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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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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • 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.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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