Connect with us

U.S.

Administration Clarifies Trump’s Inaccurate Comments About the Upcoming European Travel and Trade Ban

Published

on

  • President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade with Europe will be barred from entering the United States for 30 days starting Friday as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the United States.
  • Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans to affected businesses and people.
  • The Department of Homeland Security later clarified his comments by saying that trade will not be affected and this measure will only apply to foreign travelers.

Trump Bans U.S. Travel Between Europe

In an address from the Oval Office Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced that all travel and trade between the United States and Europe would be suspended starting Friday.

Within an hour after his address, Trump and the Department of Homeland Security then had to walk back those claims with additional statements clarifying that the travel ban only applied to foreign travelers.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump originally said in his address. “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”

“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States,” the DHS clarified. “This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.”

Additionally, about an hour after his address, Trump announced on Twitter that the ban will not affect trade between the U.S. and any European country.

Notably, these travel restrictions will not be imposed on the United Kingdom.

This was also only the second time Trump has addressed the nation from the Oval Office, only implementing it once last year to speak on the 2018-2019 government shutdown.

Health Insurance and Warning to Older Americans

In his address, Trump continued by detailing a meeting between his administration and some of the nation’s top health insurance companies. He then said they have agreed to waive co-pays on coronavirus testing and cover treatment for those who have the virus.

Thursday, Trump’s comments were later again clarified by those health insurance providers, who said while they would cover testing, they have not agreed to cover far more costly treatment. 

Trump also warned older Americans to be careful and avoid travel after advising nursing homes to suspend all non-medical visits.

In a warning to all Americans, Trump said people should brace for even more disruptions such as school closures and cancellations to more large gatherings. Later on Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for all public gatherings of more than 250 people to be canceled.

Economic Measures

Trump also announced that he has instructed the Small Business Administration to provide loans in affected states and territories, also asking Congress for an additional $50 billion in assistance.

“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” Trump said. “This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.” 

Other emergency actions include instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for certain businesses and people affected by the virus, with Trump saying such a move would put $200 billion of liquidity back into the economy.

Regarding his push for Congress to pass payroll tax cuts, Trump once again doubled down on his calls for the government to provide relief to workers affected by the virus.

“This is not a financial crisis,” Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.” 

Stocks Stop Trading

If that statement was meant to assuage investors, however, it did not work. 

Following Trump’s address Wednesday night,  Dow futures fell by 1,100.

Even before his address on Wednesday, stocks had already begun entering bear market territory, which occurs after those stocks drop 20% or more after recent highs. 

Just six minutes after opening on Thursday, those drops were so big that investors stopped trading for about 15 minutes. That is the second time this week such an instance has happened. Outside of this week, stocks haven’t been temporarily halted since 1997. 

For some context, however, those breaks meant to help investors slow down and think about their decision on where or not to invest in a stock.

Still, stocks for businesses in the travel industry plunged Thursday. Shares for cruise lines like Royal Caribbean shares dropped nearly 27% while Carnival was down 19%. Airlines such as United, Delta, and American all down more than 12%.

Other Reactions to Trump’s Oval Office Address

Thursday morning, the European Union condemned the Trump Administration’s travel suspension, saying the decision “was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

Others, including many analysts, argued that the suspension probably came a little too late, many pointing out that the coronavirus outbreak has already reached American soil and seen community transmission.

In a heated exchange with Ohio Governor John Kasich, CNN Anchor Don Lemon blasted Trump for sending mixed messages and providing the public with inaccurate information during his address. 

“This has been going on long enough for them to get it straight,” Lemon said. “We need straight, accurate information for this president, and this administration we’re not getting it, and I don’t understand why you are tiptoeing around it. He came out, gave an address that happens very rarely, and he doesn’t get it right?!” 

Kasich then fought back, saying the president had finally taken the coronavirus seriously, alluding to criticism that Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus by recently comparing it to the flu and using it as an opportunity to talk about the border wall. 

House Dems Propose Paid Leave Legislation

After Trump’s address, House Democrats unveiled a sweeping coronavirus release package that consisted of a number of measures, including national paid sick leave program, free coronavirus testing, food security assistance, and expanded unemployment benefits.

Very notably, that proposal does not include a payroll tax cut. According to reports, both Democrats and Republicans rejected the proposal, arguing that payroll tax cuts do not help those hit the hardest and are largely aimed at helping the wealthy.

Thursday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is expected to vote on the legislation later in the day before leaving for a 10-day recess. According to reports, Pelosi is still hashing out the details with the Trump Administration, but not everyone is on board.

“The legislation that Speaker Pelosi introduced at 11pm last night—written by her staff and her staff alone—and plans to vote on just 12 hours later is not only completely partisan,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “It is unworkable.”

McConnell Slams House Bill, Senate Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell slammed the House bill, calling it an “ideological wish list.”

I hope Senate Democrats will not block potential requests from our colleagues today to pass smaller, non-controversial pieces of legislation today,” he said.

While some Republican senators have expressed support for at least some parts of the bill, it’s unclear what the Senate will do. It may decide to consider the package or just propose one of its own.

Thursday morning, McConnell announced that the Senate will cancel its plans for the scheduled recess next week and will instead work through that.

To make matters worse, senators are now facing another problem that could complicate things even more. Wednesday night, Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) office confirmed that one of her staffers tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case on Capitol Hill.

Cantwell later announced that she was closing her D.C. office to have it deep-cleaned. In response, other Senators closed their D.C. offices as well.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Axios) (The Guardian)

U.S.

As Unemployment Claims Rise, CA Officials Report Inmates Collected Millions in Benefits

Published

on

  • Unemployment numbers spiked for the second week in a row, marking the highest amount of new claims made since early October with 778,000 people filing. Over 20 million Americans are still collecting some kind of joblessness aid.
  • Experts say this will only get worse as COVID cases continue to rise and states impose more restrictions. However, unlike during the spring shutdowns, struggling Americans and small businesses will likely not have any help from the federal government.
  • Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in California reported that tens of thousands of inmates received upwards of $1 billion in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that officials described as “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”

Unemployment Numbers Spike

Another 778,000 Americans filed for unemployment this week, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, marking the highest spike since early October and the second week in a row that new claims have risen.

According to experts, this data signals that the massive coronavirus spikes the U.S. has seen in recent weeks are slowing the economy once again. On Wednesday, the country reported a record 2 million new cases in the same two weeks that joblessness claims also went up, bringing the official case count to more than 12.6 million Americans infected and over 260,000 dead.

As the COVID-19 spikes continue, and with more state and local governments imposing new restrictions on public gatherings, limiting hours and operations for restaurants and bars, and temporarily closing down some businesses entirely, economists say this situation will get worse before it gets better.

Unlike the first wave of shutdowns this past spring, it seems almost certain that struggling Americans will have to weather these latest closures without any help from the government.

Already, many of the programs that gave trillions of dollars to unemployed Americans and small businesses under the CARES Act have expired, and most of the few remaining programs will run out soon.

That is especially concerning when it comes to unemployment benefits. According to a recent report from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, unless Congress and the White House sign off on a deal to extend key programs, roughly 12 million Americans will lose these benefits entirely the day after Christmas.

But after months of deadlock, any hopes for a new stimulus package petered out when the election came around. Democratic leadership is reportedly attempting to restart those talks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to approve some kind of bill before the end of the year. 

However, it remains unclear how all the problems that had deadlocked the lawmakers for months during the earlier negotiations will be resolved in time.

Inmate Unemployment Fraud

Meanwhile, states are still continuing to struggle with distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.

On Tuesday, a task force lead by nine district attorneys across the state of California reported in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that tens of thousands of prison and jail inmates — including more than 100 people on death row — have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that the officials say “appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,”

According to the task force, between March and August, inmates housed in every single California prison and in jails throughout the state filed 35,000 claims totaling at least $140 million in benefits, though the alleged crimes could total as much as $1 billion.

In most cases, officials said that the payments were given out in the form of prepaid debit cards sent to friends or family on the outside who would then later deposit the proceeds to inmate accounts.

In some cases, the joblessness benefits were sent directly to the jails and prisons. Sometimes the inmates used their real names, but other times, they used fake names and fake Social Security numbers.

In fact, prosecutors were tipped off to some of the cases by listening to inmates recorded phone calls, where they bragged about how easy it was the game the system.

As far as how such widespread fraud could happen, law enforcement officials blamed California’s Employment Development Department, which has been swamped with processing more than 16.4 million unemployment claims since March, resulting in a massive backlog of unfilled claims that, according to reports, has totaled upwards of more than 1.6 million people at times.

However, the task force also said that part of the problem was due to the fact that unlike at least 35 other states, California does not have the technology to crosscheck inmate rosters against unemployment claims.

Looking Forward

In their letter, the officials called on Newsom to crack down on the rampant fraud and provide “significant resources” to do so. 

Newsom, for his part, responded in a statement by calling the fraud “absolutely unacceptable,” and ordering the Office of Emergency Services to create a task force to help the prosecutors with their investigation.

However, as The New York Times pointed out, Newsom had already formed a “strike team” a few months ago to help the state’s employment department speed up claims and address other issues, including fraud at correctional facilities.

The district attorneys were still forced to form their own task force with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after the reports of fraud in the employment department continued and the “strike team” failed to uncover the large amounts of fraud the other groups had seen.

Currently, it is unclear how Newsom’s new task force is different from the largely unsuccessful “strike team.” 

California, of course, is not the only state having these issues with unemployment insurance fraud. There have also been similar reports of fraud in Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, and other states.

These problems also go beyond unemployment. There have been frequent reports of CARES Act funding being misused, including by people using small business loans to buy luxury cars, as well as large companies or businesses connected to President Donald Trump Trump and members of Congress improperly receiving funding.

As Congress considers another much-needed stimulus package, these issues of transparency and accountability have now become paramount. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (USA Today

Continue Reading

U.S.

COVID-19 Cases Expected To Surge After Thanksgiving

Published

on

  • With coronavirus cases already on a steep rise in the U.S, experts are warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will likely make things worse. Canada, for example, saw a jump in cases after its citizens celebrated the holiday last month.
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Americans should hold out for a vaccine, which is on the horizon, and be safe this Thanksgiving.
  • A family in Texas is also waring against gathering, saying they learned how dangerous it is the hard way. After celebrating a birthday together, all 15 people who attended the party tested positive for the virus.
  • On top of this experts are also warning against thinking a negative test clears you for socialization. In reality, you can test negative for the virus and still have and transmit it.

Warning From Surgeon General 

As Thanksgiving looms closer, warnings against family gatherings are being echoed by experts and everyday people alike. 

Health officials have been vocal about the threat the Thanksgiving holiday poses when it comes to the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen 12.4 million cases and lost 257,000 lives to the virus, and cases have been on a steep increase this month. The CDC has already warned against travel and experts have said that based on the spike Canada saw after its October Thanksgiving, America is set to go down a similar, or even worse path. 

“I want the American people to know that we are at a dire point in our fight with this virus by any measure,”  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on Good Morning America.Cases, positivity, hospitalizations, deaths. We’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted than ever before.” 

Adams said that with a vaccine on the horizon, Americans should just wait out this homestretch and stay put for the holiday.

“I’m asking Americans, begging you, hold on just a little bit longer,” he said. “Keep Thanksgiving and the celebration small and smart this year.” 

Family in Texas Urges Caution

Health officials are not the only ones preaching this advice. In Arlington, Texas, a family that has lived the consequences of gathering without regard for public health is urging people to not make the same mistake as them. The Aragonez family celebrated a birthday earlier this month indoors without masks or distancing. Now, all 15 people who attended tested positive for the virus. 

“We feel guilty for gathering,” members of the family said in a video encouraging caution. “All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to be healthy could have been prevented.” 

“Please don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” one person said. “By staying apart we can fight this virus together.” 

While most cases in the family were mild, one person was hospitalized for over a week.

“One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money,” one family member told the Washington Post. 

Testing Negative is Not Enough

Many have still forged on with their gathering plans under the false idea that if everyone tests negative before attending, they are in the clear to socialize. However, experts warn this is far from the case.

Just because a person tests negative does not necessarily mean they do not have the virus. Tests are not 100% accurate and it can take days or even a week to test positive for the virus after exposure. Not to mention, people could come into contract with the virus between their test and the family event. 

“A negative result is a snapshot in time,”  Dr. Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago explaining to the New York Times. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”

While it might slightly minimize the risk of spread, it certainly does not eliminate it. More than anything, it gives people a false sense of security that they have a free pass to go wherever and see whoever they want, despite the fact that it still poses a large health threat.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Washington Post) (Associated Press)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Over 1 Million People Traveled Through U.S. Airports Friday, Despite COVID-19 Warnings

Published

on

  • Over 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Friday, marking the second-highest single day of airport traffic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
  • The new record comes despite the fact that the CDC has issued a warning against travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging people to stay home instead because COVID-19 cases are already on a steep rise.
  • In Canada, cases spiked after the country celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday in October.
  • While cases were already increasing in the country, contact tracing has linked outbreaks to holiday gatherings, which likely accelerated the speed of spread.

Cases and Travel Both Increase

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is expected to worsen the already increasing coronavirus outbreak in the United States. 

Currently, the country has seen over 12.3 million cases and lost more than 256,000 lives to this virus. On Friday, the U.S. broke its record for new cases in a single day, reporting 198,500 cases. The daily average has reached 171,462 cases a day and roughly one-quarter of all cases in the U.S. have come from just the month of November. 

These circumstances paint a grim picture of what could come after all of the traveling and large gatherings that are expected to happen over the holiday, even after repeated warning against doing so.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling and advised that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

The CDC told travelers to ask themselves questions, like if cases are high in their home or destination, if their method of travel makes social distancing difficult, and if there are travel restrictions in their area. If the answers to any of those questions are yes, people should “consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.”

Despite these warnings, air travel is on the rise in the country. On Friday, more than 1 million people passed through airports, marking the second-busiest day of air travel since the pandemic began. While this is 1.5 million people less than the same day last year, the travel surge troubles health officials who fear the virus could spread as people gather with their families. 

Case Spike After Canada’s Thanksgiving

All the U.S. has to do is look to its neighbor to the North in order to find out just what kind of impact Thanksgiving can have on coronavirus cases. Two weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, the country saw a spike in cases. While cases were already on the rise at the time, experts believe that holiday gatherings contributed to and accelerated the spread.

“Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data,” Dr. Laura Rosella, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto told CBS News.

Contact tracing in the country showed a significant transmission from household gatherings stemming from Thanksgiving. 

“One local health unit that reported about 12 people being infected because of a Thanksgiving gathering,” Rosella explained. 

It’s not the only reason the cases are increasing, it’s not the only setting in which transmission is occurring, but definitely when people gathered indoors it did transmit COVID.”

Superspreading Events

Still, people are more likely to feel safe with their family, no matter how high the COVID-19 risk actually is. Superspreading weddings are among the strongest examples of this, as numerous have led to significant outbreaks because couples thought it was safe to gather with friends, family, and other people they trust.

“Many people don’t believe that you can actually catch it from your family and friends. They feel safe when they are around people that they know,” Karen Potts, the director of the Adams County Health Department in eastern Washington explained to NBC News. “And I think that’s why this sort of event happens. People just feel safe, and they go to the event, and it just spreads so rapidly.”

One August wedding in Maine, for instance, was liked to 177 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Many of those cases include people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, none of the deaths traced back to the wedding were attendees. 

An October wedding in Cincinnati led to 32 of the 83 guests getting COVID-19, including grandparents of the bride and groom. In Washington, a 300 person wedding earlier this month has led to 17 people getting the virus so far. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (NBC News) (Washington Post)

Continue Reading