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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Officer Charged In Rayshard Brooks Shooting

Officer Charged In Rayshard Brooks Shooting

 

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Protests intensified in Atlanta after a police officer shot 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.  The encounter was caught on surveillance camera and by a witness. Police approached Brooks after he had fallen asleep in his car. The police questioned Brooks, patted him down and gave him a breathalyzer test.  Witness videos, surveillance footage, bodycam and dashcam footage show the officers engaged Brooks without incident for 41 minutes before the encounter turned fatal.

Atlanta Police Department officer Devin Brosnan arrived at the Wendy’s restaurant to investigate a report of a man asleep in a car which was blocking the drive-through lane.  Brosnan awakened Brooks and told him to move the car to a parking space and take a nap.  Brooks fell asleep again without moving the car prompting Brosnan to again wake Brooks and instruct him to park the car.  Brosnan checked Brooks’s driver’s license and radioed for assistance from an officer certified to conduct driving under the influence investigations.  Officer Garrett Rolfe arrived at 10:56 and, with Brooks’s permission, performed a pat-down search for weapons, a field sobriety test, and a breathalyzer test.  Brooks appeared impaired and said he had consumed one to one-and-a-half drinks and denied driving or being too drunk to drive. The Breathalyzer registered a blood alcohol level of 0.108%, above the legal limit of 0.08%.  Brooks asked to leave his car in the parking lot overnight and walk to his sister’s house a short distance away.

At 11:23, Rolfe told Brooks: “All right, I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving. Put your hands behind your back for me”; he and Brosnan then moved behind Brooks to handcuff him.  Brooks tried to break free and he and the officers scuffled on the ground. During the struggle Brosnan drew his Taser, but Brooks wrested from him and fired it toward Brosnan before attempting to run away.  Brosnan says the Taser contacted him and he struck his head on the pavement.  Rolfe drew his own Taser and shot Brooks with it.  Brooks fled through the parking lot with Brosnan’s Taser still in hand as Rolfe pursued him and fired again with his own Taser.  While still running, Brooks turned to fire the second shot of Brosnan’s Taser – capable of two shots before being reloaded – over Rolfe’s head.  According to prosecutors, Brooks and Rolfe were 18 feet apart when Rolfe dropped his Taser, drew his handgun and shot Brooks once in the mid-back and once in the buttocks; a third shot struck a nearby vehicle, narrowly missing its three occupants.  According to prosecutors Rolfe then declared, “I got him”.

Within 24 hours of the shooting, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that she did not believe it was justified, leading to Rolfe’s firing, Brosnan being placed on administrative duty and the resignation of the city’s police chief, Erika Shields.  The county medical examiner rule Brooks’ death a homicide and Georgia Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation.  The Fulton County District Attorney said Brooks did not present himself as a threat and appeared almost jovial during the encounter.  He announced 11 charges against Rolfe: felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four police oath violations, and damage to property.  He said Rolfe should have been aware that the Taser Brooks had taken posed no danger, as after being fired twice it could not fire again.  He also said that Rolfe and Brosnan did not provide timely medical aid to Brooks and that before they did, Rolfe kicked him and Brosnan stood on his shoulders.  The district attorney said it was a violation of department policy for Rolfe to begin handcuffing Brooks before telling him he was being arrested.

 

 

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on More Police Reforms Passed As Civil Unrest Continues

More Police Reforms Passed As Civil Unrest Continues

 

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With mass uprising over police brutality showing no signs of abating, more policy changes are taking shape around the country.  San Francisco announced last week that trained, unarmed professionals will respond to noncriminal calls instead of police. Colorado lawmakers passed a bill to introduce sweeping police changes, including banning choke holds and requiring officers to intervene if they see excessive force being used. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he will reallocate $3 million from the police department’s budget toward public health initiatives. The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to replace the police department with a community-led public safety system.  Minneapolis Councilmember Alondra Cano said, “We acknowledge that the current system is not reformable, that we would like to end the current policing system as we know it.”

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont imposed a series of reforms on the Connecticut State Police, including a ban on choke holds, a mandate that officers use body cameras and dashboard cameras, and restrictions on a program that funnels military equipment to local law enforcement.  Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a police reform bill into law, prohibiting the use of a choke hold in an arrest “except when a person cannot be captured any other way or has used or threatened deadly force” and preventing an officer from being hired in Iowa if they have a previous felony conviction, were fired for misconduct, or left before they could be fired for misconduct.  The bill also requires annual anti-bias and deescalation training for law enforcement and allows the Iowa Attorney General to prosecute officers for a criminal offense resulting in the death of a human being.

Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin introduced Senate Bill 945 which would require the addition of “implicit bias, deescalation techniques, and mental health screening” as part of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards certification process for new law enforcement officers.  The bill was drafted before the death of George Floyd in response to the broader problem of police brutality and passed the State Senate unanimously on June 4. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a series of police reforms, including whistle blower protections, independent review of officer-involved shootings, and use of body cameras by police officers.  New Jersey has banned police departments from using choke holds and similar neck and carotid restraints.  According to Attorney General Grewal’s order, “Because these tactics create a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm, officers who cause a subject’s death or injury while performing them face potential criminal liability” except when “deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life”.

Meanwhile, counties and cities across the country, including Cleveland, Denver and Indianapolis, are declaring racism a public health crisis. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant is calling for a section of downtown known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone to remain permanently in community control. Protesters took over several city blocks last week after the Seattle Police Department abandoned its Capitol Hill precinct and stopped trying to violently disperse marches.  The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to ban police use of tear gas and choke holds.

The New York Police Department announced it is dismantling its plainclothes anti-crime unit and the 600 officers in the unit will be reassigned. In 2018, news outlets reported plainclothes anti-crime officers had been involved in 31% of fatal police shootings in New York since 2000. Meanwhile, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has announced plans to create a new civilian department made up of social workers and others to respond to non-emergency 911 calls. In Georgia, the state Legislature reopened with a call to pass a hate crimes bill. Georgia is one of four states with no hate crime laws.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Many Cities Announce Reforms As BLM Protests Continue

Many Cities Announce Reforms As BLM Protests Continue

 

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As historic protests continue to sweep the country two weeks after the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council announced it would move to disband the city’s police department. Nine members of the council — a veto-proof majority — made the vow during a community rally. The vow to disband the police came just days after the Minneapolis City Council voted to ban chokeholds and neck restraints. Congress is slated to introduce reforms that include a chokehold ban, a limit on qualified immunity for officers and a restriction on military weapons. While news reporting may be bias, social media videos of police brutality toward peaceful protestors has sparked many local governments to take action as the protests continue. Although many of these reforms will be subjected to a long debate among local officials, some activists say it is a good start.
In Louisville, KY, the City Council unanimously passed “Breonna’s Law” Thursday night that banned the use of “no-knock” warrants. The legislation was named after Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, who was killed in her home while in bed in March by Louisville police officers while executing a no-knock warrant. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who suspended the use of no-knock warrants last month, said he will sign the bill. “This is one of many critical steps on police reform that we’ve taken to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate and equitable community.” The officers involved in Taylor’s death are under investigation and have been placed on administrative leave.
New York’s state legislature voted to repeal parts of a provision that shielded police disciplinary records from the public. The repeal of 50-A means that police officers across the state must disclose personnel records used to evaluate performance. Criminal justice advocates have been pushing for the repeal for years. The legislation also bans officers from using chokeholds, prohibits false race-based 911 calls and appoints the state attorney general to be an independent prosecutor in any case where an officer shoots an unarmed person. The state Senate approved the bill and the state Assembly approved it with later in the day. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced a sweeping set of reforms that would shift funding from the NYPD to other sectors of the city’s budget. De Blasio said he will work with the city council to hammer out the details over the next three weeks, but told reporters Monday that the amount would be “something substantial.”
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she will sign the emergency legislation passed by the City Council that bans the police from using neck restraints on suspects. The bill also bans the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters. The Council also passed a bill that requires the mayor to release police body camera video from any police-involved death or serious use of force within three days of the incident. The family members of the person involved in the incident will be the first to see the video, according to the bill’s language.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced short- and long-term changes to the city’s police force to address the concerns about police from residents. She said she will review the Seattle Police Department’s budget with a “special focus on listening community voices throughout the process.” Durkan has also called for an independent prosecutor at the state level to investigate and prosecute any police officers as well as updating the department’s procedures for mass protests.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that the state will ban police departments from using chokeholds, carotid artery neck restraints or similar tactics. Grewal said their use has led to several incidents where a suspect suffered asphyxiation. The order provides an exemption “in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life.”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Covid 19 Cases Continue Rising Since Memorial Day

Covid 19 Cases Continue Rising Since Memorial Day

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There are almost 8,000,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with over 420,000 deaths. As many countries open up again, the World Health Organization warned the situation is getting worse globally. Nearly 75% of recent cases came from 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia, said the WHO. The WHO also said that the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic people appears to be rare.
Latin America remains the epicenter of the pandemic now with the highest tolls reported in Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru — which together account for over 1 million confirmed cases. The WHO said Central and South America have likely not reached peak transmission yet. Cuba remains announced they are closing in on the tail end of the pandemic, where infections have been on the decline for two months.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise in U.S. states that were among the first and most aggressive to reopen, leading some local officials to reconsider reopening plans. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced a 7-day statewide pause on further reopening as health officials study the data and try to contain budding outbreaks. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey tried to reassure people that the rise in confirmed cases was expected and that the state’s hospitals have the capacity to handle a further surge.
Recent data shows 21 states have seen an increase in their average daily new Covid 19 cases this week than in the previous week. Alabama, Oregon and South Carolina are among the states with the biggest increases. Alabama saw a 92 percent change in its seven-day average, while Oregon’s seven-day average was up 83.8 percent and South Carolina’s was up 60.3 percent. Hospitalizations have risen as well. For example, Arkansas has seen a 120.7 percent increase in hospitalizations, from 92 cases to 203, since Memorial Day.
Health officials warn that mass gatherings of any type could worsen the spread of the virus, as the 2020 election heats up and nationwide protests against racism and police brutality stretch into their third week across the globe. CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Top Editors Resign Amid Backlash Over Bias Reporting of Protests

Top Editors Resign Amid Backlash Over Bias Reporting of Protests

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The New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet has resigned following outrage from staff and readers over the publication of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton about the protests called “Send in the Troops.” In a statement, The Times said that James Bennet had resigned and that Katie Kingsbury would serve as the acting editorial page editor through the November election. The deputy editorial page editor, Jim Dao, is being reassigned to the newsroom and is stepping off the masthead.

In the opinion piece, Sen. Tom Cotton, advocated for deploying the military for riots. The senator described looting in New York City as “carnivals for the thrill-seeking rich as well as other criminal elements,” and wrote that leftist ntifa movement had infiltrated protest marches despite an earlier Times article that reported Antifa involvement in the protests as misinformation.  The column immediately drew backlash, with dozens of Times journalists voicing their opposition, tweeting the headline, caption and a form of the phrase “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”

Both Sulzberger and Bennet first defended the decision to run the column but the Times reversed itself and said the column had not met editorial standards. The Times reported that Bennet said in a meeting with staff members that he had not read the essay before it was published. And the paper added an editor’s note to the top of the original column.  “We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman. “This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an op-ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of op-eds we publish.”

Meanwhile, Stan Wischnowski,  the top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, has also resigned days after the paper published a piece titled “Buildings Matter, Too.”  The newsroom vet resigned after backlash from staff over that headline on a story that said “there could be a gaping hole in the heart of Philadelphia” amid protests over the killing of George Floyd.

Dozens of journalists signed an open letter to their editors explaining their decision to call out “sick and tired,” CNN reported. “They said they have spent ‘months and years’ trying to gain the public’s trust only to have it “eroded in an instant by careless, unempathetic decisions.”  The paper issued an apology the next day.  But it wasn’t just the article that played a role in Wischnowski’s resignation.  Wischnowski and other editors had scheduled a staffwide Zoom meeting to discuss race at The Inquirer and the pressures in particular faced by journalists of color before the article was published.

The Zoom session started off with Wischnowski telling staffers about the strides made in diversifying its 213-member newsroom but the session turned intense and emotional.  Some journalists could be seen in tears in their Zoom frames. Critics, black and white, denounced the pace of change at the paper, sharply criticizing both coverage and the racial and gender mix of the staff. Several journalists pointed out that the newspaper could muster only one male African American reporter to cover the protests and police response convulsing a city that is majority minority.  Hours after the wrenching Zoom session, about 50 journalists of color signed an open letter calling for faster changes at the paper. The following day, most of the minority staff took the day off from work in protest.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Covid 19 Cases In US Since Reopenings

Covid 19 Cases In US Since Reopenings

 

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There are now over 5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 325,000 known deaths around the world. Over 2 million people around the world have recovered from the virus. Despite the US having less than 5% of the world’s population, there are almost 1.5 million confirmed cases with over 100,000 deaths, representing over one-quarter of all fatalities and almost one-third of the confirmed cases. Over 450,000 people have recovered from Covid 19 but there are now cases in the US of people that have been re-infected, meaning they did not develop antibodies to build immunity with their first infection.
Forty-eight states will be at least partially reopened this week as health experts continue to warn of the danger of a hasty end to lockdowns. Each state has their own guidelines on what businesses have reopened and a timeline on further openings. There are 17 states that have seen an uptick in new cases since reopening. Officials from the World Health Organization say those who ignore measures such as social distancing are at risk of seeing a resurgence of the coronavirus. They also advise people to wear face masks when they are in groups. While coronavirus generally doesn’t spread outdoors as easily as it does indoors, there’s still a risk with any cramped crowd — especially because the virus can spread by just talking.
A cluster of new cases emerged after a swim party in Arkansas. In Atlanta, several recent prep school graduates also tested positive for the coronavirus, including one who had friends over for a graduation party. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed new COVID-19 cases are predominantly coming from people leaving their homes to shop, exercise or socialize. Meanwhile, in California, Orange County’s coronavirus cases continue to mount, with over 4,000 cases reported. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Texas, with 1,800 new infections reported last Saturday — the highest single-day increase in Texas so far. South Dakota has also seen a spike in cases since reopening.
Some states are now seeing drops in the number of confirmed cases. New Jersey, one of few states that had one of the strictest and longest stay at home orders, has seen a decrease in cases. This appears to be relatively bright news for hard-hit New Jersey, second in the country only to New York for the number of total reported cases with over 143,600 confirmed and over 10,000 deaths.
Missouri also saw a drop in cases when they began allowing all businesses to reopen May 4, but then an increase during the second week of reopening. Businesses were allowed to reopen provided they could abide by certain social distancing guidelines. Indoor retail businesses must limit their number of customers to no more than 25% of normal capacity, and local communities can choose stricter rules if they choose. Missouri has over 11,000 cases and over 600 deaths. Idaho, which only has around 2,500 cases, also saw a decrease in reported cases.
As each state opened, many leaders stressed the importance of following the social distancing guidelines but left responsibility up to it’s’ citizens. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. They say that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Covid 19 Vaccine Trials Underway

Covid 19 Vaccine Trials Underway

 

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Physicians caution that amid a desire to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, developers of drugs and vaccines have become overly enthusiastic about the chances their products will work.  Several vaccine developers have issued statements looking into the future — setting possible timetables for study completion and vaccine manufacturing.

Biotech company Moderna said early trials of their coronavirus vaccine show promising results as volunteers developed antibodies against the virus. Eight people took part in the study. The company, which is developing the vaccine with the National Institutes of Health, says it will move on to larger-scale trials and that a vaccine could be made available as soon as January.   Moderna is collaborating on its vaccine development with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, said while Moderna’s numbers were limited, “it was good news” and he was “cautiously optimistic” about the vaccine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently over 100 vaccine efforts underway around the world.  There are 10 vaccines in human clinical trials worldwide. There are four teams in the United States: Moderna, Pfizer, Inovio and Novavax.  Five Chinese companies have vaccines in human trials. University of Oxford is the only team in Europe currently running trials.  Inovio and Moderna have said they expect their large-scale clinical trials, known as Phase 3 trials, to last around six months. Pfizer hasn’t given a timetable for its Phase 3 trial.  Worldwide, there are 114 more candidates in pre-clinical trial stages.

One big stumbling block for any vaccine trial is that Covid-19 infection rates in many areas of the world are flattening out or declining. The point of Phase 3 is to vaccinate people and then see if they naturally become infected, and with lower rates of circulating virus, the study subjects are less likely to be exposed to the virus in the first place.  For a vaccine clinical trial to be successful, there needs to be sufficiently high levels of the virus circulating in the community. If there isn’t enough virus around, it will be impossible to tell if the vaccine protected the study subjects, or if they were just never exposed to the virus.

The global effort to develop a vaccine is just the beginning of this race. It also takes time to ramp up vaccine production and deciding how it will be distributed will be difficult in a world of more than 7 billion people.  New drugs and vaccines traditionally go first to the wealthiest countries and that’s the expectation in this case as well. But the exact order could depend on where the vaccine is first developed and what that countries priorities are in distribution.  Wealthier countries have been hit hardest by the virus so far. But in many of these nations, COVID-19 cases are leveling off or declining, while they are rising rapidly in the developing world, including countries such as India, Brazil and Peru.  Nations and drug companies are likely to face a range of conflicting pressures with the need to provide the vaccine at home and intense scrutiny to share it widely, fairly and cheaply abroad.

 

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on 422 Asymptomatic Covid Cases Confirmed At Missouri Meat Packing Plant

422 Asymptomatic Covid Cases Confirmed At Missouri Meat Packing Plant

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In St. Joseph Missouri, 422 workers at a Triumph Foods pork plant have tested positive for the coronavirus and all of them were asymptomatic, according to state health officials.    After nearly three dozen workers at the plant became infected last month, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services tested all asymptomatic workers at the plant from April 27 to May 1. The testing found that 422 of 2,367 workers tested positive despite showing no symptoms.

Those workers have been advised to self-isolate for 10 days before returning to work, according to federal health guidelines.  The plant remains open, along with a mobile testing site operated by Northwest Health Services.  The company just confirmed that one employee, a man in his 40s with underlying health issues has died of Covid 19.  The company said he was one of the first workers to be tested and had not returned to work since April 21.

“While individuals tested during this initiative did not show COVID-19 symptoms, lab results received thus far indicate that around 17% tested positive for the virus. Of all the positive test results received thus far, over 90% have been collected from asymptomatic people,” explained Mark Campbell, CEO of Triumph Foods.  Employees with positive results were notified and asked to self-isolate.  The state health department began tracing measures and have confirmed that nearly 200 people were infected with Covid 19 by some of the asymptomatic Triumph workers.  Meanwhile, the state continues to work to contact trace the affected employees and now those they have infected as well.

Missouri Governor Parsons issued a state wide stay at home order on April 6th yet the asymptomatic employees still infected almost 200 people in the counties they live in.  Kansas City and Wyandotte County, where the new cases were confirmed, have been under stay at home orders issued by Mayor Lucas since March 24.  Despite those orders being issued first and ending later than the state wide order, they still had a spike in cases due to the outbreak at Triumph Foods.

Outbreaks have become common at other meat plants across the U.S., infecting thousands of workers, leading to the closure of some plants and prompting meat shortages. Several big grocery chains this week were restricting customer purchases of meat, and Wendy’s was unable to serve hamburgers at some locations due to shortages.  Other packing plants are beginning to test all employees like Triumph Foods, which industry leaders say is critical to assure employees that it’s safe to go back to work and to grow data sets to show how the virus works.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.  Because the virus is still circulating through the community, it’s important to maintain social distancing, mask wearing and hand-washing, even after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Dr. Aamina Akhtar, Mercy Hospital South chief medical officer and an infectious disease specialist said “The next two to three weeks will be telling, and will really give us an idea whether human actions will lead to an increased number of cases.  Our actions today will affect the community around us. It’s a big social responsibility and I hope we are ready.”

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