White House overrules CDC on temporary ban on cruises

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield wanted to extend the agency’s No Sail Order for cruise ships set to expire on Wednesday, but was blocked by the White House, The New York Times reports.

At the beginning of the pandemic, there were several coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships; the Diamond Princess, for example, saw 700 of its 3,711 passengers and crew members test positive for COVID-19, with 14 dying. Wanting to avoid a repeat of this, Redfield argued the No Sail Order, which went into effect in April as a way of combating the coronavirus, should be extended until mid-February 2021, but he was overruled during a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting on Tuesday, the Times reports. The task force decided instead ships will be able to set sail after Oct. 31.

The Cruise Lines International Association says the industry generates $53 billion in economic activity every year, and its biggest market in the United States is Florida. Republican politicians in the swing state and cruise industry lobbyists have been arguing that the No Sail Order should not be extended, but White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern told the Times the task force’s decision was not politically motivated.

“The president, the vice president, and the task force follow the science and data to implement policies that protect the public health and also facilitate the safe reopening of our country,” he said.

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House to vote on temporary funding bill to avert shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is on track Tuesday to pass a government-wide temporary funding bill to keep federal agencies fully up and running into December and prevent a partial shutdown of the government after the current budget year expires at the end of the month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Democratic-controlled chamber is voting despite a mini-furor ignited when Democratic leaders left out a provision requested by President Donald Trump and backed strongly by Capitol Hill Republicans that would give the administration continued immediate authority to dole out Agriculture Department farm bailout funds.

House passage would send the measure to the GOP-controlled Senate and a potential floor fight, but there’s no appetite on either side for a government shutdown.

Democrats complain that the Trump administration has favored southern states such as Georgia — a key swing state and home of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — and larger producers in distributing bailout funds. Farmers are suffering from low commodity prices and the effects of higher tariffs imposed by Trump. Trump announced a new $13 billion allotment of bailout funding at a political rally in Wisconsin last week; the provision would keep the door open for additional election-eve pronouncements.

“The Trump Administration has proven they cannot be trusted to distribute payments fairly,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee. She added that the Agriculture Department doesn’t need the authority to meet farm bill obligations and will get the money in November anyway.

The chairman of the Agriculture panel, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is angry about the omission but said Republicans are not going to spark a potential shutdown confrontation over it.

“I understand there are people upset with the Secretary and what he has done or will do or whatever with regards to (farm) funding,” Roberts said. “But this is desperately needed and there’s 45 to 50 programs that would be in danger, right in the middle of the COVID thing, the farm crisis, and the whole business.”

The stopgap funding bill also comes as negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill have collapsed and as the Capitol has been thrust into an unprecedented political drama with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, which has launched an intense election-season Senate confirmation fight.

The legislation, called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak, would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past the election and possibly reshuffle Washington’s balance of power.

The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs such as a provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.

It also finances the possible transition to a new administration

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Newport Beach revokes temporary use permit for Peninsula Kitchen and Bar

A restaurant in Newport Beach had its emergency temporary use permit allowing for expansion of outdoor dining revoked this weekend, the only establishment to lose the permit since the implementation of the city’s Fast Track Back to Business Initiative in late May.

City officials said Wednesday the owners of the Peninsula Kitchen and Bar, also known as the Peninsula Lounge, were notified Sunday that the city would be revoking its permit, which allows businesses and religious institutions to temporarily expand into parking lots, sidewalks or other adjacent private or public property.

Officials said this is the restaurant’s second such revocation, the first being in July. Owners appealed the first revocation successfully and were able to continue operation after the hearing.

City spokesman John Pope said that city staff and code enforcement officers witnessed numerous violations of the temporary use permit’s conditions, which included the usage of indoor space for dancing and alcohol consumption; violation of occupancy limits for outdoor patio space; violations of the 9 p.m. closure times; and calls for police service as a result of outdoor alcohol consumption.

City staff also said that the restaurant made “no attempt to practice social distancing or require face coverings by patrons and staff.”

“The vast majority of restaurants and businesses are complying with the conditions of their emergency temporary use permits under the ‘Back to Business’ program and [state] guidelines,” Pope said. “However, the permits can be revoked if restaurant owners are found to be operating unsafely, in violation of the terms and conditions or guidelines.”

Restaurant owners declined to comment on Wednesday, but the Peninsula Lounge reports on OpenTable and Yelp that staff are required to wear face masks and temperatures are checked. It also states that surfaces are sanitized, seats are limited and tables are spaced in accordance with social-distancing requirements.

Reported operation hours vary across websites.

City staff said that though the permit was revoked, it only affects the restaurant’s outdoor dining but not the indoor dining due to Orange County moving this week to the “substantial” red tier from the “widespread” purple tier in the state’s new guidelines for reopening. As part of that, restaurants are allowed to resume indoor operations at capacities of either 25% or 100 people, whichever number is fewer, and close by 10 p.m.

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