Some 69% of Americans believe that state governments have eased restrictions too soon amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as opposed to opening too slowly, according to a new Pew Research study published on Thursday, as the U.S. grapples with a still-uncontrolled outbreak of the coronavirus.
While the Trump administration pushed for states to lift stay-at-home orders throughout the spring to help the battered economy, governors are now being forced to pause or restore some restrictions after a surge in cases this summer.
Around seven-in-ten people believe the most effective way to help economic recovery is to significantly reduce infections across the country, according to the study, and while Trump continues his argument that the U.S. leads the world in cases due to an increase in testing, 60% of Americans believe it’s primarily due to more new infections.
A majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the main reason the outbreak in the U.S. has continued is due to the lack of social distancing and mask wearing, while 58% of adults surveyed believe it’s due to early lifting of restrictions.
A number of wealthy nations that experienced severe outbreaks early in the pandemic have exited their first waves and have less cases than states like California and Florida, with 62% of Americans believing the U.S. response to the coronavirus trails other affluent countries.
The survey comes as the Trump administration continues to pressure Democratic-led states to ease restrictions and demand schools reopen for in-person instruction, even threatening to withhold federal funding if they don’t.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s lead infectious disease expert, commented on the rise of infections across the nation: “In the attempt to reopen in some situations states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House has put out. And others that even did abide by it, the people in the state actually were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks.”
While initial hotspots like New York and New Jersey were able to lower the infection rate throughout the spring, cases began exploding in southern and western states before the country as a whole could exit the first wave of its outbreak. Cases are now trending down after a record high of 74,818 on July 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though deaths have been over 1,000 daily the past week and there are still tens of thousands of cases each day. The U.S. leads all other countries in cases with 4.87 million, as well as reported deaths with 159,864.
The numbers publicized Wednesday “represent the largest segment of layoffs” that are expected, a Boeing spokesperson said.
Boeing said Wednesday that nearly 7,000 of its U.S. employees will be involuntarily laid off, a bloodletting that is part of a plan for the aerospace giant to shrink its overall workforce by 10 percent amid the new aviation landscape created by Covid-19.
In addition, about 5,500 U.S. workers are being laid off voluntarily.
In a message to employees sent Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the pandemic’s impact “means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices.”
“We have done our very best to project the needs of our commercial airline customers over the next several years as they begin their path to recovery,” Calhoun said. “I wish there were some other way.”
The numbers publicized Wednesday “represent the largest segment of layoffs” that are expected, a Boeing spokesperson said. “The several thousand remaining layoffs will come in additional tranches over the next few months.”
The coronavirus pandemic has crushed demand for passenger airline travel, and the Boeing spokesperson said its biggest workforce cuts are to “areas that are most exposed to the condition of our commercial customers,” but that “our defense, space and related services businesses will help us limit overall impact.”
In his message to workers, Calhoun pointed to some initial indications of recovery for the industry, saying some airlines are “reporting that reservations are outpacing cancellations on their flights for the first time since the pandemic started,” and a number of “countries and U.S. states are starting cautiously to open their economies again.”
Still, it will take years for the industry to “return to what it was just two months ago,” Calhoun said.
He said Boeing will need to work with airlines to “assure the traveling public that it can fly safe from infection.”
“We also will have to adjust our business plans constantly until the global pandemic stops whipsawing our markets in ways that are still hard to predict,” he said.
Later Wednesday, Boeing said it had restarted production of its beleaguered 737 MAX in Renton, Wash., after a monthslong suspension. The MAX has been grounded around the world since March 2019, following two fatal crashes.
As health costs continue to grow, straining employer budgets and slowing wage growth, the business community is beginning to take the option more seriously.
More than 156 million Americans get employer-paid healthcare, making it by far the single-largest form of coverage.
Medicare-for-all supports say the health system overall would see savings from a coordinated effort to lower prices and administrative costs and eliminate insurance company profits.
While large business lobbying groups strongly oppose Medicare for all, the resolve of many in the business community — especially among smaller firms — may be shifting.
Walk into a big-box retailer such as Walmart or Michaels and you’re likely to see MCS Industries’ picture frames, decorative mirrors or kitschy wall décor.
Adjacent to a dairy farm a few miles west of downtown Easton, MCS is the nation’s largest maker of such household products. But MCS doesn’t actually make anything here anymore. It has moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico and China, with the last manufacturing jobs departing this city along the Delaware River in 2005. MCS now has about 175 U.S. employees and 600 people overseas.
“We were going to lose the business because we were no longer competitive,” CEO Richard Master explained. And one of the biggest impediments to keeping labor costs in line, he said, has been the increasing expense of health coverage in the United States.
Today, he’s at the vanguard of a small but growing group of business executives who are lining up to support a “Medicare for All” national health program. He argues not that healthcare is a human right, but that covering everyone with a government plan and decoupling healthcare coverage from the workplace would benefit entrepreneurship.
In February, Master stood with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) outside the Capitol after she introduced her Medicare for All bill. “This bill removes an albatross from the neck of American business, puts more money in consumer products and will boost our economy,” he said.
As health costs continue to grow, straining employer budgets and slowing wage growth, others in the business community are beginning to take the option more seriously.
While the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other large business lobbying groups strongly oppose increased government involvement in healthcare, the resolve of many in the business community — especially among smaller firms — may be shifting.
“There is growing momentum among employers supporting single-payer,” said Dan Geiger, co-director of the Business Alliance for a Healthy California, which has sought to generate business support for a universal healthcare program in California. About 300 mostly small employers have signed on.
“Businesses are really angry about the system, and there is a lot of frustration with its rising costs and dysfunction,” he said.
Geiger acknowledged the effort still lacks support from any Fortune 500 company CEOs. He said large businesses are hesitant to get involved in this political debate and many don’t want to lose the ability to attract workers with generous health benefits. “There is also a lingering distrust of the government, and they think they can offer coverage better than the government,” he said.
In addition, some in the business community are hesitant to sign on to Medicare for All with many details missing, such as how much it would increase taxes, said Ellen Kelsay, chief strategy officer for the National Business Group on Health, a leading business group focused on health benefits.
Democrats Propel the Debate
For decades, a government-run health plan was considered too radical an idea for serious consideration. But Medicare for All has been garnering more political support in recent months, especially after a progressive wave helped Democrats take control of the House this year. Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, strongly back it.
The labor unions and consumer groups that have long endorsed a single-payer health system hope that the embrace of it by employers such as Master marks another turning point for the movement.
Supporters of the concept say the health system overall would see savings from a coordinated effort to bring down prices and the elimination of many administrative costs or insurance company profits.
“It’s critical for our success to engage employers, particularly because our current system is hurting employers almost as much as it is patients,” said Melinda St. Louis, campaign director of Medicare for All at Public Citizen, a consumer-rights group based in Washington.
Master, a former Washington lawyer, worked on Democratic Sen. George McGovern’s presidential campaign before returning to Pennsylvania in 1973 to take over his father’s company, which made rigid paper boxes. In 1980, he founded MCS, which pioneered the popular front-loading picture frame and steamless fog-free mirrors for bathrooms. The company has grown into a $250 million corporation.
Master frequently travels to Washington and around the country to talk to business leaders as he seeks to build political support for a single-payer health system.
In the past four years, he has produced several documentary videos on the topic. In 2018, he formed the Business Initiative for Health Policy, a nonprofit group of business leaders, economists and health policy experts trying to explain the financial benefits of a single-payer system.
Dan Wolf, CEO of Cape Air, a Hyannis, Mass.-based regional airline that employs 800 people calls himself “a free market guy.” But he also supports Medicare for All. He said Master helps turn the political argument over single-payer into a practical one.
“It’s about good business sense and about caring for his employees and their well-being,” he said, adding that employers should no longer be straddled with the cost and complexity of healthcare.
“It makes no more sense for an airline to understand health policy for the bulk of its workers than for a health facility to have to supply all the air transportation for its employees,” he said.
Employers are also an important voice in the debate because 156 million Americans get employer-paid healthcare, making it by far the single-largest form of coverage.
Master said his company has tried various methods to control costs with little success, including high deductibles, narrow networks of providers and wellness plans that emphasize preventive medicine.
Insurers who are supposed to negotiate lower rates from hospitals and doctors have failed, he added, and too many premium dollars go to covering administrative costs. Only by having the federal government set rates can the United States control costs of drugs, hospitals and other health services, he said.
“Insurance companies are not watching the store and don’t have incentives to hold down costs in the current system,” he said.
Glad The Boss Is Trying To Make A Difference
What’s left of MCS in Pennsylvania is a spacious corporate office building housing administrative staff, designers and a giant distribution center piled high with carton boxes from floor to ceiling.
MCS pays an average of $1,260 per month for each employee’s healthcare, up from $716 in 2009, the company said. In recent years, the company has reduced out-of-pocket costs for employees by covering most of their deductibles.
Medicare for All would require several new taxes to raise money, but Master said such a plan would mean savings for his company and employees.
MCS employees largely support Master’s attempt to fix the health system even if they are not all on board with a Medicare for All approach, according to interviews with several workers in Easton.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Faith Wildrick, a shipper at MCS who has worked for the company 26 years. “If the other countries are doing it and it is working for them, why can’t it work for us?”
Wildrick said that even with insurance her family struggles with health costs as her husband, Bill, a former MCS employee, deals with liver disease and needs many diagnostic tests and prescription medications. Their annual deductible has swung from $4,000 several years ago to $500 this year as the company has worked to lower employees’ out-of-pocket costs.
“I’m really glad someone is fighting for this and trying to make a difference,” said Wildrick.
Jessica Ehrhardt, the human resources manager at MCS, said the effort to reduce employees’ out-of-pocket health costs means the company must pay higher health costs. That results in less money for salary increases and other benefits, she added.
Asked about Medicare for All, Ehrhardt said, “It’s a drastic solution, but something needs to happen.”
For too long, Master said, the push for a single-payer health system has been about ideology.
“The movement has been about making healthcare a human right and that we have a right to universal healthcare,” he said. “What I am saying is this is prudent for our economy and am trying to make the business and economic case.”
“This is prudent for our economy and am trying to make the business and economic case.”
Jessica Ehrhardt, MCS Industries