MTA OKs budget absent service cuts and fare hikes, for now – Long Island Business News


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a budget Wednesday that doesn’t include threatened service cuts and fare hikes, though officials said those options remain a possibility if significant federal aid isn’t received.

The budget assumes an initial infusion of $4.5 billion in federal aid for 2021 to defray costs and revenue shortfalls from the coronavirus pandemic. If that money is not received, the budget will need to be revised and action will need to be taken early next year on what MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said would be “severe” measures.

The MTA detailed numerous potential measures last month that included increased bridge and tunnel tolls, 50% cuts in regional rail service and 40% service cuts to subway and bus service. Fares also would be increased on buses, subways and rail lines.

Foye said he was encouraged by recent discussions in Washington about aid. The MTA received about $4 billion in federal COVID-19 relief in late April but had exhausted it by late July.

The MTA has requested a total of $12 billion in aid to cover budget gaps through 2024. While an initial $4.5 billion would forestall the hikes and reductions for next year, ongoing deficits would put them back on the table.

“This isn’t a bluff; this is real,” Foye said Wednesday.

Ridership throughout the MTA system has lagged considerably compared to pre-pandemic levels, though it increased slowly through the summer as the virus receded temporarily.

A study released last month by the MTA predicted ridership won’t reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels until 2024, even assuming a vaccine brings the virus under control. A study last May had predicted 100% ridership would return by February 2023.

The pandemic has forced the MTA to reduce service already on its rail and subway lines. In May, it took the unprecedented step of suspending overnight subway service, long a staple of New York life. On Wednesday, the Long Island Rail Road announced it would temporarily reduce service, currently at about 90%, to about 75 to 80%.





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Peso climbs as US OKs vaccine use


BW FILE PHOTO

THE PESO strengthened versus the greenback on Monday, supported by optimism after the United States approved the use of a vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The local unit closed at P48.05 per dollar on Monday, appreciating by two centavos from its Friday finish of P48.07 versus the greenback.

The peso opened the session at P48.10 against the dollar, which was also its weakest showing for the day. Meanwhile, its intraday best was at P48.04 versus the greenback.

The volume of dollars that changed hands amounted to $358.8 million, dropping from the $540.85 million seen on Friday.

The peso strengthened versus the dollar on the back of positive market sentiment on the progress on the use of a vaccine in the US, a trader said.

“The peso appreciated from market optimism after the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) officially approved over the weekend the Pfizer [Inc.]’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use,” the trader said in an email.

The coronavirus vaccine, developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, gained emergency-use approval from federal regulators late on Friday, clearing the way for distribution to begin a mere 11 months after the United States documented its first COVID-19 infections, Reuters reported.

Healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care homes will be first in line to get the inoculations of a two-dose regimen given about three weeks apart.

Public health officials have warned Americans not to become complacent about wearing masks and avoiding crowds in the meantime.

More than 100 million people, or about 30% of the US population, could be immunized by the end of March, US Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr Moncef Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

Another source of risk-off sentiment on the dollar was the one-week extension of an expiring federal funding, said Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort in a text message.

Reuters reported that President Donald J. Trump on Friday signed the extension deal, buying more time for talks on a spending bill and further COVID-19 relief measures.

The US Senate passed the bill on the same day following its Wednesday approval in the House. The expiration of the federal funding will mean partial shutdown for government programs such as airport operations and activities of the US State Department.

The US Congress is now working to pass a $1.4-trillion bill meant to maintain federal operations until September 2021.

For today, Mr. Ricafort expects the peso to trade from P48 to P48.10 per dollar while the trader expects the local unit to move within the P48 to P48.20 range. — with Reuters










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Govt OKs use of skin ailment drug for Covid patients | India News


NEW DELHI: Drug regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved Itolizumab, for restricted emergency use on Covid-19 patients with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress. Itolizumab is already in use to cure skin ailment psoriasis.
The approval is based on clinical trial data submitted by drug maker Biocon, health ministry said.
Biocon — that has been selling the medicine under brand Alzumab in India for psoriasis since 2013 — submitted phase 2 clinical trial data to the regulator to repurpose the drug for Covid-19 patients. Officials said the results of these trials were deliberated in the subject expert committee of DCGI’s office.
The government said the drug is likely to bring down the cost of treatment of Covid-19 as compared to other investigational drugs allowed under the clinical management protocol for Covid-19. The company, however, did not disclose the price at which it will be selling the drug.
Several other drugs such as Tocilizumab, Favipiravir and Remdesivir are being repurposed in India to treat Covid-19 patients.



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Report: Teams getting OKs for asymptomatic testing



FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an NBA logo at an NBA exhibition in Beijing, China October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

May 8, 2020

A handful of NBA teams are in the process of receiving permission from local government officials to test players and staff for coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic, ESPN reported Friday.

The news comes as players have started to return to team facilities in advance of what could be the resumption of the 2019-20 season. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers both opened their facilities for players Thursday.

According to the report, the Orlando Magic have received permission from the Orange County (Fla.) Department of Health to test asymptomatic staff, according to the report. In addition, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be allowed to administer coronavirus tests to players and staff that attend workouts.

Teams only will conduct coronavirus testing for anybody asymptomatic if there is a vibrant testing program in their particular area for people at risk, such as health care workers.

Initially, it was expected that asymptomatic individuals at NBA facilities would not be allowed to get testing. The league was reportedly hesitant to test people not showing coronavirus symptoms because of the perception that the league was using tests that could otherwise go to people in the community.

Other protocols will be in place at practice facilities such as temperature checks.

–Field Level Media





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