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Spring Breakers Keep Partying, But Young Adults Make Up a Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations, New Data Says

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  • A new report from the CDC found that younger adults were statistically just as likely to get the coronavirus and be hospitalized as people who were 65 and older.
  • The report contradicts the general narrative that younger people are in less danger.
  • Meanwhile, hoards of spring breakers are still partying in crowded areas and beaches in Florida, despite warnings from the CDC and efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis to shut down bars and clubs and limit group sizes on beaches.
  • In a now-viral CBS clip, several young party-goers said that they care more about their spring break than the global outbreak.

Partying On Brings Public Health Risks

The world might feel like it’s coming to an end, but while you’re at home eating beans or hoarding thousands of dollars of hand sanitizer, there are still plenty of people out partying for spring break.

It should come as no surprise that a group of people who couldn’t care less about totally endangering everyone’s health and safety also don’t care about their own wellbeing. But now, they’re speaking out.

“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying,” Ohio native and self-described aspiring SoundCloud rapper Brady Sluder told CBS in a now-viral video.

You know, I’ve been waiting, we’ve been waiting for Miami spring break for a while, about two months we’ve had this trip planned, two, three months, and we’re just out here having a good time,” he continued. “Whatever happens, happens.”

To his credit, two, three months is a very long time.

In an effort to stop party-goers from doing even more damage, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the situation Tuesday by closing all bars and clubs for 30 days and limiting beach parties to 10 people— if you can even call 10 people a party!

But that seems to have just angered the springer breakers, who now feel as though their undeniable human rights are being violated.

“It’s really messing up with my spring break,” said 21-year-old Brianna Smith. “What is there to do here other than go to the bars or the beach? And they’re closing all of it. I think they’re blowing it way out of proportion. I think it’s doing way too much.”

“What they’re doing is bad, we need a refund,” said Atlantis Walker, another 21-year-old visiting Florida. “This virus ain’t that serious.”

Florida already has reported 328 confirmed coronavirus cases and eight deaths, but like everywhere else in the U.S., they have a massive test shortage, so that number is likely higher.

Florida Politicians Respond

Speaking on Fox and Friends Thursday, DeSantis doubled down on his message to party hungry visitors.

“The message I think for spring breakers is that the party’s over in Florida, you’re not going to be able to congregate on any beach in the state,” he said. “Many of the hot spots that people like to go to, whether it’s Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Clearwater Beach, are closed entirely for the time being.” 

DeSantis also said that the videos of crowded beaches and other public areas were from people who went down to Florida before things got bad. Now, he says people are canceling trips.

The videos circulated last weekend and early this week, so you can decide for yourself if that was before things got bad.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) also hit similar points during an interview with CNN Thursday morning. 

“Get off the beach,” he said. “I mean, unless you can figure out how to be completely isolated from anyone else.”

“Take some personal responsibility here, don’t infect other people,” he added. “Don’t take a chance that you’re going to be the one to cause your grandparent or your parents or another friend from school to get sick.” 

Both politicians refused to say whether they would close the beaches altogether.

New CDC Report

Scott’s argument about spreading the virus is important, and while his message is true for people everywhere, it’s especially important for those in Florida.

The sunshine state is the infamous host of two major populations that are incredibly dangerous when put together: drunk kids on vacation who think they are indestructible and old people.

On one hand, you have a state where 27% of the population is over 60 and thus at risk for coronavirus, and on the other hand, you have a massive tourism industry that brought in more than 126 million people in 2018 alone.

While some of those people are there to marvel at Florida’s unparalleled biodiversity or buy some bath salts, a lot of people are there to party. And right now, those people are putting everyone at risk.

Many of those young spring breakers seem to believe that they will not get the coronavirus, or that if they do, they’ll be okay. But a new report released by the CDC Wednesday indicates that those assumptions are not true at all.

According to the report, out of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized in the U.S., 20% of them were between 20 and 44—roughly millennials— and more than half of them were under 65.

Though notably, less than 1% of those under 19 were hospitalized, and the vast majority of deaths— about 80%— were from people 65 and older.

But one of the most shocking pieces of information from this report was the number of younger adults who tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the 2,449 patients with known ages, 29% were between 20 and 44, and more than half were under 65.

Meaning that statistically, people under 65 were just as likely to get the virus and have conditions serious enough to be hospitalized as those who were over 65.

It also seems to contradict the general narrative that people under 65 are significantly less at risk. They are less at risk for dying, but not necessarily for getting the virus or being hospitalized.

“Younger people may feel more confident about their ability to withstand a virus like this,” said Dr. Christopher Carlsten, the head of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia explains. “If that many younger people are being hospitalized, that means that there are a lot of young people in the community that are walking around with the infection.”

Even beyond that, there have also been recent reports that some people who get over the virus still have lasting issues.

“Lots of young people are getting hospitalized, a lot more than we’re messaging, and, yes, maybe you don’t die, but living with a damaged lung or damaged organ is not a good outcome,” said Prabhjot Singh, a physician and health systems expert at Mount Sinai Health System and the Icahn School of Medicine.

In other words, despite what Brady Sluder might tell you, whether young or old, you should worry about getting the coronavirus.

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

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Judge Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down Pending Environmental Review

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  • The Dakota Access Pipeline must suspend operations pending an environmental review, according to orders from a U.S. District Court.
  • A judge claimed that while this may cause disruption to oil industries, the Army Corps of Engineers did not provide a needed environmental impact statement. They must now draft one and undergo a review process that could last 13 months.
  • This order is a big win for environmental groups and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who have been fighting for four years to shut down the pipeline. The tribe has long claimed that the pipeline is a threat to their main water supply in the Missouri River,
  • However, Energy Transfer Partners, which runs the pipeline, is vowing to appeal the ruling. 

Pipeline Ordered to Shut Down

A U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. ordered on Monday that the Dakota Access Pipeline must halt operations within 30 days, pending an environmental review. 

The pipeline runs for over 1,100 miles between North Dakota and Illinois, transporting 570,000 barrels of oil per day. It has faced opposition from environmental activists and members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for several years over pollution concerns. Monday’s order is a victory for the pipeline’s critics. 

In his order, United States District Judge James E. Boasberg wrote that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the Dakota Access Pipeline, had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it allowed a portion of the pipeline to be built under part of the Missouri River. 

“This was because the Corps had failed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement despite conditions that triggered such a requirement,” Boasberg wrote. 

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is located just under a mile from the pipeline, and gets much of its water supply from the Missouri River. They feared that having a pipeline under their water source could lead to contamination should there ever be a leak or spill. 

The court acknowledged the potential consequences of shutting the pipeline down, including a disruption of North Dakota’s oil industry, as well as the oil industries of other states. However, Boasberg believed that the best path forward in this case was to shut the pipeline down.

“Yet, given the seriousness of the Corps’ [National Environmental Policy Act] error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” Judge Boasberg wrote. 

The court is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reassess the environmental impacts of the pipeline and to prepare an impact statement. Judge Boaberg first ordered a review back in March. Per Monday’s ruling, the pipeline must shut down pending the review, a process that is expected to last 13 months. 

Responses to Order

The ruling could be appealed and only closes the pipeline temporarily. Still, it was cause for celebration for members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other activists who had been protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline since 2016.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Mike Faith, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” said Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

Youth activist and founder of Fridays for Future Greta Thunberg also applauded the court’s decision on Twitter.

On the other hand, however, the decision was met with swift criticism from Energy Transfer Partners, which controls the pipeline. The company has promised legal action, and according to Hasselman, has already filed for an appeal. 

In a statement, Energy Transfer said the order is “not supported by the law or the facts of the case.”

“Furthermore, we believe that Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority in ordering the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been safely operating for more than three years,” it said. 

Energy Transfer claims that billions of dollars of tax and royalty revenue will be lost by local and tribal governments in several states. 

“The economic implications of the Judge’s order are too big to ignore and we will do all we can to ensure its continued operation,” the company stated, before maintaining that the Dakota Access Pipeline is environmentally safe and responsible. 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Associated Press) (Wall Street Journal)

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International Students Who Take Only Online Courses This Fall Cannot Stay in the US, ICE Says

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  • On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it will not issue visas to prospective and current international students who will only be taking online courses during the upcoming fall semester.
  • That’s despite the fact that many colleges around the country are integrating online-only models because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Many international students now fear they could be deported and worry about how they might be able to return home with current travel restrictions. 

International Students Could Face Possible Deportation

The federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program has announced that it will not allow international students to remain in the country for the upcoming fall semester if they enroll in online-only universities or colleges. 

SEVP, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made the announcement Monday after education institutions had asked the agency for months to extend grace periods for international students into the fall.

It was not unprecedented to think that SEVP might. It had already allowed international students to shift to online classes for the spring semester when much of the U.S. began to shut down. Those eased restrictions then carried into summer semesters.

Prior to those semesters and under normal rules, international students were required to take classes in-person and could only take a maximum of three credit hours (usually one course) online.

With daily COVID-19 cases increasing in most states, some institutions have already announced that they will be foregoing in-person classes in the fall. Despite this, ICE has argued that “there is a need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations.”

“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” SEVP said in its Monday statement.

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction, to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

“If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

Notably, that announcement also requires universities to make a decision by July 15 on whether they plan to fully open, implement a hybrid system, or become online-only

“What is just, to me, absolutely staggering is we have been asking for this guidance since April,”  Lizbet Boroughs, an executive with the Association of American Universities, told The Washington Post.

Boroughs added that universities now have “nine days to respond. There’s just tremendous concern about trying to protect current students who are members of their communities and their educational investment. ”

Questions Linger About How This Will Take Effect

Online, many international students have spoken out about the announcement, with some even sharing links to petition letters to send to congressional representatives.

“And I thought the cancelled flights, stress of finding last minute summer housing, not being able to see my mom for over a year would be enough,” one person tweeted. “With no support system, in the middle of a pandemic, this is all that was missing.”

“I regret coming here for a better education,” another person said on Twitter. “It’s so cruel to uproot lives in the middle of a pandemic over reasons entirely beyond our control. Everything is so uncertain and I’ve never felt less like a human being.”

The announcement has also led to a flurry of unanswered questions from students and others involved in higher education. For example, students at schools that have already announced online-only semesters for the fall have been left to wonder whether those schools will quickly revise their plans. 

Last week, you had the University of Southern California announced that almost all of its undergraduate fall courses will be held online. Monday, just hours before ICE’s announcement, Harvard announced that all of its courses for the full academic year will be taught online as well. 

In fact, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, of about 1,100 U.S. colleges being tracked, 9% plan to operate online, and 24% have proposed a hybrid model. 

ICE has confirmed that students planning to enroll in schools with hybrid models will be allowed to take more than three credit hours online if institutions file certifications with the agency. Still, tons of students are scared their visas will be revoked or not approved if their schools don’t revise plans to accommodate them.

Following ICE’s announcement, Harvard University President Larry Bacow called the move a one-size-fits-all approach and suggested that the university might update its online-only policy.

“We will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward,” Bacow said in a statement Monday evening.

Others worry about the negative impact ICE’s move could have on graduate students who conduct research and teach classes

“If their labs close and they’re not able to work full time on dissertation research… do they have to leave the country?” Boroughs asked in her interview with The Post. “We know there are many PhD candidates who are involved in critical research to respond to this covid pandemic. ”

Even if students are denied visas, many wonder how they will be able to return home. An array of countries currently have travel restrictions, some of which even apply to those with students visas.

Value of Having International Students

Advocates for extending flexibilities for international students into the fall semester have argued that they are a vital asset to American campuses.

According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, during the 2018-2019 academic year, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported almost 460,000 jobs.

They are also not part of a small or insignificant group. According to federal data, 1.1 million people in the U.S. hold active student visas.

That’s why people like immigration lawyer Fiona McEntee have argued that losing foreign students would be a huge blow to university budgets. 

“If students can study online successfully from an academic point of view, why are we forcing them to come into a situation where they could put their health at risk and also the health of their classmates at risk?” she asked.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)

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Remains of Missing Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillén Identified

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  • Authorities confirmed Sunday that they recovered the remains of Vanessa Guillén, an Army Specialist at Fort Hood who had been missing since April 22.
  • Not long after the body was found last week, soldier and suspect Aaron David Robinson died by suicide as he was about to be taken into custody.
  • His reported girlfriend who was taken into custody, Cecily Aguilar, claims that Robinson killed Guillén, then confessed to her. After this, they both mutilated and disposed of her body by a river 20 miles from Fort Hood.
  • Guillén’s family and lawyer claimed that she was subject to sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. They believe Robinson was among the men who harassed her, however, investigators have not yet found evidence to support this.

Body Identified

Investigators have identified the remains of Vanessa Guillén, an Army Specialist who went missing from Fort Hood in April.

The remains were initially discovered on June 30. While they were believed to be the remains of Guillén, DNA evidence did not confirm the victim’s identity until Sunday evening. The remains were found by a river in Bell County Texas where workers were building a fence. Investigators had searched that exact area nine days prior but did not find the body. 

Guillén was last seen on April 22 in a Fort Hood parking lot. Her family had long been calling for answers in her disappearance, criticizing investigators for slow movement on the case.

The family has also claimed that Guillén experienced sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. While she told friends, family, and other soldiers, Guillén did not formally report these incidents because she feared potential retaliation.

Eventually, social media users joined in on the family’s calls for answers, spreading campaigns for justice in Guillén’s name and holding peaceful protests.

What Happened?

The man suspected of killing Guillén, a fellow soldier named Aaron David Robinson, died by suicide when authorities tried to take him into custody last week. According to Guillén’s family and lawyer, he was among the men who allegedly harassed her. Investigators, however, have said they have not yet found that Robinson harassed Guillén. Investigations are still ongoing. 

Another suspect, Cecily Aguilar, is in custody. She has been identified by numerous reports as Robinson’s girlfriend, and an estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier. Aguilar is facing one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and could face up to 20 years in federal prison if she is convicted. According to a release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas, Aguilar said that Robinson confessed he had killed a female service member to her. He allegedly struck her in the head with a hammer while at Fort Hood. 

Robinson then allegedly transferred the body off to a remote site in Bell County and asked Aguilar to help him dispose of it. Aguilar claimed she recognized the deceased as Guillén before she “helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of” her.  Reports indicate that they had attempted to cut up and burn parts of the body before burying the remains in separate holes.

Guillén’s sister Mayra claims that she met Robinson on the base in the aftermath of her sister’s disappearance. Mayra claimed that Robinson laughed in her face at one point. 

“Not knowing that he had something to do with it, I felt, something was telling me that, that he did something and I wasn’t wrong,” Mayra said during a press conference. 

Calls for Investigation

Guillén’s family, along with their attorney Natalie Khawam, are calling for a Congressional investigation into this case. They believe the investigation thus far has been improper. 

“We will never know what happened, ever, until we get a Congressional investigation because everything that we were given was lies,” Khawam said during a press conference last week. “It was evasive. They were not sincere, they were actually very disingenuous to us.” 

“I don’t know who is covering up for who but it doesn’t matter,” she added.

Khawam is not the only one asking for a probe into the matter. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Jackie Speier wrote a letter calling for the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate Guillén’s disappearance, the circumstances of her workplace, and the Army’s response to both. 

“We are gravely concerned with the appearance that the Army was able to marshal significant

additional investigative resources after her family began a social media campaign with the

hashtags #IAmVanessaGuillén and #FindMySister,” they wrote. “If the Army must rely on relatives, not commanders or comrades, to take the initiative in locating missing soldiers, there is something fundamentally broken in the institution.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard is also calling for an investigation, as well as legislation to protect those serving in the military from harassment and assault. Guillén’s case has also prompted numerous people who have previously served to tell their own stories of assault in the military using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén. 

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Washington Post) (NPR)

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