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As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Fear and Misinformation

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  • The new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan China has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 8,2000 worldwide.
  • Notably, one cruise ship off the coast of Italy is temporarily preventing any of its passengers from leaving, as the ship’s medical unit investigates a potential case onboard.
  • With constant updates and growing fears, doctors have begun trying to assure people not to panic and to take measures to avoid falling victim to misinformation.

Misinformation and Fears Surrounding the Virus

Since the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has killed 170 people in China and infected more than 8,200 people worldwide, many medical doctors have been working to assure people not to panic. 

They are also warning the public to be vigilant against misinformation that can rapidly spread from an influx of constant news updates. 

“Because this is an [unknown] virus… we tend to exaggerate the risks posed by the virus, and those is going to be associated with all kinds of fear, panic, if not hysteria,” Yanzhong Huang, Director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University, told Yahoo! Finance. “That’s probably going to cause more damage than the virus itself.”

Dr. Danielle Ofri—a physician at Bellevue Hospital in New York City—said that such fears, like with the Ebola and AIDS crises, are not unknown to doctors.

“Fear is a primal emotion, and to pretend that the medical staff are any less susceptible than the general public is folly,” she said. 

“But we also have to recognize that there are irrational fears, the kinds that are not necessarily allayed by data,” Dr. Ofri added. 

The coronavirus and its misinformation is also a topic that has not escaped Mikhail Varshavski, better known as Dr. Mike on his YouTube channel.

In a video posted Wednesday and recorded Tuesday, Dr. Mike urged his views to be “Alert, not anxious.”

Dr. Mike also touched on a topic that has made a considerable amount of headlines: the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in China. 

Like the virus that originated in Wuhan, China, SARS is a coronavirus; however, the two have a noticeable difference. SARS is generally only known to be contagious while those who are infected are displaying symptoms.

On Sunday, China’s National Health Commission said the Wuhan virus can spread during its incubation phase, which is the period where one is infected but might not know it because they aren’t showing any symptoms. According to those officials, that incubation period can last up to two weeks. 

Such is the fact omitted from most headlines and the body of many articles published Wednesday as the Wuhan virus outpaced the SARS outbreak, which lasted from Nov. 2002 to Aug. 2003 and infected nearly 8,100 people. By comparison, the Wuhan virus was first detected on Dec. 31 and had infected more than 8,200 within a month.

There’s been many headlines in that are trying to scare you into panicking because it urges you to click,” Dr. Mike said in his video, “and when you click, they earn money. Do not fall for this.”

Likewise, with the large influx of salacious headlines, as well as reports of xenophobia against Asian people in countries, many have begun to wonder just how deadly the virus is. 

“Now you may be wondering to yourself, is this a dangerous virus?” Dr. Mike asks. “Well, the answer is, it depends. It can become severe in about 20% of cases, leading to pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, leading to ventilation or even death in some circumstances.”

For those of you who are living in the U.S., this is certainly a potential threat we should be on the lookout for. With all the international travel that goes on in the world today, it’s very easy to spread a virus from one country to another. That being said, with only five cases in the U.S., with zero deaths thus far, this is not a crisis and not a reason to panic.” 

Cruise Ship Quarantined

Among growing fears, reports also surfaced of a cruise ship in Italy that is holding its passengers from leaving the ship as it investigates a potential coronavirus case onboard.

On Wednesday, one Chinese woman on the ship came down with a fever. Reportedly, she’s also experiencing respiratory problems, both of which are symptoms of this coronavirus.

When the ship docked Thursday morning, the ship’s 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members were told they couldn’t leave to enter the city of Civitavecchia.

Meanwhile, that woman and her husband—who isn’t showing symptoms of the virus— were both placed in isolation. 

“The guest, a 54-year-old lady of Chinese nationality, is currently put on isolation on the onboard hospital since last night together with her travel mate, in line with health protocols,” the cruise line, Costa Cruises, said in a statement. “As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage the clinical condition.

As medical staff worked to understand the woman’s symptoms, many of the ship’s passengers waited on decks and in hallways with their luggage on hand, awaiting any announcement. 

According to the Telegraph, if the woman were found to have the virus, everyone onboard could be quarantined for up to two weeks. 

However, Thursday afternoon, the Italian health ministry confirmed that woman nor her husband had the virus.

See what others are saying: (CDC) (WHO) (NBC News)

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All U.S. Adults Officially Eligible for COVID Vaccine

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  • As of Monday, every adult in the U.S. who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can get one.
  • According to the CDC, more than 131 million people, roughly half of all American adults, have already gotten at least one shot. Around 84.3 million, about a quarter of the population, is now fully vaccinated.
  • The U.S. is currently on pace to vaccinate 70% of its population by mid-June, but experts worry that herd immunity could be complicated by vaccine hesitancy and when the shots are approved for children.
  • While vaccine hesitancy has decreased in recent months, it is still alarmingly high in some areas. Meanwhile, pending FDA approval, experts have said that they believe all children will not be able to be vaccinated until the first quarter of 2022.

U.S. Opens Vaccine Eligibility

Adults in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico who want a COVID-19 vaccine can now get one after the last few states opened eligibility Monday, officially meeting a goal set by President Joe Biden.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 131 million people — half of all American adults — have already received at least one shot. Around 84.3 million, or about a quarter of the population, is now fully vaccinated.

The open eligibility deadline, which was initially set for May 1, comes as the vaccination rate has risen substantially in the last few months after a slow initial rollout. This month, the CDC said the U.S. has been administering an average of 3.2 million doses every day, up from around 2.5 million last month. 

At the current rate, the country is also on track to meet another accelerated goal of Biden’s: administering 200 million doses by his 100th day in office — a number that was originally set at 100 million.

Right now, the U.S. is on track to vaccinate 70% of its population by mid-June. 

Barriers to Herd Immunity

However, there are two major factors that will impact the country’s ability to achieve herd immunity: when the shots are approved for children and vaccine hesitancy.

Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds can receive the vaccine but only Pfizer’s version. Notably, Pfizer announced earlier this month that it applied for an emergency use authorization for children ages 12 to 15 eligible for its vaccine, and Moderna is set to release results from its trial on adolescents soon.

Experts worry the full administration could take a while, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who said Sunday that he does not expect children of all ages to be eligible until the first quarter of 2022.

As far as vaccine hesitancy is concerned, polls have found that more people are willing to take the shot than before. Specifically, hesitancy has decreased in Black and Latino communities, where it was previously quite high.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey from the end of last month found that 61% of adults said they were vaccinated or wanted to be — an increase of 55% from the month before, which was largely driven by the change of interest among Black Americans.

At the same time, the poll also found that fewer than half of Republicans said they have received at least one dose or intend to get it. Additionally, a recent analysis of data in nearly every U.S. county conducted by The New York Times found that both vaccination rates and willingness were lower on average in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020.

“In more rural — and more Republican — areas, health officials said that supply is far exceeding demand,” the report noted. “And in interviews with more than two dozen state and county health officials […] most attributed low vaccination rates at least partly to hesitant conservative populations.”

Now, public health officials are also concerned that hesitancy will only get worse as officials investigate whether Johnson & Johnson’s shot is linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder. Experts have said the risk is exceedingly low, even if some connection is found, including Dr. Fauci, who said Sunday that he believes federal regulators will likely resume J&J jabs later this week after they were paused last week in all 50 states. 

Still, many believe the bad press will likely spell trouble for vaccine-hesitant populations — not just for J&J but for all COVID vaccines — a fact that is especially worrisome as cases in the U.S. have spiked recently. Over the past seven days, the country has averaged 67,000 new cases a day, a significant jump from over 54,000 a month ago.

Others are more optimistic that the expanded eligibility will drive demand in states where it is low, and as a result, those numbers will drop.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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Bodycam Footage Shows Adam Toledo Wasn’t Holding Gun When an Officer Shot Him

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  • Chicago officials released body camera footage Thursday which showed that 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by police last month, had put his hands up in the air right before the officer opened fire.
  • The graphic video showed the officer, who has now been identified as Eric Stillman, yelling at Adam to stop as he chases him through an alley.
  • The teenager obeyed and stopped by a fence, where he can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back. Stillman ordered him to drop it, and then shot him a split second after Adam raised his empty hands in the air.
  • The footage prompted renewed outrage, protests, and calls for an investigation. A lawyer for the Toledo family called the killing “an assassination,” while Stillman’s lawyer defended the officer, and claimed he acted appropriately.

Officer Bodycam Footage Made Public

Body camera footage released by Chicago officials Thursday showed that Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy killed by police last month, had his hands up when he was fatally shot.

The footage, which was released as part of a report by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), showed officers chasing Adam, who was Latino, through an alley in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village during the early hours of March 29.

The officer ordered Adam to stop. The teenager complied and halted by the side of a fence, holding what looks like a gun in one of his hands behind his back. The policeman yelled at him to drop it and show his hands.

Adam turned and lifted his empty hands, and the officer fired his weapon, striking the teenager once in the chest. The policeman is then seen administering CPR and asking him, “You alright? Where you shot?” while blood poured out of his mouth.

The COPA report published Thursday also identified the officer who shot Adam as 34-year-old Eric Stillman, who is white, and whose lawyer said he had been put on administrative duties for 30 days.

Stillman’s lawyer also argued that the shooting was justified, as did John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“He was 100% right,” Catanzara said. “The offender still turned with a gun in his hand. This occurred in eight-tenths of a second.”

Renewed Backlash and Protests

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney obtained by Adam’s family, said they are looking into taking legal action against Stillman. 

“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his arms in the air, it’s an assassination,” she said at a news conference Thursday. 

Ortiz acknowledged the bodycam footage did appear to show Adam holding something that “could be a gun,” but argued the video must be independently analyzed to confirm.

“It’s not relevant because he tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois also echoed Ortiz’s demands on Thursday, calling for a “complete and transparent” investigation.

“The video released today shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois.

“The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction. The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored.”

Hours before the video was released, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pleaded for calm in the city, where anti-police protests have taken place in the weeks following the shooting.

“We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place.”

Some businesses in downtown Chicago boarded prepared for violence ahead of the video’s publication by boarding up their windows. City vehicles stood by to block traffic.

However, the demonstrations that took place Thursday were small, peaceful, and spread out over several parts of the city. Organizers said they plan to hold more protests Friday.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Sun-Times) (The New York Times) (The Chicago Tribune)

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Eight Dead in Indianapolis Shooting

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  • Eight people were killed and several more were injured after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.
  • The gunman took his life after opening fire. Authorities have not identified his motive yet. 
  • According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2021, there have been 147 U.S. mass shootings, defined as verified incidents with four or more gunshot victims.
  • President Joe Biden released a statement calling gun violence “an epidemic in America,” adding, “We should not accept it. We must act.”

Eight Killed in Shooting

Eight people were killed and several others have been wounded after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.

The gunman killed four people in the parking lot then four people inside before taking his own life, according to local officials. Authorities have identified the gunman and are searching his home, but have not disclosed any potential motives.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said during a press conference. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

Several witnesses told local outlets they initially thought the gunshots were engines backfiring or another type of mechanical noise until they saw the gunman. Some said they heard him shouting indistinctly before opening fire. The investigation is still in very early stages and victims have not yet been identified. 

The facility employs 4,500 team members. It is unclear how many were working at the time of the shooting. FedEx released a statement expressing its condolences to the victims and their families. 

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” the statement read. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. The safety of our team members is our top priority, and we are fully cooperating with investigating authorities.”

Gun Violence in the U.S.

This tragedy follows a recent string of mass shootings in the U.S., including in Atlanta, Colorado, Southern California, and Texas. According to the Associated Press, this is at least the third in Indianapolis this year. 

The Gun Violence Archive has logged a total of 147 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2021. The organization defines mass shootings as reported and verified incidents with at least four gunshot victims.

Several politicians have released statements about the shooting, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said this pattern “must end.”

“Yet again we have families in our country that are grieving the loss of their family members because of gun violence,” she said. “There is no question that this violence must end, and we are thinking of the families that lost their loved ones.”

President Joe Biden also released a statement saying that, “Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.”

“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” Biden added. “But we should not accept it. We must act.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett echoed those remarks in a news conference. 

“The scourge of gun violence that has killed far too many in our community and in our country,” he said.

“Our prayers are with the families of those whose lives were cut short,” he added on Twitter. 

Hogsett is among 150 U.S. mayors who recently signed a letter asking the Senate to take up gun legislation, including expanding background checks.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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