COVID stimulus talks likely to resume after Thanksgiving as Alabama faces new COVID concerns
WASHINGTON - Pressure is mounting for Congress to pass a new stimulus package as COVID cases and hospitalizations surge. In Alabama, more than 1400 hospitalizations were reported Monday showing a steady increase over the past two weeks.
In addition to the rise in cases, Congress faces two deadlines: Dec. 11 and Dec. 31.
The US faces a government shutdown if Congress does not pass a new appopriations bill by Dec. 11. Provisions in the CARES Act, including unemployment insurance and the nationwide eviction moratorium, end on Dec. 31.
Discussions are likely to resume after Thanksgiving when Congress returns to Washington. Although plans to continue discussions during the recess appeared promising, CNBC reported that aides to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer oversold the progress Congressional leaders were making when it was reported they were ‘coming to an agreement."
There is a speculation that a new stimulus plan could be tied to the must-pass government funding bill, one of the last things Congress must do before adjourning for the rest of the year.
Closer to home, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association Don Williamson said that the virus was “out of control” in Alabama and warned there was likely no hope of improvement until weeks after the holidays. Amid growing concern about travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health Dr. Scott Harris echoed the CDC’s guidance to not travel for Thanksgiving or to have small, masked gatherings, preferably outside.
Cases and hospitalizations are nearing their mid-summer high across Alabama. Williamson told the Associated Press only 14% of ICU beds are available in state hospitals, but less than half of the current ICU occupants were there for COVID-19. As hospitals continue to fill, Williamson said that the biggest issue is staffing shortages as healthcare workers contract the virus and become ill.
Despite the growing concerns, the Business Council of Alabama with the backing of Alabama’s leaders said they want to keep Alabama as open as possible to prevent another lockdown like one from earlier this year. Other states, like New York and California, have begun reinstituting curfews and closures of schools to try and stop the virus from spreading. The current Alabama mask mandate is set to expire Dec. 8.