Record-shattering: Yesterday, the U.S. recorded more than 160,000 cases for the first time, only eight days after recording 100,000 new cases in one day for the first time, according to The New York Times. Six of the last nine days have set records for new cases. The country also set a record for hospitalizations Thursday for the third day in a row, with 67,096 receiving treatment. California has joined Texas in recording its one millionth case. Deaths are still below the daily peak earlier this year, but the country has averaged more than 1,000 a day in mid-November. Karin Brulliard reports for The Washington Post that small social gatherings at homes are fueling the rise in cases, the result of pandemic fatigue and widening social bubbles. Intimate gatherings at home, whether over a meal or a card game, create the perfect conditions for asymptomatic people to transmit the coronavirus. Widening social gatherings mean that the number of people who are close contacts of those who contract Covid is growing, making the work of contact tracers more challenging, if not impossible. To combat this, many governors are issuing stricter limits on private gatherings: New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a 10-person limit this week, and similar limits have been placed in Ohio, Utah, Connecticut, Colorado and Rhode Island. Oregon has gone even further, limiting groups to no more than six. More than 10.5 million cases have been recorded in the U.S., and more than 242,000 people have died.
Out sick: More than 130 Secret Service agents have either tested positive for coronavirus or have been made to quarantine after coming in close contact with a sick co-worker, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report for The Washington Post, following President Trump’s campaign rally blitz at the end of the election season. “Being down more than 100 officers is very problematic,” a former senior Secret Service supervisor told The Post. “That does not bode well for White House security.”
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You cruise you lose: The first cruise in the Caribbean since March was forced to return to port after some passengers tested positive for coronavirus, Shannon McMahon reports for The Washington Post. Some 53 passengers and 66 crew were onboard the SeaDream I, according to The Points Guy’s Gene Sloan, who was among the travel writers and influencers on board the ship to cover its return to the Carribean. The Associated Press reports that at least five people tested positive. Sue Bryant, the cruise editor for The Times and The Sunday Times of London, who was on the ship, told the AP that passengers had to have a negative test to enter Barbados and were tested again on the dock by the ship’s doctor. “We all felt very safe,” Bryant said. “Yet somehow, COVID appears to have got on board.”
Supreme signals: Based on some of the comments from Supreme Court justices, it appears the Affordable Care Act could survive the latest attack from Republican state attorneys general and Trump administration lawyers, David G. Savage and Noam N. Levey report for the Los Angeles Times. The lawsuit contends that the entire law should be voided because Congress eliminated the tax penalty for people who did not have insurance. “Congress left the rest of the law intact. That seems to be compelling evidence on the question,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who has twice joined the liberal judges on the Supreme Court to uphold the heathcare law. He appeared to be joined in this view by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who said, “It seems very clear the proper remedy is to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest.”
Hospital pushback: One way President-elect Joe Biden hopes to increase access to health care is to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60, but that plan is likely to face strong resistance, not only from Republicans but from hospitals, who could lose billions of dollars of losses in revenue if Biden succeeds, Phil Galewitz reports for California Healthline. Medicare reimbursements to hospitals are generally half of those from private or employer-provided health insurance.
“Grassroots” influencers: New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi’s investigation into FTI Consulting’s work for oil and gas companies reveals the lengths to which the companies go to disguise their interests as those of the little guys and “mom and pop” investors. FTI employees have created websites like “Texans for Natural Gas” that purport to be part of grassroots movements, or used a fake Facebook profile to keep tabs on environmental activists. A spokesman for the big consulting and crisis communications firm denied that it has worked behind the scenes, saying ”We hide behind no one.” Still, under the guise of Texans for Natural Gas, for example, FTI Consulting employees have published pro-industry petitions, written op-eds for local papers and issued papers with misleading information on greenhouse gas emissions. Testimonials on the website from three women were illustrated with stock photos or Flickr photos used without permission—although the group says the testimonials are real. And this is just one of the “grassroots” groups that the company helps run. Others include Citizens to Protect PA Jobs, New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity, the Liberty Energy Project and the Arctic Energy Center.
High standards: Six consumer and environmental groups are suing the Department of Energy for failing to review and update efficiency standards for 25 types of consumer and commercial appliances, like water heaters, refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves, as required by law. Raising the standards would save individuals and businesses at least $22 billion on their utility bills and keep more than 80 million metric tons of carbon pollution from the atmosphere every year, the groups contend. “DOE’s foot-dragging results in greater—and avoidable—energy use, causing increased air pollution that harms public health and the environment, and higher energy bills … Plaintiffs bring this suit to put an end to DOE’s unlawful abdication of its duties,” the lawsuit says.
Juiced up: The Food and Drug Administration has sued a supplier to the federal school lunch program for allegedly selling juice with high levels of arsenic and using rotted fruit that contained toxins, Neil Vigdor reports for The New York Times. The supplier, Valley Processing of Sunnyside, Wash., has been cited for food safety violations on numerous occasions as far back as 2016, and has promised to take corrective action, but according to the FDA lawyers, never did. “Defendants have an extensive history of processing juice under grossly insanitary conditions,” reads the lawsuit. In 2019, food safety inspectors found high levels of inorganic arsenic, which can cause cancer, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes in humans, in 17 lots of apple juice products and two lots of pear juice.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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