It’s been a year since Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States.
It has been a horrendous year for the president, the nation, the world.
Covid won’t retreat. Russia is rattling sabers. The Democrats Party is strangling itself with internal conflict. The GOP is manipulating the absolute right to vote for every citizen. Vice President Kamala Harris is AWOL and most people could care less. Biden’s cornerstone policy changes in voter registration and laws, and filibuster reform seem to be spectral fantasies.
Inflation is whooooo-high: Gas prices climbing; a single tamale at a taqueria can run $3.25; you can see the back of an abundance of grocery shelves; prices across the board continue to climb.
It is a sucker bet that the Republicans will regain control of Congress at November’s midterm elections.
To put it succinctly: President Biden is a lame duck president with 1,095.75 days left in his presidency.
It is not an overstatement that our democracy is in peril. The most divided national populous in 160-plus years is simmering and seems ready to implode.
The causes are apparent: Stress over the pandemic, an inept administration which displayed great promise and vision but had no viable game plan to execute necessary strategy; a worn-out leader who could not hark back to his younger days and build fences; cabinet members with bad public policy ideas, inexperience in their bureaucratic arena of interest…or both; partisan politicos of both parties more interested in personal programs and maintaining power than in ensuring the future of America.
Bottom line: Same old, same old. The only thing certain is this downward spiral of democracy that what we are experiencing today will get worse before it gets better.
And, here’s hoping that better days are ahead. Because what we, as individuals, as a nation, as a global community, are going through now quite simply … sucks.
For positive change to occur, the words and actions of calm patriots must prevail and our leaders must embrace the true ideals of democracy.
All the average citizen can do at this point is pray.
Prayer can’t hurt at a time when the United States needs a true and lasting miracle.
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Apparently, daily counts from the state will not always be available for new cases. Rather, they will be “dumped” every few days. I hope to continue compiling data that helps me, like the number of cases admitted in area G in 24 hours and ICC Beds available and the like. Note that we are nearing Gov. Abbot’s magic “15%”of hospital capacity filled by Covid patients. I don’t believe it is nearly as important as ICU numbers and available ventilators. “Daily Cases per 100,000 Population” continues to give perspective. Right now, Omicron is not overwhelming those functions — while it is overrunning other hospital beds and functions and normal medical care. Tomorrow’s numbers should be more helpful.
The NIOSH mark is missing. NIOSH—spelled correctly—should be in block letters and easily detectable…There’s no approval number. This alphanumeric designation starts with the letters “TC-84A,” followed by four additional digits, and can be found on the mask or the bands. If there is one, check for it on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List. (Sometimes, crafty counterfeiters make one up, says the FBI. It’s also possible, though, that some might just steal one from a legitimate mask, whether or not they co-opted the branding as well.)..The mask has ear loops. Legitimate N95 masks never have ear loops; instead they have a pair of elastic bands that go around the back of the head. This typically creates a tighter seal than the ear loops characteristic of KN95s and KF94s.
It’s labeled for children. There are no kid-size N95 masks. Only adult-size masks undergo the NIOSH approval process and can be designated as N95s. So anything labeled as a “Kids N95” is, by definition, a phony. However, there are legitimate children’s-size KN95 and KF94 masks, including those we recommend in our guide to the best masks for kids and toddlers…
There’s no GB marking. The KN95 standard requires that masks made after July 1, 2021, be stamped with GB2626-2019, which provides reassurance that the manufacturer constructed the mask according to current Chinese respirator standards, Miller said. A mask with a GB number ending in 2006 was made according to the previous standard and is still legitimate if the expiration date hasn’t passed.
Today, the numbers from the state are not functional. So, I have used Harrison County numbers from the NYT. What is apparent is that things are WORSE in East Texas. The Gregg and Smith County numbers are released every three or four days.
1. WHO Recommends Two New Drugs to Treat Patients with COVID-19 (WHO) The drug baricitinib (a type of drug known as a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis) is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical covid-19 in combination with corticosteroids, says a WHO Guideline Development Group of international experts in The BMJ today. Their strong recommendation is based on moderate certainty evidence that it improves survival and reduces the need for ventilation, with no observed increase in adverse effects.
2. COVID-19 Therapeutics for Nonhospitalized Patients (JAMA) Substantial progress has been made in therapeutics for nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19, but supply of and access to treatment remain limited. This Viewpoint summarizes currently available therapeutics for nonhospitalized patients in the setting of the Omicron variant including principles for equitable allocation. Patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 are those who have respiratory and systemic symptoms but not hypoxia, tachypnea, or other complications that necessitate hospitalization.1 During this early phase of illness, viral replication is occurring and antiviral therapies are used to prevent disease progression, hospitalization, and death.
3/ Even Poorly Matched Flu Vaccines Protect Children from Serious Illness, Study Shows (Healio) A new study reinforced that influenza vaccination protects children from serious illness even when vaccines are a poor match for circulating viruses. The study’s authors found that vaccination during the 2019-2020 season was 63% effective overall against critical influenza among children. Vaccination reduced the risk for severe influenza among children by 78% against influenza A viruses that matched the vaccine viruses, by 47% against mismatched influenza A viruses, and by 75% against mismatched influenza B-Victoria viruses, they reported.
The study comprised 291 patients in 17 U.S. hospitals — 159 children who were critically ill with influenza and 132 controls.
Area schools continue to close and more and more numbers of Covid patients are being seen in the hospitals.
However, death rates are not climbing — that will take about 3 weeks but should be less than with Delta.
I’m not planning on catching Covid now — not after dodging it for two years. No…I’m not going to become careless with my personal vigilance. I also realize that ultimately, I am the only person whose health I can control. After this long, nope, I’m not going to start cutting corners.
Within weeks or a few months, we’ll be in harmony with Covid-19 and its variants. We’ll have much more preventive and therapeutic control. We’ll have appropriate updated vaccines, antibody type medications for IV acute treatment, available oral medications to take with exposure or first symptoms, accessible and accurate testing, and functional masks freely available — worn as needed or as mandated. Our experienced and reorganized surviving physicians, hospital and health care workers, scientists, researchers will be rested, and active, and new recruits will be welcomed, educated, and well-compensated. Hopefully, our governmental and medical experts will be working more closely together for the common good. It might even happen that the unvaccinated in our country and the world will become vaccinated. It is almost certain that less frightening, cheaper, and easily administered vaccines will become ubiquitous and updated as needed. Ultimately, surely our leadership will modernize and intensify our acute attentiveness to world health events, diseases, and experimental laboratories as well as to our preparedness to combat and conquer each “Bat Out of Hell” type of disease as soon as they attack — and they will as we crowd the lands.
It might even happen that the fear, ignorance, hesitancy, distrust, and selfishness that grips us all to some degree will be quietened. God, I sure hope so. Don’t you?
Jim Harris, MD
BITS FROM NYT TODAY: CHILDREN AND PARTISANSHIP
1. ”… Over the past week, about 870 children were admitted to hospitals with Covid, according to the C.D.C. By comparison, more than 5,000 children visit emergency rooms each week for sports injuries. More than 1,000 are hospitalized for bronchiolitis during a typical January week…Vaccinated elderly people are at much more risk of severe Covid illness than unvaccinated children…Last week’s Supreme Court session was striking because it highlighted both halves of the country’s partisan-based self-deceptions. Many conservatives are refusing to wear masks — or, even worse, refusing to be vaccinated — out of a misplaced belief that Covid is harmless. Many liberals are sensationalizing Covid’s risks out of a misplaced belief that it presents a bigger threat to most children and vaccinated adults than continued isolation and disruption do…”
Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) and molnupiravir are two oral antiviral treatments that are authorized to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. These COVID-19 pills are only recommended for people with a high risk of developing severe illness.
Both Paxlovid and molnupiravir are taken by mouth twice daily for 5 days. They should both be started within 5 days of first feeling symptoms.
Studies suggest that Paxlovid can lower the risk of severe COVID-19 for high-risk people by almost 90%. Studies suggest molnupiravir can lower this risk by about 30%.
BITS AND PIECES FROM HOPKINS:
”…EPI UPDATE The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 312 million cumulative cases and 5.5 million deaths worldwide as of January 12…The increase continues to largely be due to surges in the Americas (+78.8%) and Europe (+37%), but nearly all WHO regions reported increases last week. Notably, the WHO reported a decrease in the Africa region (-11%), potentially signaling the Omicron surge there has peaked. The Omicron surge in the UK also appears to have peaked, with government data showing the weekly average number of cases down 19% over the previous week…UNITED STATES
The US CDC is currently reporting 62.5 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 840,286 deaths. The US is averaging 761,535 new cases and 1,656 deaths per day.* Notably, the US reported 1.35 million new COVID-19 cases on January 10…”
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Don’t bother walking a mile in my shoes. That would be boring. Spend 30 seconds in my head. That’ll freak you right out.
When someone asks what I did over the weekend, I squint and ask, “Why, what did you hear?”
What do you say to comfort a friend who’s struggling with grammar? There, their, they’re.
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Inside the Nation’s Largest Guaranteed Income Experiment
Editor’s note: Ten years ago I would have thought this is a really dumb ideal. Today I am not so sure. Robotics is why I have changed my mind. For example, within 10 year autonomous drive trucks will be in common use.Experts say as many as 800,000 truck drivers could be impacted. The country could be running out of jobs.
One evening in early June, Leo and his family were able to enjoy a treat they hadn’t experienced in months: a sit-down meal at a restaurant.
At a fried chicken chain in a Compton, California strip mall, they splurged on a few plates of fried rice, each costing under $13.99. The money Leo, 39, makes as a mechanic never seems to satisfy the deluge of bills that pile up on his kitchen counter each month, so the modest meal felt like a luxury. “It made me very happy,” Leo says in Spanish through an interpreter.
The family was only able to afford the meal because Leo is part of a groundbreaking guaranteed income experiment in his city called the Compton Pledge. In regular installments between late 2020 and the end of 2022, Leo and 799 other individuals are receiving up to $7,200 annually to spend however they like. Leo, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who TIME has agreed to refer to by a pseudonym to protect his identity, receives quarterly payments of $900.
The organization running Compton Pledge, called the Fund for Guaranteed Income, is building the technological infrastructure necessary to distribute cash payments on a broad scale and has partnered with an independent research group to study the extent to which a minimum income floor can lift families like Leo’s out of poverty. The pilot, which distributes money derived from private donors, is not just about giving people the ability to buy small indulgences. It’s testing whether giving poor families a financial cushion can have a demonstrable impact on their physical and psychological health, job prospects and communities. And perhaps the biggest question of all: Can these cash infusions transcend their status as a small research project in progressive Los Angeles and someday work as a nationwide program funded by taxpayers?
The theory is gaining momentum in the U.S. Six years ago, there were no programs distributing and studying the effects of providing swaths of Americans no-strings-attached cash, according to Stanford’s Basic Income Lab, an academic hub tracking such programs. But now, pilot programs are taking place in roughly 20 cities around the country, from St. Paul, Minnesota to Paterson, New Jersey, with Compton’s exercise serving as the nation’s largest city-based experiment in terms of number of people served. Most of the programs are philanthropically funded—including Compton’s—and distribute different amounts of money to targeted populations, from Black pregnant women to former foster children to single parents. These laboratories for wealth redistribution all have one thing in common: they give some of society’s poorest and most marginalized people cold-hard cash, and then let them spend it however they want.
”In this study, approximately 3% of SARS-CoV-2–positive youths tested in EDs experienced severe outcomes within 2 weeks of their ED visit. Among children discharged home from the ED, the risk was much lower. Risk factors such as age, underlying chronic illness, and symptom duration may be useful to consider when making clinical care decisions.”
(J. Harris: 3% severe outcomes in youths isn’t that high — unless it’s my child or grandchild.)
”…Although there is a growing body of research showing that hospitalized patients with COVID-19 experience problems with physical functioning up to 6 months after discharge, there is still a dearth of literature on nonhospitalized patients with less severe illness…. Anecdotal reports, patient accounts on social media, and some preliminary research with convenience samples, have suggested that many patients who experience even mild COVID-19 have persistent and troublesome symptoms, including impaired physical function after their initial illness… There is an ongoing effort by both health professionals and patients alike to recognize long COVID as a long-term condition and to increase access to treatments and rehabilitative care…Our findings confirm that individuals with COVID-19 who did not require hospitalization were more likely than those without COVID-19 to experience worsening of overall mobility since the start of the pandemic and a deterioration in physical function …Conclusions and Relevance This cohort study among older adults in Canada found that receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis was significantly associated with worse mobility and functioning outcomes even in the absence of hospitalization. These findings suggest that interventions may be needed for individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization.
”…A huge surge in cases that lasts for about one month, followed by a rapid decline, would be consistent with the experience in some places where Omicron arrived earlier than in the U.S. In South Africa, new daily cases have fallen by about 70 percent from the mid-December peak…In Boston, the amount of the Covid virus detected in wastewater, which has been a leading indicator of case trends in the past, has plunged by about 40 percent since its peak just after Jan. 1.
Chart shows a 7-day average. | Source: Johns Hopkins University
With previous versions of Covid, like the Delta variant, the up-and-down cycles tended to last longer. Once an outbreak began, cases often rose for about two months before falling. The White House says it is considering offering ‘high-quality’ masks to Americans. (J. Harris: This should have been done 2 years ago. At present, the best masks I can find are KN95. They have more space in a little “tent” around your mouth and nose. They are tight and comfortable; they are made in South Korea under close scrutiny. )NOTES TODAY FROM THE WASHINGTON POST:1. ‘…t’s still not clear whether the current vaccines need to be tweaked for omicron. But Pfizer is already working on an omicron-specific vaccine. A Pfizer spokesman told The Washington Post that the company hopes “to have 50-100 million doses of the omicron specific vaccine available by late March/early April…”2. ”…The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are much more effective at preventing deaths than China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, according to new data out of Singapore…”
”…The announcement Tuesday said the school will close beginning Wednesday, Jan. 12 and not re-open for classes through next Tuesday, Jan. 18. Classes will resume Wednesday, Jan. 19…”
From THE ATLANTIC this morning:(with some editing by J. Harris)
Three Reasons to Avoid Getting COVID Right Now:
Omicron is everywhere, and people are tired. Nearly two years into this pandemic, the seemingly more transmissible and milder coronavirus variant is tempting some to throw in the towel on avoiding infection…Should you just accept that you’re going to get sick this winter? No,…Though you will [might] probably get COVID eventually, there are a few practical reasons to delay [or prevent?] an infection—and potentially passing it on to others—as long as possible.
1. You can help reduce the burden on hospitals.
”…health-care workers are already burning out and quitting in droves. This latest surge could break our hospital systems. And broken hospitals affect not just COVID patients, but anyone seeking care.
2. Better treatments to help the most vulnerable are on the way.
“Pfizer’s very effective pill has just been authorized by the FDA, but supplies are short…“Only one monoclonal antibody, sotrovimab, currently works against Omicron, and supplies are also short.” The longer you’re able to stave off infection, the more time the system has to make these treatments available.
3. Getting it now doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get it again.
It’s not as simple as “getting it over with.” “No combinations of vaccines or viruses can confer invulnerability to future tussles with SARS-CoV-2,… “Whether acquired from an injection or an infection, immunity will always work in degrees, not absolutes.”
”…The national flu, pneumonia and/or COVID-19 mortality rate is 19.9 percent, which sits above the epidemic threshold of 6.9 percent. Among the 3,252 deaths reported for the week, 2,519 had COVID-19 listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death on the death certificate.”
On Thursday, US District Court Judge George O’Toole Jr. approved a request by federal prosecutors in Massachusetts to seize funds belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. The money, which had accumulated in his prison canteen account, is to be turned over to the court by the Bureau of Prisons and used to pay down some of the $101.1 million that Tsarnaev owes in restitution to his victims and court fees.
Most of the money in Tsarnaev’s account had apparently been gifted to him by private individuals. It is hard to comprehend how anyone could wish to shower money on the unrepentant terrorist, whose bombs killed three innocent bystanders at the Marathon finish line and maimed more than 260 others. (Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan were also responsible for the death of two police officers during the manhunt that followed the bombing.) But here is something even harder to make sense of: A fair-sized chunk of Tsarnaev’s money came from the government of the United States.
As Nathaniel Mendell, the acting US attorney for Massachusetts, pointed out in his request that the funds be turned over, Tsarnaev received a $1,400 COVID-19 relief payment in June as part of the $1.9 trillion “stimulus” package passed by Congress on party-line votes last March.
This wasn’t a surprise, given what had happened with the 2020 CARES Act, which had authorized payments of up to $1,200 per person earlier in the pandemic. The Internal Revenue Service withheld those payments from prisoners, citing the Social Security Act, which restricts government payments to criminals behind bars. But a federal judge, ruling in a class-action lawsuit brought by prison advocates, came down against the IRS and ordered the 2020 payments to be sent to inmates.
”…In October, the agency said those immunocompromised people could receive a booster shot — a fourth dose of vaccine, six months after their third dose. These guidelines were consistent with its recommendation for other adults…Last week, hoping to stem the surge of infections with the highly contagious Omicron variant, the C.D.C. shortened that interval to five months for a booster shot for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna recipients.
J. Harris: Lately, the NEW YORK TIMES is consistently the best source of news that I can find. A couple of years ago, I could beat the NYT and the JOHNS HOPKINS to new covid information by keeping up with several weekly and monthly medical jouranls. I can’t any more. Local papers, area papers, and Texas Tribune have been helpful but the NYT beaths them all in my opinion. Papers in Washington, DC, Houston, Dallas, and LA are also helpful. I don’t know how to rate the East Texas papers, but they are probably semi-adequate in Covid coverage. NPR RADIO is also a fabulous source and not infrequently they beat the NYT to stories.
You can subscribe to the NYT for $1.00 a week and stay well informed, including local county and state information. You don’t have to read the opinion pieces. I rarely do. Their sports coverage is also comprehensive.
“Texas Covid Data” published daily by The Texas Health and Hunam Services Dept. and only about 2 days behind has great stats. The State of Tesas has also done a great job of publicizing Covid information as well as statistics as has Johns Hopkins University.
A BRIEF LOOK AT PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE US (a short, easy, perplexing read)
click nejm pdf below.
”Like any honeymoon, though, this one is necessarily transient. (And, to be clear, infections are still never something to be sought out.) No combinations of vaccines or viruses can confer invulnerability to future tussles with SARS-CoV-2. Whether acquired from an injection or an infection, immunity will always work in degrees, not absolutes. (AUDIO ALSO)
AND LAST BUT NOT LEASED:
WHAT DID ONE PICKLE SAY TO THE OTHER?
DILL WITH IT!!!!
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Amtrak and freight railway company, Canadian Pacific, announce CP’s formalized agreement to supportexpanded passenger rail routes in the Midwest and South
Amtrak and the freight railway company, Canadian Pacific (CP), announced this past week, on January 6, that the two transportation entities had reached an agreement formalizing Canadian Pacific’s support of Amtrak’s expansion of passenger rail service in the Midwest and the South.
In the announcement, Amtrak President Stephen J. Gardner said, “Given CP’s consistent record as an Amtrak host, we support CP’s proposal to expand its network. This is exactly what Congress and the Administration are seeking: Amtrak and the freight railroads working together to benefit freight customers, Amtrak passengers, our state/regional partners and the general public.”
This announcement also conveyed that the agreement included Amtrak’s support for the proposed combination of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern (KCS) railways. Merger negotiations between KCS and CP began in March of 2021.
The announcement by Amtrak and CP was very welcomed news to passenger rail advocacy organizations throughout the nation, including the I-20 Corridor Council.
The I-20 Corridor Council is a non-profit grassroots advocacy organization and multi-state coalition, comprised of mayors, judges, elected officials and other stakeholders along the I-20 Corridor, which has been working consistently for more than 15 years to establish the East-West long-distance passenger rail connection between Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta, Georgia. This route would also connect to the East Coast, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
The announcement also stated: “Subject to CP’s application for control of KCS being approved by the STB (Surface Transportation Board), the agreement also includes CP’s commitment to support Amtrak efforts to work with the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and others for the first service in more than 50 years on two U.S. routes.”
The two passenger rail routes referenced in the announcement in this regard, which would involve track owned by CP, are Amtrak service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and to study the potential for Amtrak service between Meridian, Miss., and Dallas, which is the proposed I-20 Corridor passenger rail route.
Former Texas State Senator and former Harrison County Judge Richard Anderson is the chairman of the I-20 Corridor Council and shared the following comments:
“The I-20 Corridor Council and all who have been working with great devotion to re-establish this important East-West passenger rail connection across the southeastern region of our nation are very pleased and grateful for the positive steps that Amtrak and Canadian Pacific have announced. We look forward to continued progress in this regard as we continue to work toward making the I-20 Corridor long distance passenger rail connection a reality for the great benefit of our Southern region and nation.”
In addition to thanking Amtrak, CP, and the members of the multi-state I-20 Corridor coalition, Anderson also thanked fellow passenger rail advocacy organizations, as well as governmental and quasi-governmental entities, who also support the proposed I-20 Corridor rail route.
These entities in support of the I-20 Corridor route include the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization (TEMPO), North Central Texas Council of Governments, East Texas Council of Governments, North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA), Coordinating & Development Corporation, Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments, North Delta Regional Planning & Development District, Rail Passengers Association, Texas Rail Advocates, and others.
Judge Anderson also shared his deep appreciation for his former Texas Senate colleague, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who, since 1993, has represented the 30th Congressional District of Texas, which includes southern Dallas. Representative Johnson also serves as a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Judge Anderson stated: “Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has provided outstanding leadership in transportation throughout her impressive career in Congress and in public service. We appreciate her leadership and strong support and assistance in working with us to establish the I-20 Corridor passenger rail route.”
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson added: “I am pleased that Canadian Pacific Railway has announced that they are receptive to supporting Amtrak’s expansion of passenger rail service in the Midwest and the South. Along with the I-20 Corridor Council and the North Central Texas Council of Governments, I will continue to work steadfastly to bring to fruition an Amtrak passenger rail line that, once complete, will provide rail service from Dallas to Atlanta.”
Judge Anderson also stated that, with the passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the I-20 Corridor passenger rail project could provide an excellent return on investment. That’s because it would requirea comparatively small fraction of a percent of what will be needed for this project from the $16 billion which the IIJA has designated for long-distance passenger rail.
This once-in-a-generation legislation was passed by Congress then signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.
Judge Anderson explained: “The feasibility and capacity studies on the I-20 Corridor route, which have already been completed by Amtrak, TXDOT, and others using the $738,000 in grant funding that the Corridor Council obtained, with the assistance of former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, determined that the I-20 Corridor route would be economically viable on existing track without an annual subsidy. It also determined that capacity could be increased, such as additional sidings, for a relatively low cost and in a relatively short period of time. Plus, this new passenger rail service should not adversely affect freight traffic.”
Judge Anderson concluded: “Again, we appreciate these positive steps announced by Amtrak and CP for the routes in the Midwest and South. Plus, in rural Amtrak-served communities, such as Marshall and Longview, we always appreciate the strong partnership with Amtrak.”
He went on to share: “We look forward to continued progress ahead not only in collaborating to establish the important I-20 Corridor route but also strengthening the Texas Eagle route to its full pre-pandemic capacity and strengthening Amtrak’s National Network.”
“In this way, we can continue to increase connectivity between our rural and urban communities throughout the United States and bring increased benefits to the American people with regard to transportation, economic development, quality of life, and many other benefits.”