As part of a broader package of domestic policies, President Biden is looking to improve the safety conditions for nursing home residents and staff to increase the facilities’ preparedness for emergencies and follow practices to curb the spread of infections.
Dean Baker, senior economist at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), retweeted an article shared by Jeff Hauser, the founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, on Biden vowing to crack down on all of the poorest-performing nursing homes in the US. According to data, more than 200,000 residents and staff have died from Covid since the start of the pandemic.
The White House announced is expected to initiate plans to boost nursing home staffing and oversight, blaming the Covid deaths of nursing home residents and staff to be caused by the inadequate safety conditions. According to officials, the plan would minimise staffing levels, implement single-occupancy rooms, and crack down on the poorest-performing nursing homes to reduce the risk of residents getting infected from the virus. The White House also stated that it will examine the role of private equity firms, citing evidence that their ownership was linked with worse outcomes and higher costs.
The initiatives are part of President Biden’s domestic plans, which he is looking to project in his first State of the Union address. Nursing homes have been an epicentre of Covid spread during the pandemic, as the virus initially spread rapidly across care facilities before vaccines were made available in 2020, and then continued to sicken and kill residents at an increased pace last year.
Biden will also call on the Congress to provide almost $500m to carry out health and safety inspections at nursing homes. Thousands of the long-term care facilities were not inspected during the initial months of the pandemic due to lack of safety gear and personal protective equipment (PPE) for inspectors and due to some states prioritising remote visits.
Stephanie Kelton, economist, a professor at Stony Brook University, and a senior fellow at the Schwartz Centre for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research, retweeted an article shared by Laura Routh, former nutritionist for the WIC programme and a textile artisan, on Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief bill barely adding to inflation. A new report, Kelton added, has found that the hotly contested Covid package is responsible for adding just 0.35 percent points to inflation.
Kelton believes that the inflation became uncomfortably high only when the Delta variant hit in late summer last year in the US. This inflation was a surprise, but so was the emergence of the variant, which appeared immediately at a time when vaccine rollouts had just begun and amid widespread optimism that the pandemic was gradually fading.
Delta smashed consumer demand, it prompted renewed border restrictions and self-quarantining, which would moderate inflation but also severely disrupted supply. As a result, supply chains bottlenecks prevailed across the world, especially hitting those in Southeast Asia where populations were less vaccinated and where most supply chains begin, she added.
She further added that some ways to enhance price stability in the short-term, included overcoming the pandemic, unclogging ports, removing non-strategic tariffs, licensing more truck drivers, negotiating prescription drug costs, and moving to Medicare for All.
Brett House, vice-president and deputy chief economist at Scotiabank, retweeted an article shared by Scotiabank Economics on Chile’s unemployment rate having increased to 7.3% but solid gains continuing in formal employment. Meanwhile, economic activity increased in Mexico in December but trade balance for January posted a record deficit of $6.3bn, partly due to Covid-19 increases in the country and its trading partners.
In Chile, the employment gap with pre-pandemic levels was reduced to 350,000 jobs, of which 153,000 corresponded to men and 197,000 to women. However, formal job creation remained strong in the country, with the extension of the labour emergency family income (IFE) in the coming months expected to provide greater cushion to the creation of formal employment, which has a gap of 162,000 jobs to recover compared to pre-pandemic levels.