As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase dramatically, the CDC is now thinking about issuing a guidance saying that anyone who ventures out in public should be wearing some kind of mask.
According to recent reports, the agency is weighing recommendations to advise people to shield their faces with cloth coverings rather than surgical or N95 masks, which are now nearly impossible to come by.
No final decision has been made on the potential recommendation, however, an official said it could help “flatten the curve” of the outbreak if enacted.
Early on in the outbreak, the World Health Organization and the CDC repeatedly said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. And as healthcare workers around the world face shortages of N95 masks and protective gear, public health officials have warned people not to hoard masks.
But those official guidelines may be shifting.
President Trump appeared to be open to the possibility of all Americans wearing face masks for a short period of time. He made the following comments on the matter, during his most recent COVID-19 briefing.
“So we’ll take a look at it for a period of time, not forever. I mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not gonna be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a very short period of time after we get back into gear.”
Medical masks are urgently needed by professionals fighting the virus, but facial cloth coverings could potentially reduce the chances a person spreads the illness to others.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, confirmed in an interview with National Public Radio that the agency was reviewing its guidelines on who should wear masks. Citing new data that shows high rates of transmission from people who are infected but show no symptoms, he said the guidance on mask wearing was “being critically re-reviewed, to see if there’s potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected.”
However, the CDC has yet to make any kind of official recommendation. They understand that widespread use of nonmedical masks could reduce community transmission. But recommending their broad use could also cause a run on the kinds of masks that health care workers so desperately need.
In case you haven’t noticed, with so much attention on President Trump and his battle with the ongoing corona crisis, Joe Biden and the contest for the Democratic 2020 nominee has practically disappeared from the news cycle.
Within just a few days after he made headlines with his commanding primary victories in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois, the coronavirus has turned former Vice President Joe Biden into a virtual prisoner of his Delaware home, where he’s reduced to sniping at President Trump from the family rec room.
“He’s making himself irrelevant,” Saikat Chakrabarti, a former chief of staff to Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told The New York Post, saying the virtual broadcasts were not helping. “We need action immediately, and Biden can’t do anything real right now.”
Biden has been forced to watch from the sidelines as President Trump steals the spotlight with his daily coronavirus briefings that have been a ratings smash.
Though Biden, and others have criticized the president for spreading inaccurate information and saying things like he wants to quarantine New York, and promoting untested antibiotics and other drugs during his briefings — national polls suggest Americans are increasingly pleased with his performance in handling the deadly pandemic.
The latest findings from Gallup show the president with a 49% approval rating, approaching a career-high that he last enjoyed in February, during the height of his Senate impeachment trial. The same survey found 60% of Americans now approve of his handling of the coronavirus crisis, including more than a quarter of Democrats.
“I think Trump is being seen as handing the pandemic well by the public even though he was too late to start procuring any [personal protective equipment],” Chakrabarti said, explaining the polling bounce, adding that Biden missed his moment to make an impression. “[Trump] is the only one going up every day and talking to the American people.”
As for Biden’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders — whose challenge to Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is sagging — has been in D.C. helping to hammer out trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief spending. The 78-year has also held several in depth coronavirus town halls via Facebook Live.
But Biden has gone nearly dark. Aside from a call with reporters, and a virtual live-stream appearance at a fundraiser on Sunday, the ex-vice president has had few appearances on TV. He reappeared on CNN on March 24, and it did not go smoothly.
During the brief Q&A, Biden coughed repeatedly into his fist shortly after telling the anchor he had no symptoms of coronavirus and had not been tested. At one point Tapper even scolded the vice president for not directing coughs into his elbow.
The coughing came along with the usual Biden word salads. On “The View” that same day, the former veep told guest co-host Sara Haines that “we have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.”
He also had an emotional moment during a virtual CNN town hall Friday talking about personal loss and almost gave out his telephone number on live television.
Many Democrats and armchair pundits have unflatteringly compared Biden’s performance with Gov. Cuomo, who has won praise from both sides of the aisle for his smooth command of facts, regular virus updates and tough, no-nonsense approach to defiant New Yorkers. The fervor peaked as the hashtag #PresidentCuomo zipped across Twitter last week.
“He is currently the only Democrat showing leadership in a moment of crisis, at least publicly,” Chakrabarti said. “Cuomo is doing the daily press conference, he’s leading in a way that President Trump was.”
However, Biden’s campaign seems to be counting on that Trump will eventually botch the government’s response to COVID-19. “Donald Trump’s failure to take this virus seriously in the face of urgent and obvious warning signs will go down as one of most incompetent and ultimately harmful decisions by a president in recent history,” a Biden aide told The Post.
While being practically removed from the news cycle due to coverage of President Trump and COVID-19, behind the scenes, Joe Biden has been waging a campaign to boost his popularity with young progressives.
Apparently the Biden campaign sees that the lack of enthusiasm among the liberal base, particularly young voters, is the biggest weakness of his candidacy.
According to multiple sources familiar with the former VP’s campaign, since his landslide victories earlier this month, Biden’s advisers have engaged in talks with a range of top progressive groups, including some that endorsed his chief rival, Bernie Sanders.
The outreach to left-wing organizations and individuals — representing causes from climate change and immigrant rights to gun control and mobilizing underserved black and brown communities — is focused on young activists. Broadly speaking, that particular demographic has viewed Biden as one of the “least-inspiring” candidates in the sprawling Democratic primary field.
It’s a delicate dance for both sides. For one, Sanders is still in the race. Plus, the progressives recognize that their time and ability to influence Biden is limited since he’s all but wrapped up the nomination. Still, Biden needs to fix his enthusiasm deficit, which was partly masked by his wins this month, and it’s far from certain that animosity toward President Donald Trump alone will be enough to defeat the popular incumbent president.
“The dirty little secret is everyone’s talking to Biden’s campaign,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the liberal think tank Data for Progress. “There will be fights, but at the end of the day, progressives still hold votes in the Senate and increasingly Democratic voters stand behind our views. I expect we’ll see Biden embracing key planks of the ambitious agenda progressives have outlined on issues like climate and pharmaceutical policy.”
Biden aides are taking a two-pronged approach. They’re reaching out to what they see as traditional progressive groups with longer legacies such as Planned Parenthood, with which the campaign held a long call ahead of the most recent debate, and movement groups that came of age more recently, including liberal organization Indivisible and climate change-focused Sunrise Movement.
Biden has also backed proposals from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in recent weeks on the issues of student debt and free college, respectively.
Progressives believe they have leverage because Biden has lost badly among young people to Sanders, and largely trailed among Latinos, too. They also argue that aggressive action on climate change action and Medicare for All, poll well among Democrats.
None of the groups that the Biden campaign is courting has threatened to sit out the election if Biden doesn’t embrace its positions. For instance, Justice Democrats, which made a name for itself backing primary left-wing challengers against more moderate Democratic incumbents — including several with ideological profiles similar to Biden — said in a statement it is “definitely going to support whoever the nominee is.”
But the fact that Biden’s campaign sees the need reach out to these groups, shows that while he may have the support of their leaders, he still has a long way to go to appeal to their memberships at large.
Just before midnight on Wednesday, by a vote of 96-0, the Senate passed a massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus compromise package, ending days of deadlock. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will soon take up the historic measure to bring relief to individuals, small businesses, and larger corporations “with strong bipartisan support.”
The historic measure mostly earned praise from lawmakers in both parties and their leaders, who said the sweeping bill will address the most serious of the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus outbreak with a huge injection of federal dollars and lending capacity.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told lawmakers late Wednesday that the House would pass the measure by voice vote on Friday, which means they would not have to return to Washington.
Republicans have apparently lined up their rank and file to agree to the terms. “Members who want to come to the House Floor to debate this bill will be able to do so. In addition, we are working to ensure that those who are unable to return to Washington may express their views on this legislation remotely. My office will send out information tomorrow with those details,” Hoyer said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said massive layoffs caused by “shelter-in-place” orders had brought the economy to a standstill.
“This strange new reality has forced our nation onto something like a wartime footing,” McConnell said. “A fight has arrived on our shores. We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”
McConnell, in his closing speech before the vote, announced the Senate would shutter until April 20, with only pro forma sessions taking place, unless there is a need for lawmakers to return sooner.
The 880-page legislation is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.
The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to married couples making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. After a $75,000 threshold for individuals, the benefit would be reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes. A similar $150,000 threshold applies to couples, and a $112,500 threshold for heads of households.
The legislation passed by the Senate will use 2019 tax returns, if available, or 2018 tax returns to assess income for determining how much direct financial aid individuals receive. Those who did not file tax returns can use a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement or Form RRB-1099, a Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.
Further, the bill allocates $250 billion to extend unemployment insurance to more workers, and lengthen the duration to 39 weeks, up from the normal 26 weeks. $600 extra a week would be provided for four months.
The final package would additionally provide $349 billion in loans to small businesses — and money spent on rent, payroll and utilities becomes grants that don’t need to be paid back. Many hotels would qualify as small businesses under the plan.
The bill omits many — though not all – of the items from Pelosi’s version of the legislation that Republicans had called wasteful or irrelevant, including climate-change-related emissions restrictions for airlines and various diversity-related provisions.
Former Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has announced that her husband has been hospitalized due to complications of being infected with COVID-19.
My husband has coronavirus. I love him & not being able to be by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,” Klobuchar tweeted. “So many are going through this & much worse. I pray for him & you & meanwhile I will do all I can to get help to the American people.”
In a longer statement on the site, Medium.com, Klobuchar said that she and her husband, John Bessler, had been in “different places for the last two weeks” and that because she was “outside the 14-day period for getting sick,” doctors advised her that she did not need to be tested.
Klobuchar, a former 2020 presidential candidate who has since dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, said her husband had grown quite ill.
After a persistent temperature and a “bad, bad” cough, Bessler began coughing up blood, Klobuchar said, prompting him to get a coronavirus test and a chest X-ray.
He checked into a hospital in Virginia and “now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator,” Klobuchar said.
Call it a kind of coronavirus vaccine for the economy!
The Trump administration is considering a third coronavirus spending package worth hundreds of billions of dollars even as the Senate works to move along the more modest second relief bill that focuses on leave for workers and expedited testing for the disease officially known as COVID-19.
The White House is specifically pushing for an $850 billion stimulus, largely in the form of tax relief measures. Roughly $500 billion of this would be tied to a payroll tax cut, while $250 billion would come in the form of Small Business Administration loans and another $58 billion would be directed to the airline industry, among other measures.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday morning that Mnuchin’s proposal would come with the $850 billion price tag. The Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that Mnuchin’s proposal would focus mainly on putting cash in the hands of individuals and businesses.
Coming out of a closed-door meeting with Republican senators later that afternoon, Mnuchin told reporters the proposal “on the table” would put “a trillion dollars into the economy” to help combat the impacts of coronavirus.
“That is on top of the 300 billion from the IRS deferrals. Now let me say this is a combination of loans, this is a combination of direct checks to individuals, this is a combination of creating liquidity for small businesses. So we look forward to working with the Senate,” he said.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they would vote on the House bill as soon as the Senate “can get permission to vote.”
Meanwhile, the White House has said it wants to adopt a measure originally presented by Utah Senator, Mitt Romney, to immediately send checks out to qualifying taxpayers.
“We are looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a news conference at the White House Tuesday.
“Americans need cash now,” Mnuchin said. “And I mean now in the next two weeks.”
President Donald Trump, who had initially floated a payroll tax holiday, said that he favored more immediate action that could inject cash into American’s pockets faster than waiting for the next payday.
“I think we are going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible,” Trump said. “We will have a pretty good idea at the end of the day what we will be doing.”
It is unclear who would get money and how much, but Mnuchin indicated that it would be aimed towards those most hurt by the outbreak.
“We don’t need to send people who make million dollars a year checks,” Mnuchin said.
What do you think of the shocking news of the mysterious death of an Obama era whistleblower? What’s that? You haven’t heard anything about this? That is not surprising, being that the mainstream media has been characteristically silent about the apparent “suicide” of Philip Haney.
Haney was a whistleblower against the Obama administration. He was found dead on February 21 with a single gunshot wound, near a California highway. Investigators have said the scene appeared to look like a suicide.
However, in an interview last week, Haney’s pastor suggested his death might have been a murder rather than a suicide.
“No I do not believe he was suicidal, I do not believe that,” said Pastor Grey Young. “…You have a man that was planning to get married, a man who was very devout in his Christian faith, a man who had a lot of incredible projects in the works.”
Young went on to recount his last conversation with Haney before his death, which led him to believe Haney was excited about his future.
“Our last message together basically was ‘hey. I can’t wait to share with you this incredible thing that’s happened’ and he was very excited about it,” he stated.
Young believed Haney’s excitement was over his forthcoming his book entitled, “See Something, Say Nothing — A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.”
The book was set up as an interview about Haney’s experience working for the Department of Homeland Security and allegedly preventing hundreds of potential terrorist threats. More importantly, the book details Haney’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he claimed federal law enforcement showed “willful blindness” to Islamic attacks in America.
Days after Haney’s death, the Amador County Sheriff’s Office announced the case will likely be a lengthy investigation.
“The individual assessment by the deputies arriving on the scene and their supervisor is the start of the investigation, it is not the end,” stated county Coroner Martin Ryan. “And we have not made any conclusions as to the cause and manner of death.”
For now, details about the investigation into Haney’s death are limited, but the FBI is working with local authorities to determine an official cause of death.
This is a developing story. Watch these pages for more details as they emerge
A local Texas school district has approved a measure that will allow teachers to conceal carry in the classroom.
Nearly two years after the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting, a Texas school district is set to begin allowing some teachers to be permitted to carry guns on school premises for safety purposes.
Last week, the Santa Fe Independent School District announced plans to implement the Guardian Plan, which will allow local school boards to authorize employees to conceal carry on campus at all times.
The plan comes as an expansion of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2013 school marshal program. However, School Board President Rusty Norman said he prefers the Guardian Plan because it allows employees to carry the firearms themselves rather than in a lock-box under the alternative proposed by Abbott.
Norman made the following comments regarding the initiative, “There will be no one forced to participate in this program. Number one, it will be strictly voluntary. Number two, there will be some guidelines like they will already have to be established within the state of Texas and licensed to carry a concealed hand gun. There will be background checks above and beyond what they already had and then the additional training that we will require to do that.”
According to reports, the district plans to finance the program with its general funding and will pay for participant’s training. Approved applicants will be required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of training and meet the same marksmanship standards as an on-campus officer. Additionally, applicants will undergo the same psychological testing as police officers.
Norman said that while he understands many schools will not take such measures, the move is designed to be a last line of defense and provide a sense of safety to teachers.
A search by federal authorities uncovered a treasure-trove of contraband at the beleaguered federal prison where pedophile Jeffry Epstein allegedly hung himself.
The search which uncovered a troubling number of weapons, including a loaded gun that had somehow been smuggled into the compound, forced a week-long lockdown of the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
According to the NY Post, staff at the facility recovered homemade weapons, narcotics and cellphones while searching for the gun at the troubled jail, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.
“All of these items pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the facility as well as the public,” they said.
Staff found the loaded gun in a housing unit of the jail Thursday after freezing inmates’ legal and family visits for a week. The facility will remain on lockdown as staff conduct follow-up searches for additional contraband.
Federal authorities are now investigating the flow of contraband into the Lower Manhattan lockup, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing officials familiar with the investigation.
The prison has been under scrutiny since Epstein hanged himself in his cell last August while two prison guards failed to check on him and allegedly slept just 15 feet from his cell. The guards then allegedly falsified reports to cover up their negligence and make it appear like they were doing their jobs the night of the suicide.
They’ve each been charged with conspiracy and filing false reports.
In the wake of Joe Biden’s startling comeback on Super Tuesday, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has given up his bid for the Democratic nomination. As quickly as the former New York mayor dropped out of the race, he threw his support behind Biden, officially endorsing the former Vice President.
Bloomberg dropping out marks the end of an unprecedented, high-spending, self-funded campaign that rejected conventional campaign tactics.
His announcement comes as early results in Super Tuesday states show that he failed to become the choice of centrists as dropout candidates and Democratic leaders coalesced around the former vice president in the days before the Tuesday contests.
“I’m a believer in using data to inform decisions. After yesterday’s results, the delegate math has become virtually impossible — and a viable path to the nomination no longer exists,” Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday.
He endorsed centrist ally Biden in an apparent bid to stop socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
“I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg, 78, made his late entry into the Democratic presidential field in November, reportedly deciding to run after Biden faltered in the polls. His expensive, unconventional campaign met with criticism from his rivals and party insiders.
Rival candidates scolded Bloomberg for his massive personal spending. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the presidency.
Bloomberg skipped competing in the first four nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada and instead directed resources across Super Tuesday states that were expensive for his competitors to reach. The tactic angered party officials in the early states, who argued candidates should demonstrate traditional grassroots strength.
Rising left-wing factions in the Democratic Party proved to be a challenge for Bloomberg. In the weeks before he launched his campaign, Bloomberg apologized for supporting stop-and-frisk policing tactics that he pushed while he was the mayor of New York City, and his campaign team apologized for his past comments disparaging women.
Democratic presidential debates exposed a stiff candidate unprepared to rebut harsh attacks on his record and alleged treatment of women, particularly from Warren.
President Trump, who has been relentless in mocking Bloomberg over everything from his height to his debate performances, delivered his barbed observations on the race once more after Bloomberg dropped out.
“Mini Mike Bloomberg just ‘quit’ the race for President. I could have told him long ago that he didn’t have what it takes, and he would have saved himself a billion dollars, the real cost. Now he will pour money into Sleepy Joe’s campaign, hoping to save face. It won’t work!” he tweeted.