Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus Amid Push to Reopen Economy
By Julia Conley
Reports of at least two positive coronavirus cases among White House employees in recent days illustrated how easily Covid-19 can spread in enclosed workplaces, even when workers are being tested regularly—deepening concerns about the likely effects of President Donald Trump's aggressive push to reopen the U.S. economy even as the pandemic shows no sign of containment.
Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. One of Trump's valets, who has served the president meals without wearing a mask, also tested positive for the virus last week. The diagnoses followed reports that at least 11 members of the U.S. Secret Service had contracted Covid-19.
Although the CDC recommends wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19, especially in enclosed places like the West Wing, the White House has not been enforcing rules regarding face coverings in recent weeks.
According to a senior administration official who spoke to the New York Times, Trump was angered this week at the news that he may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Over the weekend, the White House went beyond its previous guidance advising staffers to work from home if possible, telling several staff members in the White House press office to stay at home in case they've been exposed, and requiring members of the president's personal staff to wear face masks.
On "Face the Nation" Sunday, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett admitted, "It is scary to go to work."
Publicly, however, the president has continued downplaying the country's need to contain the coronavirus for the good of all Americans, claiming again on Friday in a meeting with Republican lawmakers that the virus will eventually go away without a vaccine.
"Well, I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests," Trump said. "This is going to go away without a vaccine. It's going to go away, and we're not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time."
The president and Republican governors have also pushed aggressively for states to reopen their economies, with some Republican-run states threatening residents with a loss of their unemployment benefits if they don't report to work once their industry reopens, regardless of whether case numbers in their state are rising.
On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated the need to reopen the economy as swiftly as possible.
"I think there's a considerable risk of not reopening. You're talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public," Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday." On Friday, the president said the administration is "in no rush" to pass an additional relief package that may offer more financial assistance to Americans.
David Nakamura of the Washington Post highlighted the contrast between the White House's new precautionary measures—and the access West Wing staffers have to daily testing—compared to the safety precautions available to the vast majority of Americans who work in manufacturing facilities, offices, construction sites, and other sectors where employees are being urged to return to work.
Trump wants to open the country but White House is advising staffers to telework after two aides tested positive fo… https://t.co/JYkkR3Qr9l— David Nakamura (@David Nakamura)1589082769.0
"The do what I say, not what I do, mindset at the White House continues," Margaret Brennan said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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