White House announces $11.6B hurricane relief for Puerto Rico

The Trump administration announced a massive aid package for Puerto Rico on Friday, three years after two hurricanes ravaged the U.S. island territory.

The aid, issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, includes $9.6 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico’s battered electrical grid and $2 billion to restore storm-damaged schools and other education facilities, according to a White House statement. The new awards bring to $26 billion the total amount of federal funding obligated to Puerto Rico’s recovery, the statement said.

The announcement marks a turnaround for President Donald Trump, whose administration held up reconstruction aid sitting in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for years while he regularly bashed Puerto Rico officials as corrupt and inept. “The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA,” Trump tweeted in August 2019.

But the burst of new aid, coming less than seven weeks before the presidential election, could help buoy Trump’s electoral prospects in the pivotal state of Florida, which has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans since hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island in 2017.

A series of supplemental spending packages were enacted after the 2017 hurricanes, but FEMA has been slow in getting the money out the door. Friday’s grant awards amount to more than 80 percent of the agency’s funding obligations in Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Maria, the more devastating of the two storms, over the past year, according to FEMA reporting.

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White House announces $11.6 billion aid for Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The federal government will award an $11.6 billion aid package to Puerto Rico, focused on the territory’s energy and education systems, to help the island recover from the devastation brought by 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the White House said on Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will provide $9.6 billion in funding for the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority to make replacements, repairs and improvements to equipment and buildings, the White House said.

The federal government will also provide an additional $2 billion grant for Puerto Rico’s Education Department, the White House said.

In a statement announcing the aid, the White House said, “Together, these grants exceed the total Public Assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.”

U.S. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused the Trump administration of “slow walking” aid to the U.S. territory and he would work to ensure that Puerto Rico could build a better energy system.

“I will work with the Puerto Rican community to see that these long overdue and desperately needed funds are put to use in a wise way building the cleaner and more resilient energy grid the island deserves,” Schumer said in a statement.

Puerto Rico was already struggling financially before the deadly hurricane struck three years ago, and filed a form of municipal bankruptcy for the commonwealth in 2017 to restructure about $120 billion of debt and obligations.

Since then, the U.S. commonwealth has been hit by more hurricanes, earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and political upheaval, and has been the target of increased federal scrutiny into its use of U.S. aid. A large portion of its financial distress was linked to the territory’s power utility.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are working to woo Hispanic voters in the Nov. 3 election, where U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, is in a tight race against Democrat Joe Biden.

Biden said Trump “has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families” in a speech on Tuesday in Kissimmee, Florida, where many people settled after fleeing Maria’s devastation.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Makini Brice; Editing by Susan Heavey/Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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Miami University party; AstraZeneca; Puerto Rico beaches

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Bodycam footage of a police officer showing up at a home near Miami University’s campus, and finding a number of men gathered on the porch without masks on.

USA TODAY

Drug developers are racing to create a COVID-19 vaccine, but a post-pandemic world won’t suddenly arrive when one is successfully developed. 

A return to “normal living” won’t come until “several months” after a vaccine first arrives, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN. That’s likely to be about a year away, as a successful vaccine still needs to be manufactured and distributed at a massive scale.

In the meantime, Americans are learning more about risks associated with several parts of normal life that remain. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies documented health challenges in dining and daycare. One study found dining out was linked with higher infection rates in adults. Another study documented children who were infected in daycare and spread the virus at home. 

Meanwhile colleges continue to be hot spots for the virus: Of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the U.S., communities heavy with college students represent 19 of them.

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: Montana, North Dakota, Guam and Puerto Rico set records for deaths this week, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data through late Friday. No state records for new cases were set. The U.S. has more than 6.4 million confirmed cases and more than 193,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there are more than 28 million cases and more than 916,000 fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading:  Not everyone wants to rush to reopened restaurants and beaches during the pandemic, but they may be at odds with opinions from friends and family. Here’s how to say no to weddings, holiday dinners and more.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

‘Front line hero’ dies after 4-month battle with virus in Kentucky

An infectious disease specialist at Bowling Green Med Center Health in Kentucky died four months after testing positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, who was a leader with the Bowling Green-Warren County Coronavirus Workgroup, died Friday night following a battle with COVID-19, the medical center announced. “There are really no words to describe the pain felt by her family, physician colleagues and Med Center Health teammates,” Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health, wrote in a statement.

On social media Saturday morning, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear encouraged people to follow her advice and “wear a mask in her honor.”

“I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, a front line hero who worked tirelessly to protect the lives of others,” Beshear wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and colleagues.”

— Emma Austin, Louisville Courier Journal

Bodycam footage: Ohio police bust party at house filled with infected college students

A college student

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AstraZeneca, Puerto Rico beaches, Mexico travel warning

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Bodycam footage of a police officer showing up at a home near Miami University’s campus, and finding a number of men gathered on the porch without masks on.

USA TODAY

Drug developers are racing to create a COVID-19 vaccine, but a post-pandemic world won’t suddenly arrive when one is successfully developed. 

A return to “normal living” won’t come until “several months” after a vaccine first arrives, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN. That’s likely to be about a year away, as a successful vaccine still needs to be manufactured and distributed at a massive scale.

In the meantime, Americans are learning more about risks associated with several parts of normal life that remain. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies documented health challenges in dining and daycare. One study found dining out was linked with higher infection rates in adults. Another study documented children who were infected in daycare and spread the virus at home. 

Meanwhile colleges continue to be hotspots for the virus: Of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the U.S., communities heavy with college students represent 19 of them.

Some significant developments:

📈 Today’s numbers: Montana, North Dakota, Guam and Puerto Rico set records for deatsh this week, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Friday. No state records for new cases were set. The U.S. has more than 6.4 million confirmed cases and more than 193,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, there are more than 28 million cases and more than 916,000 fatalities.

📰 What we’re reading:  Not everyone wants to rush to reopened restaurants and beaches during the pandemic, but they may be at odds with opinions from friends and family. Here’s how to say no to weddings, holiday dinners and more.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak, state by state

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

Bodycam footage: Ohio police bust party at house filled with infected college students

A college student house held a party over the Labor Day weekend that included people who had recently tested positive for the coronavirus, according to police body camera footage.

Police in Oxford, Ohio, cited six men who attended a house party near Miami University  last Saturday for violating the state’s mass gathering and quarantine ordinance. Bodycam footage shows an officer arriving at a home near the campus and finding men without masks on the porch.

In the footage, one of the residents tells the officer he tested positive a week before. The officer asks how many other people in the house have COVID-19, and the resident responds, “They all do.”

“Oh, God. This is what we’re trying to prevent,” the officer says. “We want to keep this town open.”

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City reacted to the situation in an emailed statement: “If students could witness the death and devastation inside ERs

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