COVID-19 Update 27 July, 2020

COVID-19 Update 27 July, 2020

Federal 

Updates on the next stimulus package:

  • Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined the Senate Republicans stimulus package. The proposal includes another round of $1,200 in direct payments, more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, a reduction in boosted federal unemployment benefits, liability protection, and more than $100 billion for reopening schools and colleges. The Republican plan is expected to condition roughly half of the $70 billion for K-12 schools on their reopening.
  • The Democrats passed the Hero’s last month while the Republicans were still not able to come to a consensus. The issue is that unemployment insurance runs out this Friday for millions of American families. Democrats want to spend at least $2 trillion more than Republicans will propose, while GOP hardliners don’t want to do a package at all.
  • The GOP proposal provides additional flexibility for the $150 billion in state funds provided under the CARES Act and extends the time frame under which that money can be used. 

Big Companies Track Workforce Diversity But Won’t Share the Results

  • Although companies have said that increasing diversity is important very few of them provide enough information to track their progress. Currently, only 4% of companies release the full data they are required to collect each year for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • After protests in Minneapolis spread across the U.S. in late May and early June, about 90% of the 100 largest public companies in the U.S. made statements of support and pledged financial donations totaling more than $2.8 billion. 

COVID-19 causes national coin shortage, U.S. Mint confirms

  • In a statement last week, the U.S Mint said it was experiencing disruptions to its supply channels due to COVID-19.
  • The mint said that, “Simply put, there is an adequate amount of coins in the economy, but the slowed pace of circulation has meant that sufficient quantities of coins are sometimes not readily available where needed.”
  • To combat the shortage, the Mint is asking for people to pay for items with exact change and return spare change to circulation, if possible. 

State 

COVID-19 update: 839 additional positive COVID-19 cases today bringing the statewide total to 108,264. 1,042,424 patients have tested negative.

Gov. Tom Wolf will allow transparency bill to become law despite veto threat

  • Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill that ensures access to public records during declared emergencies to become law without his signature.
  • Gov. Wolf has argued that the bill is flawed and will endanger government workers by forcing them to return to offices during an emergency, like the current pandemic or a natural disaster.

Pa. unemployment offices have doubled staff, but thousands still waiting on claims

  • Over  90,000 people who applied for benefits between March 15 and June 20 still have not received them. 
  • The state says to address an unprecedented demand on the unemployment system, they now have double the staff they did in March. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry says it’s filled 92% of unemployment claims since the pandemic started, with 175,000 claims currently open.

Philadelphia 

COVID-19: Philadelphia announced 500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 (including the weekend numbers). Officials said the high number of new cases was “at least partially” due to expanded testing and the test positivity rate remained steady at about 5%. There were two additional deaths from COVID-19. 

Philly is stepping up enforcement of coronavirus rules for outdoor dining

  • Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last week that many restaurants are following guidelines and that the city only issued seven orders to stop their operations out of thousands of inspections.
  • City officials have also fined 19 restaurants for operating outdoor dining without valid sidewalk-cafe licenses. Indoor dining is still not allowed in Philadelphia despite it being permitted in the rest of the state. 

Philly unveils racial equity plan for fighting COVID-19

  • The Philadelphia Department of Health has released a 17-page “coronavirus interim racial equity plan” in response to the race disparities in COVID-19 cases.

A few highlights from the health department’s plan:

  • Improve access to testing: Increased number of testing sites from 56 to 75, and work with Federally Qualified Health Centers, Black Doctors’ Consortium, other community partners to focus on expanding testing in communities of color.
  • Improve COVID-19 data: Include race, ethnicity, and age data in daily COVID-19 updated posted at phila.gov/covid. Public health analysts say the data is essential for narrowing race gaps in COVID-19.
  • Expand contact tracing: Philadelphia continues to add more contact tracers and had 114 as of July 3. Hiring efforts will emphasize racial and ethnic diversity in an effort to establish greater trust in communities of color and better represent city residents who are contracting the virus.  
  • Protections for essential workers: New marketing campaign aims to inform workers of their rights (businesses provide masks to workers and install shields at registers) and workplace requirements (capacity limits), and encourages people to report violations.
  • Minimize community spread: More messaging about the importance of face coverings; greater collaboration with congregate settings, such as churches, for infection control; more housing for high-risk individuals experiencing homelessness.

Good News of the Day

Nonprofit Flips Abandoned Prison into Sustainable Farm With the Help of At-Risk Youth and Jobless Veterans

Via Good News Network –

Growing Change is an organization that believes the best solution to a problem is one that strikes at the root, not at the stem—and they have been tilling that soil since 2011.

In converting old prisons to year-round-farming and education centers, Growing Change solves several problems at once. The program synergistically brings together young men on the edge of the criminal justice system, and jobless wounded veterans returning from deployment.

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