- Calvin Munerlyn, a Family Dollar security guard in Flint, MI., was shot and killed Friday after telling a customer she needed to wear a mask to shop in the store.
- Local authorities announced Monday that they had charged three people allegedly involved in the incident with premeditated first-degree murder. While one person was arrested, two are still at large.
- Tensions over mask policies also appear to exists outside of Michigan. In Stillwater, OK., city officials rolled back mask requirements just hours after enforcing the policy due to escalated threats of violence, including one shooting.
Michigan Guard Shot and Killed
Three people in Michigan were charged with first-degree murder on Monday after allegedly shooting and killing a security guard who told their family member they were required to wear a mask while shopping.
The incident occurred in Flint on Friday when Family Dollar security guard Calvin Munerlyn told a woman she needed to wear a face mask to stay in the store. Notably, that woman then left and went back to her car; however, her mother—who was wearing a face mask—remained inside the store.
The mother, later identified as Sharmel Teague, reportedly began yelling and even spitting at Munerlyn. Because of that, he asked the cashier not to serve her. She then stormed out of the store, got in her car, and drove off.
About 20 minutes later, prosecutors said that same car drove back into the parking lot. This time, Teague’s husband and son—Larry Teague and Ramonyea Bishop—reportedly get out of the car and walked into the store.
According to surveillance footage obtained by prosecutors, Larry Teague approached Munerlyn. Teague then started yelling at him, telling Munerlyn that he had disrespected his family members.
Prosecutors said Bishop pulled out a gun and shot Munerlyn in the back of the head, killing him.
Bishop, Larry Teague, and Sharmel Teague were all charged with premeditated first-degree murder on Monday.
While prosecutors said they found and arrested Sharmel Teague, both Bishop and Larry Teague are still at large.
Family and Friends Remember Munerlyn
Munerlyn was reportedly the father of eight children. On Sunday, his wife of 10 years grieved for his loss while speaking with local NBC affiliate WEYI.
“This just can’t be real. My babies need their daddy,” Latryna Sims Munerlyn said while in tears. “I’m just suffocating. I feel like a knife is in my chest.”
Also on Sunday, Munerlyn’s cousin, Tina James spoke with ABC affiliate WJRT, where she expressed a mixture of anger and grief.
“This was just senseless over a mask!” she said. “Over a mask! I don’t understand it.”
Later that night, family and friends gathered for a vigil at the Family Dollar where Munerlyn died to remember him.
On Monday, Genesee County commissioner Bryant Nolden called Munerlyn a longtime friend and said Munerlyn worked out at a local gym where Nolden serves as the director.
“This really broke my heart,” Nolden said. “He would come in three or four times a week and he’d train anyone who wanted to be trained for free. We have a senior dance, and he’d come and dance with the seniors.”
Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton suggested in a statement that he doesn’t believe Munerlyn acted out of conduct when interacting with Sharmel Teague and her daughter.
“From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the governor’s executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers,” Leyton said.
On April 24, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring customers in businesses to wear face masks. Since then, there’s been a hefty amount of pushback against various parts of this order, but there’s no actual criminal penalty for breaking it. It mainly allows businesses to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.
However, Larry Teague has also been charged with a misdemeanor for breaking the executive order.
Stillwater, OK. Rolls Back Mask Mandate
Almost a thousand miles away on the same day that Munerlyn was murdered, Stillwater, Oklahoma enacted a new requirement forcing all customers and employees in local businesses to wear face masks.
Notably, that comes as the state begins reopening businesses like restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters; however, just three hours later, multiple businesses were reporting that their employees had faced not only verbal abuse but also violent threats when trying to enfore the policy.
One of those threats even reportedly included a shooting.
Later in the day, the city decided to roll back its mask mandate, instead encouraging—but not requiring—customers and employees to wear masks.
The announcement also came with a sharp rebuke from city manager Norman McNickle toward those threatening violence.
“The City of Stillwater has attempted to keep people safe by the simple requirement to wear a face covering to protect others,” McNickle said in a statement. “It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.”
On Sunday Mayor Will Joyce told MSNBC that part of the decision to roll back the mandate came because Stillwater simply doesn’t have a big enough police force to deal with the number of violations it expected.
“It’s been a difficult issue for the last two weeks,” Joyce said. “We’ve had a strong encouragement in all of our orders for the last two weeks for everyone to wear face coverings while out in public even while we were under a shelter in place order. And sort of measuring that against the idea of trying to enforce a broader order, which is difficult, you know, we’re a small city. We don’t have the kind of police force that can go out and try to deal with every single one of the people who may not be willing to wear the mask.”
Similar to “no-shirt, no-shoes” policies, businesses in Stillwater are currently still able to make their own rules when it comes to the issue of requiring face coverings.
See what others are saying: (WEYI) (WJRT) (Detroit Free Press)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban
- President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
- Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
- The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions.
Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.
Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”
It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead.
Biden To Block Trump’s Order
Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect.
It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.
Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- 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.”