Arizona’s ‘COVID Economy’ is not going to rebound as long as infections continue to rise

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Governor Doug Ducey and AZ DHS Director Dr. Cara Christ

The Arizona Republic published a happy talk economic forecast today. ‘The old economy is gone’: Business, education leaders see post-virus rebound for Arizona:

“The opportunities for Arizona are unbelievable” with Arizona having “maybe the greatest potential of any state,” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University and one of the webinar participants.

The coronavirus pandemic, he said, will hasten adoption of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, health care provided remotely and other innovations where Arizona is competitive.

“We have to realize the old economy is gone,” Crow said.

Sooo Michael Crow is celebrating the rise of the worker-less economy? A.I. Expert Says Automation Could Replace 40% of Jobs in 15 Years (January 2019). Maybe we should start with him losing his job. This happy talk is just blowing sunshine up your ass.

As Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post reports, Is the economic recovery doomed to take a decade? (excerpt):

Just how fast will the U.S. economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic? The honest answer is that no one knows, but we are now beginning to get some plausible guesses. As you might suspect, the news isn’t good. The latest forecast comes from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and suggests that it may take a decade for the economy to regain its pre-recessionary peak. But some economists think even this may be too optimistic.

* * *

Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics believes that the CBO’s forecast may be too optimistic. “I don’t think the economy will ever fully get back to the GDP growth rate [before the pandemic], which CBO expects by the end of this decade,” he said in an email.

In the short term, there is not going to be a quick economic rebound in Arizona. I know this because Governor Ducey lied about the state’s readiness to reopen the economy, and the new COVID-19 numbers are still climbing. After all the mass protests in our major cities over the past couple of weeks, you should expect to see a surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths before the end of the month.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Arizona virus hospitalizations climb past 1,000, new record:

The number of Arizonans hospitalized with positive or suspected cases of COVID-19 shot past 1,000 on June 1, raising questions from the state’s former health chief about whether Gov. Doug Ducey should have abandoned his stay-at-home order.

The figure, a record, comes amid what has been a steady upward trend since the Department of Health Services began tracking the numbers in early April.

It also follows the setting of another record last week, with 635 positive cases reported from tests conducted on May 26.

There is some fluctuation in those daily numbers, with reports sometimes taking days to be filed with the state. And even the Department of Health Services says that illnesses within the past four to seven days may have yet to be reported.

But here, too, there is a general upward trend.

Overall, the state reported 24 new deaths on June 2, bringing the total for Arizona up to 941.

And the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, which keeps its own records, said there has been a steady increase in the number of new cases.

Using a 7-day average, the institute says the state is generating an average of 519 new cases a day. By contrast, on May 15, when the stay-at-home order expired, the average number of new cases was 378 a day.

So in no way is Arizona meeting the White House Guidelines For Opening Up America Again. (The White House has moved on from the Coronavirus pandemic, that is so yesterday. Now it is trying to start a race war in America because Trump thinks this will help him get reelected – if there is an election. And what would this do the economy, Michael Crow?)

And that move followed Ducey agreeing to allow bars and restaurants to reopen and to ease restrictions on other businesses.

Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told Capitol Media Services the figures give him some concern.

“What it tells me … is that the stay-at-home order was working, because when it ended, it started popping back up again,” he said.

But Humble, himself a former state health director, said the trend also says something else.

“I’m afraid there’s no seasonal effect, or not a significant one,” he said.

Well, this totally destroys Donald Trump’s bullshit predictions from February:

Feb. 10: “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases — 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” — Trump at the White House. (See our item “Will the New Coronavirus ‘Go Away’ in April?“)

Feb. 14: “There’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm — historically, that has been able to kill the virus.  So we don’t know yet; we’re not sure yet. But that’s around the corner.” — Trump in speaking to National Border Patrol Council members.

Feb. 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” — Trump at a White House meeting with African American leaders.

“I would have expected to see a moderating effect because of the really high temperatures over the last two weeks,” Humble said. “Instead, you see this uptick in cases starting on the 26th (of May) which continues today.”

What makes the 26th significant, he said, is that the stay-at-home order ended on May 15.

From there, there’s an incubation period of about a week. And then, Humble said, it can take four to six days for lab tests to come back.

Humble said there are several take-aways from the data, particularly the number of patients in hospitals.

“Number One is to keep real good eyes on hospital capacity numbers over the next week,” he said.

“Up until now, there’s been a sense of complacency I think, even in my own mind, that we were going to have plenty of hospital capacity,” Humble said. “But when you see the trends since the 26th, which reflects the end of the stay-at-home order, it makes me believe that at some point there might be a threshold where we’re going to be bumping up against ICU bed and inpatient capacity.”

The most recent figures from the health department show hospitals overall are using 82% of their inpatient beds and the same percentage of intensive care unit beds.

“We don’t want to end up looking like New York and northern Italy,” Humble said. “I didn’t think that was possible two weeks ago.”

Humble said there may be another shoe yet to drop.

He cited several high-profile cases where patrons were swarming in and around reopened bars and restaurants over the Memorial Day weekend, virtually none of whom were wearing masks. There also was a crush of people lined up for tubing on the Salt River, also without facial coverings.

“That was about two weeks ago,” Humble said. “This week is the week I’d expect to see numbers popping up because of the behaviors that happened over Memorial Day.”

And this was before the mass protests in Arizona’s cities against police brutality following the police murder of George Floyd. I would say that we are likely going to see a multiplier effect, especially from “super spreaders” among the crowds of people.

He acknowledged that he is looking at the issue strictly from a public health perspective. But Humble, who served under both Democrat and Republican governors, acknowledged there’s a political component in the decisions that have to be made.

“This is a decision for elected officials, especially the governor,” he said. “What’s their tolerance level for having an increased number of cases, recognizing that that has a real-life impact in the community and people’s lives, balanced against his concern about GDP and employment, etc.”

The governor’s spokesman, Patrick Ptak, said the numbers are no surprise.

“As we continue to increase testing and slowly phase in reopening, we expect to see continued cases of COVID-19,” Ptak said. And he said that, despite the more than 1,000 patients hospitalized with the virus “our hospitals are well equipped and have the capacity to ensure anyone who needs health care has access to it.”

So get out there and spread that disease!

A spokeswoman for current state Health Director Cara Christ echoed the comments about the expectation of continued cases of the virus.

“We know COVID-19 is still in our community, and we encourage everyone to take steps to remain healthy, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Holly Poynter. She did not answer questions of whether Christ believes the easing of restrictions was a mistake.

We will have a much better idea before the end of this month.

New figures from the Department of Economic Security show that only 22,290 Arizonans filed first-time claims for jobless benefits in the week just ended. That is as low as it has been since the outbreak and the gubernatorial orders restricting travel and business activity.

[But it] brings to nearly 626,000 the number of Arizonans who have sought unemployment aid since the governor’s restrictions were first imposed.

DES also says 59,086 people applied last week for the separate federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That is generally available to those who are not entitled to regular jobless benefits, like the self-employed.

Remember, the $600 per week extra financial assistance expires July 31. Right now, it doesn’t look like Senate Republicans are inclined to extend that assistance. Republicans Push ‘Return To Work Bonus’ As Alternative To Unemployment Benefits:

With Republicans intent on letting expanded unemployment benefits expire at the end of July, a new GOP proposal would instead give workers a bonus for returning to their jobs.

The “Return to Work” bonus would give workers up to $1,200 for going back to work. The bonus money would be available until the end of July, when the extra $600 in federal money that Congress added to weekly unemployment checks also expires.

Remember, the extra $600 was designed to encourage people to stay home to prevent the spread of the disease. The Republican “Return to Work” bonus does just the opposite, it encourages the spread of the disease.

With COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths still on the rise in Arizona, let’s just call this what it is, a “death benefit.”

Workers who are legitimately concerned about returning to work when the coronavirus pandemic remains unchecked and is spreading are getting screwed by Republicans in another way: Workers Fearful of the Coronavirus Are Getting Fired and Losing Their Benefits:

As people across the United States are told to return to work, employees who balk at the health risks say they are being confronted with painful reprisals: Some are losing their jobs if they try to stay home, and thousands more are being reported to the state to have their unemployment benefits cut off.

[Republican] states with a history of weaker labor protections are encouraging employers to report workers who do not return to their jobs, citing state laws that disqualify people from receiving unemployment checks if they refuse a reasonable offer of work.

Oklahoma set up a “Return To Work” email address for businesses to report employees who turn down jobs. Ohio offered a similar way for employers to report coronavirus-related work refusals.

Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina are among several states that have told workers they cannot continue to collect unemployment if they turn down a suitable job offer. Missouri has received 982 reports of workers refusing to return to their jobs.

In Tennessee, where 735 workers have been reported for refusing to return to work, the state labor commissioner announced that the fear of contracting the coronavirus was not a good enough excuse to not go back.

You know that there are Republican legislators in Arizona just itching to do this here, but the legislature is not currently in session. Beware what they propose in the upcoming special sessions.




3 COMMENTS

  1. It is at least somewhat heartening that the media seems to be analyzing the governments’ happy talk bullshit more critically with an eye on the actual data. I just wish they would start asking actually important questions during press availabilities. Those chances to hold Ducey to account shouldn’t be squandered on bullshit like when we get to watch baseball again. ARGGHH.

  2. Had a talk today with a person threatened to be fired if he didn’t go to work Monday when he could not leave his son who has no caretaker available. If fired, he loses his unemployment. Just as the administration planned to save states money but leave large businesses all the benefits. Perhaps we can create a name for a new type of delusional psychosis – delusional state #45?

    • I don’t believe that Arizona has yet adopted the rule other Republican states have, but I could be wrong. It’s hard to keep up with all the changing rules.

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