News Headlines 3/5/21

HARRIS CASTS TIE-BREAKING VOTE FOR SENATE TO BEGIN DEBATE ON $1.9 TRILLION COVID RELIEF BILL: The Senate voted yesterday (March 4th) to begin debate on President Biden‘s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, with Vice President Kamala Harris having to cast the tie-breaking vote as all 50 Democrats voted in favor and all 50 Republican were opposed. Democrats are hoping to get the legislation approved by next week, using a budget procedure that prevents Republicans from being able to use the filibuster to block it, so that it can pass with a simple majority. Republicans object to the huge cost of the package, saying it’s not necessary as the Covid outlook is brightening. A central part of the bill is sending $1,400 to most Americans, and it also includes money for Covid vaccines and testing, aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry, and more.

CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF ASKS FOR NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS TO REMAIN: U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman yesterday (March 4th) urged congressional leaders to use their influence to keep National Guards troops at the Capitol, citing concerns about continuing threats in the wake of the January 6th attack. Pittman said in a letter obtained by the Associated Press that the board that oversees the Capitol Police has so far refused to extend an emergency declaration that’s required to keep Guardsmen there. She asked for the congressional leaders’ help with the Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. The request came on the same day that law enforcement was on high alert for a possible threat that never materialized of a militia group potentially trying to storm the Capitol again. The threat was connected to a largely QAnon conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump would become president again yesterday, the original presidential inauguration day before it was moved to January 20th in 1933.

FAUCI: COVID RESTRICTIONS SHOULDN’T BE EASED UNTIL DAILY NEWS CASES UNDER 10,000: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, said on CNN yesterday (March 4th) that coronavirus restrictions shouldn’t be eased until the number of new cases daily in the U.S. falls below 10,000. He added that the restrictions should be pulled back gradually, after a substantial percentage of Americans have been vaccinated. The seven-day average of daily new cases as of Wednesday was more than 64,000. It hasn’t been below 50,000 since mid-October, and was last under 10,000 on March 22nd last year, in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci’s comments came as some states have begun to rescind their restrictions, with some, such as Texas and Mississippi, allowing business to operate at full capacity and eliminating mask mandates, something Fauci called “inexplicable.” Health officials have been strongly urging against that, saying the decline in cases from their high in January has stalled, and warning about the variants that are continuing to spread.

‘WSJ,’ ‘N.Y. TIMES’: CUOMO AIDES ALTERED REPORT TO HIDE NURSING HOME COVID DEATHS COUNT: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported late last night (March 4th) that top aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo altered a state Health Department report last July to obscure the number of people killed by Covid-19 in the state’s nursing homes. The aides pushed state health officials to edit the report so only residents who died in nursing homes were counted as nursing home deaths, not those who became sick there, but died later at a hospital. The report was intended to push back on criticism of Cuomo for a March directive that prevented nursing homes from being able to refuse to accept recovering Covid patients that were discharged from hospitals. The report concluded that the policy didn’t play a role in spreading Covid infection. State officials said yesterday that changes in the report were made only because of concerns about accuracy.