Covid 19 Prediction Warns It Hasn’t Gone Away

 

 

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With more than 2.06 million cases, America has the world’s largest COVID-19 confirmed cases to date. It’s also first when it comes to the total number of deaths, with more than 117,000 people having died of COVID-19 complications. Nearly 7.5 million people have had confirmed infections worldwide and over 420,000 people died.  As US states are opening up their economies, Harvard Global Health Institute director Dr. Ashish Jha predicts that the US will cross 200,000 deaths sometime in September.  Jha explained his estimates only take into account the next few months, but COVID-19 will obviously not disappear after that.

“The pandemic won’t be over in September so I’m really worried about where we’re going to be in the weeks and months ahead.  We’re really the only major country in the world that opened back up without really getting our cases as down low as we really needed to,” Jha noted, adding that the US is the only advanced country in the world not to have a proper contact tracing system setup. People should continue to maintain social distancing and wear masks, Jha advised. They should also “put pressure” on the government to advance testing and contact tracing programs.

“But even if we assume that it’s going to be flat all summer, that nothing is going to get worse, we’re going to stay flat all summer — even if we pick that low number, 800 a day — that’s 25,000 a month,” Jha pointed out. “In three and a half months, we’re going to add another 87- 88,000 people, and we will hit 200,000 sometime in September.”  Jha said anyone who still thinks the summer will bring a dramatic decrease in cases is “engaging in wishful thinking.” Coronavirus cases and associated hospitalizations may be falling in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, he said, but cases are surging in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas. The Harvard professor of public health said he is not trying to scare people into staying home by raising concerns about the number of deaths he’s predicting.

In Brazil, the coronavirus death toll has topped 43,000 with the total number of confirmed cases at over 850,000. It now has the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the world behind the United States.  According to the health ministry, the COVID-19 mortality rate in Brazil is five% and nearly 388,500 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Brazil.

China reported its highest number of daily infections in months, raising concern over a second wave of the outbreak. In Beijing, authorities have reimposed lockdown measures after a new cluster of cases emerged last week.  The cluster, the capital’s first locally transmitted cases in nearly two months, raised mainland China’s total number to 83,132. Almost 4,700 people have died in China, where the pandemic originated in December.

The World Health Organization says the pandemic is accelerating in Africa, with the most affected countries being South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt and Sudan.  In Yemen, medical authorities warn deaths linked to the pandemic could exceed war-related fatalities in the port city of Aden.  The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Learn how COVID-19 spreads and practice these actions to help prevent the spread of this illness.

Covid 19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so the recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the world’s economy reopens are:  Keep 6 feet of social distance between yourself and others; wear a mask or cloth covering when around others-especially when in situations where you can’t maintain the 6 feet of social distancing; clean your hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; avoid close contact with people who are sick; disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly and stay home if you are feeling any symptoms.

Covid 19 Cases Continue To Rise After Reopening

 

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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.

Stay At Home Orders Ending Across the US

 

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Many Governors across the US are ending stay at home order- many of which have been in place for over a month.  Reopening states to business is a difficult and controversial topic. Should states reopen too early, coronavirus cases may spike again, undoing the good social distancing did for weeks. Should they continue to stay closed, small businesses across the state may never recover and fiscal crises could severely damage many states.

Here are the states with orders set to expire:

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed nonessential businesses to reopen for regular business hours, with varying restrictions by sector, on April 24. Many travel and fishing restrictions have also been lifted.  Alabama Gov. Brian Kemp said businesses like gyms, hair salons and barber shops could open on April 24 with theaters and restaurants reopening on April 27.  Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson never put an official stay-at-home order in place and has announced he hopes to ease some closures on May 4 with an announcement on when restaurants can accept dine-in customers on April 29.

Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired on April 27, moving to a new phase which allows retail businesses to do curbside pickup, other businesses can reopen with medical precautions and elective surgeries may resume. Businesses such as salons, dog groomers, personal trainers and elective medical services will be allowed to open May 1. On May 4, offices may reopen with 50% capacity.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced his plan to reopen the state beginning on May 1 and proceeding with four steps through June 13.  The first phase would allow most retail establishments and places of worship to reopen, subject to strict social distancing guidelines.  Indiana Gov. Mike Holcomb said elective surgeries may resume April 27 and he planned to lessen restrictions in early May.

Iowa has not had a stay-at-home order since April 20 and Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted the ban on nonessential surgeries beginning April 27.  Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she is moving forward with the goal of reopening the state on May 3 if crucial guidelines are in place.  Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has projected May 4 as a reopening date.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is not extending the state’s stay-at-home order, set to expire on May 4. On that day, all businesses may reopen following social distancing guidelines.  The mayors of Kansas City and St Louis have stay at home orders with end dates of May 15, which will supersede the state wide order and remain in effect for several counties.  Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the state’s stay-at-home order will be expire on May 3rd and certain nonessential businesses can begin to reopen beginning April 27.

Ohio’s stay-at-home order will expire May 1.   Health procedures that do not require an overnight stay in the hospital may resume as well as dental and veterinary services. On May 4, manufacturing, distribution, construction and office work can resume with increased distancing and other health measures. On May 12, retail and other services may resume. Besides that, the stay-at-home order remains in place and gatherings are still limited to fewer than 10 people.

Oklahoma will lift restrictions on barber shops, nail salons, spas, elective surgeries and state parks on April 24. Movie theaters, gyms and restaurants will be allowed to reopen May 1.  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a phased reopening set to begin on May 8.  Tennessee’s stay-at-home order would expire on April 30.

On May 1, Texas will allow retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls and museums and libraries to operate at 25% capacity. However in rural counties with few cases, businesses can operate at 50% capacity. The target date for Phase 2 is May 18.  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a plan to reopen businesses no earlier than May 4 on contingencies of a slowing of the spread of the virus.

Delaware, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, South Carolina, Virginia and Vermont have orders set to expire on May 15.  New York will also reopen portions of the state on May 15.  Connecticut’s stay at home expires on May 20.  Wisconsin’s order will expire on May 26. Hawaii’s order will expire on May 30.  California, New Jersey, Utah and West Virginia have no end dates to their orders.

 

France Extends Stay At Home Order to May 11

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France extended its coronavirus lockdown another four weeks until May 11. President Emmanuel Macron announced the extension in a televised address.  France has reported over 140,000 cases and over 17,000 coronavirus deaths.  From May 11 onward, he said, quarantine will be “gradually” lifted, starting with nurseries, K-12 schools, and some shops.

Macron’s address was his third since March 17, when the government ordered 67 million French people to stay home, allowing them out just once a day to exercise, buy food or medicine, or seek medical care.  In the sobering televised address, Macron was apologetic, admitting he thought they were ready for the crisis but they clearly were not.  He acknowledged state failures in rolling out testing and supporting healthcare workers, and admitted that he didn’t have all the answers.  Macron said they have faced up to that and have had to make very difficult decisions that required them to adapt constantly as fragmentary information continued to change.  “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

France has seen progress with slowing the spread but Macron urged that that is no reason to lift the order.  “I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation, adding that the current rules were working.  “When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said.

“Over the next four weeks, the rules must be respected,” he explained.  Macron said the four-week extension will give France the ability to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms, which will allow for better containment of the virus.  He said that by May 11, France would be able to test every citizen presenting COVID-19 symptoms which is why the orders have to be extended.

He offered a rough timeline for how the country may reopen, starting with schools and shops in May and ending with restaurants, hotels, cafés and cinemas in July.  International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice.  “We’ll end up winning,” Macron said. “But we’ll need to live with the virus for a few months.”

After a steady increase in cases until the first week of April, the number of patients in French hospitals’ intensive care units has started to decline, prompting health authorities to call a plateau in the epidemic.  French hospitals are just about coping, while nursing homes are still overwhelmed.  Some of that pressure has been eased by a massive effort to transfer patients by plane, helicopter or even high-speed train from hospitals in the east and Paris to the west.

 

 

New York Covid 19 Hospitalizations Declining

 

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While the US has become the global epicenter for the Covid-19 pandemic, New York State is the US’s epicenter, far leading in confirmed cases and deaths.  Over 200,000 of the confirmed cases in the US are in New York and over 10,000 people in the state have died.  Almost 110,000 of those cases are concentrated in New York City.  About 25% of New York State’s COVID19 deaths are residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities. There are about 96,000 residents at 613 licensed nursing homes in New York State. More than 5,500 residents at 338 nursing homes have tested positive for the coronavirus.

For the first time since the coronavirus crisis struck New York, there were fewer admissions to the intensive care unit on Thursday, April 9th than the day before. It’s one of a number of encouraging signs that the worst may have passed.  The governor said that he is “cautiously optimistic” that we are slowing the infection rate. He cited a dramatic decline in hospitalizations and even a negative statistic for the first time in the ICU.

Governor Cuomo said that social distancing policies and compliance by the public greatly flattened the curve after the death toll stabilized but he warned the situation is still dire and New Yorkers would need to maintain strict measures to continue the trend.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a very high level, and there’s tremendous stress on the healthcare system. And to say to this healthcare system — which is at maximum capacity today, right? This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor and the engine is at red line and you can’t go any faster. And by the way, you can’t stay at red line for any period of time, because the system will blow.”

Cuomo said schools and nonessential businesses will now remain closed and he announced fines for violating social distancing rules would increase from a maximum of $500 to $1,000. As of today, New York State has nearly 5,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19, with over 131,000 confirmed cases and over 16,000 hospitalizations.  While the total number of statewide cases of Covid 19 hospitalizations is plateauing, confirmed cases are rising in some areas as they fall in others.

Cuomo announced that the state would issue a number of additional guidelines, including requiring that cloth masks be provided, cost-free to essential workers, by businesses, and the expansion of who is eligible to receive an antibody test.  Cuomo again said testing would be the key to restarting the economy.  It’s been almost a month since stores around the state have been shut, its employees home and out of work, and trying to apply for unemployment benefits. This week 347,000 New Yorkers filed for unemployment, bringing the number of jobless claims since March 14 to over 800,000.

When asked when he thought things would return to normal for the hard hit state, Cuomo said “As far as when things could go back to normal, well, when will we return to normal? I don’t think we return to normal. I don’t think we return to yesterday, where we were. I think if we are smart, we achieve a new normal.”

Internet Provider Covid-19 Responses

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As homebound Americans are online for work and to keep in touch with friends and family, some internet providers have lifted data caps without significant interruptions to service from the increased bandwidth. The crisis has renewed calls for the FCC to regulate the internet as a utility and for a reversal of a repeal of net neutrality protections.  Many are also adhering to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge (PDF), which asks the signees not to terminate a customer’s service for non-payment. Below are the providers and what they have pledged.

AT&T – All AT&T home Internet Wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, can use unlimited data. AT&T will continue to offer $10/mo Access from AT&T service for qualifying customers. They will also not terminate the service of any customer who can’t pay their bill, and will waive the fees associated with late payments within the next 60 days.  All their public Wi-Fi hotspots will be open to everyone. 

CenturyLink- CenturyLink said it has committed to waive late fees and to not terminate a residential or small business customer’s service due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19 for the next 60 days. They are also suspending data usage limits for customers during this time period and hav committed to the FCC’s Keeping Americans Connected Pledge.

Comcast- Comcast has paused enforcement of its data caps for 60 days, giving all of its customers unlimited data for that period. (Comcast normally gives its Xfinity customers two “grace” months for every 12, allowing them to exceed their data cap without penalty.) New subscribers to Comcast’s $9.95/month Internet Essentials plan will receive two months free, and speeds were increased to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.  Comcast is also making its Xfinity WiFi service free for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a Comcast subscriber or not. 

Cox- Cox is eliminating data usage overages for the next 60 days. Customers with a 500GB or existing Unlimited plan will receive credits. They also will not terminate service for any residential or small business customers, and would open its Cox WiFi hotspot network to keep the public connected. 

Cox is offering free support calls and the first month free to its low-cost Internet service, Connect2Compete. Customers on its Essential plan will see their speeds increased from 30Mbps to 50Mbps.

Charter (Spectrum)-Charter Communications’ Spectrum services does not have data caps. They will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days if that household has K-12 students or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. Charter said it will open its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.

Mediacom Communications- Mediacom has paused monthly data allowances through May 15 across all broadband service tiers.  New customers who sign up for Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service can do so for $19.99/mo for 12 months, rather than $29.99/mo. It has also made its Wi-Fi hotspot network publicly accessible, for free, for 60 days. They also will not disconnect service or assess late fees for the next 60 days to any customer who calls and informs the company that they cannot pay their bill.

Sprint- Sprint has extended its network to include T-Mobile’s network as well for the next 60 days. Sprint has also signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will waive fees and not terminate services if customers are unable to pay because of the coronavirus for the next 60 days. Customers with metered data plans will now receive unlimited data for 60 days. They will also receive an additional 20GB of hotspot data for the same period. 

Starry- Wireless broadband ISP Starry has made Starry Connect, a broadband program for public and affordable housing owners, free through May. Normally, the program, which provides 30Mbps symmetrical speeds, is $15/mo. Starry has also agreed to suspend cancellation of service due to nonpayment due to the coronavirus. It already does not charge additional fees or late fees. Starry’s service does not include data caps, either.

Verizon- Verizon will waive late fees and keep residential and small business customers connected if negatively impacted by the global crisis.  It is also upgrading the data plan on its Verizon Innovative Learning program for Title 1 middle schools from 10GB/month to 30GB/month for the next two months and removed data caps on Verizon home Internet subscribers.  They will also waive overage charges in addition to pledging to not terminate service and waive late fees. 

 

 

 

 

 

Clemency Granted To Troops Involved In 3 Controversial War Crimes Cases

 

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The administration has granted clemency to three controversial military figures embroiled in charges of war crimes, arguing the moves will give troops “the confidence to fight” without worrying about potential legal overreach.  Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted of 2nd degree murder in the death of two Afghans, was given a full pardon.  Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who faced murder charges for a similar crime, was also given a full pardon for those alleged offenses.  Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, who earlier this year was acquitted of a string of alleged war crimes, had his rank restored to Chief Petty Officer.

Critics have warned the pardons could send the message that troops need not worry about following rules of engagement when fighting enemies abroad.  Lorance’s case dates back to a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan, when he ordered his soldiers to fire on three unarmed men riding a motorcycle near their patrol.  Members of his platoon testified against him at a court-martial trial, describing him as over-zealous and the Afghans as posing no real threat.  He was sentenced to 19 years in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Golsteyn’s case had not yet been decided, with a scheduled trial date in December on charges he murdered an alleged Taliban bomb maker, and burned his remains in a trash pit during a 2010 deployment with 3rd Special Forces Group.  Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret major, had pled not guilty to murder and related charges.  His pardon effectively puts an end to that legal case before any verdicts were rendered.

While Gallagher was acquitted of murder and obstruction of justice charges in July, a panel of his peers recommended he be reduced in grade for posing with the body of the teenaged detainee, a crime he never denied.  His rank was restored with the pardon but the Navy plans to remove Chief Gallagher from the elite SEAL team despite the pardon.  It’s been reported that several top military officials threatened to resign if Navy officials did not move forward with these plans despite the pardon.

Chief Gallagher was accused of multiple offenses during his final deployment to Iraq and during the Battle for Mosul. The most prominent and disturbing accusation was the murder of a prisoner of war, a war crime.  A captured young ISIS fighter was being treated by a medic.  According to two SEAL witnesses, Gallagher said over the radio “he’s mine” and walked up to the medic and prisoner.  Without saying a word to the medic or prisoner, Gallagher killed the prisoner by stabbing him repeatedly with his hunting knife.  Gallagher and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jake Portier, then posed for photographs of them standing over the body with some other nearby SEALs.  Gallagher then text messaged a fellow SEAL a picture of the dead captive with the explanation “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”

Gallagher was also accused of being indiscriminate, reckless and bloodthirsty during his 2017 deployment.  Fellow snipers did not consider him to be a good sniper because he would allegedly take random shots into buildings and indiscriminately spray neighborhoods with rockets and machine gun fire with no known enemy force in the region.  Several snipers testified that they witnessed Gallagher taking at least two militarily pointless shots, shooting and killing an unarmed old man in a white robe as well as a young girl walking with other girls.  Gallagher was allegedly known for boasting about the large number of people he had killed, claiming he averaged three kills a day over 80 days, including four women.

GM and UAW Reach Tentative Deal

 

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As the GM strike entered its fifth week, the United Auto Workers union announced that picketing workers can expect an extra $25 a week from the union’s strike fund.  GM, on the other hand, can expect its dealers to face increased difficulty in sourcing certain replacement parts, while others worry about the prospect of subpar inventory.  The UAW’s bargaining team presented a new comprehensive offer to GM as talks continued.  In addition to the slightly boosted strike pay, the UAW also lifted the cap on cash earned at outside jobs. Starting Sunday, workers moonlighting at other jobs can keep the full strike payment, regardless of what they made in their alternate gig. Strike payments are typically clawed back on a dollar-for-dollar basis after the worker passes the $250 threshold.

In addition to a host of other issues, health care sits near the top of UAW concerns in this latest round of talks. With GM looking to downsize in an era of shrinking auto sales and economic uncertainty, offering generous health benefits represents a major cost to each company.  An agreement was reached between GM and the UAW that keeps the previous health care arrangement intact.  The agreement keeps the arrangement where workers cover just 3 percent of their health care costs — an agreement GM briefly abandoned earlier in the bargaining process.  The automakers would undoubtedly seek concessions in other areas but unions are not prone to accept concessions lightly.

In the tentative deal with General Motors, the union won on many of its goals, including a path to permanent employment for temporary autoworkers, a faster route to top pay for workers hired after 2007 and a flattened pay structure for permanent employees, who would reach $32.32 per hour by the end of the four-year deal.  The biggest obvious loss for the union is the continued closure of the Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio.

The Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio is to remain closed, as will transmission plants in Warren and Baltimore; and a parts distribution center in Fontana, California, will close during the term of the contract.  The union said it negotiated assistance packages for workers at Lordstown, Warren and Baltimore transmission plants, including $75,000 payments for eligible production workers and $85,000 for skilled workers who retire.  There are also buyout options for those not eligible to retire.

Some other features of the deal include UAW-represented GM workers will get a bonus of $11,000 upon ratification of the deal and temporary workers will get $4,500.  GM will invest $7.7 billion in U.S. facilities to create or retain 9,000 jobs.  There will be wage increases of 3% in the second and fourth year of the contract, with 4% lump sum payments in the first and third years.  Temporary workers, who have been paid $15-$19 an hour with inferior benefits to permanent autoworkers, get a path to a permanent role starting next year. Part-time workers get a path to regular status starting in 2021. These workers also get improved paid and unpaid time off.  By September 2023, all permanent manufacturing employees will be at $32.32 per hour.

The tentative deal is far from perfect and the UAW is trying to persuade union workers to accept the deal.  Experts said General Motors has lost more than $1 billion in profits, while line workers have lost nearly $750 million in income. With the state of Michigan are losing tax dollars, there’s a growing sentiment that something has to change soon and many hope this deal will finally end the strike.

Minnesota Officer Sentenced In 2017 Shooting

 

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A Minneapolis judge sentenced Mohamed Noor, the former police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017, to 12.5 years in prison. In April, Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Noor’s lawyers had argued for a light sentence but Judge Kathryn Quaintance sentenced the 33-year-old Noor to the identical sentence recommended under state guidelines.

Speaking in court before the sentence was read, Noor said that he had felt “fear” as he pulled the trigger. But when he saw Ruszczyk Damond on the ground, “I knew in an instant that I was wrong.  I caused this tragedy and it is my burden,” he said. “I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot and that is a troubling reality for me. I will think about Ms. Ruszczyk and her family forever. The only thing I can do is try to live my life in a good way going forward.”

The court also heard from Don Damond, Ruszczyk Damond’s fiancé, during an emotional victim impact statement that the day of her death was “the last time I felt a sense of happiness, a sense of trust and that everything could be OK.”  “How do I sum up the pain, the trauma, of these last 23 months… How can I provide the court the impact of a lost future? What would have potentially been 30 to 40 years filled with love, with family, with joy, with laughter,” he said.

The July 15, 2017, shooting occurred after Ruszczyk Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her home.  When Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity arrived, Ruszczyk Damond approached the driver’s side of the squad car in her pajamas.  Harrity testified, he heard a “thump” and a “murmur.” Noor, who was seated in the passenger seat, shot Ruszczyk in the abdomen through the open driver’s-side window of the vehicle as she approached his police cruiser.  Noor testified that he feared for his partner’s life as Ruszczyk approached their squad car in the dark, empty alley.

Noor testified that Harrity’s terrified expression and the sight of Ruszczyk with her hand raised jolted him into action. Although he did not see a gun in Ruszczyks’ hand, he feared his partner might be shot as she began to raise her hand, he said.  Noor’s lawyers maintained at trial that Noor “acted as he has been trained” and that he should never have been charged with a crime.

“The narrative behind this tragedy really began long before the events that occurred in that alley,” Noor’s defense attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said on Friday. “Ms. Ruszczyk was doing her civic duty, she didn’t deserve this.” But he said that the fear that exists between police and members of the public was behind what happened that night.  “A prison sentence only punishes Mr. Noor for a culture that he didn’t create,” his lawyer said.

Stop & Shop Strike Ends

 

 

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After more than three months of negotiations and 11 days on strike, over 30,000 Stop & Shop workers have reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain that they said met their demands for better pay, health care coverage and other benefits.  The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at more than 240 Stop & Shops across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, returned to work on April 22 after reaching the deal on Sunday.

During an interview, union spokeswoman Jessica Raimundo said “The new contract does satisfy the different points of contention.  The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.  Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities.”   Details of the proposed three-year agreement will not be made public until the 31,000 union members across five locals ratify the contract.

A previous three-year contract expired on Feb. 23, and workers had protested what they considered cuts in the new contract to health care, take-home pay and other benefits. Stop & Shop continued negotiations with the union throughout the strike.  During negotiations, Stop & Shop employees argued that the chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported profits of more than $2 billion to its shareholders last year, and could afford to compensate workers better.

Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike.  Stop & Shop is one of the last remaining union shops in the industry and the largest grocery store chain in New England.

Workers on strike included cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers.  When the strike began, Stop & Shops across the three states set in motion a contingency plan to keep the stores open. The chain sent out support staff members and temporary replacement workers to several supermarkets but some stores were forced to close during the strike.  The company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.

Stop & Shop released a statement following the end of the strike and said it was thankful for its customers’ patience.  “The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, include: increased pay for all associates; continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates; and ongoing defined pension benefits for all eligible associates.  Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the services they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”