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Governors release new plan for reopening — and suggest few states are ready

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Rachel Roubein

A new road map from the nation’s governors for reopening the economy urges a cautious approach, saying the White House must dramatically ramp up testing and help states bolster other public health measures before social distancing can be safely pulled back.

The plan from the National Governors Association and state health officials suggests a wide-scale reopening of the country isn’t imminent, even as President Donald Trump roots on Southern states that are dialing down restrictions despite warnings from health experts.

The 10-point governors’ road map insists there aren’t enough coronavirus tests and said the federal government needs to better distribute testing supplies to the states. The report echoes concerns from health experts that moving too quickly could reignite the spread of the virus in communities and undo the health benefits gained by weeks of social distancing.

“Opening prematurely — or opening without the tools in place to rapidly identify and stop the spread of the virus — could send states back into crisis mode, push health systems past capacity and force states back into strict social distancing measures,” reads the report from the NGA and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

The report comes amid broader debate over whether states like Georgia and Tennessee, which are lifting prohibitions, are moving too quickly, while protests cheered on by conservative groups and Trump himself are playing out in capitals across the country. Trump this morning congratulated the mostly Republican-led states moving to reopen their economies, even as coronavirus hot spots remain within their borders.

The states’ plan largely tracks with the phased approach for reopening Trump outlined last week, but said states should proceed carefully without broader testing. Despite Trump’s insistence that states have the testing they need to reopen, the states’ report said “testing capacity remains inadequate.” Several governors are still complaining of shortages of swabs and reagents needed to conduct wide scale testing.

The plan, which tacitly criticizes the Trump administration for poorly distributing supplies, estimates that the nation will need to be able to test anywhere from 750,000 to tens of millions per week, though states are still rationing testing and struggling with supply shortages.

Trump in recent weeks has pushed responsibility for testing onto the states, but the new road map said the federal government should “rapidly build” up testing capacity and coordinate distribution of supplies. A new coronavirus package moving through Congress this week includes $25 billion for testing, while calling for testing strategies from the Trump administration and the states.

Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who chairs the NGA, has criticized the administration for not doing enough to help states increase testing. Hogan’s administration over the weekend secured thousands of test kits from South Korea, prompting criticism from Trump for turning to a foreign government for help.

The plan recommends a “a significant increase” in workers who help identify those infected with the coronavirus and try to convince their contacts to self-quarantine to guard against an explosion in cases. The country currently only has a fraction of the workers needed to trace the virus. Louisiana, for example, hopes to expand its workforce for contact tracing from 70 to 700, said state health Secretary Courtney Phillips. Many of the new volunteers states are bringing on will receive just a few hours of training for work that has little margin for error.

The governors’ report also says states should have plans for quarantining the contacts of people who have become infected at places like hotels, dorms or military barracks. They should also have a robust public health infrastructure in place as they reopen, including a strong surveillance system for detecting Covid-19, develop metrics to assess the hospital’s capacity to treat both coronavirus and non-infected patients and protect at-risk populations. Those are similar to measures Trump’s reopening plan but includes more detail.

“These steps require the full participation of the federal government, state health agencies, other state agencies, local governments, the private sector, and the public,” the report said.

This article was originally published by Politico on April 22, 2020. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Rachel Roubein is a health care reporter for POLITICO Pro, focusing on doctors and hospitals. She previously covered health policy and politics at The Hill and National Journal, where she reported extensively on Obamacare and the opioid epidemic. She got her start in journalism reporting for Carroll County Times, a local newspaper in Maryland, and covered everything from the rise of heroin in the county to state efforts to start a medical marijuana program, from town budgets to crime. She studied journalism at the University of Maryland, and grew up in Oklahoma — and also Louisiana, Texas and Kentucky.

Dan Goldberg

About the Author: Dan Goldberg is a health care reporter for POLITICO Pro covering health care politics and policy in the states. He previously covered New York State health care for POLITICO New York. Before joining POLITICO New York, Dan was the health care reporter for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University.

Brianna Ehley

About the Author: Brianna Ehley is a reporter on POLITICO Pro’s health care team. She covers federal public health policy, as well as addiction and mental health issues. Prior to joining POLITICO, she wrote about health care, economic policy and government agencies for The Fiscal Times and blogged about the DC media scene for Fishbowl DC. She started her career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covering Illinois state government while earning her master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.


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You ARE Entitled: Workers Making Money Stretch

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It might not come as a surprise to you that 2.2m Americans are in low-income jobs according to the US Department of Labor. Attempts are being made to pinch worker’s rights and their ability to litigate against employers. This is despite a growth in the economy, employment rates and the overall average wealth of the USA’s workers. This means that more American workers are having to make less dollars stretch further.

Fortunately, it’s not entirely doom and gloom. On a national level, workers are organizing for their rights. On a personal level, there are a wide variety of schemes, rights and techniques you can employ to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to.

Federal and State Assistance

Despite the aforementioned legal squeeze on rights and entitlements, there is still plenty that the government is doing to help low-income workers – both on a federal and state level. This is especially important in benefit-capped states, where state assistance programs are crucial for employees. Cash isn’t the be all and end all, either. For instance, if your employer withdraws mandatory health insurance if the ACA is superseded, many states have health care assistance programs that also cover dental and other healthcare areas. They also assist with areas such as childcare, if your employer is restricting access to childcare facilities or doesn’t offer them full stop.

Legal Assistance

Employees across the USA experience legal issues for a number of reasons, from in-work disputes to non-payment of unemployment benefits. It’s estimated that 71% of low income workers experience at least one legal issue yearly. Many of these require the provision of legal assistance.

Unfortunately, as the Legal Services Corporation found, 86% of Americans received inadequate legal help, resulting in a poor success rate for claims that should have been allowed and restitution received.

This is partly down to a lack of awareness around the opportunities available to employees when it comes to legal aid. Many states offer legal aid, as covered above. However, it’s the case that increasing numbers of labor law firms are offering pro bono advice and representation, providing what is sometimes a greater level of legal help due to the increased resources available.

Credit Unions

Across the entire workforce of the USA, it’s noted that most Americans under-save. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that most employees only save 5.7% of their incomes, which is understandable given the rising cost of living and other influences on pay packets.

Credit unions have existed for decades, largely in the sphere of labor unions and local communities. They operate on the basis that everyone pays in and this enables the union to help members in times of need, whilst also behaving as – variously – a savings pot or pension fund. They often have a sliding scale of contributions and so if you’re on low income, or out of work, it can be beneficial for long-term saving and planning to put a few of your cents away in a suitable scheme.

Personal Development 

Being removed from employment can put a bump in the road if you’re developing professional skills. Some careers are cherry picked by the employee for their professional development opportunities. When you find yourself unemployed or moved sideways, you will find that your education is sacrificed, too.

Whilst this can seem minor, studies have suggested that under skilling workers is detrimental to society. This is in addition to your own personal development and, if your cash flow is restricted, the development of your family. Again, make sure to thoroughly check your contract and legal rights to ensure that your education is linked to the job role and not an outside commitment. If you are in a bad position, you might be able to find an avenue of help in the USA’s varied community colleges, some of which offer programs in line with the state and federal assistance programs to help those less fortunate to continue their education.

Unemployment and changes in working pattern can be stressful and can come across as harsh. Whilst personal responsibility is important during these times, don’t forget that there are entitlements and services out there to support you.

About the Author: Jackie Edwards is an editor, researcher, and writer.


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