COVID-19 Update 24 July, 2020

COVID-19 Update 24 July, 2020

Federal

Trump administration renews public health emergency after urging from states

  • The Trump administration has renewed the public health emergency for the coronavirus, ensuring that critical resources to fight the pandemic can continue while much of the country battles rising caseloads.
  • The emergency powers have helped the administration usher in a massive scale-up of telehealth visits, emergency approval of new drugs and tests, and new flexibility for government-run health insurance programs. They have also let cash-strapped state and local health departments deploy federally funded personnel to focus on the virus.
  • Governors and health groups, nervous that Trump would end the emergency as he pushed for faster reopenings have been pushing for this all month. 

As Districts Seek Revenue Due to Pandemic, Black Homeowners May Feel the Biggest Hit

  • New research bolsters the case that Black homeowners bear a disproportionate tax burden for underfunded public schools. These homeowners may now see their property tax rises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As states are losing tax revenue, they are asking local school districts to raise taxes to fill in the gaps.
  • A new paper also shows how local governments’ strategies to collect property taxes exacerbate academic and wealth disparities between white and Black families. For example, as of 2016, majority Black and Latino school districts, on average, spent $2,226 less per student  than majority-white districts nationally.
  • Education groups are pushing for states to pool property tax revenue at the county level, not the local level, to help all students no matter their income.

Pennsylvania

COVID-19 Update: The PA Department of health is reporting 1,213 additional positive cases of COVID-19 resulting in 105,571 total cases. This is the highest number of new cases since early May.  There have been a total of 7,101 deaths and 999,377 individuals have tested negative to date.

Wolf on kids returning to school: ‘We are trapped between some really hard choices’

  • At a Press conference today Gov. Wolf said he thought a combination of virtual and in-person learning seemed to make sense. 
  • I think we’re dealing with two realities here, one is the reality of the virus,” the governor said. “The second reality is whatever we do, school opening in each school district is going to depend pretty much on the confidence of the parents, the teachers, the administrators, and the students have in terms of going back into the building.”

Citing ‘overwhelming’ spread, Pa. moves to add staff, app to trace the coronavirus

  • As cases rise in PA, the health department has received approval to spend nearly $27 million to ramp up contact tracing efforts. 
  • The health department is looking for outside companies that have filed at least two emergency requests, using an expedited contracting process, to hire companies to assist with contact tracing. One of the contracts is with an Atlanta-based staffing agency to recruit, hire, and train up to 4,000 tracers in 90 days.  The department said the contracts are not final. 
  • Currently, the state has 661 contract tracers. Health experts estimate that PA needs around 2,000-4,500 tracers based on its current case count.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia has a total of 29,303 COVID-19 cases and 1,676 deaths, 181, 307 individuals have tested negative.

Philly’s school reopening plan is put on hold after an outcry: ‘We should not have to teach students to death’

  • More than 100 members of the public spoke out yesterday night at a school board meeting about the proposed district plan to bring students back on a hybrid schedule. The meeting was supposed to have resulted in the board approving Superintendent Hite’s reopening plan. However, the superintendent asked for another week to retool his plan after the hearing.
  • Even students asked the board to force Hite back to the drawing board or into a fully virtual option and wondered why system leaders weren’t focused on developing a strong, fully remote school plan for all students.
  • Hite said that the district had hoped to bring younger children back to class five days a week but that it could not afford such a plan. He said the plan would cost an extra $80 million, money it cannot afford without an infusion of federal funds.

Social distance ambassadors to be stationed at Wissahickon Valley Park

  •  The Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation will have social distance ambassadors stationed at Wissahickon Valley Park in response to the growing crowds.
  • According to Parks & Rec, all of Philadelphia’s watershed parks have seen a spike in visitation since March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Good News of the Day

With Flights Banned, Son Sails Solo Across Atlantic to Reach Father, 90

Via The New York Times –

Days after Argentina canceled all international passenger flights to shield the country from the new coronavirus, Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey home the only way possible: He stepped aboard his small sailboat for what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic.

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