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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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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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4 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 Three Officers Charged In George Floyd’s Death As Protests Continue

Three Officers Charged In George Floyd’s Death As Protests Continue

 

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Protests against police violence continue across the country as many cities have imposed curfews. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have activated their National Guards, with nearly 80 localities implementing curfews in response to the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.  Protests largely remain peaceful during the day but by night, protests turn to riots.  At least 9,300 people have been arrested across the US during protests.

Protesters across the US and globe keep gathering to march, some shouting slogans including “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd told the Minneapolis police officer who had a knee on his neck in a bystander’s video of the incident.  Others have gathered to lie face down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck.  In many cities, just before the 8 p.m. curfew begins, police begin shooting tear gas, flashbang grenades and rubber bullets at demonstrators in an attempt to disperse crowds.

In Houston, Texas, 16 members of George Floyd’s family joined a crowd of 60,000 protesters who marched to City Hall to remember Floyd, who spent most of his life in Houston before moving to Minnesota in 2014 for a fresh start.  His family urged protestors to continue to fight for police reform and equality by protesting but said rioting is not the way to fix this.  Chauvin and Floyd both worked security at the same night club with together with Chauvin working outside security and Floyd working inside the bar.  Former coworkers of the two said they bumped heads over Chauvin’s aggressiveness with patrons of the club.  Floyd’s family believe George’s death was, in part, personal.

Two separate autopsies confirmed Floyd’s death was a homicide.  George Floyd’s memorial service was planned for Thursday in Minneapolis, and his funeral was scheduled for next Tuesday in Houston.  Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed charges against all four Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd.  A charge of second-degree murder was added against Officer Derek Chauvin, who was already facing a third-degree murder charge.  The other three officers present were charged with aiding and abetting the murder. Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were arrested with bail set at $750,000 each.  Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz said the state’s Department of Human Rights has opened a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.

Many wonder how we got here or believe the arrest of all four officers involved should quell the protests but George Floyd is not the only person protestors seek justice for.  Protestors say Floyd was just the last straw in a growing list of black people that have been killed with no charges for the officers involve or charges being filed months after, only after protests start.  News media coverage of the protests has been largely bias and focused on reports of looting have marred the message peaceful protestors want to make.  Social media sites like tik tok or youtube can give the world a more factual account of what goes on during these protests in every city by those that are actually there and countless videos show protestors stopping the looters, chasing them off or handing them over to police.

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2 months 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 UFCW Criticizes Reopening Meat Packing Plants Without Mandatory Safety Guidelines

UFCW Criticizes Reopening Meat Packing Plants Without Mandatory Safety Guidelines

 

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The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the country’s largest meatpacking workers’ union, is condemning the reopening of 14 meatpacking plants under a recent executive order by the US Administration.  The union is calling for CDC coronavirus safety guidelines to be made mandatory, as at least 30 meatpacking workers have died of COVID-19 and over 10,000 have been exposed to or infected by the coronavirus. The industry work practices under normal circumstances tend to put workers in close proximity to each other, working at high speed as they cut up animal carcasses.

The pandemic caused at least 30 meatpacking plants to temporarily close over the past two months, resulting in a 40% drop in pork production capacity and a 25% drop in beef production capacity, the union said.  The U.S. Agriculture Department said 14 plants that had closed due to outbreaks of the virus were in the process of reopening this week.  The 14 plants included a Smithfield Foods Inc pork facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that started operating on May 7 and another in Waterloo, Iowa, that Tyson Foods said earlier in the week would resume limited operations.  The agriculture department also said meat facilities operated by JBS USA [JBS.UL] in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and six other Tyson plants were reopening.

UFCW has previously said more protective equipment and testing would be required to open the plants.  But as plants reopened without these measures in place, UFCW International President Marc Perrone criticized the decision.  “Today’s rush by the Trump Administration to re-open 14 meatpacking plants without the urgent safety improvements needed is a reckless move that will put American lives at risk and further endanger the long-term security of our nation’s food supply.  Since the executive order was announced, the Administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants.”

Health guidelines issued by CDC and OSHA to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in slaughterhouses includes face coverings, health training in multiple languages, and more distancing between workers. Processing lines in meat plants typically run at high speeds, with employees eviscerating animals inches apart from each other. Slowing lines down and spreading workers out will undoubtedly increase the cost of producing meat, but Perry says it’s a small price to pay to protect their lives.  CDC is also asking meat plants to do away with the contentious practice of offering “attendance bonuses,” in which companies offer hundreds of dollars of incentives to workers on the condition that they don’t miss their shifts.

The common criticism of OSHA and CDC’s Covid-19 guidance to meatpackers is that it’s entirely optional. This has resulted in an inconsistent patchwork of protections by plant and by state which leaves workers at risk for other outbreak.  Unions are asking for standardized workplace protections against airborne diseases like Covid-19.  Such requirements wouldn’t be without precedent.  In 2010, following the H1N1 pandemic, OSHA began to draft mandatory guidelines to reduce the spread of viruses that spread through air and respiratory droplets.  That rulemaking was finalized in 2017 but was halted during the change in US Administration.

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Some States Reopen As Researchers Confirm Covid Was Circulating the US Earlier Than Believed

Some States Reopen As Researchers Confirm Covid Was Circulating the US Earlier Than Believed

 

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As many states slowly reopen, a pair of studies predict the COVID-19 outbreak is set to become far deadlier in the United States. A draft Federal Emergency Management Agency report forecasts that daily coronavirus deaths in the United States would rise to 3,000 people a day by June 1 — that’s a 70% increase over the current figure. Separately, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates the U.S. death toll will reach around 135,000 by August in the United States.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has topped 75,000 and is projected to keep rising in the coming weeks. The official coronavirus death toll worldwide has topped a quarter of a million, with over 3.6 million confirmed cases.  The United States makes up close to one-third of confirmed cases and a quarter of known deaths, even though it represents less than 5% of the world’s population.

Over half of U.S. states have relaxed, or are preparing to loosen, social distancing and other restrictions but it has not been a smooth transition.  In Georgia, more than 120 Atlanta restaurants have refused to open, saying it is not safe to do so despite Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s lifting of the state’s shelter-in-place order.  In Miami Beach, the governor had to close a popular park — just five days after reopening it — after thousands failed to adhere to new rules requiring social distancing and wearing a face mask.

Meanwhile, we continue to learn more about the virus globally as scientists and doctors try to create a vaccine.  A French hospital says they treated a COVID-19 patient as early as December — a month before the government confirmed its first cases.  A preliminary new study finds the novel coronavirus that first emerged in China mutated in Europe in February to become more contagious, speeding its spread around the globe. The authors of the study said they released their findings early so that people working on vaccines could see their results.

US Researchers say the novel coronavirus silently spread in the United States earlier than previously thought as well, infecting tens of thousands of people in New York and other major cities before the first US case was confirmed on January 21.  A new model by the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University in Boston shows the first infections came from China in early or mid-January, and that the virus went undetected because many people were not presenting symptoms or were misdiagnosed because US doctors had not seen the virus first hand yet.

The model suggests that while Americans were still focused on China, about 28,000 people in major cities — such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle — were infected by March 1.  Santa Clara County officials announced that tissue samples confirmed two people who died in early February tested positive for coronavirus. That month, a number of physicians saw patients, without travel histories, who had flu-like symptoms.

Several states, including California and Indiana, have been retracing their coronavirus timelines after discovering that the highly infectious disease started killing people earlier than previously known.  These discoveries have emphasized just how much about this pandemic remains unknown. Four months since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, experts worldwide still do not fully understand how the virus started, how it impacts the body or what treatments are effective.

 

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Canada Bans Assault Rifles After Nova Scotia Shooting Spree

Canada Bans Assault Rifles After Nova Scotia Shooting Spree

 

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Canada is banning military-style assault firearms, including the AR-15, two weeks after a gunman in Nova Scotia killed 22 people during a 12-hour rampage — the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. A domestic assault late Saturday night is suspected to be the catalyst of the Nova Scotia shooting rampage that left 22 people dead. The rampage began in the quiet town of Portapique on Cobequid Bay began after the gunman assaulted his longtime girlfriend. Police said Gabriel Wortman, 51, led police on a miles-long manhunt across the Canadian province. He died after a confrontation with police. He was wearing a RCMP uniform and drove what appeared to be a police cruiser.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the ban he said “We are closing the market for military-grade assault weapons in Canada. We are banning 1,500 models and variants of these firearms by way of regulations. These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. Families of the victims deserve more than thoughts and prayers.” Family and friends of the victims have said that an emergency alert by police could have prevented some deaths. Police on Wednesday admitted that they failed to issue a timely alert to the public. Police learned about the gunman’s attire and vehicle from his girlfriend after 7 a.m. but the formal process for issuing an alert still took several hours to make its way up the chain of command. Nearly three hours after they learned the identity of the suspect, an alert had still not been issued. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the failure to issue an alert would be part of a larger investigation.
Police believe a domestic assault triggered the shooting spree. The couple returned home after arguing at a nearby party shortly before 10pm, where Wortman attacked his girlfriend and she fled into the woods to hide. Wortman then set his house on fire and returned to the party where he opened fire, killing seven people. The first 911 calls reporting gunshots were made at 10:01pm. When officers arrived on the scene at 10:26pm, they discovered thirteen victims who had been shot and killed both inside and outside of eight homes on Orchard Beach Drive and Portapique Beach Road, three of which were burning. Police said many had died while trying to escape the flames or in helping other victims. Wortman also shot and injured two dogs.
Police initially believed the killings were confined to the area and ordered a lock down. But the rampage, which spanned 16 locations, continued, with the gunman killing nine other people over several hours, police said. Wortman’s injured girlfriend emerged from the woods several hours after the first shooting deaths, just after 7am Sunday. She is still recovering from serious injuries but provided police key information about the gunman including a description of him, that he was impersonating an officer and a possible list of targets.
During his rampage, Wortman arrived at a home of acquaintances and killed the two occupants, as well as a neighbor who came to help. After setting the house on fire, police say he pulled over two vehicles and killed the occupants. He also shot and killed a woman walking along the road. Sometime before 10:49am, Wortman pulled alongside RCMP Constable Chad Morrison’s cruiser on Route 2 in Shubenacadie. Morrison had planned to meet fellow officer Heidi Stevenson at that location. Wortman shot into the car, injuring Morrison, who drove to a nearby hospital after reporting Wortman’s location.
As Wortman fled the scene, he collided head-on with Stevenson. Stevenson engaged Wortman, who shot and killed her, before taking her sidearm and ammunition. He also set both cars on fire and killed a nearby motorist who stopped to help. He then stopped at the home of a woman he knew and killed her before stopping for gas. Wortman was recognized by a RCMP officer at the gas station and was fatally shot.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Protests Erupt Again As Michigan Governor Extends Orders to May 28

Protests Erupt Again As Michigan Governor Extends Orders to May 28

 

 

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended a state of emergency declaration until May 28, over the objections of some state lawmakers.  Whitmer signed a series of executive orders hours before the state of emergency was set to expire on April 30 and extended it to May 28, citing the growing number of cases and deaths in the state from the disease. The governor said that in some counties in western and northern Michigan, cases are doubling every six days or faster.

When the order was extended, the state had 41,379 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,789 deaths, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Wayne County, Michigan, is the fourth-highest county of deaths in the nation with 1,782 coronavirus-related fatalities, according to the data.

Whitmer has faced fierce backlash for her strict stay-at-home mandate.  She extended the order earlier this month until May 15 but eased some restrictions on public activities as the state’s coronavirus cases stabilize.  Whitmer said that while she understands that people are anxious to get back to work and are restless, Thursday’s protests were “disturbing. … Swastikas and the confederate flag, nooses and automatic rifles do not represent who we are as Michiganders.  There is nothing that I want more than to just flip the switch and return to normal, but that’s not how it’s going to work, unfortunately. The only way we can get through this and take the next steps forward is if we all continue to do our part.”

Hundreds of people protested outside the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing-defying social distancing rules, many of them armed with assault rifles and wearing tactical gear.  The crowd packed into the Capitol rotunda and tried to storm onto the floor of the legislative chamber.  Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms, while some chanted “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out.” Others tried to get onto the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms.

The House and Senate had voted to approve legislation that would allow them to sue Whitmer over her emergency declarations as armed protesters stormed the state capitol.  They also voted on another bill that would extend some of her emergency measures, but crucially not the stay-at-home order. Their bill would also allow restaurants, bars and gyms to reopen. Whitmer vowed to veto the bill.  Amid the chaos Democrat Senator Sylvia Santana was pictured wearing a bulletproof vest and surgical mask while at her desk, as a colleague tweeted an image of rifle-wielding men on a balcony above her.

The governor is claiming authority to rule by executive order under two pieces of legislation – the 1976 Emergency Management Act and a similar 1945 law that allows a governor to declare a state of emergency and assume emergency powers.  Arguments center around the fact that the 1976 law says governors must go to the Legislature if they want to extend the state of emergency past 28 days. The 1945 act says governors decide when the emergency is over.

Whitmer’s extended order bans gyms, theaters, bars and casinos from opening, and limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders only.  Restaurants can allow up to five people inside at a time to pick up orders, but only if they follow social distancing guidelines by staying six feet apart.  The restrictions do not apply to office buildings, grocery stores, markets, food pantries, pharmacies, drug stores, medical equipment/supplies providers, health care facilities, residential care facilities, juvenile justice facilities, warehouse and distribution centers, or industrial and manufacturing sites.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on House Approves Another $484 Billion for Coronavirus Relief Fund

House Approves Another $484 Billion for Coronavirus Relief Fund

 

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The US Senate overwhelmingly approved $484 billion in new coronavirus aid with most of the money replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program, set up to provide forgivable loans to small businesses.  The bill adds another $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, another $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants.

The bill provides no new stimulus checks for U.S. households, no additional money for food stamps, no limits on fossil fuel bailouts, no funds for election security, no bailout for the U.S. Postal Service and no additional funds for hard-hit state and local governments.  Lawmakers were criticized for refusing to take up new assistance to hard-hit U.S. residents — like cash payments and food aid — in the latest relief bill.   They were also criticized for not regulating the disbursement of the initial funds which allowed big businesses like corporate chain restaurants getting tens of millions of dollars in loans meant for small businesses.

They contend lawmakers are failing to provide for millions of unemployed people who are unable to pay rent and increasingly at risk of going hungry.  Progressive lawmakers are demanding $2,000 monthly payments to all U.S. households and open enrollment in Medicare for uninsured and unemployed people, when lawmakers take up another round of funding, the so-called phase four coronavirus bill.

Senators are in talks for a phase four bill with priorities for that legislation including federal assistance for people having trouble paying rent, according to a Democratic source. Schumer also cited the need for funds for election reform, hazard pay for essential workers, including doctors, nurses and grocery store clerks, and funding for the U.S. Postal Service.  Many are skeptical since the virus bailouts have already cost over $2 trillion, pushing our annual deficit this year to close to $4 trillion.

The pandemic continues to batter the U.S. economy as the Labor Department reported another 4.4 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits over the last week, raising new jobless claims over the past five weeks to more than 26 million — a scale that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression.  As of March 13, there were already 7.1 million unemployed Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When the figures are combined, it would equal more than 33 million unemployed, or a unemployment rate of 20.6%—which would be the highest level since 1934.

 

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