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Tag: coronavirus

FBI, DOJ Investigating How Gov. Cuomo’s Admin Handled Nursing Home Deaths

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo via City of New York.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI and Justice Department have launched an investigation into how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration handled nursing home residents who were infected with COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.

Federal authorities are investigating whether Cuomo’s coronavirus task force manipulated data to downplay deaths in nursing homes, The Times Union of Albany first reported.

“As we publicly said, DOJ has been looking into this for months,” Richard Azzopardi, spokesman for the governor, said. 

It wasn’t immediately clear whether any task force members have been interviewed yet. 

Cuomo had come under fierce criticism after requiring nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were in the hospital. The directive was later rescinded. 

The Cuomo administration previously reported 8,500 nursing home coronavirus-related deaths, but the true toll was closer 15,000. 

TSA Workers Authorized to Mandate Masks at Checkpoints

By Steve Neavling

TSA workers, who have been hammered by the coronavirus, can finally require travelers to wear masks at checkpoints and “throughout the commercial and public transportation system.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed the mandate Sunday, offering long-needed protection for TSA employees and travelers. The mandate goes into effect on Feb. 2 and remains active until May 11.

“The purpose of this Executive Order is to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely,” Pekoske’s declaration states. “I specifically direct the Transportation Security Administration to use its authority to accept the services of, provide services to, or otherwise cooperate with other federal agencies, including through the implementation of countermeasures with appropriate departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States in order to address a threat to transportation, recognizing that such threat may involve passenger and employee safety.”

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. in March, COVID-19 has infected 6,304 TSA employees and killed 14.

Secret Service Changing Presidential Detail Amid Concerns about Trump Loyalty

By Steve Neavling

Some Secret Service agents who previously worked with President-elect Joe Biden when he was vice president will return to the White House to serve in his presidential detail in the coming weeks, The Washington Post reports.

Such staffing changes aren’t unusual when a new administration assumes office, but allies of Biden have expressed concerns that some Secret Service agents may align themselves with President Donald Trump, who refuses to concede defeat in the election. 

Trump continues make unfounded allegations about widespread election fraud, a position that courts have repeatedly rejected. 

Some Secret Service agents also have come under fire for defying COVID-19 guidelines to wear a mask, parroting Trump’s reckless behavior during the pandemic. 

More than 150 Secret Service officers and agents tasked with protecting Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have either been infected with COVID-19 or have been quarantined. 

“That is smart to give the incoming president the comfort of the familiar,” said one former Secret Service executive, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel changes. “You want him to be with people he knows and trusts, and who also know how he operates.”

TSA Employees Put at Risk As Record Number of People Travel Since Pandemic Began

By Steve Neavling

The number of airline travelers screened by the TSA reached 1.3 million this weekend, the highest number since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

As travelers defy CDC recommendations to avoid travel, TSA agents are at greater risk of getting infected with COVID-19.

No federal law enforcement agency has been hit with the coronavirus like the TSA. Since the pandemic began, the coronavirus has killed 12 TSA employees and infected 4,767.   

There are 723 active infections. 

“We’re seeing a spike in cases where we’re seeing a spike in the community,” Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman, told the Washington Post. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard that people who are getting covid are getting it while they’re not at work.”

Farbstein says the TSA is urging employees to allowing CDC guidelines. 

Rhode Island Mobster “Bobby” DeLuca Granted Early Release from Prison

Rhode Island mobster Robert P. “Bobby” DeLuca.

By Steve Neavling

Rhode Island mobster Robert P. “Bobby” DeLuca will be released early from prison because of the health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. 

U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper granted compassionate release to DeLuca, who had four months left on his sentence for lying to investigators about the gangland murder of a Providence native in 1993, The Providence Journal reports.

Casper citied DeLuca’s age – 75 – and his heart condition and chronic kidney disease. 

DeLuca, a onetime capo in New England La Cosa Nostra, will be on probation for three years. 

In 2016, DeLuca pleaded guilty to making false statements and obstruction of justice related to the death Boston nightclub owner, Steven A. DiSarro, who authorities say DeLuca helped bury in Providence. 

Secret Service Agents Often Don’t Wear Masks While Accompanying Trump to Events

By Steve Neavling

Secret Service agents are tasked with protecting the president, but they often don’t wear masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus at campaign events, according to an ABC News review of videos and photographs.

Secret Service agents are required to wear masks, and the CDC recommends the use of face coverings as a primary defense against COVID-19. 

Agents who accompany Trump to rallies and events – both indoor and outdoor– frequently don’t wear masks. Then again, neither does Trump, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this month.

Trump event mocked Democratic presidential candidate Vice President for relying on masks. 

“I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” Trump said.

At events and rallies for Biden, by contrast, Secret Service agents are seen wearing masks.

The Secret Service declined to explain why agents protecting the president often don’t wear masks, but said in a statement, “The Secret Service continues to follow CDC guidelines regarding the use of PPE. While we continually assess the environment in which we conduct our protective operations, we will not discuss the manner in which we conduct them.”

The Secret Service has been tight-lipped about whether agents have been infected in connection with the diagnosis of Trump and others in his inner circle. 

Ex-Secret Service Supervisor Blasts Trump for Putting Agents ‘Needlessly’ at Risk of COVID-19

By Steve Neavling

A former Secret Service supervisor assailed President Trump for putting the agents hired to protect him at an elevated risk of contacting the coronavirus. 

In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Joseph Petro, a 23-year special agent and senior executive with the Secret Service, said Trump’s jaunt in an SUV around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over weekend was “a gratuitous and dangerous political exercise that needlessly exposed his Secret Service agents” and their families.

“It was an avoidable risk, and someone should have objected,” he wrote. 

Petro said that protecting agents was “aways our highest priority.”

But not under Trump, who Petro points out rarely wore a mask, even though it’s one of the most effective ways of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“He has refused to wear a mask on nearly all occasions, and his staff and most attendees at his rallies follow his example,” Petro said. “The inevitable result has been the surge in positive cases among the president’s staff and other associates.”

Petro said Secret Service management must be committed to protecting its agents.

“The Secret Service cannot protect the president from himself, but its management has a solemn responsibility to protect those agents who put their lives on the line every day to protect him,” Petro said. “It should not be that hard to do.”

Trump Blasted for Putting Secret Service Agents at Risk During ‘Joy Ride’ around Walter Reed

By Steve Neavling

Secret Service agents are trained to take a bullet for the U.S. president. 

But on Sunday, agents faced an entirely different – and unnecessary – risk when they drove President Trump, infected with COVID-19, around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  

The jaunt drew strong criticism from current and former Secret Service agents, as well as doctors. 

“He’s not even pretending to care now,” one agent told The Washington Post.

“Where are the adults?” a former Secret Service member said. 

White House spokesman Judd Deere insisted “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it,” adding that the trip “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”

Although Trump wore a mask during the jaunt around the hospital, doctors said face coverings are not perfect. 

Masks “help, but they are not an impenetrable force field,” tweeted Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.

Doctors said the Secret Service agents will have to be quarantined for 14 days. 

“They might get sick. They may die. For political theater,” James P. Phillips, a professor at George Washington University who is affiliated with Walter Reed, tweeted. “Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Phillips described the risk of viral transmission “as high as it gets outside of medical procedures,” especially since the SUV is “hermetically sealed.”

“The irresponsibility is astounding,” Phillips tweeted. 

Inside a hospital, physicians and nurses wear extensive protective gear such as gowns, gloves, and N95 masks, said Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.

“By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk,” Reiner tweeted.