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Face Mask Standoffs Go Viral Over Memorial Day Weekend

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  • In a series of viral incidents over the weekend, Americans seemed to be taking firm stands on each side of the face mask requirement debate.
  • Video from a Staten Island grocery store shows customers yelling at a woman for not wearing a mask, demanding that she leave.
  • A performance artist in Los Angeles held photoshoots outside grocery stores while wearing a bikini made of surgical masks, notably while not covering her mouth with one.
  • The debate became political when President Trump, who opted not to wear a mask at Memorial day ceremonies, retweeted a post mocking Joe Biden for his choice to wear a mask.

Staten Island Grocery Store

Along with Memorial Day weekend’s slew of crowded beaches and pools came a series of viral incidents addressing one of the pandemic’s greatest debates: the importance of wearing a mask in public. 

One viral video from Staten Island, New York showed grocery store customers yelling at a woman who went to the store without a mask.

“Get the fuck out of here,” a herd of voices can be heard saying in the clip. 

People in the state are currently required to wear a face-covering when in public spaces where social distancing is not possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The video went viral after it was posted to Faceboook and Twitter this weekend, where it has raked in over 675,000 views and 7 million views respectively.

Though the clip was first posted Saturday, the incident actually happened at a Staten Island ShopRite two weeks ago.  ShopRite told CBS News that store management reported the event to authorities. A spokesperson for the store also advised that customers who see people without a face covering should notify customer service instead of taking matters into their own hands. 

“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility,” ShopRite’s statement to CBS continued. “At ShopRite, we continue to adhere to our sanitation and social distancing protocols to ensure our stores remain a safe place for associates and customers to work and shop. We are all in this together and we ask for everyone to be patient and understanding during this difficult time.”

Wearing a mask is something that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been very insistent about. He regularly tweets about the importance of protecting oneself and others during the pandemic. 

According to Cuomo, in his state, even though they are among the most exposed, frontline workers have a lower infection rate, likely because they are wearing personal protective equipment.

This viral video from ShopRite prompted a wide range of reactions reactions, many of which found humor in the loud New Yorker spirit captured in the clip.

“Never been prouder of growing up in Staten Island,” said actress and activist Alyssa Milano.

Actor Jeffrey Wright noted that even though Staten Island is the most conservative borough in New York City, they are likely more willing to follow mask regulations because of the high death rate in their area.

Mask Bikini Photo Shoot

The west coast had a mask controversy of its own when a performance artist named DaVida Sal in Los Angeles posted photos of herself wearing a tiny bikini made of surgical masks. In the photos, Sal is standing outside of grocery stores. She also has masks covering her ankles and eyes, but notably not her mouth. 

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

In a Facebook post she titled this photo series “The New Abnormal.”

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

“Abnormal Becoming the New Normal. She blindly obeyed,” she wrote.  “If the MASKS work, WHY the 6 feet? If the 6 feet works, WHY the Masks? If BOTH work, WHY the LOCKDOWN?”

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

These photos prompted quick backlash online, where model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen said they made her want to fly straight to Mars. 

Others said they thought these photos showed a complete lack of empathy. 

Her stunt is an insult to the doctors, nurses, patients & families of those who have succumbed to the Coronavirus,” one person wrote. 

Trump Vs. Biden

The mask debate took a turned political when President Donald Trump retweeted criticism of candidate Joe Biden’s decision to wear a mask in public. 

Fox News analyst Brit Hume shared a photo of Biden wearing a mask on Memorial Day. He said this photo “might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”

The picture was taken while Biden, along with his wife Jill, went to lay a wreath at Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park. During Trump’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he opted to not cover his face. 

After retweeting the remarks about Biden’s mask, Trump sent out a tweet criticizing the former Vice President’s response to the swine flu.

Many believed that Trump is trying to structure a narrative that he is strong for not wearing a mask while Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent in November, is weak for doing so. However, a handful of Republican politicians have slammed the idea that wearing a mask should be a matter of the left versus the right. 

“I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through, where they’re creating a divide — either it’s ideological or political or something — around mask versus no mask,” North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum during a press briefing. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who is also a Repulican, has expressed the same sentiment.”

“This is not about politics,” he said in a statement.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Washington Post) (Toronto Sun)

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NJ Woman Charged for Assaulting Staples Customer Who Asked Her to Correctly Wear a Mask

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  • New Jersey Police have charged 25-year-old Terri Thomas with second-degree aggravated assault for violently tossing a woman with a cane to the ground at a Staples store last Wednesday.
  • Thomas attacked 54-year-old Margot Kagan for telling her to wear her face mask properly.
  • Kagan, who police say had a liver transplant four months ago, was hospitalized and is recovering from a leg injury that required surgery as a result of the incident. 

The Incident

Police in New Jersey said Tuesday that they arrested and charged a woman caught on surveillance video attacking a fellow Staples customer who told her to correctly wear her mask. 

The dispute happened inside a Hackensack Staples store last Wednesday when 54-year-old Margot Kagan was using the copy machine. Kagan, who police said had a liver transplant four months ago, noticed 25-year-old Terri Thomas walk by with her mask below her mouth. 

Kagan told a local news station that she told Thomas, “You should really put a mask on,” and warned her that she was endangering everyone. However, the remarks made Thomas angry she reportedly began yelling.

The surveillance footage shows Thomas walking towards Kagan, who lifts her cane to keep Thomas away. Thomas then reaches for the cane and violently tosses Kagan to the ground.

Thomas walks out of view for a few seconds and when she returns, Kagan sticks her leg out to trip Thomas, but Thomas ultimately walks away unharmed and leaves the store. 

Injuries and Charges 

Kagan was hospitalized after the attack and police said she left with a fractured left tibia that required surgery. However, Kagan later told ABC 7 she suffered a broken knee and required a steel plate to be put in. She also claims she’s been told by doctors that she won’t be able to put weight on her leg for seven to 10 weeks. 

As far as Thomas, police have charged her with second-degree aggravated assault and she was released on a summons pending a court appearance on August 24. In New Jersey, the charge is punishable by 5-10 years in jail, and fines as high as $150,000.

Hackensack police are encouraging anyone who witnessed the crime or have any information to reach out to them. 

See what others are saying: (ABC7) (NJ.com) (NBC News)

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Aurora Police Apologize for Drawing Weapons on Black Family in Mistaken Stop

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  • Police drew guns on a Black family in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday who they believed were in a stolen vehicle, ordering the group out of the car and facedown down on the ground. 
  • The passengers were girls between the ages of 6 and 17 and video shows them sobbing in fear during the incident, with at least two minors in handcuffs. 
  • The adult female driver was able to confirm that the car was not stolen and police explained that the car had the same plate information as a car reported stolen in a different state. They also blamed the mixup on the fact that the family’s car was reported stolen earlier this year, even though Aurora police returned it back to them a day later. 
  • The city’s new police chief apologized and offered them therapy resources. She also said officers followed protocol but should be allowed to use discretion to deviate in situations like this and has ordered her team to look at new training practices.

What Happened? 

Police in Aurora, Colorado apologized Monday for drawing weapons on a Black family after mistaking their car for another stolen vehicle. 

On Sunday, August 2, Brittney Gilliam decided to take her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14 and 17-year-old nieces out to get their nails done. Gilliam told CNN that her niece had just gotten back in the car after looking to see if the nail salon they wanted to go to was open. At this point, she and the girls were parked in a parking lot with the car turned off.

That’s when Aurora police pulled up behind the vehicle with guns drawn. Then, police allegedly yelled at the group to put their hands out of the window and get out of the car.

She said the family exited the vehicle and were told to lay face down on the ground. At that time, police handcuffed Gilliam, her 12-year-old sister, and 17-year-old niece. Gilliam claims that police would not explain why she was pulled over until she was handcuffed. Then, they pulled her away to verify her claim that the car was not stolen as the children remained on the ground. 

A bystander named Jennifer Wurtz began recorded the incident after the family was handcuffed. The footage is about 12 and a half minutes long, but a shorter minute in a half-second clip went viral on Twitter. That clip shows the minors facedown on the floor sobbing as police try to keep onlookers away.

Eventually, police sit the children up and in the longer video, Wurtz can be heard pressing the officers about why they had drawn guns on children. 

Police repeatedly asked her to stop interfering, however, they did say she had the right to film. Wurtz stopped pointing the phone towards the scene, but continued to criticize the stop and asked for the officers’ names.

As frustration from onlookers grew, one officer explained that this was a “high-risk stop” and that police were following procedure.

The onlookers were still angry about the policy being used against children and became angrier after learning that the car was in fact, not stolen. 

What Caused the Confusion? 

As far as what the mixup actually was, Gilliam explained that she had reported her car stolen in February, but that case was cleared up. In fact, her attorney told CNN that when her vehicle was stolen, it was actually returned to her the next day by Aurora police. 

In a statement late Monday, Intern Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said that after the stop, police realized the car Gilliam was driving was not stolen. Instead, another vehicle with the same plate information but from a different state had been. The Associated Press reported that the vehicle was a motorcycle from Montana. 

In her statement, Wilson said “The confusion may have been due, in part, to the fact that the stopped car was reported stolen. After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized.”

“I have called (Gilliam’s) family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday’s events,” she continued. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”

Outrage and Apology 

Still, that did little to put the community at ease, especially since the incident comes amid widespread frustration over how Black people are treated by police. Frustrations are especially high in Aurora, where police have faced security for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. McClain was an unarmed Black man who was stopped by officers as he walked home after he was reported as a suspicious person in a ski mask. 

During the confrontation, officers placed him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with ketamine to sedate him. He then suffered a heart attack in the ambulance and was declared brain dead days later before being taken off life support. 

Just last month, two officers were fired for reenacting the chokehold in a photo near the memorial site for Elijah McClain A third officer was fired for not alerting supervisors about the photo while a fourth resigned before a disciplinary hearing about the incident. 

So this latest incident piled on the existing outrage against the local department and police policies in general. And many, including Gilliam, felt that the stolen car mixup did not justify how the young girls were treated. 

“That’s police brutality,” she told KUSA. “There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way. … You could have even told them, ‘Step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.’ ”

In her statement, Chief Wilson confirmed that a suspect in a stolen vehicle is a high-risk stop, and said officers followed procedures they are trained to carry out. However, she added that the department, “must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.”

Wilson added that an internal investigation into this incident has been opened and said she had directed her team to look at new practices and training. Her promises to reexamine department practices are especially significant because that same Monday night, Aurora’s city council voted to make Wilson the city’s permanent police chief. 

See what others are saying: (Denver Post) (CNN) (Sentinel Colorado)

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260 Campers and Staffers at Georgia Summer Camp Tested COVID-19 Positive

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  • In Georgia, 260 people at a summer camp tested positive for the coronavirus in June, per a report from the CDC. 
  • In total, 597 Georgia residents were at the camp, meaning there was at least a 44% attack rate. 
  • Campers, as well as a good portion of the staff, were 17 and under. The vast majority of those who tested positive were aged 17 or under, contradicting the narrative that kids are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. 
  • Officials believe a variety of factors contributed to this outbreak, including campers not being required to wear masks, being lodged in close quarters, engaging in indoor activities, and participating in daily singing and cheering that likely promoted disease spread.

Campers Test Positive

In Georgia, 260 campers and staffers at an overnight summer camp tested positive for the coronavirus in June, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This data contradicts the narrative that children are less likely to fall ill with and spread COVID-19, which many are relying on in the push to open schools back up in the fall. According to the CDC, 597 Georgia residents were at the camp, meaning the camp had a 44% attack rate. That rate is likely even higher, as test results from just 58% of those at the camp were available.

While the CDC referred to the camp just as “Camp A,” many reports have since identified the camp as YMCA Camp High Harbour, which closed following the outbreak. The median age of campers there is 12, while the median age for staffers is 17. According to NBC News, 231 of those 260 people who tested positive were aged 17 or under.

The outbreak started when a teenage staff member left the camp after developing chills. The next day, that staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. The camp then began sending kids home until it was fully shut down three days later. It was recommended that everyone get tested for the virus and isolate if positive. 

How Did the Outbreak Spread?

Officials believe that while the camp followed a good chunk of the CDC’s suggested safety guidelines, the size of the outbreak might be tied to the fact that the camp neglected to implement a few key rules. For example, while staff at the camp were required to wear masks, the roughly 360 campers were not. The camp also did not utilize ventilation protocols, like keeping windows and doors open to allow air to circulate. Activities took place both indoors and outdoors, including “daily vigorous singing and cheering” which could have promoted disease spread. 

“The multiple measures adopted by the camp were not sufficient to prevent an outbreak in the context of substantial community transmission,” the CDC said in their report. “Relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission.”

The CDC also believes that asymptomatic spread was common and factored into the high case rate. The organization also believes that it is possible that some of the cases could have been tied to outbreaks outside of the camp given the spikes the state of Georgia saw throughout June and July. 

The biggest takeaway from this outbreak, though, is the way that the disease spread among young people. It has commonly been believed that children are not as susceptible to the virus as adults; however, as officials receive new data, that belief is being questioned. 

“This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission,” the CDC wrote. 

Questions of School Safety

This case is adding to concerns that there could be severe outbreaks when schools open up in the fall. 

“We are not ready to have full in-person contact consisting of hundreds of students, faculty and staff with the expectation that no one spread or contracts COVID-19,” Dooly County Schools Superintendent Craig Lockhart told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are not ready to return to in-person schooling and be highly confident that we can protect employees and students.”

Georgia in particular has seen rapid case spikes throughout the state. The safety of schools was further called into question on Monday when it was reported that 260 employees from Gwinnett County School District, the largest school district in the state, either tested positive or were exposed to the coronavirus. They are currently being excluded from work as a result.

It is unclear if these events will change the way the state handles its school reopening strategies or if new policies will be implemented as a result of them.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Washington Post)

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