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Celebrities and States Work to ‘Flatten the Curve’

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  • Experts and celebrities alike have been encouraging social distancing – the practice of not going to public spaces, staying six feet away from others, and avoiding crowds– to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Some, including actor Kumail Nanjiani, have compared what is happening in the U.S. to what was going on in Italy not long ago, noting that we could soon face their level of cases and lockdown if we don’t take precautions now. 
  • Other celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande also encouraged people to take social distancing seriously.
  • Meanwhile, several states and cities have laid out strict measures, closing schools, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces. 

Bars and Restaurants Close

While states and cities are closing bars, restaurants, and other public spaces, celebrities are also doing their part to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus spread.

Massachusetts, California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and Michigan have all mandated that restaurants and bars close for dine-in services to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Other states and municipalities have also taken their own similar measures.

The goal of this is to prevent people from congregating in large public groups and to promote social distancing – a tactic experts believe is effective in slowing the spread of disease. Social distancing involves not going to public spaces, crowded areas, or anywhere where you cannot be at least six feet away from someone. This distance makes it harder for the infection to spread.

“What we can’t have is people congregating and seated. Every day we delay, more people will die,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said in a statement. “If we do not act and get some distance between people, our health care system in Ohio will not hold up. The loss won’t only be those impacted by COVID19, but the danger is also to everyone else who needs hospital care for other issues.”

Why Social Distancing?

Containing the spread of COVID-19 has been a difficult challenge for leaders as some people may be carrying the virus without even knowing or exhibiting symptoms. 

“We now know that asymptomatic transmission likely [plays] an important role in spreading this virus,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota explained CNN. Because of this, the virus is “very difficult to control.”

Asymptomatic transmission can be made especially dangerous because someone who believes they are in perfect health could then infect a more vulnerable party, like someone with pre-existing conditions, a weak immune system, or an elderly person. Despite efforts to spread this knowledge, bars and restaurants still saw crowds over the weekend. 

Out of concern for this, journalists and internet users warned that continued public appearances could lead the United States down a similar path that Italy is on. Currently, Italy has seen over 24,000 cases and over 1,800 deaths. The whole country is also on lockdown. According to data from Vox, the rate of case increases in the U.S. is on pace with that of Italy.

Many began to share videos of people in Italy congregating in areas just days before they were put on lockdown as proof that if the U.S. does not practice social distancing, they will find themselves in the same situation. Actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani was among them. 

“These tweets are from Italy 2 weeks ago. 10 days later, the entire country was in lockdown. We are on the exact same path,” he said. “We can learn from Italy’s mistake.”

“Stay away from crowds. It’s our responsibility to protect those in at risk groups,” he added. 

Celebrities Encourage Social Distancing

Nanjiani’s wife, Emily Gordon, is among those at risk, as she has a rare disease that makes her immunocompromised. Their Oscar-nominated film, The Big Sick, which they wrote together, discusses this illness. Because of it, Nanjiani feels a certain responsibility to encourage social distancing. 

“People get upset and annoyed at me when I tweet about the coronavirus, when I urge people to stay in and avoid crowds,” he wrote. “My favorite person in the world is immunocompromised.”

He was not the only celebrity telling people to stay at home. Ariana Grande told her fans that “it’s incredibly dangerous and selfish to take this situation that lightly.”

“I keep hearing from a surprising amount of people statements like ‘this isn’t a big deal’ / ‘we’ll be fine’… ‘we still have to go about our lives’ and it’s really blowing my mind,” she wrote. She also told followers the plans they have now are not important in light of the virus. 

Taylor Swift also addressed her concerns on her Instagram story.

“I’m seeing lots of get togethers and hangs and parties still happening,” the pop star wrote. “This is the time to cancel plans, actually truly isolate as much as you can, and don’t assume that because you don’t feel sick that you aren’t possibly passing something onto someone elderly or vulnerable to this.”

“It’s a really scary time but we need to make social sacrifices right now,” she added. 

Data and research on the benefits of social distancing back up the calls from these celebrities. Tomas Pueyo, an author and designer wrote a Medium post about its effects. Taking a look at theoretical data, he illustrated that social distancing flattens the curves on cases, and by practicing social distancing sooner, fewer cases come up. 

Via Medium, Tomas Pueyo

Pueyo also looked at the way different cities handed the 1918 flu pandemic. Philadelphia, which allowed public gatherings, saw far more cases that St. Louis, which took measures to encourage social distancing. 

Via Medium, Tomas Pueyo
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Axios) (Aljazeera)

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Derek Chauvin and 3 Others Ex-Officers Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Over George Floyd’s Death

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  • The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges Friday against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers after a grand jury indicted them for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
  • The indictment charges Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force. All three, as well as Thomas Lane, were also charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd. 
  • Chauvin was additionally hit with two counts in a separate indictment, which claims he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy who he allegedly held by the neck and repeatedly beat with a flashlight during a 2017 arrest.
  • Chauvin was already convicted last month of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death, which Kueng, Lane, and Thao were previously charged for allegedly aiding and abetting.

Former Minneapolis Officers Hit With Federal Charges

A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that lead to his death last summer, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Chauvin, specifically, was charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted for willfully failing to intervene in Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.

All three men, as well as former officer Thomas Lane, face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.

In a second, separate indictment, Chauvin was hit with two counts of civil rights violations related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017. During that incident, Chauvin allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.

The announcement, which follows a months-long investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, comes just over two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of three state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

He is currently awaiting his June 25 sentencing in a maximum-security prison.

State-Level Charges

Kueng, Lane, and Thao all face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Kueng and Lane were the first officers to responded to a call from a convenience store employee who claimed that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Body camera footage showed Floyd sitting in the car and Lane drawing his gun as the officers ordered him out and handcuffed him. 

Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot him.

Shortly after, Chauvin and Thao arrived, and the footage shows Chauvin joining the other officers in their attempt to put Floyd into the back of a police car. In the struggle, the officers forced Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Kueng and Lane held his back and legs. 

Meanwhile, in cellphone footage taken at the scene, Thao can be seen ordering bystanders to stay away, and later preventing a Minneapolis firefighter from giving Floyd medical aid.

Their trial is set to begin in late August, and all three are free on bond. The new federal charges, however, will likely be more difficult to prove.

According to legal experts, prosecutors will have to show beyond reasonable doubt that the officers knew that they were depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights but continued to do so anyway.

The high legal standard is also hard to establish, as officers can easily claim they acted out of fear or even poor judgment.

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

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Caitlyn Jenner Says Her Friends Are Fleeing California Because of the Homeless Population

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  • California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage after an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that was filmed from her Malibu airplane hangar. 
  • “My friends are leaving California,” she said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
  • Many criticized Jenner for sounding out of touch and unsympathetic to real issues in California and suggested that she prioritize helping the homeless population rather than incredibly wealthy state residents.

Caitlyn Jenner’s Remarks

California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage on Wednesday after suggesting that wealthy people are fleeing the state because of its homeless population.

Jenner sat down for an interview in her Malibu airplane hangar with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenner is one of the handful of Republicans aiming to unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election in the fall. While polls show that most Californians do not support recalling Newsom, the conservative-led movement to do so gained enough signatures to land on the ballot.

“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner claimed during the interview. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’” 

“I don’t want to leave,” she continued. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”

Jenner’s Remarks Prompt Backlash

Her remarks were criticized online by people who thought Jenner sounded unsympathetic and out of touch to the real issues in the state. Many found it hypocritical that Jenner has slammed Newsom for being elite but was so concerned for wealthy people who don’t like having to see unhoused residents on the street.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) called Jenner out on Twitter for seemingly fighting for a small percentage of Californians. 

Unlike you, Dems are focused on the 99% of people who don’t own planes or hangars,” he wrote. “And you know what’s going to help reduce homelessness? The #AmericanRescuePlan, which your party opposed.”

Others suggested she prioritize directly addressing the homeless situation.

“If you don’t like the homeless situation, instead of hiding in your PRIVATE PLANE HANGAR, your campaign should be about helping them,” actress Merrin Dungey said. “They don’t like their situation either. Your lifelong privilege is showing. It’s not a good color.”

Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and reality star, is one of the most prominent transgender Americans. Because homelessness is such a common issue within the trans community, some were frustrated she was not using her campaign to fix the situation, and rather used it to complain about how it impacted her wealthy friends. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Politico) (Washington Post)

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Derek Chauvin Seeks New Trial In George Floyd Murder Case

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  • A lawyer for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial.
  • Among other complaints about Chauvin’s conviction, the attorney cited “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
  • He also claimed the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial, arguing that publicity before and during it threatened its fairness. 
  • John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

Derek Chauvin’s Attorney Files Motion for New Trial

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is officially asking for a new trial, hoping to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, filed court paperwork Tuesday laying out a number of errors he believes were made during Chauvin’s legal proceedings that violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. Nelson cited alleged issues, including, “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”

The filing did not cite any specific examples of jury misconduct, but Nelson also argued that the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.

The court proceedings took place in the same city where Floyd was killed and where protesters drew national attention by calling for justice in his name. As a result, Nelson claimed that publicity before and during the trial threatened its fairness. He also argued that a defense expert witness was intimidated after he testified, but before the jury deliberated.

His filing asks for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors “felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”

It’s unclear exactly what will come of this request, but John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

For instance, a judge previously denied Chauvin’s request to move the trial in March, saying, “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (CBS)

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