To reopen or not to reopen?
That is the question as local, state and federal leaders across the country begin eying plans for economic recovery amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Governor Doug Ducey spoke with Arizona business leaders to solicit feedback on ways the state can prepare for economic recovery. Ducey focused on policy ideas, regulatory reforms and what businesses can do to incorporate public health guidance into their operations.
Also this week, President Trump presented his own blueprint to governors for a phased approach to reboot state economies.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is among local leaders expressing caution, saying, “Restarting the economy too soon after COVID-19 is perhaps more dangerous than waiting.”
The decision is a delicate balance between the desire to get Arizonans back to work and the need to protect public health and avoid an upsurge of the virus. As calls grow louder to ease restrictions and get the economy back on track, health experts warn against loosening too many restrictions too quickly.
Gov. Ducey’s stay-at-home order expires April 30. Watch for the administration to offer further guidance over the next week or so in terms of what comes next.
It’s safe to say the recommendations will involve you having to put on pants.
Veridus Clients in the news
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association has asked Gov. Doug Ducey to relax two key executive orders on COVID-19, saying social distancing measures are working in the state.
The association wants Ducey to ease limits on elective surgeries that he set by executive order on March 19 as a way of preserving personal protective equipment for health care workers, which is in short supply.
It also asked him to reconsider a March 26 order to increase hospital bed capacity in the state by 50% by April 24.
Hospitals had an earlier deadline to increase their bed capacity by 25%, and the hospital group is asking Ducey to allow the expansion of beds to stop there.
In a letter dated Thursday, association President and CEO Ann-Marie Alameddin wrote that the public health interventions that Ducey and his team implemented have proven effective and that the environment is “quite different than it was in mid-March.”
Surveillance data and predictive models “clearly demonstrate” that Arizona’s social distancing measures are working to “flatten the curve” and are saving lives, Alameddin wrote. The data and predictive models suggest hospitals now have adequate capacity to meet peak COVID-19 demand, she said.
Ducey is working closely with Arizona hospitals, Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey, wrote in an email to The Arizona Republic in response to an inquiry about Alameddin’s letter.
“Our goal and their goal is making sure we have the proper equipment and hospital beds to be prepared for a surge,” Ptak wrote. “We’re coordinating with them and looking at the data to make the best decisions for public health.” […]
Chamber Business News
Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona has reopened its walk-in career centers to help job seekers displaced by COVID-19 who do not have access to a computer or the internet.
Anyone with a computer can also take advantage of the charity’s no-cost computer training, job placement and other career services at MyCareerAdvisor.com.
The decision to reopen the centers came last week after Gov. Doug Ducey included the nonprofit in the list of essential businesses and secured $2 million in funding to keep 400 workers employed and services available for those in need.
[…] On Monday, Goodwill also reopened 21 of its 90 stores across the state to continue to bring in revenue to pay for its career services programs. All stores are continuing to receive donations. […]
CIGNA WAIVES CUSTOMER COST-SHARING FOR COVID-19 TREATMENT AND DEPLOYS CLINICAL TEAMS TO INCREASE VIRTUAL CARE CAPACITY
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., March 30, 2020 — Cigna is waiving customer cost-sharing and co-payments for COVID-19 treatment. This expanded coverage further protects Cigna customers and underscores the company’s commitment to delivering access to simple, affordable and predictable health care.
[…] Effective today, Cigna is waiving customer cost-sharing for all COVID-19 treatment through May 31, 2020. The treatments that Cigna will cover for COVID-19 are those covered under Medicare or other applicable state regulations. The company will reimburse health care providers at Cigna’s in-network rates or Medicare rates, as applicable. This policy applies to customers in the United States who are covered under Cigna’s employer/union sponsored insured group health plans, insured plans for US based globally mobile individuals, Medicare Advantage and Individual and Family Plans (IFP). Cigna will also administer the waiver to self-insured group health plans and the company encourages widespread participation, although these plans will have an opportunity to opt-out of the waiver option.
[…] Cigna is also partnering with Buoy Health, an artificial-intelligence powered navigation platform to provide a free, web-based interactive triage tool that assesses COVID-19 risk. Through this early-intervention tool, US domestic customers can quickly receive information regarding the severity of their symptoms and recommendations on next steps for care. The symptom checker will be available this week on www.Cigna.com, www.MyCigna.com and related myCigna mobile applications.
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In other news …
US News & World Report
PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday he’s beginning discussions about how to ease up on the social distancing requirements that have left businesses closed and a record number of workers jobless.
But he says nobody should expect the economy to turn back on as quickly as it came grinding to a halt in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s not like turning off the light switch and turning on the light switch,” Ducey told reporters during a briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus. “It’s about making the right decisions at the right time.”
Ducey said his current stay-at-home order is in effect through April 30, and it’s an “aspirational” goal to ease restrictions on businesses after that. But he said he’d extend or revise his orders if necessary. Ducey has ordered bars, gyms, beauty salons and a variety of other nonessential businesses to close, and he’s restricted restaurants to takeout only.
“At the appropriate time, when it’s safe, we will begin to reenergize our economy one step at a time,” Ducey said. […]
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — The government program designed to help small business weather the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic ran out of money Thursday, and congressional leaders remained at a standoff over how to replenish the funds.
The Senate met for a brief session Thursday afternoon — the last opportunity it had to approve more money until next week. Since no action was taken, the program will remain depleted at least through the weekend.
Over 12 days, the Small Business Administration spent the entire $349 billion that Congress previously authorized to spend on forgivable loans intended to help small businesses maintain their payroll and health coverage for employees.
Republicans want to authorize an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) have balked at spending that money without ensuring that microbusinesses and disenfranchized companies are able to participate. They also want to add more funding for state and local governments and hospitals.
[…] The Paycheck Protection Program has strong bipartisan support. The political squabble over a second round of funding matched the partisanship in Congress before agreement on the sweeping stimulus package known as the CARES Act, which was bogged down for days until it finally passed without objection. […]