Headlines: COVID less lethal in PA, CDC won’t revise school rules

AP PA Headlines 7/10/20

PITTSBURGH (The Tribune Democrat) – The current surge in COVID-19 in southwestern Pennsylvania appears to be from a coronavirus strain that is less lethal than the original strain that slammed the nation earlier this year, UPMC experts said Thursday.  “You may have heard the news that there’s a dominant global strain – one that seems to transmit easier, but is less deadly. That’s the strain we are detecting and our data supports those characteristics,” Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC medical director for infection prevention, said Thursday during a press briefing.

In the past two weeks, Allegheny County has seen a surge of more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, nearly doubling the county’s total cases to 4,367 since the first cases were identified in March.  But the new cases are largely hitting a younger age group, Snyder said, noting that average age of those testing positive in Allegheny County is currently under 30.  “These cases are largely linked to younger people who contracted the virus, whether while traveling or while socializing without masks or proper social distancing,” Snyder said.

There has not been a corresponding increase in hospitalizations or patients requiring ventilators, as was seen in the spring, said Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC chairman of emergency medicine.  “I believe we can keep it that way if we focus on protecting the frail, elderly and other vulnerable (people),” Yealy said at the press briefing. More HERE.

HARRISBURG (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf is extending a statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until Aug. 31, saying renters need more breathing room in the midst of the pandemic. The moratorium had been set to lapse Friday. The Wolf administration has been facing growing calls to extend it, with housing advocates and others predicting a rush to the courthouse and a wave of evictions and homelessness.

Landlords say they are hard-pressed to keep up with taxes, insurance, mortgage payments and other expenses without the ability to enforce leases. Pennsylvania is using $175 million of its federal coronavirus relief money to provide rental assistance to eligible tenants and mortgage relief to homeowners, but the money has not started flowing yet.

DUNMORE, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden is turning his campaign against President Donald Trump toward the economy. On Thursday, he introduced a New Deal-like economic agenda while drawing a sharp contrast with a billionaire incumbent he said has abandoned working-class Americans amid cascading crises. Biden presented details of a comprehensive agendait

He touted it as the most aggressive government investment in the U.S. economy since World War II. He also accused Trump of ignoring the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis while encouraging division amid a national reckoning with systemic racism. The economy was expected to be a strength for Trump in his reelection bid before the pandemic.

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police officer seen on video kicking a protester sitting on the street during civil unrest in Erie won’t face any criminal charges. Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri made the announcement Thursday, adding that the protester won’t face any charges stemming from the May 30 incident. Daneri says the officer’s actions didn’t warrant prosecution.

He added that the officer, who hasn’t been identified by city officials, had the right to use that kind of force under the circumstances. Daneri says the protesters could have been charged with failure to disperse, but his office declined to file those charges because of the facts and in the interest of moving forward.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The blob of pea-green algae that covers parts of Lake Erie is expected to be smaller this summer than a year ago. That’s according to the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released its annual forecast Thursday.

It predicts the algae bloom will reach 4.5 on the severity index, down from 7.3 last year but higher than the 3.8 rating in 2018. The measurements indicate the amount of algae in the water for an extended period. Scientists say the drop-off is expected because there was less spring rainfall than a year ago. Rain washes fertilizers that feed algae into Lake Erie and its tributary streams.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, is reporting a near-record number of new coronavirus infections. Allegheny County has been struggling with a spike in infections as residents patronize eating and drinking establishments and head to out-of-state virus hotspots.

That has prompted health officials in the county of 1.2 million to impose restrictions on restaurants and bars, shutter a casino and limit gatherings. State health officials are expressing concern about the situation in southwestern Pennsylvania, but have made no move to reimpose pandemic restrictions in border counties that are also seeing increased spread.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives wants to ensure that it can block Gov. Tom Wolf’s effort to impose a price on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants as part of a consortium of states. Wolf, a Democrat, has made joining the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative a centerpiece of his strategy to fight climate change in a major carbon-polluting state.

The House voted to pass a bill, 130-71, which would require legislative approval to join the consortium. Four Republicans joined most Democrats in opposition to it. Wolf plans to veto the bill, which still requires approval in the Republican-controlled Senate. Wolf’s administration is drafting regulations that it maintains could usher Pennsylvania into the consortium in 2022.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Features

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal health officials won’t revise their coronavirus guidelines for reopening schools despite criticism from President Donald Trump, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. What they will do, he said, is provide additional information to help states, communities and parents decide what to do and when.  “Our guidelines are our guidelines,” Dr. Robert Redfield declared.

In draft CDC documents obtained by The Associated Press, the agency says there are steps that schools can take to safely reopen but that it “cannot provide one-size-fits-all criteria for opening and closing schools or changing the way schools are run.”  “Decisions about how to open and run schools safely should be made based on local needs and conditions,” the documents say.

They also include a checklist that encourages parents to carefully consider whether they should send their kids back to school in person or seek virtual instruction. Many districts nationwide are offering parents a choice of either mode of instruction. New York City, among other school districts, has announced that students will only return part-time in the fall.

That runs counter to Trump’s messaging. He has been repeatedly pressuring state and local officials to reopen schools this fall, even threatening to withhold federal funds from those that keep teaching and learning remote.  Trump on Wednesday criticized the CDC’s guidelines as “very tough and expensive” and said the agency was “asking schools to do very impractical things.” Speaking of CDC officials, he tweeted, “I will be meeting with them!!!” And Vice President Mike Pence said revised guidelines would be issued next week.  But in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” yesterday, Redfield firmly stuck to the existing CDC guidelines.

UNDATED (AP) — The newly installed head of NBC News is making quite a splash in one one of his first public acts on the job. Cesar Conde says he is committed to building a workforce at his news outlets where at least half the employees are minorities — and half are women. That will take some work. The staff is currently 27% minority: including 8% each of Black, Latino and Asian workers, though the percentage of women is nearly 50%. Conde set no timetable for achieving his goal. But the effort to do so makes him a leader in the effort to diversify the news business. He says having a more diverse workforce will enable NBC to spot stories that otherwise might be missed.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are trying to convince voters that the rare looting and violence that marred largely peaceful social justice protests foretell a wave of mayhem to come if Democrats are elected in November. Democrats say the tactic is designed to distract voters from President Donald Trump’s failures over the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. The GOP spearhead comes with polls showing that Trump’s reelection and Republican control of the Senate may be in jeopardy in November’s voting. It also follows weeks of protests after the killing of George Floyd by police and a response by Trump that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is a “symbol of hate.”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge has issued a 60-day injunction preventing the city of Richmond from removing any more Confederate monuments from its land. Local media outlets report Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo made the decision after a hearing in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against Mayor Levar Stoney by an unnamed plaintiff. The removal of statues began last week after Stoney ordered them cleared away amid weeks of protests over police brutality and racism. He said he was concerned about public safety and fears that protesters could get hurt if they tried to bring down the enormous statues themselves. Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump won the White House on the promise of bringing a conservative shift to the Supreme Court. But this year and last, even with two hand-picked justices, the court has shown it is no rubber stamp for him or his administration’s policies. That’s drawn the president’s ire and teed up a renewed battle over the court as Trump seeks political advantage ahead of November’s election. Trump is using his defeats to argue that work in reshaping the court is only just getting started.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that creates a new advisory commission tasked with improving Hispanic Americans’ access to economic and educational opportunities. The effort comes as the president hopes to win a bigger share of the Latino vote than he did four years ago. Trump used the event to highlight how his administration had boosted employment among Hispanics prior to the coronavirus pandemic. But his attempt to court Latino voters ahead of the November election is complicated by his efforts to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and his work to end legal protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children.

An inspector general report details the political pressure from the White House and Department of Commerce in what later became known as Sharpiegate. Thursday’s 115-page report details what the weather chief called “crazy” middle-of-the-night texts, calls and emails from political officials to get the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to criticize the Birmingham weather office. The Alabama weather office had told residents in a tweet they were safe from Hurricane Dorian just 10 minutes after President Trump tweeted they could get hit hard. Dorian hit 600 miles away. The inspector general said the political pressure could undermine public trust in weather warnings.

DUNMORE, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden is turning his campaign against President Donald Trump toward the economy. On Thursday, he introduced a New Deal-like economic agenda while drawing a sharp contrast with a billionaire incumbent he said has abandoned working-class Americans amid cascading crises. Biden presented details of a comprehensive agenda that he touted as the most aggressive government investment in the U.S. economy since World War II. He also accused Trump of ignoring the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis while encouraging division amid a national reckoning with systemic racism. The economy was expected to be a strength for Trump in his reelection bid before the pandemic.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

 

 

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