- State Democrats in Pennsylvania are claiming that Republicans did not inform them that a Representative tested positive for COVID-19, and that others were isolating as a result.
- Many Democrats are outraged and feel their health was put in danger by the news not being shared with them. Some are calling for the Speaker of the House to resign.
- Democratic Rep. Brian Sims posted a viral rant calling Republicans “callous liars” who called for the government to reopen as they were potentially exposing their colleagues to the virus.
- Republicans have defended themselves, saying they notified those who came in contact with the state representative, and that they followed CDC guidelines.
Rep. Lewis Tests Positive
Democrats in Pennsylvania’s state legislature are claiming that Republicans hid the fact that representatives were self-quarantining after one tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis announced that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on May 20, after getting tested two days prior. His last day in the state’s Capitol was May 14.
“I immediately began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department. My last day in the Capitol was Thursday, May 14.” he said.
Lewis said that anyone who was in contact and potentially exposed to the virus was notified and asked to self-quarantine. He said he waited a week to disclose his diagnosis to the public “out of respect” for his family.
However, it allegedly was not just the public that learned of this news on Wednesday. Pennsylvania Democrats say they were also shocked to learn that one of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus and had been isolating for over a week.
“While we are pleased to learn that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge,” Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said in a statement. “Knowing how House members and staff work closely together at the Capitol, we should have been made aware of this much sooner. We should not have learned of it from a media report.”
Dermody says that in the last two weeks, there were six days of voting at the Capitol and more than 15 meetings of House committees, meaning that people who had come to work in person were at risk of possible exposure.
Right now, Democrats are claiming that four members of the Repubican caucus went into self-quarantine as a result of their contact with Lewis. One of those caucus members was Rep. Russ Diamond, who has very openly criticized masks and other social distancing protocols. He has also led charges calling for the state to reopen.
In a statement, he said he canceled in-person meetings and began isolation as soon as he learned he was in contact with someone who was COVID-positive, though he did not know who that was at the time. But, according to Spotlight PA, earlier that day, he spoke before a House Committee without a mask to call for an end to the state of emergency Pennsylvania declared because of the virus.
Diamond says he has experienced no symptoms since he began isolating on May 21 and plans to go back to the capitol as soon as Thursday. He has not been tested for the virus, but claims his doctor told him a test would be unnecessary if he was not ill.
Democrats Say They Were Out of the Loop
Many Democrats were outraged that they were not notified that their colleagues were isolating and felt their health had been jeopardized. Rep. Kevin J. Boyle claimed that not disclosing this kind of information should be considered criminal.
This news also came on the same day the United State’s coronavirus death toll reached 100,000 people. In Pennsylvania alone there are 70,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths.
“Pennsylvanians are suffering greatly from this medical and financial catastrophe, and many of them are being asked to place the health and safety of others ahead of their own well-being,” wrote Rep. Dan Frankel. “I am horrified to learn that members of the General Assembly failed to do the right thing, at a time when so many Pennsylvanians are doing so in much more difficult situations.”
One of the most vibrant reactions came from Rep. Brian Sims, who went on a 12-minute viral rant on Facebook Live. He claimed that his republican colleagues cam to work so that they could “explain that it was safe to go back to work, it was safe to go back to race car driving or dog grooming or getting your haircut.”
“Meanwhile, what we’re learning is that during that time period, they were testing positive,” Sims continued. “They were notifying one another and they didn’t notify us. I just spent the better part of the past 11 weeks sitting across the room from people who would eventually test and decided not to tell us.”
He specifically referred to Diamond as being part of this mentality. Sims also claimed that this could have serious consequences. He said that Boyle has young children to go home to, and that he himself is vulnerable because he donated a kidney earlier this year, news he was not initially planning on making public right now.
“I didn’t donate my kidney to save somebody’s life so that I could die at the hands of Republicans who are being callous liars,” Sims said.
“How dare you. How dare you put our lives at risk,” Sims continued. “How dare you put our families at risk and pretend it was about looking out for your own. We know you’re looking out for your own.”
Sims, along with other Democrats, has been calling for Republican Speaker of the House Mike Turzai to resign over this, as well as anyone who knew about it.
Republicans Defend Protocol
Still, Republicans have defended themselves. Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Republicans, told the Washington Post that they followed CDC guidelines, as well as protocols from Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. They maintained that everyone needed to be notified because of direct contact was.
Lewis also addressed the concerns on a Facebook live stream Wednesday night. He said that in his final day at the Capitol, he was only in for a few hours and saw very few people. He also said he took measures to protect himself and others.
“One, I wore a mask. Two, I did not shake any hands,” Lewis said. “Three, it’s pretty much a ghost town at the capitol right now, the cafeteria is closed, so I only interacted with a handful of folks.”
Lewis also insisted that everyone he interacted with was notified. He said he was not aware of anyone else testing positive for the virus.
See what others are saying: (NBC 10) (Spotlight PA) (Washington Post)
Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated
- Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program.
- Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
- Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery
Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.
DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.
The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.
Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.
DeWine Defends Lottery
Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”
DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally.
Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April.
See what others are saying: (AP News) (NPR)(The New York Times)
Derek Chauvin Qualifies for Longer Sentence Over George Floyd’s Murder, Judge Rules
- A judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin ruled Wednesday that there were enough aggravating factors in the former officer’s murder of George Floyd that could qualify him for a longer prison sentence.
- While Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges he faced, Minnesota state law only allows him to receive prison time for the most serious charge of second-degree homicide, which has a max sentence of 40 years but a recommended sentence of 12.5 years for people with no criminal history.
- The judge ultimately agreed that Chauvin qualifies for longer sentencing because prosecutors had proven that he abused his power as a police officer, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.
- Chauvin is currently scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
Judge Cahill Rules on Aggravating Factors
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who oversaw the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the former Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd, thus qualifying him for a longer sentence.
While the jury found Chauvin guilty on all three charges he was facing, Minnesota law says that he will only face sentencing for the most serious charge, which in this case is second-degree murder.
That charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but state sentencing guidelines recommend 12 and a half years for someone with no criminal history. Prosecutors asked Judge Cahill for what’s called an “upward sentencing departure,” arguing that there were five factors that should open Chauvin up to a maximum sentence.
In a ruling made public Wednesday, Cahill wrote that prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt four of those five factors.
In his decision, Cahill agreed with the prosecutor’s claim that Chauvin had “abused his position of trust and authority” as a police officer and that he “knew from his training and experience” that the neck restraint he used Floyd in “danger of positional asphyxia.”
Cahill also supported the argument that the former officer had been “particularly cruel” to Floyd, who he wrote “was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge he was likely to die,” adding that Chauvin “remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas.”
The third and fourth aggravating factors that the judge sided with prosecutors on were that Chauvin had committed the crime as part of a group of three or more people and that he perpetrated that crime in front of children.
Notably, Cahill did reject the fifth aggravating factor brought by prosecutors, who argued Floyd was “particularly vulnerable” because he was handcuffed and held facedown on the street. The judge said that prosecutors did not prove that argument, writing that Floyd had been able to resist arrest before he was put on the ground.
The ruling comes just a few days after Chauvin and the three other officers were indicted on federal civil rights charges by a grand jury.
Chauvin was also indicted on a second, separate federal charge related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017, during which he allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.
According to reports, if he is convicted, he would likely serve the federal sentence at the same time as his state one. However, the federal charges may impact the pending August trial of the three other officers, who have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Separately, last week, Chauvin’s defense attorney filed a motion for a new trial, alleging misconduct by the judge, prosecutors, and jurors, signaling additional continued litigation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CNN)
Teens Attack and Rob 80-Year-Old Asian Man in Northern California
- Viral surveillance footage shows an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area being assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police say are teenagers.
- Police believe the suspects are as young as 16, and at one point, one can be heard in the video giggling from the getaway car as the victim cries for help.
- The news comes after the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data showing that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March.
Suspect Laughs at Victim During Attack
Surveillance video going viral on social media captured an 80-year-old Asian man in the San Francisco Bay area getting assaulted and robbed on Saturday by suspects who police believe are teenagers.
The full video is extremely distressing. It shows the man getting knocked to the ground, trying to fight off his attackers as he cries for help. To make matters worse, at one point, high-pitched giggles can be heard coming from another teen in the background. That person appears to be inside a getaway car nearby.
The victim was robbed of a watch and sustained minor injuries. Police have also said that a vehicle similar to the one used in this case was spotted at a strong-armed robbery in a nearby San Leandro area less than two hours later, where another victim was robbed of her purse.
Police believe the suspects are as young as 16.
Surge of Crimes Against Asians in U.S.
This is just the latest violent attack against an Asian person making headlines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, reports emerged regarding two Asian women who were attacked with a hammer in Times Square by someone demanding they remove their masks. Two other Asian women were recently stabbed while waiting for the bus in downtown San Francisco.
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate released data Thursday saying that reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S. jumped by almost 74% year-over-year in March — with Chinese people as victims in 44% of these acts.
Vancouver Sees Massive Influx of Anti-Asian Hate
While anti-Asian hate crimes have surged in the U.S., the situation may be worse in Canada, specifically in Vancouver. Around 42% of people in Vancouver are of Asian descent and at least 25% speak Chinese — making it the most heavily Asian city in North America.
Still, it witnessed a 717% year-over-year surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Bloomberg even dubbed it the Anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America, saying more anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in the city of 700,000 people last year than in the 10 largest U.S. cities combined.
That’s part of why people all across the city are participating in more organized action to speak out against anti-Asian hate. For instance, several rallies took place in Vancouver Monday to mark the National Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.