Sen. David Perdue of Georgia is quarantining after contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, his campaign said Thursday, less than a week before the Republican’s runoff election against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Perdue has tested negative for the coronavirus, according to his campaign, which did not say how long the 71-year-old incumbent would remain in quarantine.
His contest against Ossoff is one of two runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats have majority control over the U.S. Senate in 2021.
In the other race, incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Perdue’s fellow Republican, faces Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. Recent polling suggests tight races in each runoff.
Perdue had been scheduled to appear with Loeffler at a New Year’s Eve campaign rally and concert in Gainesville on Thursday afternoon.
“This morning, Senator Perdue was notified that he came into close contact with someone on the campaign who tested positive for COVID-19,” Perdue’s campaign said in a statement.
“Both Senator Perdue and his wife tested negative today, but following his doctor’s recommendations and in accordance with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, they will quarantine. The Senator and his wife have been tested regularly throughout the campaign, and the team will continue to follow CDC guidelines. Further information will be provided when available.”
Loeffler self-quarantined earlier in the race after receiving inconclusive Covid test results on Nov. 21. She did not test positive for the virus.
Senator David Perdue (R-GA) speaks during a campaign event as he runs for reelection at the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, in Milton, Georgia, December 21, 2020.
Al Drago | Reuters
In the final days before Tuesday’s runoffs, Republicans have been ramping up get-out-the-vote efforts as data show Democrats have had an advantage in early voting turnout.
When asked during a Fox News interview how closely she and Perdue were coordinating their runoff efforts, Loeffler said, “Our campaigns have combined to form a 1,000 person state-wide operation with 40,000 volunteers plus 8,000 poll watchers. So we’re working hard every single day to get out across Georgia, work with Georgia voters, make sure that they know what’s at stake. They know, they’re turning out.”
“The future of the country is on the line,” Loeffler said of the runoffs.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to campaign in Georgia for Perdue and Loeffler on Monday.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to travel to Atlanta Monday and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris plans to visit Savannah Sunday to stump for Ossoff and Warnock in the final push before Election Day.
If Perdue and Loeffler both win their runoffs, Republicans will hold a majority of 52 seats in the Senate. The Democratic caucus, which includes two independents, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Maine’s Angus King, would have 48 seats.
If Ossoff and Warnock win, the Democratic caucus would have 50 seats. With the tie-breaking vote from Vice President-elect Harris, that would give Democrats control of the Senate. Democrats currently control the House of Representatives, and will continue doing so in 2021 despite losing a number of seats in that chamber.
The Covid crisis has been a prominent issue on the campaign trail. Perdue in particular has come under scrutiny from Democrats over accusations of improper stock trades occurring at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ossoff and Warnock have criticized Perdue and Loeffler’s handling of the Covid crisis, while the incumbent senators have blamed Democrats for stalling efforts to pass a relief package.
More recently, Ossoff and Perdue seized Trump’s push for $2,000 stimulus checks as an opportunity to criticize Senate Republicans for opposing a larger direct payment earlier in the Covid relief negotiation process. Perdue and Loeffler, who have strongly allied themselves with Trump, later broke from many Senate Republicans to back the president’s request for larger direct payment.
Georgia this year has reported more than 647,800 cases of Covid, with 10,846 deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the state.
More than 2.8 million Georgians have already voted in the runoff election as of Wednesday, a record high turnout for a runoff election in the state.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that Democrats would allow for votes limiting a liability shield for tech companies and establishing a commission to examine the 2020 election if the GOP agreed to hold a separate up-or-down vote on sending $2,000 checks to most Americans.
“Just give us a vote on the House-passed bill, and we can vote on whatever right-wing conspiracy theory you like,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor.
The remarks came shortly after a speech from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who slammed the $2,000 direct payments as “socialism for the rich.”
McConnell has refused to hold a separate vote on the stimulus payments, instead tying them legislation that would repeal Section 230 and create a commission to study alleged issues with the presidential election.
President Donald Trump demanded that Congress move forward with all three issues when he agreed to sign a $900 billion Covid-19 relief package on Sunday.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet platforms from liability for user-created content, has long been criticized by conservatives who have sparred with companies like Facebook and Twitter over unrelated issues.
Schumer said that by tying the three issues together, McConnell had “invented an excuse” to avoid passing legislation authorizing the increased stimulus payments. Trump, Schumer said, had “made no such demand.”
“Let’s be very clear: There is one way, and only one way, to pass $2,000 checks before the end of the year. And that’s to pass the House bill. It’s the only way to get the American people the checks they need and deserve,” Schumer said.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed legislation on Monday authorizing the $2,000 checks, increasing by $1,400 the $600 checks that were called for in the $900 billion package Trump signed. Americans have already started receiving the $600 payments.
On Tuesday, McConnell blocked Schumer’s first attempt to pass the House legislation in the Senate via unanimous consent. Schumer again attempted to do so on Thursday, and McConnell again scuttled the effort.
In his own speech on Thursday, McConnell said that the recession inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic had affected rich and poor Americans differently.
“The data show that many upper middle class Americans have kept their jobs, worked remotely, and remained totally financially comfortable,” McConnell said. “We do not need to let the speaker of the House do socialism for rich people.”
Those on the left have argued that the direct payments can provide financial lifelines more quickly than more narrowly targeted relief, particularly given delays associated with state-administered unemployment insurance programs.
The push for the increased payments has divided Republicans, including by positioning the outgoing president against the top Republican in Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also made waves by coming out in support of the $2,000 direct payments.
The fighting has spilled into the crucial runoffs taking place in Georgia, which will determine which party controls the Senate.
The two Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, immediately seized on the development, and both of their GOP rivals — Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — ultimately expressed support for the payment.
President-elect Joe Biden has also voiced support for the $2,000 direct payments, and has said he will provide more details on his plan for more relief legislation early next year. He will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
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Here are the stocks making notable moves in midday trading.
Tesla – The automaker jumped 3% to a new all-time high. The move caps a record year for Tesla, which saw the company report five straight quarters of profit extending back to 2019. The electric automaker was also added to the S&P 500. Shares are up more than 750% for the year.
Enphase Energy – Shares gained slightly after S&P Dow Jones Indices said the Australia-based energy technology company will replace Tiffany in the S&P 500 benchmark as of Jan. 7. Tiffany is being acquired by LVMH. Enphase Energy’s stock has soared more than 560% this year amid heightened interest in solar energy.
Western Digital – The stock jumped more than 10% as investors piled into the chipmaker into the end of the year. Western Digital has gained more than 21% this month alone, cutting its 2020 losses to about 13%.
Tribune Publishing Company — Shares of the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News owner jumped more than 9% after a securities filing showed that Alden Global Capital made a non-binding offer to buy the company. Alden is already a major shareholder in Tribune, owning roughly 32% of the company’s outstanding stock. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.
Celsius Holdings — Shares of the beverage company soared more than 13% after S&P Dow Jones Indices announced that the stock would join the S&P SmallCap 600. The change will be effective Jan. 7.
— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens and Yun Li contributed to this story.
A worker of the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (FDNY EMS) receives a COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 23, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
New York City officials want to inoculate 1 million residents against Covid-19 in January, saying the federal government and drugmakers need to speed up the production and distribution of the vaccine.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday the city will use schools, pop-up clinics and “whatever it takes” to reach 1 million people within the month.
“We know New York City can vaccinate 1 million people in the month of January and really put this thing into high gear,” de Blasio told CNN. “Every single time we vaccinate someone, we are one step closer to making the coronavirus a thing of the past in terms of the horrible grip it has on society.”
It’s an ambitious goal considering the city has received just 390,425 vaccine doses and has been able to administer only about 78,000 shots, according to city data.
“This thing is not moving the way it needs to in the United States,” the mayor said. “New York City is going to show that we can jump-start this and vaccinate people at a record pace. And we want to see the whole country to be a part of this because we need to go faster to fight back the coronavirus if we want to recover.”
The U.S. government has fallen far short of its original goal of administering at least 20 million Covid vaccine shots before the end of the year — something federal officials have admitted is disappointing. The U.S. has distributed 12.4 million vaccine doses so far and inoculated just 2.8 million people with the first of the two-shot vaccine regimen from Pfizer or Moderna, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. officials say the data lags by 72 to 96 hours due to reporting delays at the state and local levels. Even so, it’s still a fraction of the Trump administration’s original target.
The slower-than-expected Covid vaccine rollout has been disappointing, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN on Thursday.
“We agree that that number is lower than what we had hoped for,” Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the administration’s vaccine program Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Wednesday. “We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better.”
De Blasio’s pronouncement comes as health officials in Colorado and California have detected a new strain of the coronavirus in a handful of cases in those states. The new variant, which de Blasio said hasn’t yet been found in New York City, was first identified in the U.K. and appears to be far more contagious.
It also comes as the city prepares for its annual New Year’s Eve festivities, albeit without the usual crowds. Just a few hundred people, instead of the usual thousands, will be in Times Square with masks on and by invitation only for the ball drop at midnight to kick of 2021. De Blasio said the one thing that unifies all Americans in this divided country this year is “we want to get the Hell rid of 2020.”