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New CDC guidelines set off rush to reimpose mask mandates

New CDC guidelines set off rush to reimpose mask mandates

New guidance from the federal government set off a cascade of mask rules across the nation Wednesday as cities, states, schools and businesses raced to restore mandates and others pushed back against the guidelines at a time when Americans are exhausted and confused over constantly shifting pandemic measures.Nevada and Kansas City, Missouri, were among the locations that moved swiftly to re-impose indoor mask requirements following Tuesday’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But governors in Arizona, Pennsylvania and South Carolina said they would resist reversing course.The federal recommendations quickly plunged Americans into another emotionally charged debate over the face coverings meant to curb easy transmission of the deadly coronavirus.In Florida, a Broward County School Board meeting devolved into a screaming match between irate parents and board members on Tuesday. Some protesters even took to burning face masks outside the building.In suburban Atlanta, Jamie Reinhold said she would pull her kids from school if the district stuck to the CDC’s guidance, which the 52-year-old believes takes the country “backward” and damages confidence in the vaccines.“If you believe in the masks, go ahead, but don’t try to tell me what to do for my child’s health and safety and immune system,” she said. “It’s my child. It’s my choice.”And in New Orleans, Lisa Beaudean said she was not convinced mask mandates would inspire the unvaccinated — who account for most new infections — to take the virus seriously and get inoculated.“I’m very frustrated,” the St. Louis woman said as she strolled the French Quarter without a mask. “For the last 18 months, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, and there are no repercussions for those who haven’t done what they’re supposed to do.”Elsewhere, Ford Motor Co. said it would reinstate mask protocols for all employees and visitors at its Missouri and Florida facilities. The two states are among the hardest hit by the summer surge in which the U.S. is now averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, driven by the highly contagious delta variant.Google also postponed a planned Sept. 1 return to the office for most of its more than 130,000 employees until mid-October, following a similar move by Apple. Google said Wednesday that it will also eventually require everyone on staff to be vaccinated, a mandate that President Joe Biden said he’s also weighing for federal employees.Other government leaders, meanwhile, said they will hold off reinstating mask rules for now.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s not considering imposing a mask mandate in schools or statewide, arguing that such orders were necessary before there was a vaccine.“People have the ability to make the decision to get a vaccine,” the Democrat told a Pittsburgh radio station Tuesday. “If they do, that’s the protection.”The CDC’s new guidance applies to places with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, which is roughly 60% of all U.S. counties, federal officials said. Nearly all of the South and Southwest is subject to the guidance, but most communities in the Northeast — with the exception of major metro areas like New York City and Boston — are exempt for now, according to the CDC’s COVID tracker.The stark partisan divide over mask wearing set up the potential for a patchwork of regulations within states and counties.In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava imposed an indoor mask mandate Wednesday at county facilities.The Democrat’s announcement, which does not apply to businesses or restaurants, comes after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law in May giving the state the power to invalidate local pandemic measures, including mask mandates and limits on business operations.“We have all come too far. We have all sacrificed too much in this past almost year and a half. We cannot turn back now,” Levine Cava said.In Missouri, the St. Louis County Council voted Tuesday to reverse the county’s mask mandate, just a day after it became one of the first reinstated in the country.But Democratic County Executive Sam Page insisted Wednesday that the mandate remained in effect and blamed the pushback on politics.On the other side of the state, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat, reinstated a similar indoor mask mandate for Missouri’s largest city.State Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, has sued to block the St. Louis-area mandate and has vowed to do the same for Kansas City’s requirement, saying on Twitter that the mandates are “about politics & control, not science.”The CDC’s updated guidance was prompted by new data suggesting vaccinated people can pass on the virus in rare cases.But the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, stressed that the vaccines are working by preventing greater levels of hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated people account for the vast number of new infections. Two-thirds of the vaccine-eligible population in the U.S. has received at least one dose.“I know this is not a message America wants to hear,” Walensky told CNN on Wednesday. “With prior variants, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others, but with the delta variant, we now see that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.”In Provincetown, Massachusetts, where officials earlier this week re-imposed an indoor mask requirement following a surge in COVID-19 cases this month, store owner Patrick Patrick says he doesn’t mind asking customers to mask up once more.The owner of Marine Specialties, a long running Army-Navy store, had been leery of the decision to drop nearly all virus safety mandates ahead of the busy summer season. He even tried to impose his own in-store mask mandate before relenting last month.“If we’d stuck with masks all along, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation,” Patrick said. “We wore them all last summer, and we didn’t have a single case in Provincetown. Now see where we’re at.”As of Wednesday, the town had reported more than 800 cases associated with the most recent cluster, which started around the busy July 4th holiday.The business drop-off has been significant, Patrick said. But he hopes the return of masks helps brings visitors peace of mind.“I don’t see masks as bad for business,” he said. “If it gets people back out and feeling safe, it’s worth it. We take care of public health and safety, the dollars and cents will take care of themselves.”———Marcelo reported from Boston. Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Miami, Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans, Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.

California, NYC to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

California, NYC to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

California and New York City announced Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly COVID-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to receive the shot.Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated.The announcements are the “opening of the floodgates” as more government entities and companies impose vaccine mandates after nationwide vaccination efforts “hit a wall,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.“Some people find mask mandates annoying, but the reality is they’re temporary. We can’t do them forever,” he said. “Vaccine mandates have to be one of the major paths moving forward because they get us closer to the finish line. Mask mandates just buy you a little more time.”In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and millions of public- and private-sector health care employees starting next month.The VA’s move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations issued a call through the American Medical Association for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.It was unclear what would happen to employees who refuse to be vaccinated. Some of the unions representing New York municipal workers said the city could not impose the requirement without negotiations.The longstanding policy in the health care industry is for staff to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, such as annual flu shots, but a general rule also allows exceptions for medical reasons, such as allergies.Elsewhere, St. Louis became the second major city to mandate that face masks be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status, joining Los Angeles in re-imposing the orders.“For those who are vaccinated, this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said Monday. “I’ve heard that, and I feel that frustration.”President Joe Biden should “lead by example” and impose further mandates on the federal workforce and in public venues where the government has jurisdiction, including in planes, trains and federal buildings, said Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner.“We need vaccine mandates and vaccine verification,” she said. “We’re well past the time for the Biden administration to get on board with this. What we’re doing is not working. Doing more of the same is not the answer here.”The administration has so far recommended that unvaccinated people keep wearing masks indoors, but top officials over the weekend said they are considering recommending that the vaccinated also wear them indoors.“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”Wen, who is also an emergency physician and a professor at George Washington University, said public health experts have worried for months about this very scenario.“We were worried the honor system would not work, the unvaccinated would be behaving as if they’re vaccinated, and people would think the pandemic is over,” she said. “That’s precisely what has happened, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”The U.S. should not have been caught off guard after watching the delta variant ravage India in May and then land in the United Kingdom, Israel and other highly vaccinated nations with force last month, added Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at Yale’s School of Public Health.“We have learned multiple times to not take anything for granted with COVID,” he said.Jha said Americans should brace for another rough few months of COVID, which has already claimed nearly 611,000 lives in the U.S.“I really thought this would be a fabulous summer, but I underestimated the misinformation campaign that was coming,” he said Monday. “What were the chances that after more than half a million Americans dead, that one-third of the country would still not want to end the pandemic?”Vaccinations ticked up over the weekend, with about 657,000 vaccines reported administered Saturday and nearly 780,000 on Sunday, according to CDC data. The 7-day rolling average on Sunday was about 583,000 vaccinations a day, up from about 525,000 a week prior.Public health experts on Monday said the uptick in vaccinations is encouraging but warned that it’s far too early to say if millions of unvaccinated people are finally overcoming their reticence.“I wish I could say yes, but I honestly don’t know,” said Ko. “There is a lot of ground to cover.”The U.S. is around 67% immune from COVID-19 when prior infections are factored, but it will need to get closer to 85% to crush the resurgent virus, Jha said.“So we need a lot more vaccinations. Or a lot more infections,” he said.The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the country shot up over the past two weeks, from more than 19,000 on July 11 to nearly 52,000 on July 25, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.Health experts said they are hopeful that the prominent conservative and Republican voices that have spent months casting doubt on the vaccination effort are finally willing to help move the needle.House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and other Republicans on the GOP Doctors Caucus held a press conference at the Capitol late last week imploring their constituents to lay lingering doubts aside.Fox News host Sean Hannity declared on his popular show: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.”Facebook also needs to do a better job cleaning up misinformation on its social media platform, Jha said.And the Food and Drug Administration needs to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines, which currently have emergency approval. That final step will give more companies greater confidence to impose vaccine mandates, he suggested.”FDA approval matters a lot,” Jha said. “It’s absurd at this point. The safety and efficacy of these drugs has been well-documented.”———Associated Press writers Lindsey Tanner in Three Oaks, Michigan; Alexandra Jaffe and Aamer Madhani in Washington; and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.

High court ruling gives immigrants facing deportation hope

High court ruling gives immigrants facing deportation hope

BOSTON — Just a few short months ago, Lucio Perez moved out of the western Massachusetts church he’d lived in for more than three years to avoid deportation.Immigration authorities in March granted the 40-year-old Guatemalan national a temporary stay in his deportation while he argued to have his immigration case reconsidered.Now, Perez is looking to a recent Supreme Court ruling to help him clear that final hurdle and officially be allowed to remain in the country he’s called home for more than two decades.“At this point, I’m feeling very positive that everything is on the right track,” he said recently from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts. “I don’t have that fear of deportation anymore. I feel safer now.”Perez is among scores of immigrants hoping to get their deportation cancelled because they didn’t receive proper notice of the court proceedings.In April, the Supreme Court ruled in Niz-Chavez vs. Garland that the federal government must provide all required information to immigrants facing deportation in a single notice.The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for years has been notifying immigrations about their deportation cases in roughly two parts: an initial notice to appear in court and follow up notices providing the date, time and location of the proceedings.But Justice Neil Gorsuch, in his majority opinion, criticized the piecemeal approach as exceeding federal law.The issue, he argued, hinged on the shortest of words: a 1996 immigration law calls for the government to issue “a” notice to appear, implying Congress intended those facing deportation to receive a single document.“At one level, today’s dispute may seem semantic, focused on a single word, a small one at that,” said Gorsuch, a conservative judge appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump. “But words are how the law constrains power.”Immigration lawyers and advocates, who have long complained about the deportation notification process, say the ruling has implications for scores of immigration cases.“It’s a bombshell,” said Jeremy McKinney, a North Carolina attorney who is president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association. “It’s the second time in less than three years that the court has had to remind the government that a notice to appear actually has to notify a person when and where to appear.”The high court, he noted, made a similar ruling on deportation notices in Pereira vs. Sessions, but that 2018 decision was somewhat narrower in scope.Immigration activists argue ICE’s current notice process causes too many immigrants to miss their court hearings , as months can pass between the initial and follow-up notices. Some, they say, don’t even find out until years later that they had a deportation hearing and were ordered removed from the country by a judge.It could be months before the true impact of the Niz-Chavez decision is felt, but McKinney and other immigration experts say it’s sure to add more cases to an already overburdened immigration court system.At minimum, the decision gives new life to cases in which immigrants weren’t properly notified, never showed up for their deportation cases and were ultimately ordered to leave the country, he said.It also likely benefits anyone issued a deportation notice without the necessary specifics going forward. Indeed in places like Cleveland, Ohio, and Arlington, Virginia, immigration court judges are already granting requests to terminate deportation proceedings if an immigrant was issued a notice that lacks a place or date and time for the initial hearing, according to immigration lawyers.Matt Benson, a Cincinnati-based attorney, estimated his firm alone has filed more than two dozen such motions, with the vast majority being granted by judges.“The court is being flooded with these motions,” he said. “This is now a major tool to avoid a removal order against a client.”ICE, which had argued in the Supreme Court case that its notification process was sufficient, said Friday it’s been providing the required information on a single notice since January 2019.It also referred to a June memo in which it said ICE lawyers will “exercise their prosecutorial discretion” in deciding whether to challenge immigrants who seek to reopen their immigration cases in light of the Niz-Chavez ruling.In the meantime, Agusto Niz-Chavez, the 30-year-old Guatemalan national at the center of the Supreme Court case, says he’s waiting for his case to be remanded to the immigration court in Detroit.Niz-Chavez says he’s anxious for it to be resolved. His wife was deported to Guatemala last year and he’s been raising their three children in Detroit while trying to balance work at a local pallet factory.“My priority right now is to stay by my kids,” he said by Zoom recently. “If I’m able to obtain lawful permanent residency in the future, I would be interested in trying to find a lawful path for my wife to return to the United States.”In Massachusetts, Perez is hoping for a similar outcome in court.The father of four, who entered the country illegally in 1999 at the age of 17, was served with a notice to appear in immigration court back in 2011, but it didn’t have the date and time of his hearing, according to Glenn Formica, Perez’s lawyer.“This is everything Lucio needs to get a second chance in his case,” he said.For now, Perez is easing back into the life he put on hold for the last three years while he lived in the First Congregational Church in Amherst with support from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the hundreds of volunteer supporters the group helped coordinate.The longtime landscaper hopes to open a store selling Guatemalan clothes and food if he’s granted permanent status.“I felt like a bird in a cage before,” Perez said. “Now, I’m out of the cage and back in my life. I can leave the house, go to the store, go to work. I’m really grateful for that.”

Harvard returning Standing Bear's tomahawk to Nebraska tribe

Harvard returning Standing Bear's tomahawk to Nebraska tribe

A tomahawk once owned by Chief Standing Bear, a pioneering Native American civil rights leader, is returning to his Nebraska tribe after decades in a museum at HarvardBy PHILIP MARCELO Associated PressJuly 6, 2021, 8:21 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBOSTON — A tomahawk once owned by Chief Standing Bear, a pioneering Native American civil rights leader, is returning to his Nebraska tribe after decades in a museum at Harvard.The university’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology says it’s been working with members of the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska and Oklahoma to repatriate the artifact.Larry Wright, Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said Tuesday the return of the historic weapon is a powerful symbol of homecoming for the tribe, which was among many forcibly relocated from their homelands to other territories by the federal government in the 1800s.“That’s a piece of our history that represents who we are and why we’re here in Nebraska, so for it to be back home is very appropriate,” he said. “It tells that history and lets us never forgot what our people went through.”Standing Bear was arrested 1878 for leaving the tribe’s Oklahoma reservation in order to fulfill a promise he made to bury his eldest son back in their tribe’s homeland in Nebraska’s Niobrara River Valley. In his landmark federal trial, he successfully argued for the recognition of Native Americans as persons entitled to rights and protection under law.“That hand is not the color of yours. But if you pierce it, I shall feel pain,” Standing Bear famously said in court. “The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both.”There’s no firm timeline for the tomahawk’s homecoming, but Wright and other Ponca tribe leaders are slated to travel to Harvard in September, according to Jane Pickering, the museum’s director.The tribe delegation will view the tomahawk as well as other items related to Standing Bear, including a beaded necklace, quilled moccasins and a pipe bowl, she said.In the meantime, Wright said the Nebraska tribe is preparing its own museum, which is located near Standing Bear’s grave, to properly display the artifacts.He also credited Brett Chapman, an Oklahoma lawyer and descendant of Standing Bear, for his efforts to raise awareness about the tomahawk and the importance of returning it.“This heritage item belonged to the Ponca people then, it belongs to us now and after this, it will belong to us forever,” Chapman said Monday.The tomahawk has changed hands several times over the decades.Standing Bear, who died in 1908, originally bestowed the tomahawk to John Lee Webster, one of his lawyers in his landmark case, but the heirloom was sold to a private collector when Webster died, according to Chapman.Harvard acquired it in 1982 when it was donated by the estate of William Henry Claflin Jr., a Belmont, Massachusetts, resident who had purchased it from the widow of William Morris, an Omaha attorney, in 1930, according to the museum. It’s unclear how Morris came into possession of the tomahawk.Debate over the tomahawk comes as Harvard has faced criticism over its repatriation efforts.The Association on American Indian Affairs said in February that the university does not always consult with tribes about cultural items that could be returned to them, in violation of federal law.It also comes as Standing Bear is enjoying a revival of sorts.A bronze statue of his likeness clutching his tomahawk was installed at the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in 2019. Similar statues have also been recently raised in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, as well as the Ponca Tribe’s headquarters in Niobrara.

Family, friends mourn 2 victims of potential hate crime

Family, friends mourn 2 victims of potential hate crime

BOSTON — One was a respected state trooper, the other a beloved Air Force vet.Family and friends on Monday mourned David Green and Ramona Cooper, the two bystanders killed Saturday afternoon by a white gunman in a Boston suburb in an attack officials are treating as a hate crime.Authorities, meanwhile, said they’re investigating when and how the gunman — a 28-year-old man whose wedding plans amid the coronavirus pandemic were glowingly profiled in the local paper last summer — became radicalized.Prosecutors say Nathan Allen drew swastikas and wrote messages about whites being superior in the weeks leading up to the shootings. He was killed by police moments after shooting the victims, who were African American.“We are learning more every day, but I am confident saying that there was hate in this man’s heart,” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said.Green and Cooper were each shot multiple times by Allen after he crashed a stolen box truck into a residential building in Winthrop, an overwhelmingly white, coastal community located on a peninsula jutting into Boston Harbor.Green’s longtime friend, Nick Tsiotos, said the two had coffee together just hours before the attack. He said the 68-year-old retired Massachusetts State Police trooper had been sitting outside his home and tried to help after hearing the crash.“He went out and tried to do what he was doing for 36 years with the state police — trying to help save lives,” Tsiotos, who attended high school with Green, told WCVB-TV.Green retired from the state police in 2016 after nearly 40 years in law enforcement and also served in the Air Force.Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said in a statement over the weekend that he was widely respected by his colleagues, “always courteous to the public and meticulous in his duties.”Cooper’s son, Gary Cooper Jr., remembered his 60-year-old mother as “caring and selfless” and always ready to help anyone in need.“We are heartbroken and she will be missed, just a senseless thing to have happened,” he said in a statement to WCVB-TV.Cooper, who is survived by her son, two grandchildren, and her twin sister, most recently worked at a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs facility on Boston’s Jamaica Plan neighborhood.“She was a beloved colleague who will be greatly missed,” Kyle Toto, a VA spokesperson, told The Boston Globe on Monday.According to Rollins, Cooper was shot three times in the back about a half-block away from the crash; Green was shot four times in the head and three times in his torso in an alleyway further down the street.A candlelight vigil will be held Thursday night in front of Town Hall to the victims, but a makeshift memorial of flowers and other remembrances quickly grew on the temporary fencing around the destroyed building over the weekend.Gov. Charlie Baker and other state leaders also offered condolences.“The Green and Cooper families lost loved ones to a despicable act and we lost two cherished public servants who proved their mettle time and time again,” he tweeted Monday.Assistant U.S. House Speaker Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat whose district includes Winthrop, denounced the killings as an act of “hate-fueled violence” in a statement Sunday.Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delehanty said he hoped the town wouldn’t be judged by the actions of “one individual that had a very strange ideology that is not representative of this community.”Rollins stressed investigators believe Allen acted alone and that the threat has been neutralized.She has said officials are investigating whether Allen specifically targeted the victims because they were Black.Officials found a notebook with “troubling white supremacist rhetoric” in the gunman’s handwriting that included antisemitic and racist statements against Blacks. Allen also walked by several other people who were not Black that day and didn’t harm them.Allen, who property records show owned a condominium a few blocks from the crash site, was legally licensed to carry a firearm, had a doctorate, was married, and employed, Rollins said.“To all external sources he likely appeared unassuming,” she said.Indeed, Nathan Allen’s Facebook page mostly contains pictures of him with his wife, Audrey, as well as posts about adopting rabbits, as the couple had a pet rabbit of their own. The two met at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, where they graduated in 2014.Their engagement was profiled by the Globe and they were married at the nursing home where the former Audrey Mazzola’s grandfather lived, with some 200 people tuning in via Zoom.Audrey Allen didn’t respond to a phone call and email seeking comment Monday.Nathan Allen’s final post on Facebook appeared on June 22, when he wished his wife a happy birthday. He posted two pictures of the couple, including one of them kissing on their wedding day.