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Parkland Grieves After 2 Shooting Survivors Commit Suicide

A second student who survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last year died in an apparent suicide Saturday, less than a week after another survivor took her own life. The two deaths prompted families and local leaders to come together and discuss new ways to address mental health issues in their community. Student Dies […]

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  • A second student who survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last year died in an apparent suicide Saturday, less than a week after another survivor took her own life.
  • The two deaths prompted families and local leaders to come together and discuss new ways to address mental health issues in their community.

Student Dies of Apparent Suicide

Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students took their own lives this month, about a year after surviving a mass shooting at the school that left 17 dead.

On March 17, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello, a recent graduate of Stoneman Douglas, died of an apparent suicide. Her family said that she struggled with survivor’s guilt and had recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Image result for sydney aiello
Sydney Aiello/ GoFundMe

In the shooting, Aiello lost her longtime friend, Meadow Pollack. She also lost her fellow classmate Joaquin Oliver and a school staff member, Coach Aaron Feis. She wrote a Facebook post dedicated to them a few days after the shooting.

A funeral for Aiello, who was a student at Florida Atlantic University, took place on Friday.

Second Death

A few days after Aiello’s death, on March 23, another student who survived the shooting also took his own life. According to Broward County District 3 Commissioner Michael Udine, the student was a 17-year-old male sophomore who attended Stoneman Douglass.

Coral Springs police spokesperson Tyler Reik said the death was an apparent suicide, but explained that authorities were still conducting an investigation and said that ”the cause of death hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.”

Police did not release the second student’s name and said that it is not known whether or not his death can be linked to the school shooting.

Community Reacts

Local leaders met Sunday to grieve and find a way to deal with the new tragedy that has hit their community.

Over 60 teachers, mental health specialists, parents, and school, city, county and law enforcement officials met for an emergency meeting to discuss a plan to better address mental health issues.

“You must communicate with your children, and children, you’ve got to talk to your friends,” said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed during the shooting said this was something parents and officials had warned about immediately after the tragedy last year.

Almost as many people died after Columbine as died during the event, and that was suicide.” he said.

“We lost 17 beautiful souls on Feb. 14 and… now it’s not only 18, it’s 19… The way to prevent number 20 is for parents to ask the questions: have you thought about killing yourself? … If they answer yes to those questions, they’re at risk and you need to get help.”

Parents who attended the meeting said the Broward County Schools Superintendent’s Office is working to reach every parent in the district via text, email, social media, and robocalls.

Petty also said that the district would be giving parents the “Columbia Protocol,” a set of six questions to ask their children. Based on their answers, they will be given several emergency resource options to reach out to for help.

Several nonprofits are also dispatching therapy groups that will offer free services.

Superintendent Robert Runcie encouraged parents to take time to speak with their children in everyday settings. “We need to remove the stigma from talking about suicide,” Runcie said.

Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg tweeted calling for action from the government and school district after learning of the deaths.

Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s emergency management director and a former state representative from Parkland, also called on the Florida legislature to help.


Sandy Hook Parent

The news of the two deaths in Parkland highlight the longterm impact mass shootings can have on victims and their families.

Unfortunately, news of recent suicides are not only appearing in Parkland. On Monday morning, the father of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim was found dead in an apparent suicide in Newtown, Conn.

Jeremy Richman

Jeremy Richman, 49, was found at about 7:00 a.m. in the Edmond Town Hall, a movie theater and event space in Newtown. Richman was the father of Avielle Richman, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (The Miami Herald) (The New York Times)

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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