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Watchdog rips MTA oversight of big-dollar contractors

The MTA’s evaluation process for big-dollar contractors is “a pass/fail test where everyone passes” and in need of a “fundamental revamp,” the agency’s inspector general said in a damning new report.

IG Carolyn Pokorny’s office found MTA managers gave nearly 100 percent of companies passing grades, allowing “problematic vendors” to “undeservedly score” access cushy construction contracts.

The evaluation process — known as the All-Agency Contraction Evaluation — is conducted for companies with capital contracts of $250,000 or more.

In 2019, contract managers gave the highest grade of “satisfactory” to 97.2 percent of contract recipients, the IG said. Just .4 percent of contractors received failing grades.

IG investigators previously flagged instances of poor performing contractors with passing ratings in 2009 and 2015.

“Capital project managers have a history of rating subpar vendors ‘satisfactory’ in evaluations, creating ‘evaluation inflation’ in the system,” the report released Wednesday said.

“Data from 2016 through 2019 shows that the problem persists — and if anything has gotten worse.”

The cash-choked MTA has been plagued for years by costly contractor delays and overruns. More “unsatisfactory” ratings could have helped the MTA avoid costly mistakes, the IG report claimed.

But Ben Fried, of the Manhattan-based think tank TransitCenter, said the MTA’s problem is not bad contractors, but too few companies bidding for contracts.

“It’s not very competitive, and the less competition, the harder it is for the MTA to get good prices,” Fried said of the small pool of contractors willing to work with the agency.

“The IG should look into that — what’s scaring companies away from MTA business? If more of them were competing for MTA jobs, maybe the agency wouldn’t be so hesitant to flag poor performers.”

In its official response, the MTA agreed to the IG’s call for a revamp of the contractor evaluation

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After Delta rips tarps off homes of Laura victims, Operation Blue Roof to restart in Louisiana | Weather/Traffic

After Hurricane Delta ripped off the blue tarp roofs installed after Hurricane Laura tore through southwest Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday the state is returning to a federal program for storm victims to get the temporary roofs put on their homes once again.

“Many of those (tarps) didn’t make it through Hurricane Delta,” Edwards said during a brief news conference before touring more storm-affected parishes. “So we’re going to turn that back on for the same six parishes” that were eligible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program.

Those parishes are Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vernon parishes. People can call (888) 766-3258 or go to usace.army.mil/blueroof to sign up. 

Edwards said the number of power outages has been cut in half, from a peak of 688,000 outages to 348,609 as of noon Sunday. While Delta cut a wide swath of damage to electrical grids, the damage wasn’t nearly as extensive as that brought by Laura, and the governor has said it will not take as long to restore power this time around.

National Guard troops were distributing supplies from staging areas in five hard-hit parishes, and search-and-rescue teams had done 4,000 searches and damage assessments. About 112 roads and 35 bridges remained closed Sunday because of storm damage.

Delta made landfall Friday night just 12 miles away from where Laura barreled into southwest Louisiana about a month and a half ago as a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the state. Delta, a Category 2 storm, didn’t produce nearly the wind damage as Laura, but did inundate some areas with rain and storm surge.

More than 9,100 Louisianans remained sheltered by the states of Louisiana and Texas as of Sunday, Edwards said. The vast majority of those were Laura

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HHS Testing Czar Rips Nevada for Stopping Rapid Tests in Nursing Homes

WASHINGTON — Nevada public health officials’ recent actions preventing nursing homes from using rapid screening tests for COVID-19 are “unjustified” and don’t follow the science on testing, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “testing czar” Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, said Friday.

The state’s actions are “not scientifically valid. They must cease their prohibition immediately,” Giroir said on a phone call with reporters. “If you need technical support,” he told the nursing homes, “we are enthusiastic to do more. Lives are at stake and our administration is not going to allow action to risk our seniors or any other vulnerable or underserved population.”

Letter Sent to Nursing Homes

On October 2, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to healthcare providers and long-term care facilities, noting that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had sent point-of-care antigen tests to nursing homes across the country — specifically, the Quidel Sofia test and Becton Dickinson’s Veritor test. The letter noted that according to the FDA’s emergency use authorization data, Quidel claimed 87% sensitivity and 100% specificity for its test, while Becton Dickinson’s numbers were 97.5% and 100%, respectively.

“However, this was based on extremely limited data,” wrote Ihsan Azzam, MD, PhD, the state’s chief medical officer, and two colleagues. The state conducted its own test after it “started receiving anecdotal reports from SNFs [skilled nursing facilities] that individuals with a positive antigen test were subsequently testing negative” with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, generally considered the most accurate. The state looked at data from 12 nursing homes that conducted 3,725 rapid tests, of which 60 came back positive. Of those, 39 were sent for PCR testing; 16 (40%) came back as true positives while 23 (60%) were false positives.

“Possible reasons for conflicting test results include lack

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Glass Fire rips through more of Wine Country Thursday night

Firefighters stood guard outside some of the country’s most renowned vineyards and the homes that surround them Thursday night as the Glass Fire continued to encroach on the communities of Calistoga and St. Helena — the heart of California’s famed Wine Country.

The blaze had engulfed 60,148 acres by Friday morning, burning most actively in the hills north of Calistoga and east of St. Helena. At least one home outside St. Helena was among the 220 residences to have burned down. A house on the 1300 block of Tucker Road was “fully involved,” late Thursday night according to Cal Fire, and had flames jetting out windows of both its two stories.

  • CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 2: Firefighters battle a fire at a home along Tucker Road in Calistoga, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. The Glass Fire, already the fifth largest of the 23 major fires burning in the state, has engulfed 58,880 acres in the North Bay and damaged or destroyed nearly 400 buildings. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

  • CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 2: Firefighters battle a fire at a home along Tucker Road in Calistoga, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. The Glass Fire, already the fifth largest of the 23 major fires burning in the state, has engulfed 58,880 acres in the North Bay and damaged or destroyed nearly 400 buildings. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

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  • CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 2: A home along Tucker Road burns in Calistoga, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. The Glass Fire, already the fifth largest of the 23 major fires burning in the state, has engulfed 58,880 acres in the North Bay and damaged or destroyed nearly 400 buildings. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

  • CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 2: Firefighters battle a fire

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