White House official acknowledges younger Americans are ‘less eager’ to get vaccinated

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The lead White House COVID-19 response coordinator acknowledged Sunday that younger Americans feel less vulnerable to COVID-19, making them less likely to get vaccinated.

“Younger particularly those in their 20s, have felt less vulnerable to the disease and, therefore, less eager to get shots. They were made eligible later so they have not been eligible as long and we continue to see hundreds of thousands of young people vaccinated each week,” Jeff Zients told ABC “This Week” Co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

“If you are vaccinated, you’re protected. And if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not protected. And that’s particularly important for everyone, including young people, in light of delta variant,” Zients added.

However, in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, among those not vaccinated, 74% said they probably or definitely won’t get a shot, which is up from 55% in April.

The high percentage of unvaccinated people who do not want to get a shot is raising concerns that vaccine rates could remain stagnant as the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across the country. It’s estimated that the delta variant was found in approximately 26% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.

“Our polls even show that 74% of those people will probably not or definitely won’t get a shot. So what does it mean for getting rid of the virus nationwide? Will it continue to be with us indefinitely?” Raddatz asked.

“We are seeing increases in cases in those areas in the country where there’s lower vaccination rates. So, it’s really important that people get vaccinated,” Zients responded. “The good news is confidence in the vaccine — those saying they’re willing to get vaccinated — has increased across time as more and more people know people who’ve been vaccinated and can see the benefits of being vaccinated.”

This type of encouragement might be working for some, including 20-year-old Ally Kirk of West Virginia, who told Martha Raddatz earlier this week she changed her mind and decided to get vaccinated.

“A lot of my friends started getting it. My parents were vaccinated. I felt a lot more comfortable with it. I did some research on my own. And I felt that it was time for me to get it. I was ready. I’m ready to move past COVID and get on with life back to normal,” Kirk told Raddatz.

“We do have a lot to celebrate,” Zients said Sunday. “We are much further along than I think anyone anticipated in this fight against the pandemic,” adding that 90% of adults 65 or older have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

But Raddatz pressed Zients for a more direct answer on the impact the unvaccinated will have on the nation’s fight to end the pandemic.

“But what does it mean for the nation if we have all these unvaccinated people who say they’re just not going to get it?” Raddatz asked.

“Well, we are — we are vaccinating millions of Americans each week. And we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to drive up the vaccination rate and we’re optimistic that more and more people will get vaccinated,” Zients responded.

As the Biden administration has officially fallen short of its goal to fully immunize 160 million Americans and to ensure 70% of adults get at least one shot by the Fourth of July, Raddatz also asked Zients about the mixed messaging of President Joe Biden preparing to host more than 1,000 first responders at the White House for Independence Day.

“I assume they’re taking precautions. But is having large crowds gather really the right message right now?” Raddatz asked.

“The event at the White House is being done in the right way. It’s an outdoor event with testing and screening. Vaccinated people are not wearing masks. Unvaccinated people masked,” Zients responded. “That said, we are doubling down on our efforts. Across the summer months, we will vaccinate millions more people because you need to get vaccinated to be protected against the Delta variant, and against this disease overall.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man arrested for crashing car into Washington Monument barrier: Police

Twitter/Arsen Hoxha

(WASHINGTON) — A man has been arrested after allegedly crashing his car just outside the Washington Monument, missing several people who were walking around the landmark Saturday night, police said.

No pedestrians were injured during the incident, which took place around 7:23 p.m., the United States Park Police said in a statement.

Officers responded to the scene and found the SUV, which was covered in signs and had an American flag hanging from its passenger-side door, crashed into the security barrier at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue.

The unidentified driver suffered minor injuries and was arrested at the scene, the police said. The suspect was charged with attempted assault with a dangerous weapon (automobile) and is awaiting a court appearance as of Sunday morning.

No motive has been revealed, and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

The incident took place about 24 hours before crowds were expected to gather at the National Mall for Fourth of July celebrations.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The Olympics’ newest sports poised to break barriers for women, minorities

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The Tokyo Olympics will expand its lineup of competitions with three sports that have long been championed for recognition on the global stage: skateboarding, surfing and indoor climbing.

For decades, these sports were largely represented in the U.S. by white and male superstars — including skater Tony Hawk, surfer Kelly Slater and climber Alex Honnold — but the games have the potential to change that narrative going forward for millions of minority and female fans around the world.

Lou Harris, a longtime surfer from Queens, New York who runs the local chapter of the Black Surfing Association, a surfing school that caters to young minorities, told ABC News that the display of talent from diverse athletes around the world is sure to inspire a new generation.

“They’re going to see everyone cheering them on,” Harris told ABC News. “They’re going to see Black surfers and Asian surfers and women surfers and think, ‘Hey you know, maybe I can do that.'”

The U.S. will be among the 17 nations competing in surfing, 19 nations competing in climbing events and 26 nations competing in skateboarding events for both men’s and women’s divisions. The U.S. surfing and climbing teams are each made up of two men and two women while the U.S. skateboarding team, which is separated into park and street divisions, are made up six men and women.

The skateboarding team has three members who are minorities while the other two sports are made up of all white athletes. The American teams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mariah Duran, who’s leading the U.S. women’s Olympic street skate team, and Kyra Condie, who is on the U.S. Olympic climbing team, told ABC News they were proud to be poised to make history in Tokyo.

“As long as the sport continues to grow, that’s the ultimate goal,” Duran told ABC News about skateboarding.

Duran, Condie and Harris all reflected on their journeys in their respective sports and how the changes in the community have led to this moment.

“In general it is getting better but we still have a long way to go,” Condie told ABC News.

Catching the bug

Each of the athletes interviewed by ABC News said they got started in their sport almost the minute they saw it in person.

Harris moved to Rockaway Beach in Queens, in 2006 and said his jaw dropped when he encountered the surfers there.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God. There are surfers here? In New York?'” Harris, 49, recollected.

He said his girlfriend at the time saw his excitement and encouraged him to join in. Harris went to a local surf shop, got his first board and taught himself how to ride the waves.

“The day I caught my first wave I was like, wow, I did that myself,” he said.

Condie, 25, also got into climbing through a chance encounter around the same time. The St. Paul, Minnesota native was at a rock climbing gym for a childhood birthday party when a gym coach took notice of how adept she was.

The then 10-year-old accepted the coach’s offer to join the team.

“I pretty much immediately saw there were competition possibilities in climbing and that really suited me,” Condie said.

Climbing, for her, was more exhilarating than other sports, because she sees every competition as its own unique experience.

“I’m figuring something out and doing some fun moves that feel really interesting and jumping around and swinging out,” she said.

Duran, 24, said skateboarding similarly called to her.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico native said she followed her brother into any sport or game that he took part in, but it was skateboarding that really excited her.

There was no structured training, like when she would have to spend hours practicing for baseball. Instead, it was all up to her. Every perfect ollie, every stumble and every grind made her a stronger skater, she said.

“The individual satisfaction you get from pushing yourself and getting up after slamming, that’s just the part that I love about skating,” Duran said.

Progress, but still long roads ahead

Each of the three new Olympic sports have grown their women and minority communities by varying degrees.

A survey released in February 2020 by the University of Southern California found that 46% of skaters were non-white and a quarter were women. The study, which was funded by the Tony Hawk Foundation, revealed that skaters of color felt a degree of “safety from judgment” within the skateboarding community.

“Our research shows that through skateboarding, skaters develop the ability to communicate and build relationships with people from diverse backgrounds,” Neftalie Williams, a co-author of the report, said in a news release.

Women and minority pioneers from the 80s and 90s like Elissa Steamer, Eric Koton and Kareem Campbell paved the way for this year’s Olympic skateboarding teams. Among the six male skaters on Team USA are Nyjah Huston and Heimana Reynolds, who are both of Asian, Pacific Islander descent, and Zion Wright, who is Black.

Duran said she feels honored being part of the sport’s evolution and sharing the field with the five other women skaters. She said she never felt awkward taking part in events even when there were so few women competing at smaller, local events early in her career.

“I was always that person. I was the only girl on the baseball team or the only girl who wanted to play football on the field,” she said.

The climbing world, on the other hand, has had to deal with some growing pains. The sport has more barriers to entry since climbing gyms are scarce in parts of the country, according to Condie.

She added that climbing isn’t an NCAA sport, so athletes have fewer opportunities for scholarships while competing.

A 2016 survey by Flash Foxy, an online community for women climbers, suggested that women have the additional barrier to scale, misogyny. The survey found that women climbers were two and a half times more likely to experience microaggressions in the gym than men climbers.

Condie said she experienced this when she was a teen climber when she was turned down by her local gym to be part of its setting team, which places the grips on the climbing wall, in favor of its male members.

“Looking back, that probably wouldn’t have happened if I was a guy,” Condie said. In the end, she said, instances like that pushed her to train harder.

While Black and Latino surfers may be common in places like the Caribbean and Latin America, diversity has been more of a struggle in America. In fact, the U.S. Olympic surf team is all white.

Harris said when he started out surfing, he got bewildered stares from beachgoers who had never seen a Black man with a board. Even though he’s now a popular member of the Rockaway Beach scene, he says he still faces some struggles from people not used to the changing demographics.

He recalled one instance where a white woman from Manhattan contacted him for lessons. When she arrived, Harris introduced himself, but got an unexpected reaction.

“She looked at me and was like, ‘You’re not Louis,'” Harris recalled.

After other surfers told her that Harris was the instructor, she ran back and apologized. Harris said he forgave her.

“Now we’re good friends,” Harris said.

Giving Back

One of the ways the athletes said they are working to change these barriers is by promoting their sports to younger minorities and women.

Harris was teaching surfing for years but in 2016 he says he decided to offer free lessons to children in the neighborhood, creating the Rockaway branch of the Black Surfing Association after reading a story about a deadly fire that was started by a minor who told investigators he was bored.

Harris said that he’s heard from dozens of Black, Latino and other minority families over the years who expressed interest in getting their kids into surfing after years of hesitation.

“They’re like, ‘My son or my daughter wants to surf, but we don’t know how to do it,'” Harris said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all of the white kids.”

Harris said he’s helped to ease those apprehensions by promoting his program and his diverse group of surfers with presentations on the beach, pep talks at local schools, and most importantly on social media.

Duran said she’s seen more women hit the half pipes and skate parks and add to their unique personalities and styles to the sport.

Many are inspired by seeing the videos of women competing in professional competitions, amateur acts and other tricks online, according to Duran.

“I’ve kind of described it as a tree,” Duran said of the skateboarding community. “The root and the culture are always going to be the same, but you can branch as far as you want out of it. There is no right or wrong way.”

Condie has also been using her social media platforms to promote climbing among underrepresented athletes, and show that not every day is a walk in the park.

Condie said for every Instagram story showing a successful, quick climb there’s one where she stumbles or takes longer than her usual best.

Condie said she’s most proud of the feedback that she gets online, anytime she promotes women and minority climbers who typically don’t get the spotlight.

She said she’s most looking forward to having her sport boosted by the Olympics.

Making a mark in Tokyo

When the International Olympic Committee announced in 2016 that climbing would be an Olympic sport at Tokyo, Condie said she did not hesitate to try out for the team.

After years three years of practice, competitions and qualifying, she said she’s anxious to make history with other top climbers, such as Nathaniel Coleman, Colin Duffy and Brooke Raboutou.

“I think everybody is like-minded and great role models for the sport, and that’s something I’m proud of,” she said.

Duran said she still can’t believe that skateboarding and the Olympics will be said in the same sentence, and that she qualified for the team. She added that she would be honored if one or two more girls picked up a board just from seeing the women’s team.

“I quit all of my other sports that could potentially be in the Olympics to skate,” Duran said. “It was more of a confirmation that I was meant to be here.”

While the U.S. Olympic surfing team doesn’t have any minorities, Harris predicted the sport’s worldwide coverage will excite and inspire fans from all over the world.

Harris likened it to when he saw “The Karate Kid” as a teenager and immediately began practicing martial arts. He recommended that surfing schools and other organizations should start planning for that rise in demand.

“I’m telling you everyone is going to get a commemorative surfing board when this is done,” he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Vaccine hesitant are in ‘death lottery,’ W.Va. governor says

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — As the country marks its 245th Independence Day, the Biden administration has officially missed its target of getting 70% of all adults at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. And as state governments examine what went wrong with their vaccine rollout programs, a culprit is clear: the younger population is significantly less likely to be vaccinated.

“At the end of the day, the young people — we’re having a hard time getting them across the finish line and getting them vaccinated,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told ABC “This Week” Co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

“They’re young people all across this country that are not getting vaccinated,” Justice added. “It’s a challenge. That’s all there is to it.”

Nationally, 67% of all adults have received one dose, but only 56.1% of adults in West Virginia have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — a surprise from a state that was lauded months ago as being one of the leaders in the U.S. on vaccine distribution.

When that statistic is broken down by age group, the vaccination rate plummets in younger generations. While more than 78% of the U.S. population over the age of 65 is vaccinated in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 39.5% of 18- to 24-year-olds are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Let’s go back to who’s not getting vaccinated,” Raddatz said. “The statistics will show it’s poverty, race and you just look at the map — it’s a lot of red states.”

“Well, I mean, there’s some truth to that and everything,” Justice responded. “Because, you know, the red states probably have a lot of people that, you know, are very, very conservative in their thinking. And they think, ‘Well, I don’t have to do that.’ But they’re not thinking right.”

“Do you really think those people who aren’t vaccinated — who as you said may be more conservative, may not want anybody in their business — are really ever going to get vaccinated?” Raddatz asked. “What could actually put them over the edge to want it at this point?”

“Well, Martha, I hate to say this, is what would put them over the edge, is an awful lot of people die,” Justice responded. “The only way that’s going to happen is a catastrophe that none of us want.”

“And so, we’re just going to keep trying,” he added.

In the capital of West Virginia, the local Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is only vaccinating eight to 10 people a day, according to Dr. Sherri Young, a health officer and the executive director of the health department. On their best day earlier this year, they had administered 5,344 shots.

“Do you think that last little trickle out there — which is pretty sizable — will ever do it?” Raddatz asked Young.

“Probably not,” Young replied.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 74% of people who are unvaccinated probably won’t get a shot, which is up from 55% in April.

While reporting in West Virginia, ABC News came across dozens of individuals under the age of 35 who were still unvaccinated.

William Paterson, 22, of Morgantown, West Virginia, told Raddatz he would “probably not” get the vaccine because he felt he wasn’t at risk.

“Do you worry that you might give it to someone else?” Raddatz asked Paterson.

“A lot of the people in my family that are at health risks are already vaccinated, so I’m not really that worried about it right now,” he replied.

The state of West Virginia has continued to try incentivizing people to get vaccinated, offering multiple lotteries: a million dollar cash prize, custom-outfitted trucks, full four-year scholarships to any public institution in the state, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and shotguns, and getaways to West Virginia State Parks.

When asked if the vaccine lottery swayed his decision to get vaccinated, Paterson said “it doesn’t change anything really.”

Justice told ABC News that people are gambling with their lives.

“When it really boils right down to it, they’re in a lottery to themselves,” Justice said. “We have a lottery, you know, that basically says, ‘if you’re vaccinated, we’re going to give you stuff.'” “Well you’ve got another lottery going on,” Justice later added. “And it’s the death lottery.”

“I was saying earlier, that it’s the old, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make ’em drink,’ right?” Raddatz said to the governor. “You’ve provided the vaccine, and yet…”

“Maybe what you got to do is lead them to water — and then if they won’t drink — you’ve got to just, some way, stand up and push their head down to some way — at least a few will drink,” Justice responded. “And that’s what we got to do.”

Some young adults are gradually visiting their local pharmacies though. Ally Kirk, 20, got vaccinated the day ABC News spoke with her.

“Well, a lot of my friends started getting it,” Kirk told Raddatz, while explaining what changed her mind about getting vaccinated. “My parents were vaccinated. I felt a lot more comfortable with it. I did some research on my own, and I felt that it was time for me to get it. I was ready. I’m ready to move past COVID and get on with life back to normal.”

ABC “This Week” Co-anchor Martha Raddatz and ABC News’ Nate Luna contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Spike in drug, alcohol related jail deaths puts spotlight on fallout from ‘war on drugs’


(NEW YORK) — Drug and alcohol-related jail deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and experts say that spike goes hand-in-hand with the continued criminalization of substance abuse in the United States and lack of treatment.

Deaths spiked between 2000 and 2018, increasing by roughly 381% — the largest increase of any cause by a margin, according to the BJS report. The report did not elaborate on the specific causes of death.

The time period also coincided with increased opioid use and large numbers of drug arrests, mainly for possession.

Substance abuse is classified as a mental illness, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency, but has long been treated as a criminal offense by the justice system, rather than a public health issue, NIDA’s Dr. Redonna Chandler told ABC News.

“The fact that we have criminalized some of these things and used punishment as a form of dealing with it goes along with the stigmatized idea that substance use disorders and addiction are a moral choice,” Chandler said. “What we actually know from many years of science is that substance use disorders are involved in a fundamental change within the brain, and within neural circuitry.”

Some experts, like Dr. Kevin Fiscella, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, predict that the number of drug and alcohol-related deaths could be higher because these fatalities may have been recorded as being related to other underlying conditions.

Chandler and Fiscella say that improving systems of treatment and rehabilitation can prevent these deaths, reduce recidivism and end the stigma against people who experience substance abuse.

The first step to addressing the problem, Chandler said, is addressing the over-policing and under-treatment of substance abuse.

The criminalization of substance abuse in the U.S.

Willy Sorila, a 28-year-old formerly incarcerated man and an operations manager at the Aspen Ridge Recovery Center in Colorado, said he could have died while in jail for drug distribution due to a forced withdrawal from benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug.

Sorila, who is still in recovery, recalls having seizures while experiencing withdrawal and receiving no formal treatment for his substance abuse while incarcerated. After leaving jail after a week, he said he later fell into opioid abuse.

“That first time around was very scary,” Sorila said of the withdrawal. “If we’re truly wanting to release people from jail or prison back into society and give them a fair chance at fighting, I think that’s where the treatment really needs to start.”

Sorila said he was given a sports drink and ibuprofen to treat his pain.

Sorila now works to help others on their path to recovery — but he said he’s one of the lucky ones who was able to get out of the cycle of incarceration and addiction.

Of all the people who are incarcerated, the Drug Policy Alliance reports 1 in 5 people are jailed for a drug offense.

And roughly 63% of sentenced people in jail met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, according to data collected by the National Inmate Surveys in the late 2000s, released in 2017.

In this survey, about 61% of people sentenced and incarcerated for violent offenses met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse. That number rose to 72% for property damage offenses and 74% for drug offenses.

“Many poor folks who don’t have insurance can’t get access or very easy access to substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and they end up cycling into the jails,” Fiscella said. “The jails, based on training, based on the culture and based on the resources, their budgets are really struggling to treat people with drug and alcohol [abuse].”

More than 1 million of the approximately 1.5 million drug law violation arrests in 2019, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, were caused by heroin, cocaine, synthetic drugs, and non-narcotic drugs. The remaining 545,000 were marijuana arrests. There were more than 10 million arrests made in 2019.

Since the justice system has disproportionately impacted marginalized, low-income communities, activists have long fought to end the criminalization of hard drugs, and in 2020, they achieved that goal in Oregon.

Oregon is the first and only state to decriminalize the possession of hard drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and more. Now, possession of these drugs could lead to a fine or addiction counseling.

Supporters of the law said that it would help focus on addressing the source of abuse issues, instead of forcing mostly impoverished and marginalized people into incarceration.

“Criminalizing the addict makes it harder for them to have the opportunity of seeking out treatment,” Sorila said.

It is unclear how this decriminalization in Oregon has impacted incarceration rates thus far. Though more states are considering the decriminalization of hard drugs to focus on rehabilitation, the push by advocates for proper treatment continues in jails across the country.

What addiction looks like behind bars

Forced withdrawal, as Sorila experienced, particularly from alcohol and benzodiazepines, can be deadly, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Library of Medicine. Benzodiazepine withdrawal often requires medications to help patients safely discontinue its use and reduce life-threatening withdrawal complications.

Symptoms of withdrawal can include headaches, nausea, tremors, hallucinations, heart palpitations, seizures, and more, the organizations say.

When paired with an underlying health condition, Fiscella said, forced withdrawal, overdosing and drug or alcohol use can be fatal without proper or immediate access to care.

It is not clear how many people have died while in withdrawal, but there have been reports in several states.

In the Journal of Correctional Health Care article “Drug- and Alcohol-Associated Deaths in U.S. Jails,” Fiscella and his fellow researchers from across the country found that drug- and alcohol-related deaths may be a bigger problem than realized in the data due to how deaths are tracked by the facilities.

The study looked at more than 1,400 drug- and alcohol-related deaths nationwide in jails from 2000-2013 and found that 103 were associated with withdrawal.

“Many of these deaths are preventable, but we need new ways of addressing the problem,” Fiscella said.

Most correctional facilities in the U.S, according to research from NIDA and the National Institute of Health, have discontinued their methadone treatment for opioid addiction — leading to more forced withdrawals.

Treatment and rehabilitation for substance abusers

To prevent these deaths, Chandler and her peers at NIDA say a medically supervised withdrawal and access to other health needs while incarcerated could help address these issues.

“Educate them about their high risk and vulnerability when they return to the community and provide them with Naloxone,” a medication that used to treat opioid overdose, Chandler said.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) recommends pharmacotherapy and evidence-based behavioral treatment to ensure that incarcerated people who enter the system with addiction, leave with the resources they need to rehabilitate.

The commission reports that rehabilitation can reduce relapses and recidivism, meaning it is less likely that someone who leaves jail or prison will be jailed or imprisoned again soon after.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment on standards of correctional care regarding substance abuse disorders.

NIDA recommends that treatment must begin during incarceration and be maintained after release through community treatment programs to end the cycle of drug addiction, substance abuse and incarceration.

The more addiction is policed and stigmatized, experts say, the more likely the rise in deaths are to continue.

“The war on drugs has criminalized behaviors that are associated with drug use … and these highly vulnerable people are often sort of cycling in and out of this system,” Chandler said. “Good public health is good public safety — they’re not competing.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Oakland Zoo begins experimental COVID-19 vaccine program on its wildlife

Oakland Zoo

(OAKLAND, Calif.) — The Oakland Zoo has begun a vaccination program to inoculate their highest risk animals from COVID-19 with an experimental vaccine that has been authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Oakland Zoo received their first shipment of the experimental vaccine developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis and began to give doses to their tigers, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets, who were the first animals to receive the vaccine, according to a statement from the Oakland Zoo. They next plan to give doses to their primates, including chimpanzees, as well as fruit bats and pigs.

“Up until now, we have been using public barriers at certain habitats to ensure social distancing, along with enhanced PPE worn by staff to protect our susceptible species from COVID-19. We’re happy and relieved to now be able to better protect our animals with this vaccine, and are very thankful to Zoetis for not only creating it, but for donating it to us and dozens of other AZA-accredited zoos across the U.S.,” said Dr. Alex Herman,VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo.

Zoetis plans to donate more than 11,000 doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to help protect the health and well-being of more than 100 mammalian species living in nearly 70 zoos, more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations across 27 states.

“We are proud that our innovative research and development work and vaccine donations can help veterinary professionals within the zoo community continue to provide a high standard of care to the primates, big cats, and many other species they care for and reduce the risk of COVID-19,” said Dr. Mike McFarland, Chief Medical Officer at Zoetis.

The experimental vaccine has been authorized for use on a case by case basis by the USDA as well as appropriate state veterinarians and comes after the San Diego Zoo requested help in January following an outbreak of COVID-19 among the zoo’s great apes.

“When the first dog was infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong last year, we immediately began to work on a vaccine that could be used in domestic animals, and in eight months we completed our initial safety studies, which we presented at the World One Health Congress last year. While thankfully a COVID-19 vaccine is not needed in pets or livestock at this time, we are proud that our work can help zoo animals at risk of COVID-19,” said Mahesh Kumar, Senior Vice President, Global Biologics at Zoetis. “More than ever before, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the important connection between animal health and human health, and we continue to monitor for emerging infectious diseases that can impact animals as well as people.”

Although the virus is the same as in human vaccines, vaccines for animals vary based on the carrier that is used, according to the Oakland Zoo.

“The unique combination of antigen and carrier ensures safety and efficacy for the species in which a vaccine is used,” said the zoo in the statement.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 75% of emerging infectious diseases have an animal origin, including COVID-19.

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China marks Communist Party centennial with warning from Xi


(HONG KONG) — As tension runs high in Hong Kong, Thursday marked 24 years of the former British colony’s return to China, and one year since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in response to months of unrest and challenge to its authority.

In stark contrast to the mood in Hong Kong, Beijing has been in a celebratory mode, with patriotic shows, military flybys and cannon salutes to memorialize the founding of the Communist Party 100 years ago.

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared in front of tens of thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square that foreign powers attempting to bully his country will “get their heads bashed” and that they’ll be met with a “great wall of steel.”

In a defiant hourlong address, Xi said there was no room for so-called “sanctimonious preaching.”

China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong also made an “unshakeable” commitment to unification with Taiwan, which China sees as a wayward province. “No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.

Beijing’s emphasis on security and territorial integrity isn’t lost on the citizens of Hong Kong, who’ve witnessed authorities carry out an intensive crackdown in the city over the last year since the introduction of the security law. Peaceful mass protests against Beijing’s encroachment erupted in the Asian financial hub in mid-2019 garnering global attention. However as the protest began to grew increasingly violent over the course of months, Beijing became determined to paint them as a Western-backed revolution laying the groundwork for the security law.

It now appears that any hint of resistance in Hong Kong is met with a heavy hand. Police say they can’t allow people to gather because of COVID-19 restrictions, but non-political gatherings seem to have been tolerated in other situations. Hong Kong’s malls on July 1 were packed.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International said the national security law has created a “human rights emergency” and that Hong Kong is “on a rapid path to becoming a police state.”

Beijing has also promoted Hong Kong’s top security official John Lee to become the number two leader in the city, ostensibly rewarding him for enforcing the security law.

When it was first introduced, Beijing insisted the security law would only be used to target an “small minority,” but 12 months on, activists say the law is being weaponized into wiping out the opposition entirely, to stamp out dissent and to curb the city’s freedoms.

The law has sent a chill throughout Hong Kong, and radically transformed its political landscape. Hong Kong police have arrested more than 100 people and charged dozens under its provisions, including almost the entire pro-democracy camp of lawmakers and media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Last month Lai’s paper Apple Daily was forced to close after its editorial staff were arrested and assets frozen.

On the day Apple Daily closed, in response President Biden released a statement saying, “It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world.”

“Through arrests, threats and forcing through a National Security Law that penalizes free speech, Beijing has insisted on wielding its power to suppress independent media and silence dissenting views,” the statement continued.

Most prominent figures who’ve come to define the Hong Kong democracy movement have fled the city or are in jail. One of them is Albert Ho, who spoke with ABC News just days before he was sent to prison in May. “It’s just a matter of time,” Ho said, “You know, when Hong Kong is now facing such a setback and so many of my friends are already behind bars.”

Albert Ho was sentenced to 18 months in prison for inciting people to participate in an unauthorized assembly back on China’s National Day on October 1, 2019 when an unauthorized protest march later turned violent.

The judge who sentenced Ho and nine of his fellow pro-democracy activists said the harsher than normal sentence was to serve as a “deterrent” and “was necessary in maintaining public order.”

For many, the only response has been to leave, with the United Kingdom and other countries offering an easier pathway to citizenship for some Hong Kongers.

Ronny Tong, a top adviser to Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, said that Hong Kongers will have no problem living in the city, as long as they respect the fact that the territory is part of China. “If you do understand the one country, two systems, which involves Hong Kong being a place which is a little bit different from other places, that we are part of China, that is a fact that you can’t change. Not only is it a fact you can’t change, but it’s a fact you need to respect,” Tong said.

“The other thing I would like to say is that I have confidence in the judiciary,” Tong added.

But there are now also questions hanging over whether the integrity of Hong Kong’s judiciary, which is based on the English common law system, might become caught in the crosshairs.

China’s head of security Zheng Yanxiong recently said that the city’s courts should derive power from Beijing. “[Hong Kong’s] independent judiciary’s power is authorized by the National People’s Congress. It must highly manifest the national will and national interest, or else it will lose the legal premise of the authorization,” said Zheng.

Zheng’s comments come as Hong Kong courts start to hear the national security cases of the past year.

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8 and 9-year-old boys charged with shooting death of 62-year-old man

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(WESTMINSTER, S.C.) — An 8-year-old boy along with a 9-year-old boy have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a 62-year-old man in South Carolina.

The incident occurred on Wednesday, June 30, when Oconee County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to an area just northwest of Westminster, South Carolina, after receiving a call from the man’s wife saying that she went to the property to look for her husband after not being able to make contact with him and still could not locate him, according to a press release from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday, July 1.

When deputies responded to the scene they were eventually able to locate 62-year-old Danny Andrew Smith who was unresponsive as he was slumped over the steering wheel of his tractor which was still running but had gone down an embankment before striking a tree.

Following an investigation into the incident, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office announced that a petition had been filed in Family Court charging an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy with involuntary manslaughter regarding the shooting death of Smith, according to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.

“After a consultation with the Solicitor’s Office, and based on the evidence obtained in our ongoing investigation, we believe that both juvenile males discharged a firearm in a reckless manner in the direction of Mr. Smith who was bush hogging on some family property,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “At this time, it is still undetermined which shot ultimately struck and killed Mr. Smith. However, based upon South Carolina law, the hand of one is the hand of all and that is why Family Court has been petitioned in regards to charging both juveniles with Involuntary Manslaughter.”

Based upon evidence obtained during the investigation as well as from the autopsy, authorities determined that Smith had sustained a single gunshot wound to the back which ultimately killed him.

In South Carolina, juveniles under the age of 10 cannot be detained so both of the juvenile suspects have been remanded to the custody of their parents as the judicial proceedings continue, according to Sheriff Crenshaw.

“The Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation and due to that fact, no information will be released that will identify the juveniles in this case,” said Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. “At this time, no information about motive or where the firearm was obtained will be released due to the ongoing investigation and any additional details will be released as conditions and developments warrant.”

The weapon that was allegedly used in the shooting, a .22 caliber rifle, has been recovered and examined by the SLED forensics lab in Columbia, South Carolina.

It is not currently clear which boy pulled the trigger that killed Smith but the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

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Surfside building collapse’s mental toll

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(NEW YORK) — More than a week after the building collapse in Surfside, Florida, 24 people have so far been confirmed dead, with 126 still unaccounted for. As search and rescue crews race the clock to retrieve survivors and remains, they’ve had to contend with several barriers: falling debris, a tropical storm looming off the coast and limited time to recover hope from the rubble.

Undeterred, rescue workers in Florida have worked tirelessly, already moving millions of pounds of debris, with teams working up to 12-hour shifts every day — putting their own safety on the line, and with their own skin in the game. Thursday, the body of one of a first responder’s daughter was discovered among the ruins.

Mental wellness peer teams have been deployed to support the responders. When President Joe Biden arrived at Surfside Thursday, local officials called for increasing psychological supports for those affected by this tragedy.

“This isn’t just a Florida tragedy — it’s also a national and international event. We’re planning on appealing to the President for the best PTSD support possible for the men and women who are working in conditions that resemble more of a warzone than a normal search and rescue mission,” State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said in a statement before Biden’s visit.

Dr. Nomi Levy-Carrick, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who previously worked in New York City with survivors of the 9/11 attacks, said that while first responders have been trained to deal with the physical and mental demands of their job, that training does not make them invulnerable to the trauma they witness — and may internalize — while on scene.

“In the aftermath of something traumatic like this, there is so much loss, grief, sadness, even anger. There can sometimes [be] levels of stress that approach toxic levels that make first responders vulnerable to PTSD and other mental health conditions like depression. And the risk to community members, who don’t even have this training or experience? It’s even greater” she said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — meaning sustained symptoms of trauma that continue many months to years later — is a mental health condition that can develop in the aftermath of traumatic events. PTSD can include things like flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, intense or prolonged psychological distress to stimuli that resemble or symbolize aspects of the traumatic events, and recurrent intrusive memories of the event.

With both workers and community members at risk, Levy-Carrick says that finding meaning can be essential, and protective. “Having a sense of meaning and purpose, whatever that may be, is a very important factor that supports resilience. … It’s important that people feel supported and maintain their social connections through this.”

“Rest and sleep are an essential component of physical and mental endurance, especially in situations with an uncertain end point” said Dr. Ripal Shah, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. She has worked in health care disaster settings in Puerto Rico, Nepal, Indonesia and Haiti.

Shah said it’s important that rescuers are given enough time to take care of themselves.

“If there is adequate manpower, limiting the number of shifts in a row, giving enough time in between in shifts, can be so important for mental health recovery,” she said.

The sense of responsibility to help survivors and clear the scene, can bring some measure of hope, comfort or information to the families — and all can drive rescuers to keep going, some have expressed.

“It’s not every day that you get to go help and do this,” Andrew Schmidt, a firefighter on Southwest Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 6, told station WINK.

“We’re holding up because we’re all holding up for that hope, that faith that we are going to be able to rescue somebody,” Andy Alvarez, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s deputy incident commander overseeing search and rescue efforts, said.

In the tent city set up for crews’ work, a community has come together: volunteers from Surfside and from around the country have brought food and water to support the rescuers, and the Surfside community has set up memorials and prayer circles for those waiting on news.

The massive search and rescue operation is not yet over; nor are all the answers about why this happened are apparent as of yet. And, experts say, the long-term psychological effects from the collapse and loss of life will have ripple effects over time. And while the risks for PTSD are there, Dr. Levy-Carrick said it does not mean it’s what is fated for these workers and the Surfside community.

“PTSD is not inevitable…The risks are very real though for the workers and communities; we should look for how people can support each other and how the community is coming together. It’s part of the way that you can retain hope amidst such tragedy,” Levy-Carrick said.

Jacinta Leyden, M.D., is a psychiatry resident physician at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Tropical Storm Elsa moves through Caribbean, sets sights on US coastline this week

ABC News

(HAVANA, Cuba) — Tropical Storm Elsa is now 85 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica, and 185 miles southeast of Cabo Cruz, Cuba, as it moves west-northwest at 14 mph with current sustained winds at 65 mph.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Haiti, Jamaica and parts of Cuba and a tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of Cuba and the Florida Keys.

On the forecast track, Elsa will move away from the southern portion of Haiti during the next couple of hours and move toward Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba later this morning.

By Monday, Elsa is expected to move across central and western Cuba and head toward the Florida Straits. Elsa is then forecast to move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and into Wednesday.

Heavy rainfall from Elsa will fall across Florida from Monday through Wednesday and 2 to 4 inches of rain, with localized maximum amounts up to 6 inches, will be possible in the region. Keep in mind that this is on top of already saturated ground which means it will present a threat for flash flooding as Elsa moves through.

Things will be dry for much of the East and West coasts on Sunday as the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas will see more rounds of rain and storms.

There is a chance for strong storms along the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles on Sunday to the Upper Great Lakes. Flash flooding is a concern along the Gulf Coast into parts of Arizona, New Mexico, northern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Heat advisories are also scattered across portions of the West on Sunday. Temperatures will be in the 90s and 100s from California to Nebraska and red flag warnings are in effect as gusty winds are possible with scattered thunderstorms and possible lightning strikes could produce new fire starts.

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