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Senate dodges US debt disaster, voting to extend borrowing

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Senate dodges US debt disaster, voting to extend borrowing

By KEVIN FREKING, ALAN FRAM and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate dodged a U.S. debt disaster Thursday night, voting to extend the government’s borrowing authority into December and temporarily avert an unprecedented federal default that experts warned would devastate the economy and harm millions of Americans.

The party-line Democratic vote of 50-48 in support of the bill to raise the government’s debt ceiling by nearly a half-trillion dollars brought instant relief in Washington and far beyond. However, it provides only a reprieve. Assuming the House goes along, which it will, Republican and Democratic lawmakers will still have to tackle their deep differences on the issue once more before yearend.

That debate will take place as lawmakers also work to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year and as they keep up their bitter battling over President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities — a bipartisan infrastructure plan with nearly $550 billion in new spending as well as a much more expansive, $3.5 trillion effort focused on health, safety net programs and the environment.

Easing the crisis at hand — a disastrous default looming in just weeks — the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered his support for allowing a short-term extension of the government’s borrowing authority after leading solid GOP opposition to a longer extension. He acted as Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that a default would disrupt government payments to millions of Americans and throw the nation into recession.

The GOP concession to give up its blockade for now was not popular with some members of McConnell’s Republican caucus, who complained that the nation’s debt levels are unsustainable.

“I can’t vote to raise this debt ceiling, not right now, especially given the plans at play to increase spending immediately by another $3.5 trillion,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said shortly before the vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the Democrats had been on “a path to surrender” on the process used to lift the debt cap, “and then unfortunately, yesterday, Republicans blinked.”

But Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was among those voting to end debate and allow a vote on the bill.

“I’m not willing to let this train go off the cliff,” she said.

Eleven Republicans voted to end debate, providing the threshold needed to move the bill to a final vote. However, no Republicans sided with Democrats in the final vote for the measure. McConnell has insisted that the majority party will have to increase the debt ceiling on its own.

Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline after which the Treasury Department has warned it will quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.

The House is likely to approve the measure next week. After the Senate action, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the House is being called back to session Tuesday evening for votes.

Republican leaders worked through the day to find the 10 votes they needed from their party to advance the debt limit extension to a final vote, holding a private huddle late in the afternoon. It was a long and “spirited” discussion in the room, said Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

McConnell allowed for an airing of all views and ultimately told the senators he would be voting yes to limit debate.

The vote started with McConnell and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican, waiting patiently as slowly, but surely, nine of their GOP colleagues came and gave the anticipated thumbs up. When Cruz voted no, McConnell joked: “I thought you were undecided. Thanks for showing up.”

The White House signaled Biden’s support, with principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the president would sign a bill to raise the debt limit when it passed Congress. Jabbing the Republicans, she also said, “It gives us some breathing room from the catastrophic default we were approaching because of Sen. McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy.”

Wall Street rallied modestly Thursday on news of the agreement.

The accord sets the stage for a sequel of sorts in December, when Congress will again face pressing deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt limit before heading home for the holidays.

The $480 billion increase in the debt ceiling is the level that the Treasury Department has said is needed to get safely to Dec. 3.

“I thank my Democratic colleagues for showing unity in solving this Republican-manufactured crisis,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “Despite immense opposition from Leader McConnell and members of his conference, our caucus held together and we have pulled our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”

McConnell saw it quite differently.

“The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis, while definitively resolving the majority’s excuse that they lacked time to address the debt limit through (reconciliation),” McConnell said Thursday. “Now there will be no question: They’ll have plenty of time.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans still insist that the Democrats go it alone to raise the debt ceiling longer term. Further, McConnell has insisted that Democrats use the same cumbersome legislative process called reconciliation that they used to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and have been employing to try to pass Biden’s $3.5 trillion measure to boost safety net, health and environmental programs.

On Wednesday, Biden had enlisted top business leaders to push for immediately suspending the debt limit, saying the approaching deadline created the risk of a historic default that would be like a “meteor” that could crush the U.S. economy and send waves of damage worldwide.

At a White House event, the president shamed Republican senators for threatening to filibuster any suspension of the $28.4 trillion cap. He leaned into the credibility of corporate America — a group that has traditionally been aligned with the GOP on tax and regulatory issues — to drive home his point as the heads of Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Nasdaq gathered in person and virtually to say the debt limit must be lifted.

“It’s not right and it’s dangerous,” Biden said of the resistance by Senate Republicans.

Once a routine matter, raising the debt limit has become politically treacherous over the past decade or more, used by Republicans, in particular, to rail against government spending and the rising debt load.

___

AP writers Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri and Josh Boak in Washington and AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise in New York contributed to this report.

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Missouri adds 5,380 COVID cases after holiday break

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Missouri records 1,987 new COVID cases; fifth straight day below 2,000

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After taking the last few days off for the Thanksgiving break, Missouri health officials announced more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the state has recorded 738,823 cumulative cases of SARS-CoV-2—an increase of 5,380 positive cases (PCR testing only)—and 12,529 total deaths as of Monday, Nov. 29, an increase of 9 over yesterday. That’s a case fatality rate of 1.70%.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all cases and deaths recorded occurred in the last 24 hours. The state health department did not report new data from Nov. 25 through Nov. 28.

State health officials report 57.8% of the total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Approximately 69.3% of all adults 18 years of age and older have initiated the process.

The first doses were administered in Missouri on Dec. 13, 2020.

The state has administered 106,282 doses—including booster shots—of the vaccine in the last 7 days (this metric is subject to a delay, meaning the last three days are not factored in). The highest vaccination rates are among people over 65.

Joplin, St. Louis City, and Kansas City, as well as St. Louis, St. Charles, Boone, and Atchison counties are the only jurisdictions in the state with at least 50% of its populations fully vaccinated. Thirty-five other jurisdictions in the state are at least 40% fully vaccinated: Cole, Jackson, Franklin, Greene, Cape Girardeau, Jefferson, Nodaway, Cass, Ste. Genevieve, Carroll, Andrew, Callaway, Gasconade, Christian, Benton, Adair, Clinton, Dade, Livingston, Ray, Lafayette, Montgomery, Shelby, Osage, Henry, Clay, Camden, Warren, Howard, Cooper, Phelps, Stone, St. Francois, and Chariton counties, as well as the city of Independence.

Vaccination is the safest way to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity for COVID-19 requires 80% to 90% of the population to have immunity, either by vaccination or recovery from the virus.

(Source: Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services)

The Bureau of Vital Records at DHSS performs a weekly linkage between deaths to the state and death certificates to improve quality and ensure all decedents that died of COVID-19 are reflected in the systems. As a result, the state’s death toll will see a sharp increase from time to time. Again, that does not mean a large number of deaths happened in one day; instead, it is a single-day reported increase.

At the state level, DHSS is not tracking probable or pending COVID deaths. Those numbers are not added to the state’s death count until confirmed in the disease surveillance system either by the county or through analysis of death certificates.

The 7-day rolling average for cases in Missouri sits at 1,197; yesterday, it was 528. Exactly one month ago, the state rolling average was 709. 

The 10 days with the most reported cases occurred between Oct. 10, 2020, and Nov. 18, 2021.

Approximately 49.9% of all reported cases are for individuals 39 years of age and younger. The state has further broken down the age groups into smaller units. The 18 to 24 age group has 89,422 recorded cases, while 25 to 29-year-olds have 62,444 cases.

People 80 years of age and older account for approximately 41.9% of all recorded deaths in the state.

Trending: Missouri senator pushing to eliminate personal property taxes 

Month / Year Missouri COVID cases*
(reported that month)
March 2020 1,327
April 2020 6,235
May 2020 5,585
June 2020 8,404
July 2020 28,772
August 2020 34,374
September 2020 41,416
October 2020 57,073
November 2020 116,576
December 2020 92,808
January 2021 66,249
February 2021 19,405
March 2021 11,150
April 2021 12,165
May 2021 9,913
June 2021 12,680
July 2021 42,780
August 2021 60,275
September 2021 45,707
October 2021 33,855
November 2021 35,903
(Source: Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services)

Missouri has administered 7,842,004 PCR tests for COVID-19 over the entirety of the pandemic and as of Nov. 28, 16.9% of those tests have come back positive. People who have received multiple PCR tests are not counted twice, according to the state health department.

According to the state health department’s COVID-19 Dashboard, “A PCR test looks for the viral RNA in the nose, throat, or other areas in the respiratory tract to determine if there is an active infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. A positive PCR test means that the person has an active COVID-19 infection.”

The Missouri COVID Dashboard no longer includes the deduplicated method of testing when compiling the 7-day moving average of positive tests. The state is now only using the non-deduplicated method, which is the CDC’s preferred method. That number is calculated using the number of tests taken over the period since many people take multiple tests. Under this way of tabulating things, Missouri has a 10.6% positivity rate as of Nov. 26. Health officials exclude the most recent three days to ensure data accuracy when calculating the moving average.

The 7-day positivity rate was 4.5% on June 1, 10.2% on July 1, and 15.0% on Aug. 1.

As of Nov. 26, Missouri is reporting 779 COVID hospitalizations and a rolling 7-day average of 1,063. The remaining inpatient hospital bed capacity sits at 24% statewide. The state’s public health care metrics lag behind by three days due to reporting delays, especially on weekends. Keep in mind that the state counts all beds available and not just beds that are staffed by medical personnel.

On July 6, the 7-day rolling average for hospitalizations eclipsed the 1,000-person milestone for the first time in four months, with 1,013 patients. The 7-day average for hospitalizations had previously been over 1,000 from Sept. 16, 2020, to March 5, 2021.

On Aug. 5, the average eclipsed 2,000 patients for the first time in more than seven months. It was previously over 2,000 from Nov. 9, 2020, to Jan. 27, 2021.

The 2021 low point on the hospitalization average in Missouri was 655 on May 29.

Across Missouri, 179 COVID patients are in ICU beds, leaving the state’s remaining intensive care capacity at 24%.

If you have additional questions about the coronavirus, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is available at 877-435-8411.

As of Nov. 28, the CDC identified 48,106,615 cases of COVID-19 and 776,070 deaths across all 50 states and 9 U.S.-affiliated districts, jurisdictions, and affiliated territories, for a national case-fatality rate of 1.61%.

How do COVID deaths compare to other illnesses, like the flu or even the H1N1 pandemics of 1918 and 2009? It’s a common question.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preliminary data on the 2018-2019 influenza season in the United States shows an estimated 35,520,883 cases and 34,157 deaths; that would mean a case-fatality rate of 0.09 percent. Case-fatality rates on previous seasons are as follows: 0.136 percent (2017-2018), 0.131 percent (2016-2017), 0.096 percent (2015-2016), and 0.17 percent (2014-2015).

The 1918 H1N1 epidemic, commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu,” is estimated to have infected 29.4 million Americans and claimed 675,000 lives as a result; a case-fatality rate of 2.3 percent. The Spanish Flu claimed greater numbers of young people than typically expected from other influenzas.

Beginning in January 2009, another H1N1 virus—known as the “swine flu”—spread around the globe and was first detected in the US in April of that year. The CDC identified an estimated 60.8 million cases and 12,469 deaths; a 0.021 percent case-fatality rate.

For more information and updates regarding COVID mandates, data, and the vaccine, click here.

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Winning $800,000 Illinois lotto ticket sold in Pontoon Beach

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College visit road trip results in $50,000 Powerball win for St. Charles family

PONTOON BEACH, Ill. – Someone hit the jackpot at Casey’s General Store in Pontoon Beach, Illinois. The Illinois Lottery reports that a player matched all five numbers Sunday night. The winning “Lucky Day Lotto” ticket is worth $800,000.

Jackpots in the Lucky Day Lotto game start at $100,00 and increase in size until someone matches all five numbers. The game costs one dollar to play and the chances of hitting the jackpot are around one in 1,221,759. This makes it one of the best odds of any Illinois Lottery draw game.

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Mother tosses 3-year-old from second-story window during apartment fire

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Mother tosses 3-year-old from second-story window during apartment fire

ST. LOUIS – Five people were treated following a fire at an apartment building on the 5800 block of Selber Court in north St. Louis.

Our partners at the Post-Dispatch report a mother tossed her 3-year-old daughter from a second-story window to a neighbor on the ground at the Hillvale apartments.

The fire department says one of those patients includes a child. Three people were taken to the hospital.

The paper also says the fire started in a vacant, boarded-up unit. The Bomb and Arson squad was called to the scene as well.

Firefighters can be seen on the roof trying to knock out the flames. There is also smoke pouring out of the roof.

Bommarito Automotive SkyFOX is over the scene. Authorities appeared to be walking with at least one resident who made it out of the burning building.

The Red Cross is helping 3 residents.

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