Biden to Visit Pittsburgh as President Plans More Travel | Pennsylvania News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Joe Biden will make his second visit of 2022 to Pennsylvania to visit Pittsburgh on Friday, the White House said, as the Democrat confronts a persistent COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation and congressional gridlock stalling some of his top priorities.

The White House said Biden will discuss “strengthening the nation’s supply chains, revitalizing American manufacturing, creating good-paying, union jobs, and building a better America.”

Biden is expected to tout last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law he signed, as Democrats from around the state play up its benefits, including $1.6 billion to improve bridges across Pennsylvania and $858 million to help rebuild the Montgomery Lock and Dam on the Ohio River south of Pittsburgh.

Last week, Biden and first lady Jill Biden packed food boxes at a Philadelphia food bank as part of a day of service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, inflation and other challenges have pummeled Biden’s approval rating and threaten a midterm rout for his party.

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The presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania is of great political importance in 2022, with the governor’s office and a U.S. Senate seat both on the ballot.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that Biden wants to spend more time traveling the country to speak directly to Americans and less time in Washington behind closed doors negotiating legislation with Congress.

This story has been corrected to show that Biden is making his second visit to Pennsylvania this year, not his first.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Here’s Why You Should Book Your National Park Summer Vacation Now

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AHLA: Business Travel Share of U.S. Hotel Revenue Down Sharply from ’19

Business travelers made up 52.5 percent of U.S. lodging industry room revenue in 2019. The American Hotel & Lodging Association projects that share to represent just 43.6 percent in 2022, according to its 2022 State of the Hotel Industry Report, released Monday. 

Further, business travel demand is projected to reach just 80 percent of 2019 levels by the third quarter of 2022, according to Kalibri Labs, while U.S. meetings volume recovery is forecast to reach 58 percent by the end of 2022, according to Knowland’s U.S. Meetings Recovery Forecast, referenced in the report.

“The slow return of business travel and fewer meetings and events continue to have a significant negative impact on our industry,” said AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers in a statement. “The growth of leisure and bleisure travel represents a shift for our industry, and hotels will continue evolving to meet the needs of these ‘new’ travelers.”

The AHLA report notes, however, that business travel is “not a thing of the past.” The Global Business Travel Association in November projected business travel demand, though lagging leisure, to recover to 2019 levels by 2024, and Knowland projects meetings volume to reach 110 percent of the 2019 baseline by the end of that year.

AHLA reconfirmed that small and midsize enterprises continued to lead the way in business travel recovery, and that this segment represents a growth opportunity for midweek hotel occupancy. “This is largely [an] untapped market—one that was often squeezed out by the largest corporate negotiated segment,” according to the report. 

Technology will play an increasing role in the guest experience and become more personalized, including more flexible options in booking, check-in and check-out times and individual food-and-beverage options, according to the report. That means potentially fewer interactions with hotel staff, which the industry has had trouble hiring. In an October 2021 AHLA member survey, nearly 94 percent of respondents said their hotel were understaffed, and 96 percent of respondents were trying to hire but have been unable to fill open positions.

AHLA partnered with Accenture to produce the report. 

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Columbus-area man missing after boarding COTA bus outside hospital

It’s been two weeks since Scott Federer walked out of Mount Carmel East hospital, boarded a No. 10 bus and disappeared.

Since then, the days passed, worries increased and Central Ohio Transit Authority officials took the unusual step of reviewing frame after frame after frame of surveillance footage  — all to no avail.

>>Read More: Omicron forces nursing homes to freeze admissions, strands more Ohioans at hospitals

Columbus police are investigating and released a bulletin describing Federer as 5 feet, 9 inches tall and150 pounds. He was last seen Jan. 12 wearing gray sweatpants and a green hooded jersey.

His husband, Stephen Lydick, said that Federer, 52, of Canal Winchester, was at Mount Carmel East when he decided to leave against the advice of doctors. Lydick said Federer was a recovering alcoholic and that they had both been treated at the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Lydick said he had ordered a ride for Federer via Uber, but his husband was released two hours earlier than expected. The two spoke on the phone, and Lydick said Federer seemed confused and may have been lost in the hospital. Federer called Lydick back and told him someone from Mount Carmel’s security staff would take him home.

When Federer didn’t arrive home that afternoon, Lydick said he called the hospital and found out that someone in security gave his husband a bus pass and put him on a bus.

Mount Carmel declined to comment directly on Federer, citing privacy laws that prevent the health system from speaking about the care provided to a patient.

>>Read More: At war with COVID: What medical workers can learn from veterans about PTSD

“We have provided information to local authorities as part of their investigation and will continue to help them in any way we can,” Mount Carmel spokeswoman Samantha Irons said via email. “Occasionally, we are asked by patients to help with their transportation needs, and we work to assist with those requests as we are able,”

Surveillance footage from COTA shows Federer sitting on a westbound No. 10 bus on Jan. 12.

It also shows Federer talking with the bus driver and exiting the bus at 4:07 p.m. at a stop along West Broad Street near a Giant Eagle store and the Lincoln Village Shopping Center. Federer was seen sitting at the same stop on another COTA surveillance camera at 4:18 p.m.

Each COTA bus has anywhere from seven to 10 surveillance cameras, said COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin.

Pullin said COTA officials speculated that Federer may have eventually boarded the No. 5 bus after departing the No. 10. The No. 5 is the bus Federer would have needed to take if he were attempting to travel east toward his home in Canal Winchester.

But, Pullin said that COTA searched through every frame of surveillance video from the No. 5 bus that day and didn’t see Federer.

COTA routinely provides camera footage to Columbus police or other law enforcement agency when an automobile crash occurs and there’s a chance that an external camera on a bus captured it, Pullin said. But it’s rare for COTA to participate in a missing person investigation.

“There are obviously missing persons cases very regularly in central Ohio but very rarely does it involve someone getting on a bus,” Pullin said. “We’re willing to help if we can. If there’s any tip that says he got in another vehicle, we’ll check it out immediately.”

>>Read More: More Ohio children infected with COVID in December than any month since pandemic began

Although days have already turned into weeks, Federer’s husband and friends are determined to bring him home.

Around 20 friends and family gathered Sunday for a vigil near the bus stop where Federer departed the No. 10 bus on West Broad Street before going missing.

They held signs that read “Bring Scotty Home” and posted a sign in the bus stop that read “We Love You Scott.” Balloons were tied to a nearby trash can marking the spot where Federer was last seen.

In the 13 days since he vanished, Federer missed his 24th wedding anniversary with his husband, who was at the vigil.

“He knows he’s got a family that loves him,” Lydick told The Dispatch. “We’re just trying to get the word out to find him.”

Federer’s story has been shared dozens of times on social media since he went missing. Friends like Jennifer Howell, 54, of German Village appreciate the support and hope it makes a difference.

“At this point, we’re really, really, really worried,” Howell said. “He’s a wonderful human being. Any human should be found. … He’s clearly not purposefully gone. … He’s in trouble.”

Howell said she considers Federer to be family and said it’s unlike him to just disappear. Federer’s cell phone seems to be dead and his credit card hasn’t been used since he disappeared, she said.

Lydick hopes this is the only wedding anniversary he and Federer will spend apart.

“He’s a great person,” Lydick said. “He’s always been a good husband, and we’ve had a great life together.”

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Fog and 5G cancel air travel at Paine Field – KIRO 7 News Seattle

EVERETT, Wash. — Alaska Airlines is canceling all flights in and out of Paine Field amid foggy weather and concerns about 5G.

Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska Airlines, is currently the sole airline operating commercial flights out of Paine Field.

One of the main issues is the new 5G network that’s causing conflicts between wireless carriers and airlines. The 5G rollout has led to flight cancellations across the country.

Last week, AT&T and Verizon agreed to pause activating the new technology near larger airports, such as SEA in SeaTac.

Paine Field in Everett is a much smaller airport and 5G wireless technology has been rolled out in the area.

Airlines say 5G interferes with flight technology used to navigate during bad weather and when there’s poor visibility.

That would be a concern on a day like Tuesday when there is thick fog.

On its blog, Alaska Airlines said “In a nutshell, the new 5G C-band, when deployed within two miles of an airport, interferes with vital flight technology used to navigate aircraft during challenging weather and low visibility. As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued flight restrictions that limit the ability of some aircraft to land in certain weather conditions.”

Alaska said the FAA cleared its Boeing and Airbus aircraft for low visibility landings, but its regional jets used by Horizon Air have not yet been cleared at certain airports and are still under restrictions during low visibility conditions such as dense fog.

As a result, Horizon Air was forced to cancel all commercial flights in and out of Paine Field.

Wireless carriers have disputed the findings of the airlines and the FAA.

In a tweet, Paine Field expressed frustration and said to contact Alaska Airlines to check flight status.

AT&T and Verizon said that 90% of their ultrafast 5G service launched last week, but cell towers within a 2-mile radius of larger airport runways will remain off for now.

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Behind Kamala Harris’ early Wisconsin visit

MILWAUKEE – Vice President Kamala Harris landed here for a few hours on Monday and Democrats exhaled.

They saw a visit from the vice president in January as not just a sign the Biden administration is taking Wisconsin seriously as it recalibrates its messaging before the midterm elections, but say that the cause Harris took up — replacing lead pipes to provide clean drinking water — is a serious issue that disproportionately affects the Black city residents Democrats struggled to engage in the 2020 presidential race.

Those are precisely the voters Democrats need to win over to expand support in this Midwestern battleground state where Biden beat Donald Trump by just more than 20,000 votes.

Powerhouse races in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania often overshadow Wisconsin’s prominence on the national political scene. But it’s undeniable that the fall contests in the Dairy State have national implications for both parties.

The fight to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson could help tip the balance of power in the Senate next year, while the possible ousting of first-term Democratic governor Tony Evers could help shape how the state election is administered in 2024 and what kind of Covid mitigation efforts are put into place in this deeply polarized state. Beyond that, Democrats say if they’re to better reach Black voters in a presidential year, they’d better start building on that infrastructure now.

“I don’t know why Wisconsin doesn’t make national news because this is one of the most obviously decrepit places for people of color in the country,” said Rev. Greg Lewis, founder and executive director of Souls to the Polls, a group led by pastors that aims to increase civic engagement among Black residents.

Lewis complained of water that residents on the city’s predominantly Black north side couldn’t drink and a lack of affordable housing that has reached crisis levels. The vice president’s visit to the city’s Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership facility Monday, he said, was a good start. But he urged the president to also make the trip.

“It just would be a good look if they showed a face in our neighborhood,” Lewis said. “Just step on the ground, see how people are living. Walk through a neighborhood. I think that would speak volumes.”

Nationally, Biden is bleeding Black support, a troubling sign for a president ushered into the White House in 2020 by a coalition of diverse groups. A national NBC News poll released last week showed Biden’s Black support dropped from 83 percent last April to 64 percent.

And for Democrats in 2020, the Black vote in Milwaukee remained stagnant, despite attempts to make strides since Hillary Clinton’s lackluster performance among the Black community in Milwaukee in 2016. That’s in part due to Black voters feeling disaffected and taken for granted by Democrats. But local Democrats accuse Republicans of creating hurdles to voting, keeping people of color away from the ballot box.

Milwaukee remains a solid Democratic stronghold. But in a state where presidential contests are determined by less than a percentage point, gains or losses at the margins can tip the balance.

“With a governor’s race and a Senate race it makes sense for us to start investing in a state like Wisconsin now because it’ll ultimately matter in 2024,” said a White House adviser, who was not authorized to discuss details of future plans publicly.

In addition to Wisconsin, this adviser said, spending the president and vice president’s timeand party dollars now in states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, “squares perfectly with states where we need to do well in 2024 to hold on to the White House … Why wouldn’t we? It makes perfect sense for us to start investing now.”

The adviser added that Harris’ trip to Milwaukee was an early example of how White House officials and Cabinet members intend to hit the road in the coming months to explain to Americans how the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by the president and other achievements will personally benefit them.

The adviser also said that the White House is working with the Democratic National Committee to expand its presence in states like Wisconsin. The DNC has promised resources to expand voter registration efforts, while adding communications, organizing staff and voter protection staff.

Seeming to poke Democrats in the eye, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, whose fundraising prowess has already generated buzz as a 2024 candidate, traveled to Milwaukee last fall to reopen a party field office on the north side.

“Sometimes in order to make the kind of progress that is necessary you have to go where you’re not invited,” Scott said at the time, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Because when you have a story to tell you can’t really expect them to come where you are. You have to go to where they are.”

A second White House official described Harris’ latest mission as an effort to “just get out in the country and talk to people and explain what the administration has been up to for the last year and to get some reconnaissance” on what people want, the White House official said, who added of the frequency of the trips, “the increase will be noticeable.”

“We are looking for places that have local issues and how we can address those local issues,” the official said of what will inform Harris’s domestic travel schedule. “There are a lot of other considerations. Covid is a consideration that is not to be underestimated.”

The White House’s effort to push out its principles between now and the midterms comes after Democrats here, like in other parts of the country, say there’s a top-down messaging problem. They complain that while Biden has victories to celebrate – including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and billions of dollars in Covid relief – he isn’t registering with the public.

“The White House needs to do a better job of selling these victories and making it clear to their base how these bills and all their executive actions are improving people’s lives,” said Sachin Chheda, a Milwaukee-based Democratic strategist. “They need to make the case better in the local media, in Black media, with more events in the community, getting more supporters engaged.

“There’s not currently a very deep effort that anyone can see,” he added.

On Monday, Harris held up the administration’s $48 million federal investment in replacing lead pipes in Wisconsin at an event alongside other state politicians including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.

At one stop in her tour of the Regional Training Partnership facility, Harris spoke to a mother, Deanna Branch, who was bearing pictures her son drew of the “lead monster.”

“It means a lot to me and my community that I am hearing and talking to you on their behalf,” said Branch, according to a pool report.

Harris responded, according to the report, “you put the call out and it was heard.”

Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who was also touring the Milwaukee training center, referenced in his remarks a recent study that showed that Black children living at or below the poverty level are four times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

“The tragedy of lead is shared by too many communities, especially black and Latino communities,” he said.

Harris’ visit made local TV news Monday and captured some headlines in local print publications.

But Democrats here still privately grouse about Biden’s anemic presence in Wisconsin in 2020, after all of the work Milwaukee political and civic leaders put into winning the bid for the Democratic National Convention.

As Covid metastasized across the country and without vaccinations yet available, Biden cut way back on his travel in 2020, saying he was following rules set out by scientists. While he did some traveling, he ultimately accepted the Democratic nomination in his home state of Delaware, rather than Milwaukee.

When asked if Biden could be excused for a lack of on-the-ground presence here in 2020 given the state of the pandemic, Lewis’s response was pointed.

“Yeah,” he said. “But he went to other places.”

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ATPCO Signs Express Contracts Deal with Gol

ATPCO has signed a new Express Contracts agreement with Brazilian low-cost-carrier Gol, ATPCO announced Tuesday. 

Gol in 2021 migrated its passenger service system to Sabre’s SabreSonic. According to ATPCO, its Express Contracts feature allowed the carrier to streamline and automate the movement and implementation of its negotiated contracts to the new PSS.  

“The automation turns contracts to bookable fares in less than a day,” said Gol revenue operations manager Rogerio Maldonado in a statement. 

Gol and American Airlines have a reciprocal codesharing agreement.

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Omicron, Vaccine and Covid-19 News: Live Updates

Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration has formally restricted the use of antibody treatments that lost their once-considerable effect when faced with the Omicron variant, pausing a therapy that had been widely embraced, including by people who eschewed vaccinations.

Many health systems stopped using the antibody treatments weeks ago as Omicron surged. And while doctors have welcomed the news of additional treatments like antiviral pills, they say the trickle of pills and other treatments are no match for the geyser of new cases.

The F.D.A. said on Monday that it was limiting the emergency use authorizations of the Regeneron and Eli Lilly antibody treatments to say the infusions should not be used now, with the Omicron variant dominant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated at 99.5 percent of all new cases nationally.

During an earlier wave driven by the Delta variant, those Regeneron and Lilly medications were effective at keeping infected people out of the hospital if given early enough. As Omicron emerged, it became apparent that the treatments would not neutralize the virus, and large health systems, including some in New York City, stopped using them in December.

Federal officials moved to pause their use soon after but were rebuked by Republican governors saying they could still help some patients with the Delta variant. That has become an increasingly shaky position, given the difficulty most doctors have in figuring out which variant each patient has.

Since then, one monoclonal antibody treatment by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology has remained effective against Omicron, though doctors have said it is in short supply. Physicians on the front lines who stopped using the ineffective treatments in December immediately began looking for replacements as cases soared.

Federal officials in January began shipping the antiviral pills Paxlovid by Pfizer and molnupiravir from Merck. The medications have proven complicated to dispense, given Paxlovid’s interactions with many other drugs and molnupiravir’s risks to patients of childbearing age.

They have also been hard to find, with doctors saying they have to place dozens of calls to find pills in stock at pharmacies.

Dr. Mark Morocco, a University of California, Los Angeles emergency physician, said high-risk patients, no longer eligible for the antibody treatments, were getting treatment that is similar to what people got in 2020, including supplemental oxygen and steroids. As for the antiviral pills and the effective antibody treatments, he said, supplies are “very difficult to find.”

“In my view, those drugs are not really available, essentially to us, at all,” Dr. Morocco said.

Despite the lack of efficacy in the Regeneron and Eli Lilly products, federal data show that nearly 20,000 doses were given to patients last week alone, with the heaviest use in Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

The treatments, widely considered safe, can have side effects including shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.

Options for the early treatment of Covid continue to expand. On Friday, the F.D.A. approved the use of remdesivir for outpatients, as researchers found it effective at reducing hospitalizations when used early.

Brii Biosciences has announced that its monoclonal antibody works well against Omicron and is under review by the F.D.A.

New, effective treatments can’t come soon enough, though, said Dr. Steve Pergam, a professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who also treats patients.

He said quantities were so sparse that early treatments are going to the leukemia patients with the highest risk of death from Covid. And given the current delays in testing, matching the highest-risk cancer patients to the handful of treatments is a major undertaking.

“The thing we tell patients is you need to do everything you can to not get this,” he said, “because it can still be pretty dangerous.”

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Eurostar increases London-Paris train services

Eurostar is increasing its services between London and Paris following the French government’s decision to lift the ban on British residents visiting the country.

France relaxed its restrictions on UK travellers on 14 January after they were effectively banned in December due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

From Monday (24 January), Eurostar is adding one extra service from London St Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord on Mondays to Thursdays, as well as two extra trains on Fridays and Sundays.

This will take Eurostar’s services from London to Paris up to 24 per week with three trains on Monday-Thursday and Saturday, five on Friday and four on Sunday.

“We welcome the safe reduction of travel restrictions which will allow our customers to travel more freely between the UK and France,” said a Eurostar spokesperson. 

“We are ready to welcome more passengers on board and will continue to increase the frequency of our services in the coming weeks to offer passengers more flexibility and choice.”

Under France’s current rules, fully vaccinated UK passengers no longer need an essential reason to travel or need to self-isolate on arrival. They also do not have to fill in an online passenger details (eOS) form.

But they still have to present a negative Covid test result (PCR or lateral flow) taken 24 hours before departure, provide proof of full vaccination and complete a statement of “honour”.

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