Covid 19 Cases In States Since Reopening

 

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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.

Michigan State Police Settle With Family of Damon Grimes

 

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The family of Damon Grimes, a teenager who died in 2017 after a Michigan state trooper stunned him with a Taser has reached a $12 million settlement with the Michigan State Police. Fifteen-year-old Grimes was riding an ATV in a residential area of Detroit, when a police officer tased him for not pulling over fast enough. The teen then crashed into the back of a parked truck and died quickly after. 

This is the Michigan State Police Department’s largest-ever settlement for a single incident.  The Grimes family, including Damon’s mother Monique Grimes and his sisters Dezjanai and Dezanique Grimes, are to get about $8 million of the settlement. Most of the remaining $4 million is to go to the family’s lawyers at the Fieger law firm.

The family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Bessner, fellow trooper Ethan Berger and Michigan State Police Sgt. Jacob Liss said “I’m very thankful that the attorney general recognized the grave injury that occurred in this case, and the intolerable circumstances, and therefore accepted responsibility and allowed justice to be done.”  Fieger added Grimes’ family is “very pleased” with the settlement.

“The facts of this case are so horrendous, and it was difficult dealing with the bureaucracy of the state of Michigan and dealing with the police agencies, but having cut through all that, the attorney general did the right thing and settled the case, and didn’t subject the state to a trial that could have resulted in a much larger verdict,” Fieger said.

The now-former Michigan State Police trooper who used the taser, Mark Bessner, was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. It is a violation of Michigan State Police policy to deploy a Taser from a moving vehicle. The State Police revised its chase policy for ATVs in the aftermath of Damon’s death and stopped doing chases in Detroit involving traffic or misdemeanor violations. That new policy was later adopted statewide.

The settlement will end a federal lawsuit filed by Damon’s family in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Bessner and two other troopers, Ethan Berger and Sgt. Jacob Liss, a supervisor. Berger, who was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the Taser, has since resigned from the agency.  A State Police internal affairs report in 2018 accused Berger and Liss of attempting to cover up details of the ATV incident, such as the use of the Taser. Neither were charged in relation to the incident. The Michigan State Police internal affairs investigation had been critical of Liss, the supervisor at the crash scene, for omitting key details from his incident report, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did not pursue criminal charges.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said in a written statement: “The Michigan State Police extends its continued condolences to the Grimes family, friends and supporters. Damon Grimes’ death is a tragedy that could have been avoided if not for the criminal and unforgivable actions of a former Michigan State Police trooper.

Supreme Court Clears Way for Newtown Lawsuit

 

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The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by gun manufacturer Remington Arms, that argued it should be shielded by a 2005 federal law preventing most lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when their products are used in crimes.  The decision has cleared the way for survivors and the families of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to pursue their lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 26 people.

The families are arguing that Remington violated Connecticut law when it marketed the Bushmaster rifle for assaults against human beings. The Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case allows the lawsuit filed in Connecticut state court by a survivor and relatives of nine victims who died at the Newtown, Connecticut, school on Dec. 14, 2012, to go forward.  The lawsuit says the Madison, North Carolina-based company should never have sold a weapon as dangerous as the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle to the public.

Gunman Adam Lanza used it to kill 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10 along with six educators, after killing his mother at the home they shared.  The rifle used in the killings was legally owned by his mother.  The lawsuit also alleges Remington targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games. Lanza was 20 years old when he committed the mass shooting.  Only two of the victims who were shot by Lanza—both teachers—survived the attack.  Lanza killed himself as police arrived at the school.

The case is being watched by gun control advocates, gun rights supporters and gun manufacturers across the country, as it has the potential to provide a roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent the federal law and sue the makers of firearm.  The National Rifle Association, 10 mainly Republican-led states and 22 Republicans in Congress were among those urging the court to jump into the case and end the lawsuit against Remington.

The Connecticut Supreme Court had earlier ruled 4-3 that the lawsuit could proceed for now, citing an exemption in the federal law. The decision overturned a ruling by a trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on the 2005 federal law, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The federal law has been criticized by gun control advocates as being too favorable to gun-makers. It has been cited by other courts that rejected lawsuits against gun-makers and dealers in other high-profile shooting attacks, including the 2012 Colorado movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings in 2002.

Manhattan Judge Tosses Uber Lawsuit

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A Manhattan judge has dismissed Uber Technologies Inc’s lawsuit challenging a New York City law limiting the number of licenses for ride-hailing services, the first such cap by a major American city.  New York State Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank rejected Uber’s argument that the city wrongly gave its Taxi and Limousine Commission power to enforce the cap.

Frank was also unconvinced that the cap, part of Local Law 147, would impede state efforts to reduce traffic congestion through “congestion pricing” on vehicles entering high-traffic areas of Manhattan.  The August 2018 law was meant to give New York City greater oversight of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft Inc.  It includes a one-year freeze on new licenses to for-hire vehicles, which was later extended through August 2020.

The law, which the City Council passed, required the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to conduct a one-year study on the possibility of regulating the number of for-hire vehicle licenses and to stop issuing new for-hire vehicle licenses for that year. The study, which was released in June, found that reductions on FHV-related traffic could “meaningfully impact overall traffic conditions.” The one-year cap was then extended this past summer.

Uber’s lawsuit argued, among other things, that the city exceeded its authority in enacting the law because the state allows the city to cap taxis but not app-based or other for-hire vehicles. But Judge Lyle E. Frank said in his decision to toss the lawsuit that the City Council acted within its rights when it allowed TLC to adjust the number of for-hire vehicle licenses.

Bill Heinzen, acting TLC commissioner, said in a statement “We are grateful the court has again recognized the TLC’s power to address the problems that companies like Uber have created by flooding the streets of NYC.  Drivers are bringing home an additional $750 a month on average because we fought back against their tactics, and the Mayor and TLC will continue to fight for less congestion and better pay for drivers.”

The legislation also allows New York City to set a minimum wage for drivers with Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services.  The case is separate from Uber’s Sept. 20 challenge to a New York City “cruising cap” rule limiting how much time its drivers could spend without passengers in Manhattan south of 96th Street.

Uber has drawn criticism from many cities that its vehicles increase congestion, and commandeer business from taxis.  The value of medallions, which are permits needed to operate yellow taxis in New York City and are distinct from ride-hailing licenses, has plunged as Uber and Lyft gained popularity.  Taxi workers have long supported measures like the cap on for-hire vehicles to reduce the amount of vehicles driving around the city, as they face crippling amounts of debt due to a dramatic decrease in the value of medallions.

 

Milwaukee Man Charged In Acid Attack

 

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A Milwaukee man faces a felony hate-crime charge for an alleged acid attack on a man who says he was targeted for his Latino identity and left with second-degree burns.  Clifton Blackwell, 61, has been charged with first-degree reckless injury in a hate crime using a dangerous weapon.  Reckless injury carries up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. Prosecutors are pursuing hate crime and dangerous weapon enhancements charges which means Blackwell could face stiffer penalties, including up to 10 more years’ imprisonment.

At a news conference the day after the assault, Mahud Villalaz, 42, said he parked his truck outside a restaurant at 8:30 p.m. and began to walk toward it to have dinner when a man at a nearby bus stop approached him and chastised him for parking in a bus lane.  Villalaz said, the man asked why he’d “invaded” the United States and said “Why don’t you respect my laws?”

Realizing he was parked too close to a bus stop, Villalaz moved his truck to another spot and headed toward the restaurant.  Blackwell re-engaged him saying “Why did you invade my country?” calling Villalaz an “illegal” and cursing at him while telling him to “go back.”  He told Blackwell that “everyone comes from somewhere first” and pointed out that “American Indians have been in the country the longest,” court filings state.  Villalaz said that’s when Blackwell got angry and tossed the acid, which was in a small silver bottle, in his face. The attack was caught on surveillance video.

Villalaz was taken to the hospital with second-degree burns to his face, cheek and neck, as well as damage to his clothing, according to police. Testing showed that acid caused the injuries.  The attack took place just outside the restaurant doors.  Witnesses say Villalaz, a regular at the restaurant, burst through the doors crying with his face searing with acid.  The restaurant staff tried everything to wash the acid from his face until paramedics arrived.

Villalaz, who says he grew up in Peru and immigrated to the United States as a young man – became a citizen in 2013.  He said he felt relieved charges were filed and thankful at the nationwide support he’s gotten.  “It’s been nice to know that there are many people here that worry about other people. Not only Latinos … people of all colors. We must unite,” Villalaz said.

During a search of Blackwell’s home, police found hydrochloric acid, four bottles of sulfuric acid and two bottles of drain opener made of lye, according to court documents.  Blackwell’s bond has been set at $20,000 on the condition that he wears an electronic monitoring device. He is also forbidden from contact with acids or large batteries.  Court records indicate Blackwell has previously been convicted of false imprisonment and pointing a gun at a person.

According to the criminal complaint, on Nov. 19 2006, Blackwell confronted four men, two with rifles, who had come onto his farm tracking deer in the Town of Lawrence.  Blackwell pointed a loaded rifle at the men and told them to disarm, then marched them back to his house where he photographed their faces and hunting tags.  He told them they were guilty of criminal trespass and called the sheriff’s office but wound up charged himself. Prosecutors dropped one of each of the charges, and Blackwell pleaded no contest to one count each of pointing a firearm and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to 379 days in jail.  Blackwell’s mother said he had served in the Marine Corps during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and had moved back to Wisconsin for treatment for PTSD type problems.  Officials with the Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs office in Virginia said it could find no record of Blackwell ever serving in the Marines.

GM Strike Ends

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After a 40-day strike, a new four-year deal between the United Auto Workers and General Motors was approved.  The contract was supported by 57% of the labor union. It includes an $11,000 bonus per member, annual raises and more affordable healthcare. General Motors still plans to close three factories in the United States.

The United Auto Workers union emerged with substantial wage increases of 3 percent in the second and fourth years and 4 percent lump sum payments in the first and third years, similar to what the union obtained in 2015.  Even larger gains are in store for those in a category called “in progression,” the lower scale of a two-tier wage system negotiated in 2007 when the Detroit automakers were financially reeling.

Workers hired after that date, about a third of the overall work force, started at about half the pay of veteran employees and had no prospect of reaching the top wage, currently $31 an hour. Over the course of the new contract, the disparity will be phased out, and those with four years’ experience will rise along with more senior workers to the new top level of $32 an hour.  In addition to pay increases, G.M. workers will get bonuses of $11,000 for ratifying the contract. They will continue to pay 3 percent of their cost of health care, well below the percentage that G.M.’s salaried workers contribute.

There were also rewards for temporary workers, about 7 percent of G.M.’s union work force, who will have a path to permanent employment after three years. About 900 of them will become full employees in January, the union said, and 2,000 more by 2021.

It also won commitments to new G.M. investments in United States factories.  As part of the new contract, the company pledged to invest $7.7 billion in its United States plants, and another $1.3 billion in ventures with partners, providing a measure of job security. G.M. will put $3 billion toward overhauling the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which had been scheduled to close in January. Three-quarters of the 700 workers there voted in favor of the contract.

At the same time, the agreement allows G.M. to close three idled factories permanently, including one in Lordstown, Ohio, eliminating excess manufacturing capacity at a time when auto sales are slowing. It also puts the company in a more stable position if the economy goes into a recession.  The closing of the Lordstown plant was one of the main sticking points for some workers voting against the contract. “We did everything that G.M. ever asked of us at times of concessions,” said Bill Goodchild, a member of Local 1112 in Lordstown. “We feel we deserve a product.”

About 48,000 United Auto workers walked off the job over one month ago, making it the longest national strike at GM by United Auto Workers in nearly 50 years.  The contract finally ends a strike that many estimate has cost GM $1.75 billion in losses.  “We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company,” G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said in a statement.

 

 

Felicity Huffman Sentenced In College Admissions Scandal

 

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U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani sentenced actress Felicity Huffman to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to get her daughter into college by having someone correct her answers on the SATs.  Huffman also received a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service.  She had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Her lawyers asked for no jail time, one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.  Her sentence likely means other parents who’ve pleaded guilty in the nation’s college admissions scandal will spend time behind bars. It could also mean that others who made significantly larger payments will end up with more lenient prison terms than prosecutors say are fair.

During Huffman’s sentence she told the courtroom she was deeply ashamed.  Judge Indira Talwani said, “Ultimately, you knew it was fraud, it was not an impulsive act.  Trying to be a good mother doesn’t excuse this.”  Talwani added that the sentence she handed down was “the right sentence here,” but also told Huffman “You can rebuild your life after this,” the judge said. “You’ve paid your dues.”  Huffman will report to prison in six weeks, on October 25. Where she’ll serve her sentence has not been announced and will ultimately be decided by the Bureau of Prisons.

Fifty-two people have been charged as part of the college admissions bribery scandal known as “Varsity Blues.”   Of the 52 people charged in the scandal, 35 are parents.  Fifteen, including Huffman, have pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors, while 19, including actress Lori Loughlin, have pleaded not guilty and are preparing for trial.  Rick Singer, the mastermind of the nationwide college admissions scandal, was paid to have cheat on their children’s SAT or ACT while others paid substantially more to get their children falsely tagged as athletic recruits as a way into prestigious schools.  Huffman is the first parent to be sentenced and prosecutors sought one month prison time for Huffman.  Prosecutors are pushing for longer sentences for other defendants — more than three years in some cases.

The next parent to be sentenced in Boston federal court is Devin Sloane, CEO of Los Angeles-based waterTALENT.  He pleaded guilty to paying $250,000 to Singer’s sham nonprofit to falsely designate his son as a water polo player to gain acceptance into the University of Southern California. Prosecutors are seeking one year in prison for Sloane.  Sloane’s hearing is scheduling for September 24th.  Two days later, Stephen Semprevivo, a former executive at Cydcor, also based in Los Angeles, will be sentenced. He pleaded guilty to paying $400,000 to Singer to get his son admitted into Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit.  Prosecutors have asked that Semprevio receive 15 months in prison.

Both upcoming cases will reveal whether the judge treats the recruiting scheme the same as the testing scam, and whether she comes down harder on parents who paid more to Singer.   Longer sentences could be in store for parents who participated in the recruitment scheme because it had a more “direct effect” on the admissions process than test tampering. Such parents, including Loughlin, accused of paying $500,000 to Singer, have argued they made “legitimate donations” to Singer’s nonprofit, which they said had a history of donating to colleges.

Prosecutors have argued parents who paid more money to Singer should receive longer prison terms.  An order by the judge released hours before Huffman’s sentencing could cap sentences at six months for parents regardless of their how much they paid.  Judge Talwani ruled against the government’s request to sentence defendants under the federal commercial bribery statute, which allows more severe sentences depending on the amount of money paid. Instead, all sentences will be based on fraud statute guidelines, which recommend six months or less in prison for the offense.