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With pandemic worsening in US, surgeon general worried

With pandemic worsening in US, surgeon general worried

The U.S. surgeon general says he’s worried about what lies ahead with cases of COVID-19 increasing in every state, millions still unvaccinated and a highly contagious virus variant spreading rapidlyBy JAY REEVES Associated PressJuly 18, 2021, 7:38 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe U.S. surgeon general said Sunday that he’s concerned about what lies ahead with cases of COVID-19 increasing in every state, millions still unvaccinated and a highly contagious virus variant spreading rapidly.Noting that nearly all coronavirus deaths now are among the tens of millions of people who haven’t received shots, despite widespread vaccine availability, Dr. Vivek Murthy painted an unsettling picture of what the future could hold.“I am worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. And while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated,” Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”U.S. cases of COVID-19 last week increased by 17,000 nationwide over a 14-day period for the first time since late fall, and an increase in death historically follows a spike in illness. Much of the worsening problem is being driven by the delta variant first identified in India, that has since hit the United Kingdom and other countries, said Murthy.While U.S. case numbers and hospitalizations are still far below levels from the worst of the pandemic early this year, Murthy said the worsening situation shows the need to convince more people to get inoculations.“It is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic,” he said.About 186 million Americans have received at least one shot, but another 90 million eligible Americans haven’t. Officials are trying to overcome a refusal among some — particularly conservative, rural white people — to get vaccinated, but it’s unclear how to do that. So, for the meantime at least, some places have reverted to health precautions that had been cast aside.In Las Vegas, some resorts and casinos are again requiring employees to wear masks in response to a recommendation issued by health officials amid rising COVID-19 case rates in Nevada; it ranks fifth among U.S. states for the most new cases per capita over the last two weeks.Los Angeles County late Saturday reinstated rules requiring everyone to wear masks inside public buildings. Around San Francisco’s Bay Area, which has some of the highest vaccination rates in California, health officials have recommended that everyone again wear masks inside public buildings, regardless of their vaccination status.But in conservative Alabama, where COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in a month and only about a third of the population is fully vaccinated, officials have refused to reinstitute statewide health rules or use gimmicks such as lotteries to boost immunizations.“I think the best thing for us to do is just encourage everyone to use their common sense and practice personal responsibility and make themselves and their families safe,” Gov. Kay Ivey told reporters last week.Cases also are on the rise in Springfield, Missouri, where Mayor Ken McClure told CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” that false information about the pandemic was hampering the fight to get people vaccinated.“I think we are seeing a lot spread through social media as people are talking about fears which they have, health related fears, what it might do to them later on in their lives, what might be contained in the vaccinations,” he said.Murthy, the surgeon general, said “not nearly enough” progress was being made in the fight against misinformation spread through social media about COVID-19 and vaccines. Individuals, not just platforms such as Facebook, need to combat the problem, he said.”Each of us has a decision that we make every time we post something on social media, and I’m asking people to pause and to see, is a source accurate? Is it coming from a scientifically credible authority? And if it’s not, or if you’re not sure, don’t share,” he said.———Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco and Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report. Reeves reported from Newnan, Georgia.

$3 million in grants going to Black history sites, groups

$3 million in grants going to Black history sites, groups

A private group is awarding $3 million in grants to more than three dozen groups and sites nationwide to help preserve landmarks linked to Black historyBy JAY REEVES Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 9:38 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A fund formed in response to the deadly racial violence four years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, said Thursday it will award $3 million in grants to more than three dozen groups and sites nationwide to help preserve landmarks linked to Black history.Recipients of money from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund include a consortium of civil rights sites and Black churches in Alabama; work to establish an African American heritage trail in Colorado; and preservation of the church where Emmett Till’s funeral was held in Chicago after his lynching in Mississippi in 1955.Other grants announced Thursday include money to hire a director for Save Harlem Now!, a historic preservation effort in New York; repairs to the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, California; and research on enslaved people at Hacienda La Esperanza in Puerto Rico.Grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 will go to recipients that represent centuries of Black experience and help tell the full story of U.S. history, said Brent Leggs, executive director of the fund. The nation should “value the link between architecture and racial justice,” Leggs said.“I think it is critically important to acknowledge that the nation may be rich in diverse history but it has often done a poor job in representing that history,” he said.Grants are going to projects in 17 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.The Action Fund was established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation after clashes during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 ended with the death of Heather Heyer, a civil rights activist. A white supremacist demonstrator who drove his car into a group of people was convicted in her killing and sentenced to life.“These grants will positively impact 40 communities nation-wide and result in the creation of a visible, preserved legacy of African American contributions,” Lonnie Burch, the first Black person to head the Smithsonian Institution, said in a statement.The Action Fund, with $50 million in funding from private donors, calls itself the largest effort ever to preserve sites linked to African American history.

Unending grief of COVID-19 deaths causing problems for some

Unending grief of COVID-19 deaths causing problems for some

Kelly Brown’s 74-year-old father got sick first with COVID-19, followed by her 71-year-old mom just two days later. John and Judy Trzebiatowski died of the illness just a week apart last August, sending Brown into a black tunnel of grief that doesn’t seem to have an end.Health restrictions stripped away the things that normally help people deal with death, such as bedside visits at the Wisconsin hospital where they were treated and a big funeral with hugs and tears, she said. That left Brown to deal with her sorrow on her own, and now she’s having a hard time seeing a way forward.With more than 605,000 dead of COVID-19 in the United States and nearly 4 million worldwide, Brown is among the thousands or more who could be experiencing prolonged grief, the kind of mourning that experts say can prevent people from moving beyond a death and functioning normally again.“It’s the most horrible thing to have to go through,” said Brown. “I would not wish this upon anyone.”Natalia Skritskaya, an expert on grieving, said it’s too early to say whether prolonged grieving, also known as complicated grief, will be a major complication from the pandemic — it isn’t yet over, with thousands still dying daily worldwide, including hundreds in the United States. Many mourners have yet to pass the one-year anniversary of a loss, and few studies have been published so far on the psychiatric fallout, she said.But prolonged grief is both real and potentially debilitating, said Skritskaya, a research scientist and clinical psychologist with the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University in New York. She noted that it can be treated with therapy in which participants talk through their experience and feelings.“The core of it is kind of helping people face the reality of what happened,” she said. “It’s not an easy treatment. It’s intense.”Jerri Vance said therapy has helped her deal with grief since her husband, James Vance, a retired police officer in Bluefield, West Virginia, died of COVID-19 on New Year’s Day, but she worries about their two young daughters.“Seeing my kids’ grief adds to my pain,” she said. “One of my kids isn’t making much progress in therapy because her daddy was her person. She is still mad at the world.”A study published in the fall predicted a likely increase in cases of prolonged grief linked to the pandemic. Already, people who lost loved ones to COVID-19 are filling social media pages with stories of tears and sadness that just won’t go away.Many cite the loss of typical end-of-life rituals for their continual grieving; some struggle because of the unexpectedness and seeming unfairness of the coronavirus. The politicization of the pandemic is a thorn for many who constantly see and hear some argue against what health experts say are life-saving practices including vaccinations, mask wearing and social distancing.“In my office I listen all day to unsolicited opinions and try not to engage, as it is unprofessional,” said Betsy Utnick, whose father, Sheldon Polan of Selden, New York, died in April 2020. She said she still cries every day because the grief has yet to subside.Noreen Wasti knows the feeling. She lost her father to the illness caused by the coronavirus on Dec. 27 and is having a hard time going on.Wasti, who writes and creates online content in New York, said she’s unsure what it will take to get over the loss of Salman Wasti, 76, a retired biology professor from Glocester, Rhode Island.“This has been the first time I’ve lost someone so dear to me, so I never had a map for grief nor really understood the magnitude. I always thought you’re sad for a few months and then you’re OK. I was so wrong,” she said. “It hits in waves and those waves feel as severe as the day we lost him.”With so many people hurting and little personal interaction for months because of pandemic health restrictions, social media has become the place where many connect to share stories of loved ones and loss. One private Facebook page dealing with COVID-19 losses has more than 10,000 members, and continuing grief is a constant thread of discussion.Rabia Khan has found solace online since the death on Thanksgiving Day of her father, Pakistani activist Muhammad Hameedullah Khan of Chicago. In survivor and family groups, she said, the grieving don’t face insensitive questions about how a loved one contracted the virus or why someone wasn’t careful enough to avoid it.Aside from sharing stories online of her late boyfriend Ben Schaeffer, a New York subway conductor and historian, Lisa Smid has tried to redirect her anguish into something positive. She sponsored an online lecture at the New York Transit Museum and plans to honor his legacy by endowing more memorial lectures.“I like being able to have an event to look forward to at which I’ll have an acceptable outlet for my grief as I move forward with my own life,” she said.Ann Haas of St. Paul, Minnesota, is still trying to find some sort of outlet as she mourns, but work keeps bringing her back to the worst day of her life.Haas lost her father, Raymond Haas, to COVID-19 on Nov. 11 and works in the laundry at the same Veterans Affairs hospital where he spent his final days. Haas said memories keep flooding back each time she folds a tan blanket like the one that covered him while he was fighting to live.“‘I wish other people could see what this does to people. I hear people saying, ‘This isn’t real, it’s nothing,’” Haas said between sobs. “I’ve got nothing left. I don’t know if it’s going to take them losing someone to understand.”

Police: Gunman dead after killing 2 at fire hydrant factory

Police: Gunman dead after killing 2 at fire hydrant factory

ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — A worker wielding a handgun fatally shot two people and wounded two others at an Alabama fire hydrant factory early Tuesday before killing himself near a cemetery where his mother is buried, police said.The shooting — which happened about 2:30 a.m. at a Mueller Co. plant in Albertville — added to a slew of homicides around the country. Several hours later, gunfire in Chicago claimed four victims.In the Alabama case, a manhunt ended when the shooter’s body was found inside a Jeep in Guntersville, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) away from the factory, shortly after daybreak. Multiple weapons were found inside the vehicle, Albertville Police Chief Jamie Smith said at a news conference.Smith said the suspect appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. What prompted him to kill and maim his coworkers wasn’t immediately clear, the chief said. He called the shooting “completely unprovoked.”The chief identified the dead men as Michael Dobbins and David Horton, and the shooter as Andreas Horton, 34. He said that as far as he knew, the Hortons were not related, and had “no ties other than co-workers.”Two other people — Casey Sampson and Isaac Byrd — were hospitalized. Their conditions weren’t immediately known. They were taken to a nearby hospital and later transferred to a larger hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the chief said.The body of Andreas Horton, who was sometimes called Andy, was found in his vehicle, parked along a road overlooking Guntersville City Cemetery, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the plant. His mother, who died of cancer at age 40 in 2011, was buried just a short walk away.A distant relative of Horton’s, Sanchez Watkins, said he last saw Andreas a few months ago at a grocery store.“Andy was a good guy. Very quiet, easygoing. You would never expect this from him,” Watkins said.Cody Windsor, a Mueller employee who was at home at the time, told The Associated Press that he knew both Hortons, but didn’t know what might have prompted the shootings.Windsor said friends working the overnight shift told him the shooting happened in a part of the plant where fire hydrants and pipes are painted, and that an announcement about an active shooter was made over a PA system at the factory, which occupies several buildings over a large area near a railroad track, with fire hydrants stored on racks outside.The police chief said the crime scene encompasses a large area inside the sprawling plant, and victims were found in two or three different locations inside.Windsor said he and David Horton, a foundry helper who could do most any job in the plant, were buddies at work and often hung out together during breaks. “We’d sit in our cars and listen to music,” he said. “Andy” Horton was quiet and recently went through the death of his mother, Windsor said.“We work together and we bond together. We’re here as much as we are at home,” he said. He added that the shooting made him nervous about going back to work for fear “that somebody is going to walk in the door and shoot you.”Ann Walters told Al.com that Dobbins was her grandson, and that he had been working at the factory for nearly a year, saving up to buy a home and a car. “He was a perfect gentleman, everybody will tell you. He was good to everybody and put his family first,” she said.Mueller Co., based in Cleveland, Tennessee, is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products Inc., which calls itself a leading maker of water distribution and measurement products in North America. More than 400 people work at the plant in Albertville, giving the city in northwest Alabama its nickname of “Fire Hydrant Capital of the World.”In a statement read aloud by the police chief, company officials said they were “shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy,” and “committed to providing help and support” to the victims’ families.The growing gun violence nationwide has police and criminal justice experts concerned. Within hours of the Alabama gunfire Tuesday, four women were killed and four other people were wounded in a pre-dawn shooting at a home in Chicago, police said. The toll from this past weekend included two people killed and at least 30 others wounded in mass shootings in Chicago, the Texas capital of Austin, and Savannah, Georgia.Law officers had hoped that last year’s spike in homicides would subside as the nation emerges from coronavirus restrictions, but they remain higher than they were in pre-pandemic times.“There was a hope this might simply be a statistical blip that would start to come down,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “That hasn’t happened. And that’s what really makes chiefs worry that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 years of declines in these crimes.”Albertville is a tightknit community, and its people will come together to support the victims’ families, city spokeswoman Robin Lathan said.“Everyone is absolutely heartbroken and devastated,” she said. “The Mueller Company is part of the lifeblood of who we are in the city of Albertville. It’s just a devastating blow.”———Associated Press reporters Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama, and Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia, contributed to this report.

Selma-to-Montgomery march camps top list of endangered sites

Selma-to-Montgomery march camps top list of endangered sites

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The landmark voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 didn’t happen in just one day: Participants spent four nights camping along the roughly 55-mile (89-kilometer) route through Alabama, sleeping in tents and near farm buildings under the watch of guards to prevent white supremacist attacks.Now threatened by decades of weather and wear, the campsites used by those marchers are among the nation’s most endangered historic places, according to a new assessment by a preservation group. The sites, along with 10 other locations in nine states, need immediate attention or risk being lost, according to the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation.Three of the campsites are privately owned, rural acreage along U.S. 80, which links Selma and the capital city, and the fourth is the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic complex where marchers spent the night before thousands followed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Alabama Capitol on March 25, 1965, to demonstrate for voting rights for Black people.The march route looks different today than it did 56 years ago — what was then a two-lane road is now four lanes, with added traffic and new construction. While leaving the details of preservation to families that own the camp land and local officials, the trust is shedding light on the sites and others at a time when voting rights and racial justice are again a national issue.”These 11 places celebrate the interconnection of American culture and acknowledge it as a multicultural fabric that, when pieced together, reveals our true identity as a people,” said Paul Edmondson, president of the Washington-based organization, which releases a list of endangered places annually. Other places on the 2021 list include:- Trujillo Adobe, the remains of an early Latino settlement dating back nearly 160 years in Riverside, California.- Summit Tunnels 6 & 7 and Summit Camp Site in Truckee, California, which tell the story of Chinese railroad workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s.- Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia, once the state’s only Black-owned birthing place for African American women.- Boston Harbor Islands, archaeological and historic sites on 34 islands just off the coast of Boston.- Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Order of Moses Cemetery and Hall, a historic Black settlement dating to the late 1800s in Cabin John, Maryland.- Home of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, a Black woman and activist who launched a legal fight after being denied entry to a segregated ferry in Detroit in 1945.- The Riverside Hotel, which housed Black blues musicians and others during the Jim Crow era in Clarksdale, Mississippi.- Pine Grove Elementary Schoo l, built for Black children by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in 1917 in Cumberland, Maryland.- Threatt Filling Station, which catered to Black travelers on Route 66, and family farm in Luther, Oklahoma.- Oljato Trading Post, built in 1921 and one of the few Navajo trading posts remaining in the region around San Juan County, Utah.The Selma-to-Montgomery March began two weeks after Alabama state troopers beat marchers attempting to leave Selma on a day that came to be called “Bloody Sunday.” Sites in Selma and the route to Montgomery are now part of the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail.Under the watch of members of the Alabama National Guard, marchers first stopped about 7 miles east of Selma at land owned by David Hall, a Black farmer who risked harassment from white neighbors upset about the march. A photo of marchers showed them gathered around a fire built in an old metal drum for warmth, and Hall’s granddaughter Davine Hall said visitors still stop by.“Sometimes we come outside and there’s a whole yard of bike riders, people who stopped by and want a tour,” said Hall, who splits time between the family land and California. “Sometimes they actually ask if they can spend the night.”The next rainy night they stayed on the property of Rosie Steele, followed by a stay on land owned by Robert Gardner, where Tuskegee University students supplied dinner and marchers slept on donated swimming pool air mattresses, many of which deflated overnight. Gardner’s daughter, Cheryl Gardner Davis, was 4 at the time and still remembers the crowds and noise.A white neighbor threatened her father for welcoming the marchers, she said, and for years the family kept quiet about the experience.“I remember my father telling us that we couldn’t go anywhere by ourselves, that we always had to have an adult with us. He said if we saw a car along the road that was the FBI watching over us,” said Davis. “It was a little scary.”Dozens of marchers spent the night along the way, and their numbers grew exponentially by the time the march reached downtown Montgomery.While the families who owned the campsites had little contact through the decades, planning is underway to preserve homes that were on the Hall and Gardner sites in 1965 and perhaps turn them into educational venues, said Phillip Howard, a Birmingham-area consultant working on the project with The Conservation Fund.On the final night of the march, about 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) from Alabama’s Capitol, demonstrators camping at the City of St. Jude were entertained by stars including Harry Belafonte; Tony Bennett; Peter, Paul and Mary; Sammy Davis Jr. and Joan Baez before the final leg of the journey. The chapel there remains much as it was then.Today near the Capitol, a stone historical marker recounts the events of 1965, when King addressed an estimated 25,000 people at the end of the march. Plain steel signs identify the campsites used by the marchers along the way, but there’s little else to signify their importance.———Reeves is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Jay—Reeves.