million Nearly

Nearly 9 million Americans haven’t received their stimulus checks, CDC guidance to schools is ‘inconsistent’: Report – ABC News

Nearly nine million Americans are still without their stimulus checks seven months after the CARES Act passed, according to a new report Monday from the Government Accountability Office.

The report also found key inconsistencies in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for schools, such as how to screen for the virus and when schools should close down if students or teachers start testing positive for the virus.

It’s the third such report put out by the GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog known as “the investigative arm of Congress,” examining the implementation of the CARES Act and other pandemic relief actions.

Each report outlines steps for Congress and the Trump administration to take in order to improve the nation’s response. As part of the CARES Act, the GAO issues a report every two months.

“Our report contains 16 new, concrete recommendations where timely and concerted actions by the Administration and Congress can help address the coronavirus crisis,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO, in a statement. “If implemented, those suggestions have the potential to significantly improve the nation’s response to the current pandemic as well as strengthen preparations for future public health emergencies.”

Nearly 9 million Americans have yet to receive their stimulus checks

While the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have tried to smooth out some of the flaws in the stimulus check program, the agencies still “lack updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive these funds,” GAO found in its report Monday, and it’s estimated that “potentially millions of individuals” are still “at risk of missing their payment.”

The biggest demographic affected, GAO found, is Americans who don’t file taxes and, as a result, didn’t have information registered with the IRS about how much money they make per year, which would qualify them for the $1,200 one-time payment granted to a majority of Americans by the CARES Act. Generally, the main reason people don’t file taxes is because they have gross income below a certain amount and do not need to file a tax return.

While more than 26 million Americans who don’t file taxes did receive a payment, including over five million Americans who followed guidance from the IRS and registered online to receive a stimulus check, there are still an estimated 8.7 million or more Americans who are eligible but haven’t been identified by the IRS, the GAO report found.

It’s likely the people who need it most who haven’t received it, since Americans who don’t file taxes are likely to be very low-income, the report said.

There are also 1.1 million Americans who were underpaid, the GAO report found. These Americans are mostly people in need: around 355,000 non-filers with children who never got their qualifying payment of an extra $500 per child; domestic abuse survivors who don’t have access to the bank account that the check was deposited to and nearly 700,000 widows who never received a payment because their spouse died.

“GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, update and refine the estimate of eligible recipients who have yet to file for an EIP to help target outreach and communications efforts,” the report advised.

CDC’s ‘inconsistent’ guidance to schools

Screen kids. Don’t screen them. Shut down if someone tests positive. Don’t shut down if it’s just one case. Such was the “inconsistent” guidance the CDC has given to schools, according to the GAO report.

“Although the decision to physically reopen schools is primarily a state and local issue, state and local school district officials look to the federal government for leadership and clear guidance including recommendations about how to do so safely. Unclear federal guidance and messaging risks contributing to conflict, confusion, and indecision for schools,” the report said.

In one example, the CDC’s guidance didn’t recommend that schools conduct daily symptom screening for all K-12 students because some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

However, “contradictory guidance” on the CDC’s website said the exact opposite — it “directed schools to develop a plan to conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening or symptom checking) of staff and students.” Even further adding to the confusion, the report said, a third piece of guidance said schools “should not physically open unless they are able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms …”

The same contradictions existed for guidance on closing down if COVID-19 cases emerge: “CDC guidance on what to do if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 is also inconsistent,” the report found.

Some guidance said a single case shouldn’t lead to a shut down; other guidance suggested closing down the school for two to five days.

“In its FAQ for School Administrators on Reopening Schools, CDC notes that in most instances, a single case of COVID-19 in a school would not warrant closing the entire school,” the report found. “In contrast, in the K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs FAQ for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, CDC notes that if a student or staff member is confirmed to have COVID-19, ‘you will likely dismiss students and most staff for 2–5 days.’”

At the same time, the White House has “urged that all schools ‘fully reopen’ and suggested that current or future federal funds may be withheld from school districts that do not return to in-person education,” which the GAO found does “not appear to align with a risk- based decision-making approach,” and contradicts Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “own statements that returning to in-person education is a state and local decision.”

The CDC, in response, said “it strives to ensure that all content is consistent and up to date. It noted that updating these documents is an iterative and ongoing process and, as a result, there can be periods of time where some documents are updated and others are not,” according to the report.

The report also pointed out that some of the CDC’s guidelines are unachievable because of budgetary constraints. For example, the CDC suggested schools ensure “ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible,” but the GAO found that in June 2020, based on a nationally representative survey of school districts, “we estimated that 36,000 schools were in need of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning updates.”

The consequences, the GAO warned, could have a longstanding impact along racial lines.

“Exacerbating the situation, the poorest school districts may be least able to pay for efforts to retrofit and update schools to address COVID-19-related risks. These districts educate about 1.5 million more students than wealthy districts. We also know from our past work that 80 percent of students attending the poorest schools are Black or Hispanic, and that these students already face myriad educational challenges, from less access to coursework that prepares them for college to widespread discipline disparities,” the report said.

As a solution, the GAO recommended CDC Director Robert Redfield “should ensure that, as it makes updates to its federal guidance related to reassessing schools’ operating status, the guidance is cogent, clear, and internally consistent.”

Read More

Nearly People

Nearly 11,000 people have been exposed to the coronavirus on flights, the CDC says – The Washington Post

That does not mean it hasn’t happened, and recent scientific studies have documented likely cases of transmission on flights abroad.

“An absence of cases identified or reported is not evidence that there were no cases,” said Caitlin Shockey, a spokeswoman for the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

“CDC is not able to definitively determine that potential cases were associated (or not) with exposure in the air cabin or through air travel given the numerous opportunities for potential exposure associated with the entire travel journey and widespread global distribution of the virus,” Shockey wrote in an email.

She said that though the agency has received information about people who may have been exposed on flights subsequently becoming ill with the novel coronavirus, pinpointing when someone was exposed is difficult. Local health authorities also might not be able to test people reported as exposed or share test results with the CDC, she said.

In guidance for the public, the CDC acknowledges that viruses do not spread easily on planes because of the way the air is filtered, but it also emphasizes that air travel means being in proximity to people for long periods and encountering frequently touched surfaces on planes and in airports.

The CDC’s guidance for all kinds of travel is still that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and other people from the virus.

Michael Carome, the director of health research at the consumer organization Public Citizen, said the CDC numbers demonstrate that flying poses at least some risk of being exposed to the virus. Public Citizen has called on the Department of Transportation to mandate that masks be worn on planes.

“Wearing masks or face coverings is a simple, easy public health measure to take,” Carome said. “There have been people who were infectious who traveled, and that means, indeed, there is real measurable risk of exposure on airliners.”

A deficiency of data

The total numbers of people flying while carrying the virus and those exposed are unknown.

States have long worked with the federal government to track the spread of infectious diseases on planes. But of the nearly 100 state and major local health departments contacted by The Washington Post, most did not provide a number of coronavirus cases they have documented involving air travel, with some saying they were not tracking that data. In addition, not every case identified locally becomes a CDC investigation.

Six health departments were able to provide numbers, saying they had identified more than 500 cases between them, figures that in some cases covered only a few weeks.

Despite the documented risk of exposure, some experts as well as state and local public health officials say that being on a plane presents less of an infection risk than drinking at a crowded bar or going to an indoor party. The air on a plane is pulled out of the cabin and filtered, then mixed with fresh air and pumped back in. And airlines have imposed mask requirements even without a federal mandate.

Asked about the CDC’s numbers, Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for the industry organization Airlines for America, emphasized that there are no documented cases of transmission involving U.S. flights.

“Flying remains a safe and healthy experience,” Estep said.

But though the CDC has not confirmed such transmissions domestically, new studies of flights in Asia and Europe have identified instances where scientists think the virus has spread on commercial flights — including one where passengers were wearing N95 masks, according to a paper published in a CDC journal. N95 masks, when worn correctly, are thought to offer some of the best protection against the virus.

Public health authorities in Britain recently ordered almost 200 passengers and crew into two weeks of quarantine after it was discovered that seven people traveling to Wales from the Greek island of Zante on Aug. 25 were infectious on the flight. Passengers told the BBC that boarding the plane was a free-for-all and that passengers were lax about wearing masks on the flight.

An analysis by the International Air Transport Association published in August identified four cases of possible transmission on aircraft. Among them was a March 2 flight from Britain to Vietnam on which one symptomatic passenger is likely to have transmitted the virus to 15 other people, according to a study published Friday in the CDC journal. Most of them were sitting close to the symptomatic passenger in business class, but people elsewhere on the plane also tested positive.

The study’s authors said their results challenge the airline industry’s safety claims, although they noted that the case dates to when wearing masks was not yet widespread.

“Our findings call for tightened screening and infection prevention measures by public health authorities, regulators, and the airline industry,” they wrote, calling for mandatory mask usage, good hand-washing hygiene and systematic testing and quarantining of arriving passengers.

Two other scientific studies also have identified likely cases of transmission. One of those studies, also published in the CDC journal, looked at an evacuation flight from Northern Italy, one of the first regions in Europe to be badly hit by the virus, to South Korea. The flight was closely monitored by Korean health authorities, and passengers were given N95 masks to wear.

But a team of Korean scientists reported that testing once the flight landed revealed that the plane had carried six asymptomatic passengers. On the eighth day after the flight landed, a 28-year-old woman began to feel ill and ultimately tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The woman had been self-quarantining before the flight and was in quarantine after arriving in South Korea, leading the researchers to conclude that she contracted the virus on the plane, perhaps when she removed her mask while using the lavatory.

The research team acknowledged the role of the plane’s filters as a defense against the virus but said contaminated surfaces or the mingling of passengers during boarding could be opportunities for exposure.

“Our results suggest that stringent global regulations for the prevention of COVID-19 transmission on aircraft can prevent public health emergencies,” the scientists concluded. They recommended the use of masks, hand washing and social distancing while getting on and off planes.

Another study examined a flight from Israel to Germany carrying tourists who were exposed to a hotel manager who had the virus. Seven of them were carrying the virus when they boarded the plane, and the study concluded that it was most likely transmitted to two more people on board.

“Transmissions do occur, even though the air circulation in the cabin likely reduces the rate of transmission,” said Sandra Ciesek, a virologist at the University Hospital Frankfurt in Germany and one of the study’s authors.

People on the flight were not wearing masks, a factor that Ciesek said could have made a difference. She pointed to another study, in which she was involved, concerning an evacuation flight from China to Germany with sick passengers. Those passengers wore masks, Ciesek said, and there were no cases of transmission.

Although the studies suggest transmission is possible on planes, Joshua Santarpia, a microbiologist and pathologist at the University of Nebraska who was not involved in the studies, said that if the same groups of people were put in other enclosed spaces for several hours, he would expect to see many more people falling ill.

“If I were to pick between going into a crowded bar or getting on the airplane, I’d get on the plane any day,” said Santarpia, who said he has flown about two dozen times for work during the pandemic and took a plane trip with his son.

Convincing travelers that they will be safe on board has been a top priority for the airline industry, which has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, with passenger numbers plummeting more than 95 percent. Passengers have slowly been returning, but the industry remains on its heels, warning of tens of thousands of furloughs and layoffs this fall.

Aviation companies are backing their own research to better understand the potential risks.

In August, an arm of the Defense Department that organizes commercial flights for military members, their families and contractors worked with Boeing and United Airlines to gather data on how the virus moves inside planes. The tests, conducted at Washington Dulles International Airport, involved the release of aerosol particles among mannequins simulating passengers. Santarpia is working on the study, which is expected to report results in October.

This month, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced the launch of an aviation industry-sponsored study on the risks of flying. Airlines have adopted new cleaning technologies and imposed some of the strictest mask requirements in the country, banning hundreds of passengers who have refused to comply.

But the measures are not perfect — stories of passengers refusing to don masks regularly circulate on social media — and scientists have long understood the potential for viruses to spread in aircraft cabins even with air filtration systems.

‘I had to get home’

Airlines also have no way to prevent people who are infected but asymptomatic from flying. And Kayleigh Blaney, an epidemiologist for Oakland County in the Detroit area, said people report flying despite having symptoms of covid-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — telling contact tracers: “Well, I got sick while I was here and I had to get home.”

Labor unions and Democrats in Congress continue to press for more safety measures. Carome, of Public Citizen, said the aviation industry could explore such options as temperature screenings and rapid testing, something airlines are interested in doing as trials as a way of restarting international travel.

Officials at state and county health departments said that, like the CDC, they’re regularly documenting cases of people flying while capable of spreading the virus.

When local officials find a case, they typically share the information with their state’s health authorities, and then the CDC coordinates with airlines to determine the identities of people who potentially have been exposed. The CDC’s rules for determining exposure have evolved along with its understanding of the virus but include people sitting within six feet of a reported case or all passengers on flights without assigned seating.

Contact information is then passed back down the chain, but sometimes it is incomplete or out of date.

In 2018 and 2019, the CDC investigated about 150 cases of pathogens such as the measles virus and tuberculosis bacteria spreading on planes. Shockey, the CDC spokeswoman, said the team that handles those cases has been expanded to handle the increased workload of tracking coronavirus cases.

“This is an unprecedented disease outbreak response, and the team has been expanded and are working tirelessly to meet the demands,” she said.

The relationship between airlines and the CDC has long been contentious. Early in the coronavirus outbreak, there was a dispute over a proposal to require better passenger contact information to be collected for international flights. The industry proposed developing an app that it would hand over to the government, but no final agreement has been reached despite the White House taking up the issue.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for President Trump, said the administration “continues to work with the airlines on the best solution to protect the health and safety of the public not only during this ongoing pandemic but for future ones as well.”

Most state and local health departments did not provide numbers on cases linked to air travel, with some saying they weren’t systematically tracking them. The 500 cases The Post did document came from three counties, two states and D.C., and in some of the cases, the numbers represented cases for only a few weeks. In Utah, the Salt Lake County health department alone has counted 275. Others said that even if they couldn’t supply numbers, they regularly learned of cases of infection where people reported having traveled by air.

Air travel played a major role in spreading the virus around the world and the United States, but some health officials still say they consider exposure on planes a relatively minor risk. The acting state epidemiologist in Louisiana, Theresa Sokol, said officials there have not identified any coronavirus clusters involving air travel. In contrast, 41 outbreaks in the state have been ascribed to bars, 41 to restaurants and 25 to day-care centers.

The Vermont Health Department likewise said no one in the state who the CDC reported to have been exposed on a plane has become a coronavirus case.

Blaney, the Oakland County epidemiologist, said she also was not aware of any plane exposures turning into positive cases.

“I’m exponentially more concerned with all the graduation parties, the fraternity and sorority parties happening on college campuses than I am with flying,” Blaney said.

But she advised people who fly to be vigilant about keeping their masks on and understanding airlines’ safety protocols.

“A lot of it has to do with how safe you’re being while you’re flying,” Blaney said.

Read More

nationwide Nearly

Nearly 800 kids nationwide diagnosed with rare condition linked to COVID-19 – CBS News

More students return to in-person classes amid pandemic

More students return to in-person classes ami…


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has received reports of 792 confirmed cases of a rare condition linked to COVID-19. The condition, called Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), was also associated with 16 deaths reported in 42 states, New York City and Washington, D.C., as of last Thursday.   

Nearly all the cases were in kids who tested positive for the coronavirus, while the rest were among those who were around someone with COVID-19. More than 70% of cases have been in kids who are Hispanic/Latino or Black, according to the CDC.

Most kids developed the condition 2-4 weeks after being infected, according to the agency. 

Children with the condition can experience inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. They may also have a fever, and symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and feeling extra tired, the CDC said.

“MIS-C is a new syndrome, and many questions remain about why some children develop it after a COVID-19 illness or contact with someone with COVID-19, while others do not,” it said.

Data released by Florida’s health department Tuesday shows that 64 children in the state have been diagnosed with the condition. An additional case was reported in the state in a 20-year-old.  

The health department didn’t say when 14 of the total 65 cases in the state were diagnosed. The other cases were diagnosed between May 15, when a 14-year-old boy in Miami-Dade County was confirmed to have the syndrome, and August 18. 

More than 500,000 children across the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic started, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The group said this week that children have represented 9.8% of all COVID-19 cases in the country, where more than 6.3 million total cases have been reported, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Read More

Billion Nearly

Elon Musk Down Nearly $10 Billion In One Week As Tech Stocks Plunge – Forbes



fter briefly becoming the fifth centibillionaire in the world on Monday, August 31, Tesla CEO Elon Musk ended the week down $9.9 billion as tech companies — and their founders’ fortunes — took a hit.

While tech companies have largely been driving the stock market’s surge during the pandemic, heavyweights like Facebook and Amazon took a spill on Thursday and Friday during what some observers are calling a correction. The S&P 500 was down 2.3% for the week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Index fell 1.8%. Tesla stock started to falter on Wednesday, after news broke that its largest outside shareholder, Scottish investment firm Ballie Gifford, reduced its stake in the company. The stock ended the week down 5.5%. 

Even with the decline, Musk is four times wealthier than he was a year ago, with a net worth of $87.9 billion. He is currently the fifth richest person in the world, $5.5 billion ahead of Warren Buffett.

The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, hit a milestone last week when he became the first person tracked by Forbes with a fortune that exceeded $200 billion. With Amazon shares worth 3% less than a week ago at the market close on Friday, Bezos’ fortune dropped  $5.8 billion  to $193.5 billion. His ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott (net worth: $62.4 billion), is $2 billion poorer this week.


Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)

AFP via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune fell $4 billion as Facebook shares dropped 3.7% in the past week. He’s been more vocal than ever before about political misinformation on the social media platform and announced steps to mitigate the problem. On Wednesday, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced a $300 million donation to support voting infrastructure, such as protective equipment for poll workers and polling place rentals. On Thursday, he said that Facebook would block new political ads during the week before Election Day, and flag posts in which a candidate tries to claim a premature victory. 

Quicken Loans cofounder Dan Gilbert had a chaotic week as shares of the online mortgage lender’s parent company, Rocket Companies, soared midweek ahead of the company’s first earnings report since it went public in August. Although it reported strong profits, the stock corrected itself and ended the week down more than 13%. As of Friday, September 4, Gilbert is worth $51 billion — $7.3 billion less than last week, but nearly eight times richer than he was a year ago.


The net worth change is from close of markets Friday, August 28, to Friday, September 4.









































Read More

'Black Nearly

Nearly all Black Lives Matter protests are peaceful despite Trump narrative, report finds – The Guardian

The vast majority of the thousands of Black Lives Matter protests this summer have been peaceful, with more than 93% involving no serious harm to people or damage to property, according to a new repo…
Read More

Missing Nearly

42 Crew, Nearly 6000 Cows Missing After Ship Sinks In Storm-Tossed Seas Off Japan – NPR

The Gulf Livestock 1 cargo vessel sails through Port Phillip heading into Bass Strait in Australia in April 2019. Japanese rescuers were searching Thursday for the livestock ship carrying more than 40 crew members and thousands of animals.

Graham Flett/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Graham Flett/AP

The Gulf Livestock 1 cargo vessel sails through Port Phillip heading into Bass Strait in Australia in April 2019. Japanese rescuers were searching Thursday for the livestock ship carrying more than 40 crew members and thousands of animals.

Graham Flett/AP

A ship carrying more than 40 crew members and some 6,000 head of cattle has disappeared off the coast of Japan after capsizing in typhoon-lashed seas, according to a crew member who so far is the only known survivor.

The Gulf Livestock 1, en route from New Zealand to China, issued a distress call early Wednesday from a position west of Japan’s Amami Oshima island.

The mayday call, to which the Japanese coast guard responded, was sent as Typhoon Maysak was tracking through the region as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Livestock carrier goes missing in the East China Sea

The GULF LIVESTOCK 1 has disappeared, probably hit by high waves & strong winds caused by typhoon #MAYSAK, our data shows. The search for the livestock carrier in load began as concern for the safety of 43 crew onboard rises

— MarineTraffic (@MarineTraffic) September 2, 2020

Maysak has since passed the area where the ship went missing, and the weather for the ongoing search is fine, Japanese coast guard regional spokesman Yuichiro Higashi said, according to The Associated Press.

The 450-foot livestock carrier, built in 2002, had a crew of 43, of which 39 are from the Philippines, two from New Zealand and two from Australia, the Japanese coast guard said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that a Queensland veterinarian, Lukas Orda, was among those aboard.

Photographs of the vessel taken before the accident show its deck stacked high with open livestock containers.

The lone crew member recovered so far, 45-year-old chief officer Sareno Edvarodo from the Philippines, was plucked from the water Wednesday night after being spotted by a Japanese navy P-3C surveillance aircraft. No wreckage from the ship has been found, the coast guard said.

Edvarodo told rescuers that the vessel lost an engine and then capsized when it was hit broadside by a wave. The crew was then ordered to don life jackets. Edvarodo said he abandoned ship but did not see any other crew members in the water after the ship sank.

Gulf Livestock 1 was carrying 5,867 head of cattle from Napier, New Zealand, to Jingtang in Tangshan, China, according to New Zealand’s foreign ministry, Reuters reported.

Following the accident, New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries said it was temporarily suspending new cattle livestock export applications pending an investigation.

The ministry “wants to understand what happened on the sailing of the Gulf Livestock 1,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald., a website that follows the shipping industry, noted numerous accidents involving livestock carriers over the years in which tens of thousands of animals were lost.

In November, the Queen Hind, a livestock carrier loaded with more than 14,000 sheep, experienced “maneuvering issues” and capsized not far from a wharf. Only a few hundred animals were rescued, according to The Maritime Executive. In 2016, 3,000 sheep died aboard a vessel that caught fire and sank in rough weather off Somalia.

In another similar disaster nearly a quarter-century ago, some 67,000 sheep died aboard a vessel after it caught fire and was abandoned by its crew east of the Seychelles. All but one of the crew survived.

Read More

million Nearly

Nearly 1 million acres are burning due to wildfires across California, official says – CNN

(CNN)The deadly California wildfires have burned over 1 million acres — and there’s no end in sight as thousands of firefighters struggle to contain the blazes and more emerge.

Hundreds of fires were started by lightning, Cal Fire spokesman Steve Kaufmann said. There were approximately 12,000 lightning strikes that started 585 fires in the state over the past week. A total of 1.1 million have burned in the state with more than 13,000 firefighters working the fires, he said.
Firefighters have been struggling to contain the massive blazes that have killed at least four people. Two fires — the 325,128-acre LNU Lightning Complex Fire in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley, and the 339,926-acre SCU Lightning Complex Fire largely east of San Jose — are among the state’s three largest wildfires in recorded history.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Saturday the state has received a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration due to the fires burning in the Northern part of the state. This means President Donald Trump released federal aid to supplement recovery efforts in areas affected by the wildfires.
Those areas include Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties, according to a White House statement. The SCU fire is now the 2nd biggest fire in state history while the LNU is the third.

Some firefighters are working 24-hour shifts

Though more than 13,000 firefighters are battling the flames — some on 24-hour shifts — there are too many fires and not enough resources to prevent more homes from being torched, Cal Fire officials have said.
One of the reasons for a resource shortage: Fewer prison inmates than usual are helping, because of early releases during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inmate firefighters “are an integral part of our firefighting operations,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Christine McMorrow said. The early releases have meant 600 fewer inmate firefighters are available this fire season compared to last year.
Firefighters are worried about forecasts that say dry thunderstorms — featuring lightning but little rain — could spark more fires and spread existing ones Sunday through Tuesday.

Fires cause more death and destruction than all 2019

California wildfires have caused more deaths and destruction so far this year than in all of 2019. Last year, wildfires charred a total of 260,000 acres and killed three people, according to Cal Fire.
The National Weather Service has issued air quality alerts for parts of at least six states: California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. These alerts warn of moderate to heavy smoke, and advise people — especially those with heart disease or respiratory illnesses — to consider staying indoors and limiting outdoor activity.
And as tens of thousands of people heed evacuation orders, they’re weighing the risk of coronavirus infections as they decide whether to head to official shelters.
Nearly 41,000 residents in Sonoma County were under evacuation warnings or orders Saturday, officials said.
On top of that, about 8 million people in parts of California, southern Oregon, Montana and southern Utah were under red flag warnings. This means “warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger,” according to the National Weather Service.

Read More

Exclusive Nearly

Exclusive: Nearly a fifth of enrollees in Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine study are Black or Latino – Reuters

(This August 21 story has been corrected to rectify percentages of people with fever in trial in the fourth from last paragraph)

FILE PHOTO: People gather in downtown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Julie Steenhuysen and Michael Erman

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nearly a fifth of 11,000 people enrolled so far in a 30,000-volunteer U.S. trial testing a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (PFE.N) and German partner BioNTech (22UAy.F) are Black or Latino, groups among the hardest hit by the coronavirus virus pandemic, a top Pfizer executive said.

“Between Latinx and Black or African American populations, we’re running at about 19 percent or so,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told Reuters in an interview.

“We’re trying to push even higher than that.”

Black and Latino Americans are infected with COVID-19 at more than twice the rate of white Americans, with Native Americans infected at even higher rates, research has shown. The groups are historically underrepresented in clinical trials.

The companies’ vaccine has quickly advanced into late-stage testing, with some participants already getting their second of two doses.

Physicians and scientists have been urging companies testing coronavirus vaccines to include Black, Latino and indigenous Americans in COVID-19 vaccine trials in hopes of building trust among at-risk populations.

“We have a lot of campaigns to reach out to those communities because they are overrepresented in terms of COVID-19 illness, so we are very keen to have those individuals as part of our trial,” Gruber said on Thursday. “They have higher attack rates and they are most likely to benefit.”

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll in May, only half of Black Americans said they were somewhat or very interested in taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

Gruber did not disclose the number of Native Americans enrolled in the trial, but said Pfizer plans to draw on ties from its Prevnar 7 pneumococcal vaccine tests in the southwestern United States.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to make further inroads in that community as well,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect to have data sufficient for an emergency use authorization (EUA) or to start a full submission in October, according to Gruber.

The company does not need to finish recruiting the full 30,000 patients planned for the trial in order to have enough data to support an EUA, he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said COVID-19 vaccine trials need to have a safety database of at least 3,000 individuals for each of the younger and elderly populations in which it is tested.

Ultimately, the speed with which the vaccine can be approved depends on how quickly patients in the placebo arm become infected with the virus, starting about a week after the second dose is administered. That began this week.

“We won’t really know until we get a little farther,” Gruber said.

“We’re following the rules that assure rigor,” he added, saying the company was taking no short cuts.

“I can’t tell you what will happen politically,” Gruber said, when asked about concerns the Trump administration might pressure companies and regulators to announce progress before the November election.

Gruber said the companies were now in talks with the FDA about how to begin testing the vaccine in children, a group the regulatory agency itself is eager to gather data on.

Vaccines work differently in children and adults.

Gruber said vaccine tests often progress in stages, first in older adolescents, then younger adolescents, and finally in children. But younger adults have higher rates of reactions, such as fevers and sore arms, to Pfizer’s vaccine than older adults do, Gruber said.

Roughly 17% of adults between the ages of 18-55 in Pfizer’s most recent trial had fevers after being given the vaccine, most of them mild, compared with 8% among those aged 65-85.

There is a risk those reactions could be even more heightened in younger populations, he added.

“Younger children – maybe that’s not going to be tolerated. Maybe we’re going to have severe fevers,” he said. “That’s why we’re adopting a very thoughtful, graduated approach. Children are not just small adults.”

Gruber said the company is submitting safety data to the FDA and working out a testing plan for children, which he expects to start soon.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Michael Erman in New York

Read More

Nearly Southwest

Nearly 17,000 Southwest employees sign up for buyouts, voluntary leave as furlough threat looms – CNBC

A Southwest Airlines jet leaves Midway Airport on January 25, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

More airline employees are signing up for buyouts, leaves of absence and early retirements as the threat of furloughs looms this summer amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Close to 17,000 employees or about 28% of Southwest Airlines‘ workforce has signed up for partially paid extended leaves of absence or outright buyouts, the company’s CEO, Gary Kelly, told employees Monday. Nearly 4,400 put their hands up for buyouts while close to 12,500 expressed interest in extended time off, Kelly said in a staff memo seen by CNBC.

Airline executives have urged employees to take unpaid or partially paid time off. Companies are offering a host of buyout and early retirement programs as well as unpaid or partially paid temporary time off that provide health-care benefits but reduce carriers’ labor expense. The results of the programs comes as demand for air travel eases during the all-important summer travel season.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with the response to these programs,” Kelly said in the memo, which was reported earlier by the Dallas Morning News. “I’m incredibly grateful to those of you who answered the call. I know there are stories behind every one of those 16,895 decisions — from your incredible history at Southwest Airlines, to stories of what’s ahead in your next phase.”

Southwest, which reports quarterly results before the market opens on Thursday, didn’t immediately comment.

At Delta Air Lines, the deadlines for pilots to apply for early retirement packages closed Sunday and 2,235 of them signed up, according to their union.

“The voluntary early-out program participation exceeded our expectations, which is positive,” said Air Line Pilots Association spokesman and Delta pilot Christopher Riggins.

Delta last month said close to 2,600 pilots would be warned about potential furloughs when the terms of federal aid expire this fall. The carrier said more than half of its more than 14,000 pilots would be eligible. When settling on the number of jobs at risk, Delta had already factored in routine retirements as pilots approach the federally mandated retirement age of 65.

“This is meaningful progress as we look to mitigate furloughs and our teams are hard at work to determine next steps and evaluate how the pilot early retirement may affect Delta’s overall pilot staffing outlook,” the airline said in a statement.

Delta’s early retirement program provides pilots partial pay for up to three years and extended health insurance coverage.

Delta last week asked pilots to reduce their minimum hours by 15%, a plan that the airline says would avoid involuntary furloughs for a year, CNBC first reported.

Shares of Southwest and Delta were each down more than 3% in afternoon trading. United and American were each down more than 4%.

Read More

India Nearly

India Bans Nearly 60 Chinese Apps, Including TikTok – The New York Times

The move is part of the tit-for-tat retaliation after the Indian and Chinese militaries clashed earlier this month.

Credit…Noah Seelam/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Maria Abi-Habib

India’s government banned nearly 60 Chinese mobile apps Monday, including TikTok, citing national security concerns, part of the larger tit-for-tat retaliation that is unfolding between the countries after their militaries clashed earlier this month.

The move comes after a deadly clash between the Chinese and Indian militaries along their shared, disputed border earlier this month. The fighting left 20 Indians dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties.

While India has vowed to retaliate, it lags far behind China in military and economic power, leaving it with few options. But Chinese telecommunication and social networking companies have long eyed India’s giant market and its enormous potential. Only about 50 percent of India’s 1.3 billion citizens are online.

In addition to TikTok, the popular social networking platform, the banned apps include UC Browser, Shareit and Baidu Map.

The mobile apps on Android and iOS platforms were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” India’s ministry of electronic and information technology said in a statement Monday.

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement added.

Read More