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Viral Mask Disputes Continue as States Slow Reopening Plans

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  • As coronavirus cases across the country increase, more viral videos show mask confrontations escalating. 
  • At least 36 states have reported a rise in cases, with around 12 pausing or slowing reopening plans, especially ahead of the holiday weekend.
  • Meanwhile, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead has finally released its pricing plan for the drug remdesivir, which many believe sets the bar for the cost of future coronavirus treatments. 

Trader Joes Mask Incident 

Despite repeated calls from health experts for Americans to wear face masks in public, more and more videos from all over the country continue to surface of people going on tirades over mask requirements.

One incident that went viral this weekend involved a woman in North Hollywood, California who caused trouble at the grand opening of a Trader Joes on Friday. 

Viral video shows the shopper, with an empty handbasket, screaming at a store employee. It appears that she’s being asked to leave to store for not wearing a mask. “You f*cking b*itch!” she shouts as she slams the basket down. 

“You’re fucking Democratic pigs. All of you!” she adds before saying she was harassed by a man for not wearing a mask. 

According to another video from before the screaming ensued, a customer allegedly said, “F*ck you leave,” to her.

In a third clip, the woman screams at customers, saying she has a breathing problem. “My doctor will not let me wear a mask, so anyone harassing me to wear a mask, you guys are violating federal laws,” she says. 

However, a Facebook post from an alleged witness later suggested that the woman went to the store with the intention of making a scene. The witness pointed out that she went to the store with a mask on and took it off once inside. 

She never put anything in her basket, the Facebook user wrote, “Instead she was roaming the aisles and getting up in people’s faces, getting as close as possible,waiting for someone to inevitably tell her to put her mask back on.”

The user also expressed doubt in her claims of having a medical condition, noting that she must have waited in line for at least 30 minutes in the heat with her mask on to get inside.  

Fiesta Market Mask Incident 

Based on a video that is circulating online, it seems that a Fiesta Market in Dallas, Texas also recently found itself dealing with a similarly angry shopper. 

In this video, the shopper is seen throwing the grocery items out of her cart while also shouting obscenities. “Over a dumbass f*cking mask,” she says along with, “I don’t give a f*ck about Dallas and these dumb ass motherf*cking rules.” 

Especially following the Trader Joes incident, many are wondering if the shopper was looking to cause a scene because she actually had a mask in hand. 

Coronavirus Cases Surge

These mask disputes are continuing to emerge at a time when coronavirus cases across the country are rising. The United States broke another record Friday, reporting the highest number of new cases in a single day with at least 45,300 new infections.

As of now, at least 36 states have reported a rise in new cases. At least 12 have halted or rolled back on reopening plans like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, which are quickly becoming new epicenters for the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence has even postponed appearances in Arizona and Florida set for this week “out of an abundance of caution” due to the spikes. Pence is still expected to travel to those states to meet with governors and local officials, but the visits will no longer include campaign events.

With 4th of July weekend just around the corner, many are fearful of more potential spread, especially in Florida, after the state broke its single-day case record again Saturday with 9,585 new coronavirus cases. Another 8,530 new cases were recorded Sunday. 

In an effort to deal with the weekend rush, officials have ordered beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach to be closed for the weekend. Miami- Dae County’s Mayor added parks into that order as well, warning that the closure could be extended if conditions don’t improve. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday took his most drastic action yet in response to the post-reopening coronavirus surge, shutting bars back down and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50%.

Just a few hours later, Florida also shut down bars with an announcement from Halsey Beshears, Secretary of Department of Business & Professional Regulation.

Other states are moving to do this same in specific counties, especially in anticipation of the weekend festivities.

Drug Pricing 

At the same time, new reports about pricing for the drug remdesivir have emerged based on an open letter from Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day. 

Remdesivir is the first antiviral drug shown to effectively help treat coronavirus in a major clinical trial and it was authorized for emergency use in May. The benefits are limited of course, and it hasn’t lead to a statistically significant drop in deaths, but a government study found that remdesivir shortened coronavirus recovery time by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those given just usual care.

The biopharmaceutical company Gilead previously donated its supply of the drug to the U.S. and other countries, but people have been waiting to see what it could charge after that supply runs out. 

O’Day said government price will be $390 per dose, or $2,340 per patient for the shortest treatment course of five days and $4,290 for a longer treatment course of 10 days.

Nongovernment buyers will pay around $520 per dose for patients with private insurance, or approximately $3,120 for the shorter treatment and $5,720 for the longer treatment.

Around 90-95% of patients currently receive the shorter five-day treatment plan, O’Day told the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. is the only country for which Gilead has set tiered pricing. It will charge the government price in other developed nations with public insurance programs.

This pricing plan is a huge deal because many feel like Gilead is setting the bar for how future treatments will be priced. According to Politico, the numbers are in line with what many analysts had suggested. 

However, consumer advocacy groups criticized the pricing as high, particularly because Gilead received about $70 million in taxpayer dollars and assistance from the National Institutes of Health to run clinical trials. Others say the pricing is too high for a drug that has not been shown to reduce mortality.

O’Day, for his part, has said that shortening hospitalization saves about $12,000 per patient and said Gilead will have spent $1 billion on developing and making the drug by the end of this year. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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