Today’s inspirational quote is a good call to action for us today. From John Dickinson’s “The Liberty Song” from 1768: “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all. By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”
The COVID-19 crisis facing west Michigan and our entire country is bad and getting worse. According to MLIVE, which you can see HERE, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan just crossed 8,000. There have been more than 264,000 total cases in the state. In Berrien County, there is a positivity rate of more than 20% (we want it below 5%). The state’s seven-day average positivity rate is 13.4%. Last week it was 9.5%. In the United States, we are averaging well north of 100,000 cases per day, the most ever.
As a result, the Governor announced three weeks of new COVID-19 restrictions. I’ve been disappointed to see that there has been hardly any bipartisanship out of Lansing lately as the Legislature and the Governor’s office remain at a stalemate. We have to be working together these days as we all aim to end the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the restrictions, theatres, bowling alleys, colleges, universities, casinos, and indoor-dining will all close. You can see the latest on the restrictions and what is open and not open HERE.
There does appear to be light at the end of a very, very long tunnel. Over the past week, we have received two hopeful announcements on the vaccine front. Last Monday, Pfizer announced reported early data from its late-stage trials showing their vaccine candidate to be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. And yesterday, Moderna announced its COVID-19 vaccine is also strongly effective, preventing COVID-19 among 94% of patients during their still ongoing study. Yesterday, Pfizer announced that it will begin to test its COVID-19 vaccine delivery program in four states – Rhode Island, New Mexico, Texas, and Tennessee in order to straighten out any problems that might arise from distribution, which you can read about HERE. We are still hopeful that a vaccine will be approved by the end of this month and the distribution process can begin this year.
The House is back in session all week long with much of the focus on leadership elections for the 117th Congress (Speaker Pelosi was re-elected by her caucus today and Kevin McCarthy re-elected by the GOP Conference for Minority Leader yesterday). Both McCarthy and Pelosi will then be nominated for Speaker of the House on January 5 and a roll call vote will be called. 218 votes must be cast for the winner (assuming 435 Members will be sworn in as all elections should be certified). I would note that over the past number of opening sessions, there have been as many as 12-15 members of Congress (MC) who have voted for someone other than their party’s nominee. In fact, the Speaker does not have to be a MC and folks like Colin Powell have been voted for but obviously never got close to 218. At this point, not all the elections have been “called” and a wise guess would be that the Democrats would have 222 and the GOP’s 213, so if only 5 Dems vote for someone other than Pelosi, she does not become Speaker and another vote is held...
On the next COVID package front - a small number of the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus (PSC) met Tuesday with a few Senators about trying to find a proposal that can pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the president. I believe that we are close to finding common ground that can pass that test and would be considered shortly after Thanksgiving when Congress returns for the first two weeks to finish up the spending bills with a Continuing Resolution and resolve the expiring tax provisions. Without a COVID deal, the issue would not conclude until February or perhaps even March so I remain absolutely committed to finding the “sweet spot” and be able to help our small businesses with additional Paycheck Protection Program funding (PPP), schools, local governments (as it pertains to loss of revenue like sales and gas taxes), housing assistance, vaccine and testing funds for distribution, unemployment, broadband, and health providers. Private discussions continue this week and hopefully we can reach a consensus that will work.
Lastly, we would like to still collect photos of folks wearing their masks! Today’s photo is from Halloween when trick-or-treaters got dressed up – with their masks! Thanks for sharing. If you’d like to submit a photo, please click HERE.
All the best,