08 Jun Live Coronavirus Updates: Bailed-Out Hospitals Laid Off Staff
U.S. hospitals received billions in bailout grants as C.E.O.s got millions.
As some of the wealthiest health care companies in the United States received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to help them cope with lost revenue from the pandemic, they laid off or cut the pay of tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and lower-paid workers, while continuing to pay their top executives millions.
The New York Times analyzed tax and securities filings by 60 of the country’s largest hospital chains, which have received a total of more than $15 billion in emergency funds through the economic stimulus package in the federal CARES Act.
The hospitals — including publicly traded juggernauts like HCA and Tenet Healthcare, elite nonprofits like the Mayo Clinic, and regional chains with thousands of beds and billions in cash — are collectively sitting on tens of billions of dollars of cash reserves that are supposed to help them weather an unanticipated storm. They awarded their five highest-paid officials about $874 million in the most recent year for which they have disclosed their finances.
At least 36 of those hospital chains have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic.
More than a dozen workers at the wealthy hospitals said in interviews that their employers had put the heaviest financial burdens on front-line staff, including low-paid cafeteria workers, janitors and nursing assistants. They said pay cuts and furloughs made it even harder for members of the medical staff to do their jobs, forcing them to treat more patients in less time.
The bailout money, which hospitals received from the Health and Human Services Department without having to apply for it, came with few strings attached.
Katherine McKeogh, a department spokeswoman, said it “encourages providers to use these funds to maintain delivery capacity by paying and protecting doctors, nurses and other health care workers.” The legislation restricts hospitals’ ability to use the bailout funds to pay top executives, although it doesn’t stop recipients from continuing to award large bonuses.
Exactly 100 days since its first case of coronavirus was confirmed, New York City, where more than 205,000 have been infected and nearly 22,000 have died, is set to take the first tentative steps toward reopening on Monday.
As many as 400,000 workers could begin returning to construction jobs, manufacturing sites and retail stores in the city’s first phase of reopening — a surge of normalcy that seemed almost inconceivable several weeks ago, when the city’s hospitals were at a breaking point and as many as 800 people were dying from Covid-19 on a single day.
Many retail stores, battered by months of closure, are readying to do business again on Monday, starting with curbside and in-store pickup. Construction companies are adding safety features and stockpiling masks and gloves. Manufacturers, whose shop floors have been idle since March, are testing machines.
State and city officials said they were optimistic that the city would begin to spring back to life, but the road back will be challenging. More than 885,000 jobs vanished during the outbreak, and strong gains are not expected for the city until 2022. The city budget hemorrhaged tax revenue and now faces a $9 billion shortfall over the next year.
And the reopening has been complicated by the vast protests for racial justice that have swept the city, and the country, for more than a week, forcing government officials and business owners to unexpectedly adjust their plans because of looting and other damage.
“We were planning to make a lot of noise saying, ‘Hey, we’re back,’” said Ken Giddon, a co-owner with his brother of Rothmans, a small clothing chain with a flagship near Union Square. “Now we don’t think that would be appropriate. I think New York City needs a week or two of healing before a week or two of selling.”
A 14-day quarantine period for all travelers arriving in Britain came into force on Monday, to the anger of the country’s travel industry and amid doubts over the practicality of the new rules.
Under the system, those entering Britain by air, ferry or train will have to give an address at which they will isolate for 14 days, with a fine of up to 1,000 pounds, or about $1,200, for violations.
During the early stages of the pandemic the British government rejected the idea of quarantine, but the home secretary, Priti Patel, argued that the rules are now needed to stop the risk of importing a second wave of infections.
However, the restrictions begin at a time when some other European nations are starting to relax theirs. And quarantine will apply to those arriving from countries with much lower infection rates — including people from New Zealand, which has declared itself virus-free.
Several groups of travelers are exempt, including truck drivers, medical workers, fruit pickers and anyone arriving from Ireland. But some critics doubt that the government has the resources to enforce the restrictions.
“I think people in the U.K. know that the quarantine is useless, it is a political stunt,” Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair told Sky News. Ryanair is one of three airlines that have sent a letter to the government disputing the legality of the plans.
“These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the U.K.,” said British Airways, easyJet, and Ryanair in a statement.
Ministers are also under political pressure and the government says it is holding negotiations over the creation of “travel corridors” that might allow Britons to travel to and from continental Europe without the need for quarantine.
Crowds will gather again in New Zealand’s restaurants. Weddings will include as many hugs and guests as the happy couple wants — and even social distancing will not be needed.
New Zealand has no active coronavirus cases and no new cases, officials announced Monday, declaring that life could now return to a form of pre-pandemic normal.
“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, adding: “Thank you New Zealand.”
The country of five million people is one of only a few nations that appear to have eradicated the virus, at least for now. Iceland is another.
Ms. Ardern, who led an approach she described as “go hard go early” — with a severe lockdown that began in late March — said the country could now focus on economic recovery and boosting local businesses.
“Retail is back without limitation,” she said. “Hospitality is back without limitation; public transport and travel across the country is fully open.”
The return to freedom of movement, however, is not quite complete. With the pandemic continuing to rage elsewhere, the country’s borders are still locked down. Plans for a travel bubble with Australia are in the works, but moving slowly.
Ms. Ardern also announced that QR codes would be appearing wherever people gather. She asked businesses to remind people to scan the codes into the government’s contact tracing app to make any future outbreak easier to track and isolate.
“This is a key new habit we’re asking all New Zealanders to adopt,” she said.
Mexico’s president rejects a big stimulus package.
In April, for the second time in a month, top business leaders sat down with Mexico’s president to implore him to do more to save the economy.
People were losing jobs by the tens of thousands, they warned. Small and medium-size companies, which employ more than 70 percent of the Mexican work force, were running out of cash. The government needed to intervene, they argued. The data was irrefutable.
“I have other data,” shrugged the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, according to two businesspeople with direct knowledge of that conversation. “You do whatever you think you need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do.”
Across the globe, governments have rushed to pump cash into flailing economies, hoping to stave off the pandemic’s worst financial fallout.
In Mexico, no such rescue effort has come. The pandemic could lead to an economic reckoning worse than anything Mexico has seen in perhaps a century. More jobs were lost in April than were created in all of 2019. A recent report by a government agency said as many as 10 million people could fall into poverty this year.
Hostile toward bailouts, loath to take on public debt and deeply mistrustful of most business leaders, Mexico’s president has opted largely to sit tight despite what is expected to be widespread pain up and down the economic ladder.
Even though the number of new deaths from the coronavirus has been decreasing, the legacy of the pandemic in the United States is already bound up in nursing homes. More than 40 percent of the fatalities in the country have been tied to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Burlington Health & Rehab Center, ranked by regulators last year as one of Vermont’s worst nursing homes, is part of Genesis HealthCare, a for-profit chain with a spotty record and almost 400 nursing homes and long-term care facilities in 25 states.
The New York Times tracked an outbreak at Burlington, following who lived and who died, interviewing family members and listening to their conference calls with the facility’s administrators. What emerged is an intimate account of how the virus moved through a nursing home, how operators struggled to subdue it, and how residents’ families split over their performance and the outcome.
During a pandemic, a technological lifeline.
The pandemic has caused the way we communicate to evolve, and our relationship with technology is being pushed into new territory. Although states are slowly reopening, much of our professional and personal lives will continue to be lived almost entirely online for the foreseeable future.
Reporting was contributed by Azam Ahmed, Kim Barker, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Jesse Drucker, David Enrich, J. David Goodman, Anatol Magdziarz, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Kaly Soto.