Out of control: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” this week. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations. It is a contagious virus, just like the flu,” he added. Meadows’ insistence that coronavirus is like the flu has been repeatedly contradicted by doctors and public health experts. Meanwhile, new cases continue to rise: The country has averaged at least 71,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, The New York Times reports, more than at any other point during the pandemic. More than 8.7 million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus, and more than 225,800 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
School safety: Although the data is limited, so far it appears that children returning to in-person classes are not driving community transmission of the coronavirus, Apoorva Mandavilli reports for The New York Times. Although children can contract coronavirus and spread it to adults, this doesn’t seem to be happening on a large scale. “I think there’s a pretty good base of evidence now that schools can open safely in the presence of strong safety plans, and even at higher levels of case incidence than we had suspected,” said Dr. David Rubin, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania.
The surgery must go on: Even as Covid-19 case numbers rise and hospital beds begin to fill, hospitals are keeping more elective surgeries on the books, Melanie Evans writes in The Wall Street Journal. This is helping stave off the sharp drops in revenue and lay-offs seen earlier in the pandemic. It’s also good for patients, some of whom saw their conditions worsen as procedures were delayed in the spring.
- Also: More than 42,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized with Covid on Monday, forcing some hospitals to consider rationing care, Joel Achenbach, Karin Brulliard, Brittany Shammas and Jacqueline Dupree report for The Washington Post. Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, said the Utah governor has been provided with a list of proposed criteria if hospitals need to decide who gets to stay in overcrowded intensive care units, Erin Alberty and Sean P. Means write in The Salt Lake Tribune.
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Eviction notices: Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium on eviction proceedings against tenants who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic in early September, corporate landlords have proceeded with business as usual, filing 10,000 eviction actions in 23 counties in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, Gretchen Morgenson reports for NBC News. It seems to be good for business. Take Invitation Homes, for example: The company’s earnings rose by 54% for the first six months of the year, and the stock price has increased 80% since the market bottomed out in March. Meanwhile, court records show the company filed 122 eviction proceedings in that time. Progress Residential, which owns and leases 40,000 single-family homes nationwide (and is owned by Pretium Partners, a $3 billion hedge fund), defended the eviction notice sent to a tenant in financial distress during the pandemic, pointing out that, “as part of the CDC Moratorium, tenants are required to provide a declaration that makes clear they are unable to pay rent due to the impact of Covid-19.”
- Also: The contents of hundreds of storage units in New York City are set to be auctioned off in the coming weeks as people who can’t afford to pay the monthly fees fall behind on their bills, Rosa Goldensohn reports for The City. Even if the eviction moratorium prevents you from losing your housing, the same protections don’t extend to storing possessions.
Jail time for tenants: Some tenants who have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic have found out the hard way that Arkansas is the only state that allows landlords to file criminal charges against tenants who fall behind, Maya Miller and Ellis Simani report for ProPublica. If rent is even a day overdue, tenants forfeit their right to stay at the property and if they don’t leave within 10 days of getting a written notice from their landlord, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. “I hate that law. It’s unconstitutional,” said Josh Drake, a deputy prosecutor in Arkansas. More than 200 failure-to-vacate cases have been filed in the state since mid-March (24 of those since the CDC moratorium on evictions was announced in September); at least seven women have been detained or sentenced to jail for not appearing in court. “When you hear that people go to jail because they weren’t able to pay a private debt, it’s essentially the equivalent of a debtors prison, which you would have thought was part of our history,” said Republican state Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, a landlord. “But apparently it remains alive in Arkansas today.”
California burning: More than 90,000 people were evacuated from their homes in and near Irvine in Southern California to escape the Silverado Fire and the smaller Blue Ridge Fire, which seriously injured two firefighters, Ana Facio-Krajcer, Will Wright and Johnny Diaz report for The New York Times. The fires have been fueled by high winds and dry conditions. Southern California Edison said it was investigating whether its equipment could have sparked the fires, according to the Los Angeles Times. The state’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, cut electricity to 361,000 customers in 36 counties to try to prevent starting more fires while the conditions are so conducive to spreading flames.
Driving forces: Europe, Japan, and the United States are exporting millions of unsafe and polluting vehicles to poorer countries, mostly in Africa, according to a new United Nations report, Matt McGrath writes for the BBC. Eighty percent of the 14 million vehicles exported between 2015 and 2018 failed to meet minimum safety and environmental standards in the exporting countries. The vehicles are less safe to drive and contribute more to air pollution and global warming.
Carbon neutral: Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has vowed to make the country carbon neutral by 2050 by investing in solar energy and shifting away from coal, Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi report for The Washington Post. “Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” Suga said during his first policy speech to Japan’s parliament since taking office last month. “We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth.” Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and the fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and has been criticized for building and financing coal-fired power plants at home and abroad.
Good for people and planet: After nonprofit groups offered discounted healthcare services to Indonesian villages that adopted logging reductions and other conservation-minded reforms, diseases in the population fell, while at the same time, deforestation rates in the forests surrounding the clinic and villages declined 70 percent, according to a new study published in the journal PNAS. “This innovative model has clear global health implications,” study co-author Michele Barry, senior associate dean of global health at Stanford University and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health, said in a news release. “Health and climate can and should be addressed in unison, and done in coordination with and respect for local communities.”
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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