Nation and world news briefs

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White House nods to possible transition to new president in 2021

WASHINGTON — The White House instructed federal agencies on Monday to begin preparations in case Donald Trump is defeated in November and a new president takes office, a routine contingency ahead of the election.

Russell Vought, acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, issued a memorandum ordering dozens of agencies to appoint a transition director by Friday, in keeping with the Presidential Transition Act.

The law helps prepare for the potential inauguration of a new president, but is also “helpful to prepare for leadership transitions that occur between the first and second terms of administrations,” Vought wrote.

Each agency’s director will make up the Agency Transition Directors Council, which will meet May 27, Vought wrote. Its responsibilities include creating a strategy for addressing “interagency challenges and responsibilities” during a transition, coordinate any transition activities and prepare career staff to backfill certain roles during a transition.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said be believes Trump may seek to use the pandemic to delay the election.

“Mark my words I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser last week.

He cited Trump’s threat to block funding to the Post Office, which would handle mail-in ballots if the election were conducted that way to preserve social distancing. “Now what in God’s name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”

—Bloomberg News


San Francisco says vitally needed masks, gloves, face shields are being diverted

The mayor of San Francisco says the city is still struggling to get adequate medical equipment to battle coronavirus, including masks, gloves, face shields and gowns.

The buying isn’t the issue — Mayor London Breed said the city had been able to purchase 15 million pieces of the medical gear, known as personal protective equipment, and private companies have donated more.

But getting the equipment has been challenging, she said at a news conference Friday.

“We had isolation gowns on the way to San Francisco and then diverted to France,” she said. Another order of equipment went through customs and then was “confiscated” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for other places.

The city also has had equipment go through customs, Breed said, only to have it taken and “put on the market for the highest bidder.”

“That at the height of this pandemic we are still having a conversation about PPE really does blow my mind,” she said. “There has been nothing that has been more frustrating.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s director of public health said Friday that about 10% of the city’s positive coronavirus cases were homeless people or those living in single-room-occupancy hotels.

Dr. Grant Colfax, speaking at the news conference with Breed and other city officials, said the city continued to respond to occasional positive cases in its homeless shelters by doing testing, deep cleaning and moving residents into hotels leased by the city.

At long-term-care facilities in the city, 113 people have been infected with the virus, he said. He did not know the number of deaths.

—Los Angeles Times


Johns Hopkins engineers develop make-shift ventilators

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins University engineers are working to develop a simple battery powered, pumpless ventilator to fill the need for the life-preserving breathing machines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The device can be manufactured quickly and relatively inexpensively because it has fewer moving parts, and can run for 24 hours on a single 12-volt battery.

It can use oxygen and pressurized air lines already in hospitals or from sources in the field. The engineers are testing their prototype on simulated patients.

As cases of the COVID-19 illness continue to climb in many states or remain high, ventilators have been in high demand and sometimes short supply. They afford patients critically ill with the respiratory disease time to heal by pumping needed oxygen into their lungs.

Hopkins teams also have sought other ways to boost their use, including by creating a special device so patients could share one machine. This team is also working on software to monitor multiple ventilators from a central location.

—The Baltimore Sun


Pelosi endorses Biden for president

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid on Monday, citing the fellow Democrat’s role in helping to manage the federal response to the 2008 financial crisis and in passing Obamacare.

In a video published on Biden’s YouTube page, Pelosi said that the presumptive Democratic nominee “has been a voice of reason and resilience, with a clear path” to lead the U.S. out of the fallout form the coronavirus pandemic.

Pelosi’s backing coincided with Biden’s release Monday of a a memo calling on the Trump administration to expand virus testing capabilities — including launching a 100,00-person public health jobs corps to assist with the testing and contact tracing — and sketching out his vision for re-opening the U.S. economy.

Former President Barack Obama has already endorsed Biden, along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, two leaders of the party’s progressive wing who challenged Biden for the nomination.

—Bloomberg News


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