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February 8 coronavirus news

US records lowest daily Covid-19 case count in 3 months
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Pfizer says it has increased production to double coronavirus vaccine output

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant on December 13, 2020 in Portage, Michigan.

Efficiencies and upgrades in the production process have helped vaccine maker Pfizer double its output of coronavirus vaccine in the past month, a spokeswoman for the company told CNN Monday.

While the company did not give any production figures to support the estimate, spokeswoman Amy Rose said Pfizer expects production time to be cut nearly in half, from 110 days to an average of 60 days for one batch of Covid-19 vaccine.

One batch is equal to between 1 million to 3 million doses, Pfizer says.

Producing the genetic material that forms the basis of the vaccine initially took 16 days, but will soon take just nine to 10 days, Rose said.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said last week the company expects to deliver 200 million doses of its vaccine to the United States by the end of May.

Supreme Court again rules in favor of a church challenging California's Covid restrictions

The Supreme Court on Monday once again ruled in favor of a house of worship challenging California’s Covid-related restrictions.

The order marks the latest First Amendment challenge to come before the Court, pitting churches against state and local officials seeking to contain the ongoing pandemic. 

The move was widely anticipated. 

Last Friday, a bitterly divided court blocked California’s ban on indoor worship services in a case brought by South Bay United Pentecostal Church. It allowed other restrictions to stay in place. 

In the new order, the court wiped away a decision that went against parishioners of the Shield of Faith Family Churches in California, instructing the lower court to review the South Bay order. 

“In the nearly nine months since governors issued the first Covid-related State executive orders, California continues to impinge significantly on indoor religious gatherings – prohibiting them entirely and unconditionally – while allowing comparable secular activities, such as obtaining a haircut, shopping, getting a car repaired, attending a farmers’ market, or browsing the stacks at a local library,” lawyer for the parishioners Harmeet Dhillon had argued. 

California defended its restrictions, calling them “carefully structured” and a “proportionate response” to an unprecedented public health threat.

Read the full story:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018:  The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Judicial Branch of government. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Supreme Court gives partial win to California churches fighting Covid restrictions

CDC is "looking at all its options," Buttigieg says of mandatory Covid-19 tests for domestic flights

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is looking at all its options” as it considers whether passengers should be required to provide a negative Covid-19 test before domestic flights, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday.

“What we know is that it’s the appropriate measure for international travel, people traveling into the US given some of those considerations. You know, I’d say the domestic picture is very different, but you know the CDC is always evaluating what can best be done to keep Americans safe,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Buttigieg first mentioned the possible testing requirement for air travelers within the United States in an interview Sunday with “Axios on HBO.”

When asked if he supports the idea of requiring proof of a Covid-19 vaccination before air travel, Buttigieg said that is up to the CDC. 

“So, that’s not a step that has been taken, and again, CDC is really in the lead on deciding what the right measures will be … this is part of why the President’s American Rescue Plan is so urgent, because that is going to push the resources out to the states, out into our communities, to make sure that we really can accelerate that vaccination that we know is our best chance to beat this virus,” Buttigieg said.

Nearly 15,000 Covid-19 deaths recorded in New York congregate care facilities, data shows

Two emergency medical staff of a private ambulance company sanitize a hospital gurney after they dropped off a patient at the Cobble Hill Health Center April 20, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Nearly 15,000 confirmed and presumed Covid-19 fatalities have been recorded among residents of congregate care facilities in New York since March 1, 2020, data from the state’s Health Department shows.   

Congregate care facilities include both nursing homes and adult care facilities. This data is being released by the New York State Department of Health after a state supreme court ruling ordered the department to fulfil a watchdog group’s Freedom of Information request last week.  

The state health department defines adult care facilities as assisted living facilities and other congregate care settings that are not licensed to provide full medical services, according to the department’s website.

Nursing homes are defined as “places to live where care is available for people of all ages who need 24-hour nursing care and supervision outside of a hospital,” in accordance with New York public health law. 

Adult care facilities: New data released Monday shows that there were 1,743 confirmed and presumed-positive Covid-19 deaths among residents of adult-care facilities since March 1. Of those deaths, 1,493 Covid-19 fatalities occurred after a resident was transported elsewhere from an adult care facility, according to data not previously shared with the public.  

The data showed 315 out of 544 registered adult care facilities in New York recorded Covid-19 fatalities. Only facilities that have reported Covid-19 fatalities are included among the data, according to the department.   

Nursing homes: Updated data posted on the department website Monday shows 13,235 confirmed and presumed-positive Covid-19 deaths of nursing home residents across the state since March 1 – 4,091 of those occurring after a resident was transported out of a nursing home.  

Out of 613 registered nursing homes in New York, 556 have recorded Covid-19 fatalities, data shows. 

Additional data is expected to be released by Wednesday, per the court ruling deadline requiring department officials to fulfil the information request to the Empire Center watchdog.

US considers Covid-19 testing requirement for domestic air travel

The Biden administration is considering a rule that would require negative Covid-19 test results for domestic air travel, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg mentioned the possible testing requirement for air travelers within the United States in an interview Sunday with “Axios on HBO.”

“There’s an active conversation with the CDC right now,” Buttigieg told Axios. “What I can tell you is, it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out.”

On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that screening US travelers for Covid-19 could be helpful. But she did not expand upon whether there are plans to test domestic travelers.

“To the extent that we have available tests to be able to do testing, first and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel,” Walensky said during a White House briefing. “But if we are traveling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread.”

Read the full story:

A traveler takes a photo of a Covid-19 testing sign at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) amidst travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on February 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

US considers Covid-19 testing requirement for domestic air travel

US flu rates are "remarkably low" this year, thanks to coronavirus precautions, Fauci says

Cases of influenza in the United States have decreased dramatically this year, thanks to public health measures meant to protect against Covid-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

“That is a very good testimony to the efficacy of wearing masks, avoiding congregate settings and keeping distance,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Fox News interview. 
“We did that during this late fall/early winter, and the level of influenza in the community is remarkably low regarding comparisons to other years,” he said.

Facebook says it will try harder to fight coronavirus vaccine misinformation

Facebook said Monday it would work harder to fight coronavirus vaccine misinformation and disinformation on the social media site. 

“Today, we are expanding our efforts to remove false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic,” Facebook said in a statement. 

“Since December, we’ve removed false claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. Today, following consultations with leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), we are expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines,” it added.

The false claims include: coronavirus is laboratory made or manufactured, vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against, it’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine and vaccines are toxic, dangerous, or cause autism.

“We already prohibit these claims in ads. These new policies will help us continue to take aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines,” the company said.

“We will begin enforcing this policy immediately, with a particular focus on Pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules, and we’ll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks. Groups, Pages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed altogether.”

Covid-19 antigen tests still aren't counted among cases in some states, CNN analysis shows

Rapid antigen test results still are not included in the total count of Covid-19 cases for some states — not even as probable cases, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

Five states — California, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri and Nevada — publicly report only cases confirmed with PCR tests in their online tallies, according to a CNN analysis of health department dashboards across all 50 states. 

Some states only report polymerase chain reaction test results in their Covid-19 case numbers and exclude antigen test results since antigen tests are generally seen as less accurate. But as antigen testing ramps up in the United States, this exclusion could lead to potential miscounts.

In California, CNN was told that antigen Covid-19 test results are required to be reported to local health departments and to the California Department of Public Health. But publicly reported Covid-19 testing data only reflects results from diagnostic tests that detect the coronavirus’ genetic material, such as PCR — polymerase chain reaction — tests.

CNN requested antigen testing data from the state’s department of public health, but was told in an email that “antigen test results are not being publicly reported statewide at this time.”

Across the four remaining states, the data they each shared with CNN represent about 10,000 positive Covid-19 antigen test results reported over just a small sampling of days in January.

If included in reported case counts, those positive antigen test results would increase Covid-19 cases reported by those states between 5% and 50% in that time, according to CNN’s analysis.

Some experts worry that in the future, not publicly reporting “probable” cases, as CDC recommends, could paint a skewed portrait of the true spread of disease for residents in a state. 

“Antigen-based tests are not necessarily the majority of all the tests that are being performed everywhere and so it’s unlikely that we’re getting a dramatically wrong estimate, as of right now — also because most states are reporting them. But there is the risk going forward,” Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN last week. 

“I think that more and more of these antigen based tests are being used,” he said. “So there’s certainly a risk going forward that if these are not reported consistently, that we’re going to see an underestimate of the number of Covid cases in the country, and particularly in those states that are not reporting them.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will quarantine after security agent tests positive

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will quarantine for 14 days after a member of his security detail tested positive for Covid-19, Laura Schiller, chief of staff for the Department of Transportation, said in a statement.

The agent was in “close contact” with Buttigieg as recently as Monday morning, Schiller’s statement said.

Buttigieg tested negative Monday morning and has not shown any symptoms, the statement said.

Buttigieg received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and Schiller said he will receive the second dose when he completes the quarantine period.

An additional member of the security team will also quarantine due to close contacts with the agent.

New Jersey has administered more than 1 million Covid-19 vaccines, governor says

Vaccination stations are seen at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, New Jersey, on January 15.

New Jersey has administered more than 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as of Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during a news conference. 

The state administered 1,037,657 doses by mid-morning, with a goal of 4.7 million vaccinated residents by early summer.

New Jersey residents began receiving doses on Dec. 15, with vaccinations accelerating in recent weeks despite snowstorms, the governor added.

The latest Covid-19 numbers: The state’s most recent positivity rate was 8.5%.

More state-monitored schools returned to in-person and hybrid instruction, with 190 remaining all-remote, a decrease of 23 from the week before, according to Murphy.

The governor also announced that previously scheduled school and municipal elections taking place in late spring are expected to be in-person.

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

Two Sumatran tigers at an Indiana zoo test positive for Covid-19

Two Sumatran tigers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in Indiana have tested positive for Covid-19, the zoo announced in a release.

Veterinarian staff received the tigers’ positive test results Friday, after care staff had reported one of the Sumatran tigers showing mild symptoms consistent with Covid-19 on Feb. 1, the release said.

“Bugara, the male Sumatran tiger, has been experiencing a dry cough, and Indah, the female Sumatran tiger, has not shown symptoms at this time” Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s staff veterinarian said. “Both tigers are being watched for any additional clinical signs and remain together in their enclosure.”

According to the zoo, the source of the tigers’ infection is still unknown and they are working with the Allen County Department of Health and the State Board of Animal Health to identify potential sources. 

Among other extra precautions, the zoo is now restricting access to the tiger holding area and has increased PPE requirements for their care staff, in addition to following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommendations by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, the release said.

According to the release, no other animals at the Children’s Zoo have been tested for Covid-19 so far.

Analysis suggests vaccinations are helping decline of Covid-19 in nursing homes

New Covid-19 cases among nursing home residents and staff have dropped more than 50% in about four weeks, according to a CNN analysis of the latest data published by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data captured cases reported between the week ending Dec. 20 and the week ending Jan. 24.

A separate analysis by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living found that new Covid-19 cases have dropped twice as fast in those nursing homes that held early vaccination clinics. 

Last week, CMS said it was too soon to link the ongoing decreases in nursing home cases to vaccination efforts.

A federal program to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff held its first vaccination clinics during the week of Dec. 19. Three weeks later, new Covid-19 cases among residents had declined 48% in nursing homes that participated in the first week of vaccine clinics, compared to a 21% decline in nursing homes that did not have a clinic that first week. 

Similarly, new Covid-19 cases among staff declined 33% in those facilities that participated in the first week of vaccine clinics, compared to 18% in those that did not have a clinic that first week. 

The AHCA/NCAL analysis, published last week, only assessed those nursing homes that enrolled in the Federal Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, including 797 facilities that held vaccination clinics in the first week and 1,709 facilities in the same set of counties that did not. 

“The decline in new cases three weeks after the first dose, compared to facilities having vaccine clinics later, is encouraging and signals that the vaccine may decrease the spread of COVID, a finding not shown in the trials. If verified with additional data, this could expedite the reopening of long term care facilities to visitors, which is vital to residents’ health and wellbeing,” said Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for AHCA/NCAL. “Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on long term care residents, we must continue to prioritize vaccinating the elderly in these settings.”

EU chief calls on member states to donate Covid-19 vaccines to Ukraine 

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen at the European Parliament in Brussels on January 20, 2021.

The President of the European Commission called on EU member states to donate some of their coronavirus vaccine supply to Ukraine. 

“On top of Covax, I have also asked our member states to donate part of their doses to Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video address at a conference held in Kiev on Monday. 

Covax is an initiative to provide equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines and is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization. 

“Thanks to Covax, Ukraine’s doctors and nurses will receive the first vaccines already this month. Millions of other doses will reach Ukraine by the summer,” von der Leyen said. “We will stop the pandemic only if we contain the virus in all our countries. We Europeans are all together in this,” she added. 

The EU has faced criticism for its handling of the vaccine rollout across the continent. Von der Leyen did not elaborate on what the donations to Ukraine – a non-EU country – would mean for the bloc. 

More about Ukraine: Ukraine has a population of approximately 40 million people. It is awaiting delivery of eight million vaccine doses promised under the United Nations Covax program, and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. The country will begin the first phase of its Covid-19 inoculation program this month, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced during the conference. 

The 43-year-old leader, who experienced mild symptoms of the coronavirus last year, said he was ready to get inoculated to encourage others to do the same. 

“As with the majority of world leaders, I am ready to show people by personal example that vaccination is important, it is safe, it is needed,” Zelensky said. 

Ukraine has recorded over 1.2 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths from Covid-19.  

Massachusetts governor calls on Congress to pass Covid-19 relief 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called on Congress to act on Covid-19 relief, saying, “there are still substantial financial challenges that we face as a Commonwealth and that other states across the country are facing as well.” 

“It would be critical, from our point of view, for Congress to pass significant relief swiftly to help us beat down the pandemic and just as importantly, help our economy get back on track,” Baker, a Republican, said during a briefing Monday. 

“While hundreds of thousands of residents have returned to work over the past few months, there’s still way too many people out of work through no fault of their own,” he said, adding that Massachusetts is still down 330,000 jobs from this time last year. 

“We’re now in a much better economic spot than we were last spring, but many of our residents are still unable to find a job, and our main streets are hurting, and many small businesses have not recovered from the pandemic and won’t for months,” Baker said.

The governor was joined by Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, who represents Massachusetts’ first congressional district and is also the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to promote President Biden’s Covid-19 relief package. 

More than 42 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to CDC data

A Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is being administered at the Doolittle Senior Center on February 3, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

About 42.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the US, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC reported that 42,417,617 total doses have been administered – about 72% of the 59,307,800 doses distributed. That’s about 1.2 million more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of nearly 1.5 million doses per day.

About 10% of the US population – more than 32.3 million people – have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 9.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

Remember: Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported.

US committee releases details of their contribution to Covid-19 stimulus bill

The House Committee on Education and Labor – one of the 12 committees contributing to the reconciliation package – released the top lines of what their committee would be contributing to the Covid relief bill as the bill takes shape.

These are the highlights:

  • Nearly $130 billion to help K-12 schools to help students and educators return to the classroom safely, with at least 20% of the funding used to address learning loss. 
  • $40 billion for institutions of higher education to help them make up for lost revenue as the result of campus closures. Institutions will be required to dedicated “at least half” of their funding for emergency financial aid grants.
  • $39 billion to child care providers and $1 billion for the Head Start program to help the struggling child care system.

The two pager also highlights their call to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a growing flashpoint as negotiations on the relief package continue to take shape.

You can read more about the Democrats’ efforts to pass a stimulus bill here.

Italy starts vaccinating people over 80 

An elderly woman is accompanied by a relative to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on February 8 in Rome.

Italy started to vaccinate citizens over 80 years old on Monday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a tweet

“Our commitment continues to protect the elderly that have been most affected by the pandemic,” Speranza wrote. 

The vaccination of elderly people was planned to start at the beginning of February but was delayed by the reduced number of doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.  

Special coronavirus commissioner Domenico Arcuri has expressed disappointment over Pfizer’s and Moderna’s failures to meet their scheduled delivery date.

Italy, like many of its European Union allies, has not authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged over 55. 

Italy first started vaccinations of medical and hospital personnel, as well as care home residents and staff, on Dec. 31. 

The number of people to receive both shots of the Covid vaccine is 1,147,256 since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, the Health ministry website says. 

The population of Italy is about 60 million.

About 2.9 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 since pandemic started

About 2.93 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Feb. 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Last week alone, 117,518 new child cases were identified through testing, the report said. That’s an 10% increase in child Covid-19 cases over the course of two weeks. Children represent 12.9% of all cases in the US.

Children made up between 6% and 18% of those who were tested for Covid-19, and 7% to 29% of children tested were positive for coronavirus, depending on the state.

Children are still considered much less likely than adults to develop severe symptoms of Covid-19 or to die from the infection. Children represented 1.2% to 2.9% of total reported hospitalizations for Covid-19, based on the information provided by 24 states and New York City. Only 0.1%-2.3% of all cases of Covid-19 in children required hospitalization. 

Eleven states reported zero child deaths among the 43 states that provided data on Covid-19 mortality. The states that did report having a fatal case saw no more than 0.05% of deaths in children among all confirmed cases of Covid-19. 

White House will invite Super Bowl champion Buccaneers "when it is Covid safe"

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be invited to visit the White House “when it is Covid safe,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, a day after the Bucs won Super Bowl LV. 

“We look forward to inviting the Buccaneers as well as the 2020 NBA Champions the Lakers to the White House when it is Covid safe, but I don’t know when that will take place yet,” she said.  

Some context: In January, LeBron James opened up the possibility of the LA Lakers visiting the White House in order to celebrate last year’s NBA championship — if only Covid-19 protocols would allow it. It had become a tradition for the reigning champion to visit the US president in the season following its triumph, but that tradition took a hiatus during former President Donald Trump’s time in office. 

James’ Cleveland Cavaliers were the last team to fulfill the tradition when the players met Barack Obama in 2016 but the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors both since declined invites to meet Trump. 

Trump cancelled the Philadelphia Eagles’ White House visit to the White House in 2018 due to the controversy over standing for the National Anthem at NFL games. 

Presidents typically honor their invitations to championship teams. Players also have refused those invitations in the past – Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas declined to visit the White House in 2012 over disagreements with then President Barack Obama’s policies. 

Indoor dining in New York City to open Friday at 25% capacity, governor says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said indoor dining in New York City can reopen at 25% capacity beginning this Friday, two days ahead of the scheduled reopening on Valentine’s Day.

The statewide positivity rate is 4.2% with 8,448 new cases and 114 deaths, Cuomo announced at a news conference Monday.

Cuomo congratulated New Yorkers for doing their part to bring the numbers down, “the post-holiday surge is over,” he said.

Long Island continues to have the greatest hospitalization and positivity rate, according to the governor.

In New York City, the Bronx continues to have the highest numbers and getting higher with a positivity rate of 7.3%, he said.

On vaccines, Cuomo said “we are about 90% of all doses allocated used in arms and it is only Monday.”

He added that New York has 5,000 distribution centers ready for additional vaccine supply, “we have more distribution than we have product on the shelves.”

Note: These numbers were released by the state’s health agency, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project. 

South Africa Covid-19 variant does not appear to be more transmissible, British health expert says

British analysis does not suggest that the South African coronavirus variant is more transmissible than other variants, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said Monday.

Van-Tam’s analysis was based on “early data on modelling” the variant, he said. 

He contrasted the South Africa variant with what he referred to as the Kent variant – referred to internationally as the UK variant – which he said does have a transmissibility advantage. 

Tampa mayor "proud" of compliance at Super Bowl celebrations amid fears of a superspreader event

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans celebrate the Super Bowl victory outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on February 7.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said overall she is “very proud” of the level of compliance she has seen from people celebrating following Sunday night’s Super Bowl victory. 

During a news conference Monday morning, Castor said the majority of the tens of thousands of people who were out celebrating the Tampa Buccaneers win over the Kansas City Chiefs did it responsibly.

She says there were “very few incidents” of people violating the mask mandate. 

When asked about the Super Bowl celebrations outside the stadium being a super spreader event after video of gatherings showing large crowds of unmasked revelers surfaced, Castor said the majority of people she saw were wearing mask. She also said that it is up to people to exercise personal responsibility and keep wearing masks even during the upcoming celebrations expected. 

Castor says the city will definitely celebrate the Buccaneers momentous victory and are planning to do so in a safe manner. 

The mayor says they hope to have more definitive information on what those celebrations will look like finalized by Wednesday. 

White House expects markups to Covid-19 bill to "track closely" with what Biden proposed

White House press secretary Jen Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House is expecting the markups by House committees to President Biden’s Covid-19 relief package to “track closely with what the President has proposed,” but also expects there to be “adjustments to strengthen the bill and tweaks.” 

“Our expectation is this week’s House markups will track closely with what the President has proposed, but there will, of course, be adjustments to strengthen the bill and tweaks as a result of the legislative process, which he’s quite familiar with having served there 36 years, which is how the process supposed to work,” Psaki said during a White House briefing. 

Psaki said: “We’re encouraged that both Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer are in full agreement about the need to move swiftly on the President’s proposal, and the committee markups we’ll see throughout the week are evidence of congress acting on that expeditiously.”

Some more context: House committees are aiming to finalize their legislative text and mark up their sections of the coronavirus relief bill by the end of the week, as the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump gets underway on Tuesday. The goal is for all the committees to pass their portions out of committees and send it to the Budget Committee by Feb. 16, where the larger bill can be packaged together, passed out of Budget and put on the floor the following week.