Gavin Newsom Cites Dubious Evidence That His Lockdowns Saved California’s Economy

“The pandemic was a mass death event. It was also a very messy one for determining the effects of particular public policy interventions on COVID transmission, death, and economic performance. It’ll take years of research to get anywhere close to definitively answering big questions about what policies worked and what didn’t.”

New Data Show COVID School Closures Contributed to Largest Learning Loss in Decades

“the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data showing a dramatic decline in test scores among American 9-year-olds since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data indicate a devastating learning loss among American schoolchildren, marking the largest decline in reading scores since 1990, and the first ever recorded drop in mathematics scores.”

Why are American lives getting shorter?

“the US was one of only two among 21 selected similar wealthy countries — along with Israel — in which life expectancy continued to decline last year. While most countries suffered hundreds of thousands of untimely deaths during the first year of Covid-19, once people began to get vaccinated, life expectancies for almost all the 21 countries either stayed the same or began to rise again, many up to their pre-pandemic levels.

The US started off with lower pre-Covid life expectancies than other rich countries like South Korea, France, and Australia. It has been the case for decades that the United States spends exorbitant amounts on health care, yet has worse health outcomes than comparable countries. Even before the pandemic, people in the US faced the opioid epidemic, gun violence, and higher chronic disease rates than people in other rich countries.”

“Lack of health access and a robust public health care system exacerbated Covid-19’s effects, said Noreen Goldman, a professor of demography and public affairs at Princeton University. The lack of national coordination to address the pandemic, and lower vaccination rates, said Goldman, have also been a factor in outcomes being worse in the US than other comparable countries.
Young people were dying more from Covid-19 in 2021 than 2020, said Theresa Andrasfay, a demography researcher at the University of Southern California. While age remains the biggest risk factor, more middle-aged adults who are not vaccinated are dying. Additionally, she said, high rates of chronic disease, obesity, and diabetes had not yet affected mortality statistics, but when a disease — Covid-19 — came along that had these as risk factors, “it was like lighting a match.””

Child poverty in the US was stagnant — and then something changed

“Most surprising is that declines in poverty, rather than stalling with the decline of the Covid-19 pandemic, accelerated. While economic conditions could have led to one of the largest increases in poverty on record, the federal government stepped in to support families as the economy ground to a halt. While the pandemic brought a new set of hardships, these federal relief efforts prompted child poverty to fall sharply: In 2020, according to the supplemental poverty measure, child poverty fell from 12.5 percent to 9.7 percent — by far the largest single-year drop over the previous half-century.

These declines continued in 2021. In figures released Tuesday, we learned that in 2021 child poverty fell even further, to just 5.2 percent, by far the lowest rate ever recorded. This means that, between 2020 and 2021, an additional 3.4 million children were pulled out of poverty, and over the past two years almost 5.5 million children were, as the child poverty rate fell by nearly 60 percent in just two years.”

“it’s no great mystery how it happened. To stave off a recession and prevent a spike in material hardship amid widespread joblessness and economic uncertainty, the federal government temporarily reinvented the traditional US safety net, pushing cash into US households. There were three rounds of economic impact payments (stimulus checks), expanded unemployment assistance, and, in 2021, an expanded child tax credit, which sent modest monthly cash payments to most American households with children from July through December 2021.

While the traditional safety net targets poor families and relies heavily on in-kind benefits rather than money, the pandemic safety net was largely cash-based, unrestricted, and nearly universal.”

“it worked.

Over the past two years, tens of millions of people lost work and had their lives disrupted by Covid-19. Yet amid this economic disruption, child poverty plummeted.”

“An analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that, absent government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest increase on record, but as a result of the pandemic safety net, poverty in the US experienced the largest single-year decline in more than 50 years.”

“these programs were long gone before inflation became more entrenched. Inflation began in the goods-producing sector, as supply chain problems and rising shipping costs, combined with increased demand for goods, led prices to soar. Inflation was further spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on global energy and food prices. More notably, as relief programs ended, growth in demand did not appreciably slow. A quick look across the globe reveals that inflation has hit most countries in the wake of the pandemic regardless of the share of children who go to bed hungry.

While government pandemic spending has certainly played some role in pushing prices upward, it is important to recognize the uncertainty around the economic recovery. These same policies were responsible for the economy’s rapid recovery and swift employment growth. Following the Great Recession, unemployment remained elevated for years, to devastating effect.”

“in the last two years, labor force participation rates have steadily recovered as the economy adjusted to living with the pandemic and showed no sign of accelerating as income supports expired.”

“One pandemic-era policy is permanent: a change to the way food assistance benefit levels are calculated. This will reduce hardship and poverty going forward and should be celebrated. But most of the new Covid-era safety net has already expired, and we should expect child poverty to rise in tandem in 2022.

The clearest avenue for action, to relieve the current rise in hardship and ensure the lessons of the pandemic safety net are not lost to history, is to revive the expanded child tax credit. Most wealthy Western nations use a universal child allowance or child benefit — money sent to families with children across the income spectrum — to help defray the big costs that come with raising children and better ensure the healthy development of that nation’s children.

For the final six months of 2021, the US finally joined this group, and the results, as we now know, were staggering. Child poverty, child food insecurity, and other measures of material hardship all fell sharply. Critics feared the payments would provide a disincentive to work, but the policy had no discernible impact on the labor force participation of recipients. The benefits of the policy were extraordinary, and the downsides were negligible. We can, and should, bring it back.”

“But what about inflation? Can we really send more cash to households while the Fed is trying to rein in spending? Data shows that low- and middle-income families receiving child tax credit payments in 2021 largely spent the funds on necessities, like food and utilities — the same necessities that Americans are now paying higher prices for — so the payments would go a long way toward relieving rising material hardship.
At the same time, a number of economists have noted that the expanded child tax credit is “too small to meaningfully increase inflation across the whole economy.” Perhaps most importantly, the government can help the most vulnerable in our society, even if it means asking others to chip in more to offset those costs. The Inflation Reduction Act begins that process by ensuring that the IRS can collect the tax revenue that high-income Americans actually owe.”

11,000 Federal Inmates Were Sent Home During the Pandemic. Only 17 Were Arrested for New Crimes.

“Of the more than 11,000 federal inmates who were released to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic, 17 were returned to prison for committing new crimes, according to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).”

“of the 17, 10 committed drug crimes, while the rest of the charges included smuggling non-citizens, nonviolent domestic disturbance, theft, aggravated assault, and DUI.”

Why monkeypox is a repeat of the data mistakes made with Covid-19

“the roots of this deadly problem long predate monkeypox outbreaks or the Covid-19 pandemic. The US has always had a fragmented health care system, with widely disparate experiences for patients based on state, insurance company, or hospital chain. Without systems to reliably record and share population-level data between decision-makers, health care workers can’t focus on helping the patients who need it most. The consequences are worse for marginalized people — such as Indigenous people, people with disabilities, or youth at risk for teen pregnancy — who were already facing inadequate care before the pandemic.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The US has an opportunity to learn from the tough lessons of the last few years and build on work to improve transparency and data sharing. With monkeypox already a global public health emergency, it’s vital for the data to be available, promptly and accurately, to coordinate an effective public health response.”

“Data comes in from over 900 health systems, or chains of hospitals under shared management; the largest include about 200 hospitals. But that’s just a fraction of the over 6,000 hospitals across the country. So when, for example, positive test results for Covid-19 or monkeypox, or cases of workplace exposure to pesticides, have to be reported to the state, public health boards in every state must coordinate with hundreds of different organizations and aggregate their data before they can share it with federal agencies. Except during an officially declared public health emergency — which, for monkeypox, is only a week old — the CDC has limited legal power to mandate reporting.

Data also isn’t collected the same way everywhere. There is a large number of different electronic health record systems currently in use in the US. They allow medical professionals to document a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, and in theory, share them more efficiently than in the days of paper-based records. But the software systems aren’t designed to be compatible with each other, so they cannot easily exchange data.”

“Undertesting doesn’t just affect the case numbers reported, but hurts patients’ access to treatment. Tecovirimat, or TPOXX, an antiviral drug that is most effective for treating monkeypox if started early, can’t be prescribed until a test comes back positive, and since it’s not officially approved by the FDA for monkeypox treatment, doctors need to jump through bureaucratic hoops to prescribe it. This leaves many patients suffering from untreated painful lesions for days or weeks.”

“With monkeypox, the US can lean on the systems and infrastructure built during the Covid-19 pandemic, but some programs, like those that reimburse providers for treating uninsured patients or provide free Covid-19 tests, vaccines, and antiviral drugs to community health centers, were already scaled down after funding was decreased. In order to pull together a national response, the US needs straightforward, transparent data reporting that can be compared and combined on a national level.

The final difficulty will be in keeping this momentum going. The declaration of a new public health emergency for monkeypox will help keep federal funding flowing toward projects like the new NCATS OpenData portal for monkeypox, but the need for better health care infrastructure won’t end when the emergency does. In a chronically underfunded public health system, short-term efforts may not be enough.”

Hospitals struggle with staff shortages as federal Covid funds run out

“Hospitals across the country are grappling with widespread staffing shortages, complicating preparations for a potential Covid-19 surge as the BA.5 subvariant drives up cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Long-standing problems, worker burnout and staff turnover have grown worse as Covid-19 waves have hit health care workers again and again — and as more employees fall sick with Covid-19 themselves.”