Economy

Fluctuations: Holiday retail sales soared 8.5% over last year, according to a Mastercard SpendingPulse study. Now, however, economists are scaling back both U.S. and global economic growth forecasts amid evidence that Omicron’s surge has already disrupted parts of the economy, reports The Wall Street Journal. Pantheon Macroeconomics, among others, cut its forecast for U.S. growth from 5% to 3% annualized in the first quarter of 2022.

Going …  More than 19 million U.S. workers – and counting – have quit their jobs since April 2021, a record pace disrupting businesses everywhere. The “Great Resignation” declined in October, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, but another wave could appear in the spring, warns Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of career website The Muse.

Going … In a McKinsey survey, 40% of employees said they are at least somewhat likely to quit in the next three to six months; 18% said their intentions range from likely to almost certain. The highest resignation rates are among employees ages 30-45 in midlevel positions, Harvard Business Review reports. A whopping 78% of millennials in a Harris Poll said they were interested in switching jobs, and millennial managers are more likely (42%) to say they’re burned out than other generations, a MetLife study found.

Gone: The 11 million open jobs in October dwarfed the 7.4 million unemployed Americans actively looking for work, The New York Times reports. “About 2.4 million people have left the labor force entirely, in many cases to take early retirement. With the unemployment rate down to 4.2% and the layoff rate near a 52-year low, the economy needs some of those Americans to re-enter the job market.”

The comeback: American workers are returning to the workforce slower than expected, a problem that low interest rates can’t fix, writes Michael Strain for the American Enterprise Institute. Strain argues it’s time Congress takes the lead in passing policies to promote employment, such as worker training programs that focus on transferable and certifiable skills and “soft skills,” and reducing barriers like excessive occupational licensing requirements.

Business as usual? The “office” has evolved rapidly over the past two years, including at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which has embraced a “hybrid” approach of part in-person and part remote work. TechRepublic reports on emerging themes: With remote work now the standard, anyone who returns to the office is likely to still operate under remote working rules. Some companies are trying to make the office a “destination,” offering everything from yoga to new decor and free lunch. Physical offices are becoming a collaboration space: cubicles swapped for whiteboard-laden meeting areas.

Transportation 

Ro-Ro, row your boat: The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded more than $241 million in discretionary grant funding for 25 projects to improve port facilities in 19 states and one territory. Georgia gets $14.6 million for a fourth roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) vessel berth at Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal, the nation’s second busiest Ro-Ro cargo port.

Legislature

2022 session: The Georgia General Assembly is scheduled to convene on January 10, 2022. As with Crossover Day, a bill that did not pass by Sine Die 2021 (Day 40) is still alive and can be revisited during the 2022 session. View prefiled 2022 legislation here.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In December 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “Facts Not Fear on Air Pollution.” It noted, “Air pollution has been declining for decades across the United States, yet most Americans still believe air pollution is a growing problem and a serious threat to their health. The reason: Most information on air pollution from environmentalists, regulators and journalists – the public’s main sources for information on the environment – is false. Air quality in America’s cities is better than ever.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Saying Goodbye is Never Easy,” by Benita Dodd.

Have a great weekend and a Happy New Year!

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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