CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship, January 27, 2023


January 27, 2023

COVID-19 HardshipJanuary 27, 2023 

The debt ceiling edition. There just might be some good news on the COVID-19 front. New cases, hospitalizations, stays in ICUs and test positivity are all down sharply, compared with two weeks ago. This follows a post holiday bump reported in early to mid January. Meanwhile, the “tripledemic” of RSV, flu, and COVID-19 is easing off, as hospitals nationwide report improving conditions. 

On the Congressional front, there is no good news to report. In fact, storm clouds approach – and they could affect most households in America. Last week, the U.S. outstanding debt hit its statutory limit, and the Department of Treasury began taking “extraordinary measures,” which should allow us to stave off an emergency until perhaps early June. If the U.S. defaults on its debt, it will be unable to fully pay Social Security benefits, reimburse doctors for Medicare and Medicaid, meet payroll for all of our soldiers, issue tax refunds, continue payments on our current debt and so much more – and that’s just in the short run. 

“We’re looking at as early as June for a train wreck on this issue,” Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told CNBC. “The consequences are dire, because a default would not only disrupt Social Security and Medicare benefits, but also cause a global recession and worse.” 

The Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens, a leading economist, agrees that a “recession is guaranteed” if the U.S. defaults on its debt. This would hurt all of us – but it would hurt people with low incomes, people of color, and women the most. 

But some in Congress, instead of working to find a way out of this self-made crisis, want to use the debt ceiling as time bomb to force the Biden Administration to agree to deep – very deep – spending cuts. These too would fall hardest on people with low incomes, people of color, the young and old,  women, and those with disabilities or ill 

  For all the stats below, think about how many would be hurt by a debt ceiling “train wreck” or by massive cuts. 


66 million/ 

59 million 

In 2022, an average of 66 million seniors received a Social Security check each month. And more than 59 million people were enrolled in a Medicare plan. Some in Congress want to place cuts to both programs on the table. Tweet this.



Republicans have proposed balancing the budget within 10 years. But some have said cuts to defense, veterans’ affairs, Medicare, and Social Security are off the table. With these programs exempt, Congress would have to cut all other programs by 85 percent in order to balance the budget within a decade, according to a new report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Tweet this.



From February 2020 to November 2021, the number of workers in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities dropped by 410,000 nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Staffing has only rebounded by 103,000 since then. Experts attribute the sharp decline to low pay, poor work conditions, and fear of exposure to COVID-19. Tweet this.


16.3 million 

On Wednesday, January 25, the Biden Administration announced that 16.3 million people signed up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace during the most recent enrollment period, which in most states ended earlier this month. That’s up from about 14.5 million people just one year ago – which in itself was a record. Experts attribute the surge in enrollment to provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act that made it easier for potential enrollees to qualify for subsidies. Tweet this.



A new poll released last week shows that state proposals restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ students in schools, sports, and doctors’ offices have left these students angry, sad, and stressed. The poll, conducted by Morning Consult and The Trevor Project, found that 71 percent of those surveyed said that debates around state laws restricting their rights had negatively affected their mental health; 27 percent characterized the negative effect as severe. Tweet this.



The new, aggressive omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 made up 49.1 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. for the week ending Saturday, January 21. The previous week, this subvariant accounted for 37.2 percent of all cases.



A whopping 80 percent of Mississippians, including 70 percent of Republicans, either strongly agree or somewhat agree that “the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid.” That’s according to a recent poll released last week by Mississippi Today/Siena College. Just 14 percent of respondents disagreed; 6 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.




Health officials say 38 rural hospitals in Mississippi are in danger of closing, mostly because they often are not reimbursed for caring for indigent patients. As many as 300,000 Mississippians have no health care coverage. Medicaid expansion would add $1 billion in federal funds to the state’s coffers.



The number of Wyoming residents who could benefit from Medicaid expansion. Last week, a Wyoming House committee approved a Medicaid expansion bill and forwarded it to the full House for consideration. Wyoming is the only Mountain West state thus far to opt against expansion.


$370 million/ 

$450 million 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has proposed Medicaid expansion as part of her budget proposal to the Kansas Legislature. However, her proposal appears to be a nonstarter among Kansas Republicans, despite the fact that it would bring in $370 million – $450 million in federal funds, and would provide health care coverage for an additional 150,000 Kansans.






COVID-19 Watch