Stimulus bill could pass if Trump “wants” to approve per Pelosi

We have some more encouraging news stemming from the stimulus package negotiations.

Apparently, progress continues to be made.

“The biggest step forward… in the negotiations is, I think they’re about to embrace the science in a substantial way,” Pelosi told MSNBC.

What science is she talking about?

Most likely, she is talking about testing and contact tracing related to the pandemic.

That has been a long disputed issue but it sounds like the White House and Pelosi are in much closer agreement on that end.

In fact, it sounds like they have made substantial progress and have begun drafting the bill.

Nancy Pelosi stated:

“We put pen to paper… we are writing the bill, and hopefully we will be able to resolve it… we could do that before the election if the president wants to.”

Pelosi also stated that a bill could be passed before election day if Trump “wants” to approve it.

President Trump already said that he would sign off to an agreement that is made between his representatives and Pelosi so it should be a given that Trump will approve it.

Given some of the recent outcry from Republicans though, Trump might be reconsidering giving his blessing to an oversized package if he fears it will cause a major rift in the Republican Party.

Many Republicans don’t like the fact that Pelosi seems to have nothing compromised as much as the Republicans have.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is in agreement.

“We haven’t seen a lot of action from Speaker Pelosi,” Meadows said.

“Most of the progress we’ve made have been concessions that the president has made.”

The lopsided set of compromises might prove to be very problematic for GOP members in the Senate when it comes time to vote on this new package.

If a deal were to be reached prior to the November 3 election date, stimulus checks should be processed and distributed around or possibly even before Thanksgiving.

The IRS certainly has the capacity to send out checks that quickly; I think it would just be a matter of whether or not the distribution would be complicated by political controversies or disagreements.

If for some reason the election were to be seriously contested, it is possible that the stimulus checks could get caught up in the mix and it could take longer for things to get moving.

Hopefully, lawmakers would view any efforts related to the stimulus recovery has completely separate items from political disputes and would focus on getting their job done but you never know.

As far as Trump goes, it’s not clear what will happen with respect to stimulus checks if he does not win.

“I’m never very optimistic about the lame duck and I’ve never been surprised,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

“You don’t get near as much done as you think you’re going to get done.”

Most seem to be in agreement that if Trump loses, we won’t see much happen until the new president is sworn in (assuming no pre-election day agreement).



More Republican support for stimulus package coming out

GOP staffer says not enough votes for “pile of crap” stimulus

Stimulus package negotiations making real progress

Are planes really safe from Covid 19?

When the pandemic first started to break out back in February of this year, many people wanted to stay as far away from airplanes as possible.

The idea was that a contagious virus could easily circulate through a metal tube and infect people throughout the entire cabin.

But we soon started to hear that the air quality inside of an airplane was actually pretty safe. This was allegedly due to the high air exchange rates and HEPA filters.

But is this actually true?

Well, a new study conducted for the Department of Defense ads support to the belief that you run a low risk of contracting the coronavirus when flying inside of an airplane.

This study found that the risk of aerosol dispersion which is basically the transmission of the virus through the air, was reduced 99.7% thanks to the “high air exchange rates, HEPA-filtered recirculation and downward ventilation found on modern jets.”

The study involves studying the cabins of Boeing 767 and 777, two types of aircraft that are often used on long-haul flights where you might expect the virus to spread easily over time.

Researchers released a fluorescent tracer and aerosols that represented the droplets that would be released by exhaling or coughing and then they looked to see what the impact was on multiple “breathing zones.”

The findings: “An average 99.99% reduction was measured for the 40+ breathing zones tested in each section of both

This has some airline executives feeling better about the claims regarding aircraft safety when it comes to the coronavirus.

“The reality is those tests are indicative of what happens on every airplane. An aircraft is just a remarkably safe environment,”  United CEO Scott Kirby said.

The study was conducted by an entire team which consisted of members from United Airlines, Boeing, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, National Strategic Research Institute and research firms.

The findings of the study are not necessarily groundbreaking or new as many others have been stating that air quality inside of a plane is about as good as it gets.

In fact, the study found that the contamination inside the aircraft was actually less than what is found in private residences.

“The 767 and 777 both removed particulate 15 times faster than a home … and five to six times faster than recommended design specifications for modern hospital operating or patient isolation rooms,” the study continued.

So if you are thinking about flying for the upcoming holidays and you are worried about your safety with respect to the virus, I don’t think that you have a lot to worry about in terms of your risk inside the cabin.

Obviously, there are other risks that you could face such as just standing near people in line for airport security or while spending time inside of a lounge.

But with all of the increased sanitation, individuals wearing masks, and the efficient air filtration and circulation systems, you should at least be able to be a little bit at ease when flying.


Did Southwest wrongly kick a Trump supporter off a flight?

A video surfaced yesterday that appears to show a flight attendant ejecting a passenger from a Southwest flight for questionable reasons.

Based on what we can see in the video, it looks like the passenger is being kicked off the flight for lowering his mask while eating a package of nuts. This fact was backed up by a couple of witnesses that you can hear on the video below.

The passenger is wearing a black “voices for Trump” hat and also a Trump facemask which makes a lot of people think this was politically motivated.

The current policy on major US airlines is that you can pull down your mask or remove it to eat or drink. Thus, it is hard to see what the problem was here.

I hear one passenger say that the flight attendant is going on “hearsay” which makes me think someone else may have made a complaint that this individual was not wearing a mask. Perhaps they did not realize that he was eating a snack or there could be more to the story?

I would like to see what happened before this encounter before choosing which “side” I am on but this does not look good based on the video that we can see.

Here is the video:

There now has been an update that has come out from who I believe is the woman you can hear recording the video above. It’s a pretty rational response and it highlights the fact that this one act is not representative of Southwest as a company.

But it does sound like the flight attendants involved in the ejection were likely motivated by politics.

Hawaii opening back up to tourists!

After a long wait since March, Hawaii is finally going to open back up starting October 15!

They will still have a 14-day quarantine requirement but visitors will not have to quarantine if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Travelers will be required to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours before their flight arrives in Hawaii.

The state is partnering up with drug store CVS and healthcare provider Kaiser to conduct the tests. It’s not clear to me exactly how it will work but I’m assuming the results will be guaranteed within a specific time window.

The state has been working on implementing a pre-travel testing program for quite some time. Initially it was supposed to happen on August 1 but that got pushed back to September 1 after a shortage of testing supplies and a spike in cases.

And then once again the deadline was pushed out so this has happened a couple of times.

Hawaii has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic and that is not a surprise considering how much of the economy relies on tourism.

It’s estimated that tourism traffic to Hawaii has dropped more than 90% since the beginning of the pandemic which has forced hundreds of hotels to close. Hawaii now has one of the worst employment rates in the country only following Nevada and Michigan.

Coronavirus cases have continuously declined in Hawaii. In August, there was an average of 255 cases in a week and the total is now down to 118.

If you plan on doing inter-island travel in Hawaii it gets a little bit more complicated. Counties will have programs that you can get enrolled in that will allow you to travel between some islands.

However, that will come at a price. For example, you may have to limit your contact with some people and sign waivers as well as agree to electronic monitoring.

But while there are some restrictions you may have to abide by, it’s exciting to finally see Hawaii opening back up to the public.


Delta to require pre-flight medical evaluation for mask exemptions

If you want to fly a domestic airline in the US right now, you most likely will be required to wear a mask or face covering.

This has been a controversial move as many Americans feel like it is too much of an infringement to require masks to be worn.

There is also a large segment of people who feel like the masks present health hazards to them. In addition some people have pre-existing health conditions which are reportedly worsened by wearing a face covering.

For example, I have heard that some people claim that breathing issues are made worse by wearing a mask or that conditions like anxiety could be amplified.

These people are not all full of BS as the CDC has even recognized needed face covering exemptions for “children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

Because of these reasons, some individuals are refusing to wear masks based on medical reasons.

Well, starting on Monday Delta will require these individuals to undergo a medical evaluation at the airport before boarding.

Delta is encouraging passengers who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons to reconsider traveling right now.

It looks like this medical evaluation may be a “virtual consultation” that will take place prior to departure at the airport.

According to USA Today, “The evaluation will be done in private with STAT-MD, Delta’s partner for in-flight emergency consultations, which is based at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.”

These evaluations could take up to one hour so Delta is encouraging passengers to arrive early at the airport if they will undergo a medical evaluation.

If it is determined that there has been a false claim of disability or health condition, for the purpose of getting exempted from the mask requirement, this could result in suspension of travel privileges.

But if you are denied an exemption from the mask policy, you will be issued a refund for your ticket.

Although the early data and opinions were conflicting regarding face coverings, over the past couple of months many studies and reports have shown that face coverings are crucial for slowing the spread of the virus.

Still, this policy will prove to be controversial I’m sure.

Health history and medical conditions are considered protected/privileged information and lots of people do not feel comfortable opening up about these things, especially in an airport “virtual consultation” session.

The fact that it could take up to an hour to get a consultation done prior to a flight could also prove to be a major issue.

Overall, I think this is a tough decision because it is important to enforce face coverings in order for them to be effective.

If you allow individuals to simply claim an exemption in good-faith, there will people who take advantage of that exemption over time. (Just like how we see with service animals.)

It would then likely only be a matter of time before someone hosting the virus claims a false exemption and spreads the virus.

It’s still possible for someone to be asymptomatic and be granted a face covering exemption so there could still be a risk. But at least fewer people will be without masks on the plane with the new rule.

The new rule may also give passengers more confidence as they will see fewer passengers without face coverings but I think it will also help the crew out a lot since they will not have to resolve as many conflicts from angry passengers regarding face coverings.

Blocking out middle seats on planes may be highly effective

Flying during coronavirus is a very different experience.

You can sense how on edge most passengers are from the time you are waiting to board, through the flight, and to the time you make your way through baggage claim in a deserted airport.

In order to make things safer for passengers and also to help them feel more comfortable flying, airlines have implemented several different types of policies.

The most noticeable policy is the mandatory requirement to wear masks that most of the airlines now have in place.

Passengers are required to wear a mask or face covering through the entire duration of the flight except for times when eating or drinking.

Airlines have also cut down on drink and meal service or put in a replacement such as serving snack boxes.

But one policy that only certain airlines have adopted is blocking out the middle seat.

This has been one of the most welcomed policies by passengers, especially those who fly economy.

But many people probably have questioned whether or not having a middle seat blocked out is even effective or is it all about show?

Well, it looks like having the middle seat blocked out could cut down on infection rates to a large degree.

According to a statistical model compiled by Arnold Barnett, the George Eastman Professor of Management Science at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the average risk of catching COVID-19 from flying on a plane is 1 in 4,300.

That rate is almost double the risk compared to what the risk would be if airlines left the middle seat open.

In terms of the risk of fatality, these figures would put the rate of dying from coronavirus caught on a plane to one in 430,000 which is much more likely than the risk of dying by an airplane crash which is one in 34 million.

It’s important to note that this study has not been peer reviewed yet so we have to be careful about adopting all of its data as truth.

However, I’m sure that airlines who do not currently block out the middle seat will not be happy with the results of the study if they survive peer review.

Right now, airlines like Delta have a policy to not sell middle seats through the end of September but American and United Airlines are currently selling middle seats.

United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, has basically said that social distancing is not possible on a plane, “if you look at an airplane, airplanes don’t have social distancing.”

While that is true for the most part, that still does not mean that creating more distance and getting as socially distant as possible is not beneficial on a significant level.

And that is exactly what the study purports to show.

“United asserts that there are no such implications, that middle-seat-empty is a PR measure and not a safety measure,” said Barnett. “That simply isn’t true.”

“The basic formula says that for every additional meter, the risk goes down by a factor of two,” Barnett stated. “So in that sense, two meters is only half as risky as one meter and three meters is only half as risky as two.” 

There is a lot of data out there regarding the effectiveness of air filters on planes which would make aircraft cabins a pretty safe place to be when it comes to not catching an infection.

But are those filtration systems enough to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus particles to someone brushing elbows with you?

This is yet another area where there is conflicting opinions and data and so we may not know for sure what the risks are until more time has gone by.


New TRIP Act could provide up to $8,000+ in aid

Right now, we are awaiting for the Senate to agree to the next type of stimulus funding that will go out.

The big talk is about the next round of stimulus checks that the president has already stated will likely go out. These checks may be roughly the same as the first round, offering $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples.

In addition, we have even heard Republican senators state that it is more a matter of when and not if more stimulus checks will come out.

Then there are the additional forms of aid that we have seen such as the $4,000 vacation credit.

But there has been a new proposal aimed at encouraging Americans to get out and travel following the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced legislation to support the tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This piece of legislation is called a TRIP Act.

Senator Martha McSally’s website describes the bill as follows:

The bill, called the American TRIP Act, would provide tax credits to Americans who spend money on lodging, entertainment, and other expenses related to travel in the United States and its territories. Additionally, the bill provides funding for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) to promote the travel and tourism industry across the nation. 

The tax credit would offer $4,000 to individuals and $8,000 to those filing jointly. In addition, they would get $500 for each dependent child.

Qualifying expenses would include:

  • (A) Food and beverages
  • (B) Lodging
  • (C) Transportation
  • (D) Live entertainment events (including sporting events)
  • (E) Expenses related to attending a conference or business meeting.

Qualifying travel would be any travel that takes place within the US, so long as the final destination is over 50 miles from your place of residence.

It’s no surprise that this bill would come from the state of Arizona. In Arizona, “travel and tourism account for more than $3 billion in tax receipts and employs in total more than 180,000 people.”

Travel and tourism now have one of the highest unemployment rates out of any sector and it was over 35% in May.

While I am a huge proponent of these bills to bolster the travel industry, I do not think these should serve as a replacement to more stimulus checks. It takes far too long to receive the financial benefit of a tax credit and many people simply can’t afford to take a vacation right now or in the near term.

Therefore, I hope one of these stimulus packages to help the travel industry gets passed eventually but I really don’t think they should be in place of more stimulus checks.


Next week is a big week for stimulus checks

Senate now on board for stimulus checks?

Second stimulus check update: What’s the status?

US travelers will be banned from Europe

In a decision that should surprise nobody following the rise of coronavirus in the US, the EU has decided to ban travelers from the US whenever it is set to reopen July 1, 2020.

There has been speculation over the past couple of weeks that this would happen due to the second major surge in the US.

The European Union has banned travelers since March 17. That ban was extended on a couple of occasions and so July 1 will be the first date that outside travelers are allowed back into the region.

The US is not the only country that is not allowed to come into the EU. Brazil and Russia are also not on the list of accepted visitors.

Both of those countries have a lot of cases with Brazil at 1.23 million and Russia at 620,000. Of course, they can’t hold a candle to the US 2.45 million confirmed cases.

The list of approved places that can travel to Europe include: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, and the Vatican. 

China could potentially also end up on the list but only if they decide to allow EU travelers to visit China.

The list still needs to be finalized but it is pretty much a done deal that Americans will not be able to travel to the EU.

U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes shared an interesting quote when he stated, “This is unwelcome news, and will have major negative implications for an economic recovery—particularly if this ban results in cycles of retaliation, as is so often the case.”

It is disappointing to see travel closed off to Americans but it is no shock as we are experiencing more cases now than we were during the first outbreak wave.

It’s really hard to blame any country that doesn’t think it’s a good idea to admit US travelers (at least without some form of testing).

I do feel bad for certain regions of the country that have started to really diminish their cases because they have worked hard to flatten the curve and now they will not be able to reap those rewards.

Hopefully this does not last longer than it needs to and hopefully it also does not lead to future tensions or “cycles of retaliation.”


Some airlines no longer serving alcohol

If you were planning on taking the edge off during one of your next flights with a little bit of alcohol, you might not be able to do that.

Airlines, both in the US and around the globe, are starting to ban the service of alcoholic drinks in-flight.

This is a response to the growing worries over the spread of coronavirus.

The idea is to minimize the interactions between passengers and crew and also to maximize the amount of time that passengers will be wearing masks.

Serving alcohol apparently works against both of those goals, at least for some airlines.

Related: How to legally bring and drink your own alcohol on planes

In the US, so far the ban on alcohol is taking place with Delta Airlines and American Airlines.

Delta is not serving alcohol on domestic flights or flights within the Americas. However, you can still order up your beer, wine, or spirits on all other international flights.

American Airlines is also limiting alcoholic beverages. If you are flying in the main cabin, you may not be able to get access unless you are on a long-haul international flight.

First class passengers should still have access.

Other airlines around the world are also cutting back.

For example, Virgin Australia is serving up complimentary water bottles and snacks but additional drinks are not available for purchase.

British Airways is suspending service of alcoholic drinks on its short-haul economy flights.

Many airlines are replacing beverages with offerings of water bottles and snacks for now. And some airlines like Ryanair have altered its normal food services so that all food is pre-packaged and pre-ordered before the flight.

It’s not clear if this trend will spread to other major domestic airlines like Southwest, United, or JetBlue.

Although I’m sure a lot of people will not be a fan of airlines cutting back on alcohol, it seems like a pretty reasonable response to me.

You can still partake in alcoholic beverages on long flights where you may feel like you really need them to get through the flight.

But on shorter flights it seems like a reasonable way to decrease the interaction between staff and passengers.

Hot drinks seem like they would be a bigger problem since they take longer to consume and would thus require people to be without mask coverings for longer.

I think that is why some airlines have also temporarily halted their hot drink services as well.

To me, this is all about the flight attendants.

They are forced to undergo exposure to hundreds of people everyday and so I am okay with temporary measures put in place to decrease their chances of catching the virus.


New $4,000 “Explore America” credit could be coming

I mentioned yesterday about a new tax credit that could be created in order to incentivize travelers to get out and take a vacation in order to pump money back into the travel industry.

Well now we have more details about this potential new initiative.

The program would be called “Explore America” and it would provide up to a $4,000 tourism tax credit.

So basically you could subtract up to $4,000 from the amount of taxes owed just by going on your annual family vacation (it’s not clear yet if this would be a refundable or nonrefundable perk).

The new measure would cover as much as 50% of the travel expenses for a household up to that maximum $4,000 limit.

These expenses would include certain travel expenses over $50 including things like “meals, lodging, recreation, transportation, amusement or entertainment, business meetings or events, and gasoline.”

It would be active for expenses made through the end of December 2021 and would be intended to “encourage domestic business and leisure travelers to travel within a specified time frame, similar to what was done through the homebuyer tax credit in the wake of the housing crisis.”

There’s no question that the tourism industry has been decimated by the coronavirus. In fact, their job loss has accounted for almost 40% of the 20+ million jobs lost in the US in April.

Those are pretty absurd numbers and just underscore why a tax credit like this would be a great idea.

But in order for something like this to be a good idea, the timing is crucial.

I just wrote about how Arizona saw its worst week since the pandemic began this past week with cases jumping over 50%.

Based on reports I’ve seen, I think other states are in the same boat as well.

I think Congress has to be very careful about incentivizing herds of people to travel prematurely.

I like that this bill would run through the end of 2021 but I’m more concerned about when the tax credit will begin.

It’s starting to look like incentivizing people to take vacations this summer is probably not a good idea based on the fact that the spread does not seem to be under control in many locations.

Still, it is encouraging to see something like this getting talked about and I think it would be a great move that could benefit the travel industry in a pretty big way.

Other countries like Japan and Switzerland are also implementing similar measures so this could end up being a worldwide movement.


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