A small-town doctor coping with COVID-19 disruption
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One month ago today, the U.S. Surgeon General recommended that hospitals and health care systems consider postponing elective medical procedures.
Doing so helps flatten the curve, preserves masks and other equipment, and can reduce strain on medical professionals. But it also means cutting off revenue for all kinds of medical establishments, big and small.
Dr. Scott Anzalone is an independent family physician in Logan, Ohio, who owns a small practice, Stagecoach Family Medicine. A month ago he told “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal that his biggest single worry wasn’t the virus, but what it could do to the economy.
When we called him back this week to check in, he told us that his patient load has decreased as much as 50%. “We’re hanging in there, day by day,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my employees all employed so they don’t have shortened paychecks.” Although Anzalone said he has been approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, he hasn’t received any money yet.
But this small-town doctor isn’t just dealing with COVID-19 disruption in his medical practice. As president of the local school board, he’s also facing an array of challenges related to school closures.
Remote learning in a county where many people lack access to the internet is a challenge. The Logan-Hocking School District is working on innovative ways to extend its internet infrastructure — like using school buses to offer Wi-Fi.
“We’re looking at putting hotspots in our buses and driving them out to remote areas,” he told “Marketplace.” “Kids could then drive to a hotspot area, download their work, or if it reaches their home they would have access in their homes.”
Anzalone said the district has the devices and hopes to pilot the program soon.
Clarification (April 14, 2020): This story has been updated to more accurately describe the school bus internet.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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