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Perspectives: Time For A Relief Deal In Congress; A Big Thanks For ACA’s Protections For Unemployed

Opinion writers express views on these public health policies and more.

Pelosi, McConnell Can Make Deal On Coronavirus Relief

Split the difference. That’s what Republicans and Democrats should do on Covid-19 relief.Compromise doesn’t always work. If one group wants to build a bridge and another doesn’t, there’s no point in trying to make everyone happy by building half a bridge.In the case of the stalled negotiations over “phase four” of the federal response to the pandemic, though, meeting in the middle is exactly what ought to happen. The biggest sticking points concern unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments. In both cases, the Republicans are being too stingy and the Democrats too generous. Reaching an agreement should not be beyond their wits. (Ramesh Ponnuru, 8/19)

USA Today:
Coronavirus Unemployment Relief: Congress Needs To Get Back To Work

For the estimated 30 million out-of-work Americans struggling to make ends meet during a virus-fueled economic collapse, Friday will mark four weeks of living on little more than a few hundred dollars a week in state unemployment compensation. That average income of $370 per week falls shamefully short of what the jobless need to survive, and it’s why Congress and President Donald Trump agreed in March to add $600 a week in federal benefits.But the federal supplement ended in late July, and Americans — millions of whom lost their health coverage along with their jobs — have started making hard choices on spending for food, rent or medical bills. “It’s just about life or death in some situations,” said Melissa Rusk, an unemployed resident of Bradenton, Florida. (8/19)

The Hill:
Medicaid Expansion Is The Shot In The Arm America Needs 

Amid the deadliest pandemic to afflict America in a century and surging unemployment, Medicaid expansion is having a moment. In recent months, two deeply conservative states— Oklahoma and Missouri — voted to expand Medicaid despite opposition from Republican state leaders. With the majority of voters in both political parties recognizing the value of Medicaid expansion, now is the time for the remaining 12 states to take this action. (Dr. Marisa K Dowling, Dr. Janice Blanchard and Dr. Jennifer Lee, 8/19)

New England Journal of Medicine:
Insurance Coverage After Job Loss — The Importance Of The ACA During The Covid-Associated Recession

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate reached 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression. More than 40 million people filed for unemployment insurance between March and May 2020, and official statistics may understate the true extent of job disruptions. Widespread layoffs amid the pandemic threaten to cut off millions of people from their employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Concurrently, health insurance has increased in importance because of the need for coverage of Covid-19 diagnostic testing and treatment. As restrictions are lifted and the economy begins its slow recovery, some people who had been laid off will be able to reclaim their jobs and health benefits. But the economy is unlikely to recover to prepandemic levels in the near future, meaning that the Covid-associated recession will leave many people without jobs and without their usual source of health insurance.Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, people who lost their jobs had limited choices for health insurance. (Sumit D. Agarwal and Benjamin D. Sommers, 8/19)

Even Imperfect Covid-19 Tests Can Help Control The Pandemic 

A key component to managing the Covid-19 pandemic is frequent, rapid, and routine testing of a large number of Americans — including those without symptoms. With public discussion of this issue has come increased scrutiny of the accuracy of Covid-19 tests, especially the rapid point-of-care tests whose results can come back in a matter of minutes. (Jeffrey L. Schnipper and Paul E. Sax, 8/20)

The Coronavirus Testing News We’ve Been Salivating For 

Ever since this horrible stupid pandemic began, it’s been clear testing was the key to stopping it. Way back in March, the WHO’s director-general said fighting the disease without testing was like trying to “fight a fire blindfolded.” Unlike some other countries that tested aggressively from the start, the U.S. has been wearing blinders for months. Finally, there’s some hope they may come off soon. The FDA just approved a thing called SalivaDirect, which sounds like the world’s worst delivery service but is in fact a cheap, easy, spit-based test for SARS-CoV-2. (Mark Gongloff, 8/19)

USA Today:
Tammy Duckworth: Republicans Gut ADA In Coronavirus Relief Bill

First, we need to save lives by preventing mass institutionalization. Placing individuals with disabilities into congregate care facilities where the risks of serious illness and death are high is reckless and unacceptable. Yet the GOP refused to provide the urgently needed 10% increase in funding for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services — despite that we know that Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are killed at staggering rates when infected with COVID-19, and despite that Republican and Democratic governors alike desperately need us to pass this commonsense policy that would save lives. Second, Senate Republicans must abandon efforts to gut the ADA, once and for all. (Sen. Tammy Duckworth, 8/20)

The New York Times:
Democratic Convention: Best And Worst Moments Of Night 3 

Wajahat Ali : Democrats revealed their values and policies through the real stories of women: Gabby Giffords, a gun violence survivor, playing “America (My Country, ’Tis of Thee)” on the French horn; and an undocumented mother sitting with her daughters. … Nicole Hemmer: Gabby Giffords has toiled for years to regain her ability to speak after being shot. As she said in her short, powerful speech, “I struggle to speak, but I have not lost my voice.” Thank god she hasn’t — every word testified to what gun violence took from her and what she’s taken back. (8/19)

St. Louis Post Dispatch:
GOP Convention Taps The McCloskeys To Speak. A Celebration Of Recklessness.

No, it’s not the setup of a Saturday Night Live skit. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who recklessly waved guns at protesters marching past their home in June, are actually slated to speak at the Republican National Convention next week. What does it say about today’s GOP that leaders would elevate this couple as representative of Republican values? Once, Republicans cared about things like law and order, and free expression. By putting the McCloskeys on the national stage, convention organizers are embracing a reactionary, armed-vigilante message that even staunch gun-rights activists have called into question. (8/18)

Tampa Bay Times:
President Trump Gets New Zealand’s ‘Big Surge’ All Wrong

On the day the president made this claim, New Zealand had a “big surge” of nine new coronavirus cases. Maybe Trump was presciently looking ahead to what would happen the next day, when New Zealand would report 13 new cases, but he probably wasn’t thinking of Wednesday, when it reported six new cases. How ridiculous was the president’s assertion? On Wednesday, Pinellas County reported 12 new deaths in a single day, and Hillsborough counted 18. As for cases? Well, Hillsborough had 246 new ones, and Pinellas had 118. It was a sad day for the Sunshine State, as it crossed the threshold of 10,000 deaths. The United States has surpassed 171,000 deaths. How many have died in New Zealand? Twenty-two. Total. (8/19)

The Washington Post:
There’s No Covid-19 In Syria’s Worst Refugee Camp. That May Be About To Change.

Just 10 miles away from a U.S. military base in Syria, 8,000 people are starving to death, besieged on all sides, and cut off from any food or medicine or other aid, in a camp called Rukban. Yet this isolation had one benefit: It protected them from the added calamity of a covid-19 outbreak. Now, however, Jordan is deporting its Syrian refugees directly into Rukban, some of whom could be bringing the virus back to their homeland with them. There are lots of tragic stories in Syria, but few match the sheer horror and hopelessness of the internally displaced civilians in this southeast Syrian camp, which is protected by a nearby U.S. military outpost from the Bashar al-Assad regime as well as Russian and Iranian forces. There are no roads out and no roads in. (Josh Rogin, 8/20)

Viewpoints: All Schools, Students Must Try To Stop The Pandemic; Lessons On Opioid-Related Mortalities

Opinion writers weigh in on these pandemic issues and others.

The Washington Post:
To Save Education, We Must Fight The Broader Pandemic

Today, there are about 56.6 million primary and secondary school students in the United States, and about 20 million students are enrolled in colleges and universities. As the fall semester begins, they all stand at a precipice. We share the conviction of many educators, parents and public health experts that education must not be allowed to fall apart during the pandemic. But hopes are fast colliding with reality. Outbreaks at several universities suggest that schools everywhere must use extreme caution before going ahead with in-classroom schooling. The experience of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is instructive. The university, with nearly 30,000 students, started classes Aug. 10. (8/19)

Charlotte Observer:
Political Meddling Caused A COVID Mess At UNC

Kevin Guskiewicz, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, appeared on the CBS news show “60 Minutes” in June to discuss the university’s plan to bring thousands of undergraduates back to campus amid a pandemic. “There certainly is some risk,” he said, “but we believe we’re putting in place the right measures to mitigate that risk.” It was a plan as ambitious as it was naive. Only a week into the start of the school year, Guskiewicz – confronted with clusters of coronavirus infections in student residence halls and a rising mutiny among faculty – on Monday announced that most students living on campus would be sent home and the rest of the fall semester would be conducted with remote instruction. The chancellor is the face of the decision, but it was the UNC Board of Governors that is to blame for the turmoil caused by the abrupt reversal. (8/18)

The Virginian-Pilot:
Students Share Responsibility For College’s COVID Fate 

That students arrived in Chapel Hill with a less-than-perfect understanding of the world-as-it-is says something and it’s disheartening to ponder what that “something” might be. Maybe they all took a six-month trip to another planet, is that possible? Students, faculty and administrators fail to acquire “situational awareness” at great peril. The business model for all these colleges and universities is grounded in the word, “residential.” You can temporarily make it work otherwise, but you must account for an on-line half-life. (8/19)

Des Moines Register:
Iowa State Student Parties In Ames Threaten To Spread COVID-19

It looks to me like parallel universes exist among ISU students. Up on campus, we have people in masks, people keeping their distance from each other, people all concerned about the virus. But as soon as they get off campus, down on Welch, on a warm day … watch out. All that teaching and those warnings are for naught. (Dick Haws, 8/18)

Detroit News:
COVID-19 Pandemic Despair Fuels Opioid Epidemic In Appalachia

Long before the pandemic came along, the nation, especially Appalachia, was in the throes of a deadly epidemic: opioid and meth addiction. It was a crisis that tore apart families, devastated communities and destroyed lives. As the pandemic continues, so does the opioid epidemic, with the pandemic’s widespread effects causing opioid addiction to escalate at alarming numbers. The Overdose Data Mapping Application Program report published in May showed fatal overdoses rose by almost 11.4% from January to April, compared with the same period last year. In July, the American Medical Association warned about an increase of reports from across the country showing a dramatic increase in opioid-related mortality during the pandemic. (Salena Zito, 8/19)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Feeling Off? Some Tips To Take Care Of Your Mental Health

It was heartening to learn that rapper and now presidential candidate Kanye West suffers from bipolar disorder because finally there was a way to explain his behavior.At the same time, I was saddened for him, for his family. Coping with mental illness can be hard for a lot of reasons. There’s always the nagging question of why me? The fear of what it means. And the biggie ― the unwarranted shame one may feel. (Gracie Bonds Staples, 8/20)

Los Angeles Times:
Mentally Ill People Often Don’t Get Treatment Because Of An Antiquated Law 

You can’t spend time on the streets of any large city in California and not ask this question: Why do so many of our most vulnerable, severely mentally ill Californians not get the care they so urgently need? We hoped this critically important public policy question, and others, would be answered when we asked California’s state auditor last year to closely examine the laws governing involuntary treatment of those with a serious mental illness. Jonathan Sherin and Darrell Steinberg, 8/20)

Do I Need To Wear A Mask Outside? Biden’s Confusing Covid Mask Mandate

Depending on where you live, you might be seeing masked joggers and cyclists on the streets of your neighborhood. Or you might have gone for a run yourself, mask-free, and been heckled to mask up. At this point, most thoughtful people wear masks indoors in public and outdoors in crowded situations, but wearing a mask when you’re outdoors and alone — or far away from anyone else — has become a frontier of intense debate.Presidential candidate Joe Biden added to the confusion when he called for a national mask mandate last week. In no uncertain terms, he said it could save 40,000 lives over the next three months if everyone wore a mask “outside.” But that’s not what the experts say. (Faye Flam, 8/19)

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