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Health experts criticize Trump over reports of CDC interference



Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump listens during the daily briefing of the coronavirus task force at the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Public health specialists and the medical community are criticizing the Trump administration over reports that politically appointed communications officials have been meddling in coronavirus-related studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Politico reported late Friday that communications aides in the Department of Health and Human Services requested and received the ability to review and seek changes to studies published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Such reports are authored by career scientists and reviewed by the CDC before publication. They serve as one of the main bodies through which the nation’s premier health agency communicates with physicians and public health specialists across the country.

Politico reported that since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official, was installed as the spokesman for HHS in April, “there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump’s statements.” Politico cited emails and three people familiar with the matter. CNN and The New York Times confirmed Politico’s reporting, citing federal health officials. 

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs “clears virtually all public facing documents for all of its divisions, including CDC,” Caputo said in a statement to CNBC. “Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic—not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC.”

On Saturday, members of the public health community aired frustration over the report, which has not been confirmed by CNBC. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, called the reports “incredibly concerning.”

“It’s very upsetting also for those of us in public health and medicine. The MMWR is a landmark CDC publication,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield. “I think that MMWR are still trying to get the information out there, but certainly now, I will start reading with a degree of skepticism.”

Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, said on Twitter that the move is “outrageous and dangerous” to public trust in the CDC. He added that the move is “unsurprising.”

Politico’s report cited an Aug. 8 email from appointee Paul Alexander to Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield and other officials calling on CDC to modify two already published reports.

“CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration,” Alexander wrote, referring to reports about Covid-19 risk to children, according to Politico. “CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening . . . Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear.”

Caputo defended Alexander’s remarks, saying that Alexander “is an Oxford educated epidemiologist” and that “he has been encouraged to share his opinions with other scientists.”

Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard, said on Twitter that political appointees “should have no role in scientific publications. None.”

Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, urged the Trump administration to give career professionals at the CDC more freedom so speak. 

“It remains unthinkable to me that during a global pandemic that has so severely impacted the United States, we hear so little from the CDC,” she said on Twitter. “The expertise is there. Let the scientists speak.”

Through MMWR, the CDC has continued to regularly publish important studies about Covid-19, including one this week that emphasized the risk of spread associated with dining at a restaurant and another demonstrating kids’ ability to spread the virus despite not becoming severely sick with the disease.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, in a statement to CNBC, said Trump has always been receptive to “the data and science.” The CDC falls under the responsibility of HHS.  

“As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, I have briefed President Trump alongside the nation’s top doctors and I have insisted that he have direct access to these doctors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Azar said. “He has always been receptive to the data and science presented by me and other members of the task force. President Trump’s science-based decision making has saved lives.”

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Restless Americans map out road trips despite misgivings




Americans may be flying less but it looks like their vacation plans are still up in the air.

Nearly 1 in 7 who want to take a vacation by year-end aren’t sure they’ll actually be able to travel, and 1 in 5 expect to book at the last minute, within a week of departure.

That’s according to a recent survey by AAA of traveler attitudes amid pandemic-era travel restrictions, which also found that 80% of planned vacations will be road trips.

“Road trips have been most popular as consumers can curate their own experience and take the necessary precautions, prepare for the journey, limit contact and experience the great outdoors,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. AAA reports that use of its online TripTik road trip planning tool has doubled compared to spring and early summer.

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As for why Americans are still booking vacations despite rising uncertainty around resurgent coronavirus infection rates and interstate traveler regulations, Twidale said “pent up demand from months of quarantine is a prime motivator for travelers to venture out.”

Travel suppliers are doing their best to attract and reassure wary travelers, too. “Many hotels, tour operators and cruise lines are offering flexible terms to entice people to make the decision to book,” she added. “Insurance adds to consumer confidence and peace of mind.”

That said, travelers are hedging their bets somewhat by often waiting till the last minute to book. “AAA is seeing trends such as bookings within 48 hours or up to seven days, where that was rare in pre-pandemic times,” Twidale noted.

Where road trippers are headed

Downtown Denver, the Flatirons and Longs Peak in Colorado. Denver is AAA’s No. 1 road trip destination through year-end.

Brad McGinley Photography | Moment | Getty Images

Lower prices at the pump are also driving interest in road trips, AAA found. Gasoline costs nearly 50 cents less per gallon nationwide compared to this time last year, the lowest autumn prices since 2016.

Where on the map do drivers hope to head? Domestic destinations that allow for socially distanced, outdoor recreation, said Twidale. Here are the top 10 places AAA says travelers searched for at from June 14 to Sept. 14:

  1. Denver
  2. Las Vegas
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Diego
  5. Seattle
  6. Keystone, South Dakota
  7. Portland, Oregon
  8. Phoenix
  9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Whether urban or rural, these spots tend to be scenic with a lot of open space perfect for outdoors activities such as hiking, camping, bird watching, rafting and tubing, Twidale said. Natural landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and even Mt. Rushmore — located in Keystone — are also popular.

People want to work and travel at the same time, so a lot of trips are longer stays.

Omer Rabin

managing director, Americas, at Guesty

“In the coastal areas like California or even Myrtle Beach, travelers can enjoy ocean air, boating, fishing, walks along a beach to feel exhilarated rather than being house-bound,” Twidale noted.

And that last bit’s increasingly important, as many Americans continue to work from home and, by extension, while technically on vacation, booking longer, working holidays. High-end vacation club Exclusive Resorts, based in Denver, is seeing five times the number of member reservations for stays of 14 or more days this December compared to last December and, for all of 2021, they’ve more than doubled compared to this year, according to a spokesperson. (The club’s overall average stay of 5.2 days represents a 30% annual jump in duration.)

AAA is tracking a related trend, called “bleisure,” that began pre-pandemic, Twidale said.

Maskot | Maskot | Getty Images

Business travelers are increasingly tacking vacation time onto business trips, she explained. “With opportunities to work remote with the aid of technology, we may see a hybrid version of this remain in place post-pandemic for some workers,” she said.

Omer Rabin, managing director, Americas, for Guesty, says customers are telling the vacation property management software firm that the three-night weekend escape is “dead.”

“People want to work and travel at the same time, so a lot of trips are longer stays,” he said. “A weekend away becomes a week away, and people leave on Wednesday and come back on Tuesday because you can work from anywhere.”

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UK government borrowing rises to £36bn in September and inflation picks up – business live | Business




The September figure is used to decide the annual increase in business rates. While retail, leisure and hospitality firms have been given a one-year business rates holiday, this is set to end on March 31 just before the new rate kicks in on April 1.

September’s CPI is also used in the calculation for state pensions, although the triple-lock rule means the payout will be the highest figure out of CPI, earnings growth for the year to July, or 2.5%.

State benefits are likewise decided by the September inflation figure, meaning payments will rise 0.5% next April, which is far less than this year’s 1.7% increase.

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Dodgers World Series spikes last minute ticket prices




Members of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after the Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field on Sunday, October 18, 2020 in Arlington, Texas.

Kelly Gavin | Major League Baseball | Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers are credited for driving the prices of resale tickets to the limited 2020 World Series.

After the Dodgers recovered from a 3-1 deficit in Major League Baseball’s National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, secondary resale prices for World Series tickets jumped to between $1,600 and $17,000 per seat, according to Gametime and SeatGeek. The Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988.

Gametime is a last-minute ticket resale app. It provides users with the best ticket prices based on historical stadium, transactions, according to Gametime CEO Brad Griffith told CNBC. Griffith said demand for tickets has increased 21% since the Dodgers’ NLCS win.

Due to Covid-19, MLB is using the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark, Globe Life Field, as a bubble-like site for the Dodgers-Tampa Bay Rays series. MLB hopes to preserve some of the expected revenue lost due to the pandemic. The state of Texas is allowing up to 50% capacity for professional sporting events.

Roughly 11,500 tickets were available for each game of the World Series. Tickets are sold in sets of four due to social distance guidelines in the stadium. But, after-market sites like SeatGeek have tickets available in pairs for Game One.

Griffith said the quantity of tickets available and neutral site didn’t slow demand. He added buyers could be seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience by attending a limited World Series.

“It will be a fascinating experience to have been a part of,” Griffith said.

On Monday, the per-seat value for Tuesday’s Game One reached over $5,000, up from $3,128 last week for Gametime, Griffith said. By the evening, tickets on Gametime’s website showed a decrease in interest for Game One, with the most expensive tickets slightly over $4,000.

Members of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate after they win Game 7 of the ALCS 4-2 against the Houston Astros at Petco Park on Saturday, October 17, 2020 in San Diego, California.

Alex Trautwig | Major League Baseball | Getty Images

By comparison, inexpensive seats were approximately $500, up from around $224 per seat for the potential Braves-Rays series.

Griffith said tickets are reasonably in-line with historical prices compared to Gametime ticket prices for Game One of the World Series in 2018 ($413 per seat) and 2019 ($528 per seat).

The most expensive sets of seat tickets range to more than $20,000 if the series extends to seven games,. Game Two’s highest priced tickets reached over $3,000 per seat on Monday evening. Gametime estimated its remaining prices:

  • Game Three: $2,668 (most expensive seat – $3,627)
  • Game Four: $2,142, ($6,803)
  • Game Five: $2,054 ( $2,857)
  • Game Six: $1,473 ($2,188)
  • Game Seven: $484 ($21,776)

Griffith said Games Two and Game Three, when no winner is determined, “tend to be the best opportunities to get value.” He added the app is best suited for last-minute buyers who decide to attend within four hours of game time and that he’s encouraged by increased demand for MLB and National Football League games.

Founded in May 2013, the San Francisco-based Gametime has raised roughly $40 million. Its investors include Philadelphia 76ers co-owner, David Blitzer.

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