COVID-19 live updates: COVID-19 live updates: Being vaccinated offers better protection than being infected: Study

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(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 743,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.4% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 29, 6:44 pm
SCOTUS rejects bid to block Maine vaccine mandate for health care workers

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request for an emergency injunction against Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care staff.

A Maine physician and several others had sued the state over the mandate, which required that all health care workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, because it disallows religious exemptions.

With three justices dissenting, the high court rejected the application Friday, though it could still grant the case on the merits and take it up for further consideration.

-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer

Oct 29, 6:28 pm
Federal court lifts pause on New York vaccine mandate for health care workers

A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction on New York’s statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers seeking a religious exemption.

The court Friday returned the case to the district court for further proceedings. But for now, the state can once again enforce the mandate despite religious objections.

Seventeen people had sued the state after it ordered health care staff at hospitals and nursing homes to get at least one dose by Sept. 27, saying the mandate violated their constitutional rights because it disallowed religious objections.

-ABC News’ Aaron Katersky

Oct 29, 3:24 pm
FDA authorizes pediatric vaccine

The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Friday.

An initial 15 million doses are expected to start shipping out of Pfizer’s manufacturing plant within 24 hours.

No vaccinations will start until the CDC director signs off. The director is likely to sign off on Nov. 2, with vaccinations likely beginning Nov. 3.

Oct 29, 1:04 pm
Being vaccinated offers better protection than being infected: CDC study

A new study from the CDC finds that people with “natural” immunity through infection were more than five times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 compared to people who were fully vaccinated. 

The study reviewed more than 7,000 people across nine states, measuring infections and hospitalization rates three to six months after either vaccination or initial infection. The study — published in the CDC’s weekly journal, the MMWR — reaffirms prior research indicating that vaccines offer superior protection than natural immunity.

Oct 29, 12:46 pm
FDA expected to authorize vaccine for kids within hours

ABC News expects the FDA to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Friday, according to people familiar with the agency’s planning.

The exact timing of the announcement is not yet known.

But no vaccinations will start until the CDC director signs off. A hearing with the CDC’s independent advisory board is set for Nov. 2; the director is likely to sign off on the panel’s recommendations that evening, with vaccinations likely beginning Nov. 3.

Oct 29, 11:12 am
NYPD 80% vaccinated after administering over 1,000 shots Thursday

New York City’s police department is 80% vaccinated after administering more than 1,000 shots on Thursday.

Nearly all municipal employees, including police officers, sanitation workers and firefighters, have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit proof of receiving at least one dose of vaccine. Those who don’t get vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave, starting Monday, for at least 30 days, and their future employment will be resolved in negotiations with individual labor unions.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called reports of nearly half unvaccinated precincts  “certainly outdated” and said he’s more concerned about filling “individual shifts” than staffing precincts.

“We will move resources around. We have had significant increase in people getting vaccinated in the past three days, and that’s the good news,” Shea said on Channel 5. “New Yorkers should not, should not, be worried about this.”

The FDNY’s vaccination rate stands at 71%. The city’s firefighters’ unions organized an anti-vaccine mandate rally on Thursday.

Oct 29, 10:18 am
Montana, Idaho leading nation in death rates

In recent weeks, cases have been creeping up in Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington, according to federal data.

The nation’s daily death average has dropped by about 36.3% in the last month, but it remains persistently high, around 1,150 new deaths reported each day.

Montana currently has the country’s highest death rate, followed by Idaho and West Virginia, according to federal data.

Oct 28, 12:44 pm
Florida files lawsuit against Biden administration over vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, arguing that the vaccine mandate for federal contractors is “unconstitutional.”

“Florida companies, public and private, receive millions of dollars in federal contracts annually and will be negatively impacted by the unlawful requirements,” a statement from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

DeSantis said in a statement, “The federal government is exceeding their power and it is important for us to take a stand because in Florida we believe these are choices based on individual circumstances.”

Oct 28, 11:37 am
Global cases, deaths on the rise for 1st time in 2 months

The global number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are now increasing for the first time in two months, largely driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions, W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The highest case increases in the last two weeks were in the Czech Republic (up by 234%), Hungary (up by 200%) and Poland (up by 183%), according to the W.H.O.

The director-general attributed ongoing infections “in large part” to inequitable access to tests and vaccines.

“Eighty-times more tests, and 30 times more vaccines, have been administered in high-income countries than low-income countries,” Tedros said. “If the 6.8 billion vaccine doses administered globally so far had been distributed equitably, we would have reached our 40% target in every country by now.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New York firefighters suspended after threatening state senator’s staff over vaccine mandate while on duty

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(NEW YORK) — Four New York City firefighters have been suspended after driving their truck to a state senator’s office while on duty, asking for the politician’s home address and telling him the city would have “blood on its hands” over the city’s vaccine mandate.

The group, from Ladder 113 in Brooklyn, went to the office of state Sen. Zellnor Myrie in the company’s fire district in uniform and asked to speak to him, although as a state official he had no involvement in the city mandate from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

All city personnel, including firefighters, must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the time they show up to work on Monday. Those who do not get vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave.

The senator was not there at the time, but the firefighters spoke to a staff member.

“They said they wanted to let people in the community know that the trucks weren’t going to be running and that they were going to shut down firehouses,” a person familiar with the conversation told ABC News.

It was, the person said, a “cordial conversation” though at one point the firefighters said the “city would have blood on its hands.”

“I think it is highly inappropriate,” Myrie, a Democrat, said in an interview with New York ABC station WABC. “It is incredibly disturbing that those entrusted with keeping us safe would be on duty, protesting a vaccine mandate that had nothing to do with a state elected official. … My staff is rattled, they’re shaken up by it. And frankly, I am upset that we’re even having this conversation.”

The firefighters told the senator’s staff member they wanted the choice of whether to get vaccinated and expressed a view that it would be safer for them to get tested every week.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

FDA authorizes COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11

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(NEW YORK) — Another 28 million Americans are one step closer to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 after the Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer shot for 5-11-year-olds.

Children will be one of the last groups in the U.S. to become eligible for the vaccine. Protecting them against COVID-19 is a major step in getting the country back on the path to normalcy after an unexpected late-summer surge that disproportionately impacted unvaccinated Americans and filled hospitals to the brim.

“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff, and children have been waiting for today’s authorization. Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The process now heads to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An advisory committee for the CDC will meet on Tuesday to discuss the pediatric vaccine safety and efficacy data, as an advisory FDA panel did this past week, and then CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to give the final signoff soon afterward.

That means kids could begin getting shots at some point next week and become fully vaccinated by December.

In anticipation, the White House planned to unleash millions of vaccine shipments across the nation as soon as FDA authorization was announced. Vaccine sites will have to wait for the CDC’s word to begin administering the vaccine, but stock will be on hand.

“The bottom line is that we will be ready immediately following FDA and CDC decisions so that parents can get their kids vaccinated quickly, easily and conveniently,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said at a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

The White House purchased enough shots for all 28 million 5-11-year-olds and on Thursday announced plans to purchase another 50 million shots by April 30, 2022, which could also be used for children under 5, if and when there is authorization for that age group.

Though there was some debate at the FDA advisory meeting about the potential side effects for children 5-11 — particularly because myocarditis, a condition involving inflammation of the heart, has been linked to the vaccine in teenage boys and young men — the panel nearly unanimously voted in favor of the vaccine, deciding that the risk was worth the benefit.

None of the 2,200 kids who received the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine last June in the clinical trials have experienced serious side effects, including myocarditis.

Meanwhile, nearly 2 million kids ages 5-11 have gotten COVID, and 8,300 have been hospitalized with COVID-19. A third of those children ended up in the ICU and over 100 have died.

“To me the question is pretty clear. We don’t want children to be dying of COVID, even if it is far fewer children than adults, and we don’t want them in the ICU,” Dr. Amanda Cohn, an epidemiologist with the CDC, said at the FDA meeting on Tuesday.

Dr. William Gruber, the senior vice president of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, told ABC News in an interview Friday that he also saw the vaccine as a way to protect children from the emotional instability the virus has wrought. Widespread vaccination could keep children out of quarantine after being exposed at school and ensure the safety of indoor activities ahead of the winter.

He pointed to the benefits of “allowing children to be children.”

“This allows that to open up again, we’ve been seeing step-by-step progress and opening up society. It’s time for that to happen with children as well,” Gruber said.

Whether parents will embrace the vaccines for their kids is still a question. In an October poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about a third of parents with kids ages 5-11 were willing to vaccinate their kids right away, while another third wanted to “wait and see.” The figures represented a slight uptick in vaccine acceptance among parents of elementary-school-aged kids since July, but they have stayed steady since September.

The CDC director on Thursday emphasized the urgency of getting kids vaccinated, even as the country recovers from an alarming uptick of cases and begins to relax again.

“There’s urgency because we’re seeing disease in children, we’ve seen deaths in children and we’ve seen long COVID,” Walensky said at a White House briefing.

And as America saw during the delta surge, unvaccinated areas will be the most vulnerable if there are future spikes in cases.

“Certainly we have seen cases come down before and a way to prevent surges again is to get more and more people vaccinated and make sure that we have protection,” Walensky said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

A COVID vaccine for kids is coming. Will parents let them take it?

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(NEW YORK) — Michael and Jennifer Spaetti of Salisbury, North Carolina, were both vaccinated last spring as soon as shots became available. But when it comes to their 6-year-old grandson who lives with them, they aren’t so sure.

As his primary caregiver, they wonder about long-term side effects. He also hates getting shots, guaranteeing that an extra trip to the pediatrician would be tough emotionally.

“I’m not sure. It just seems like it came out so fast,” said Jennifer Spaetti. “And we’re talking about a child. I feel like it’s different for me, but I just I’m not sure. I don’t think I know enough about it.”

Denise, a mother of two from Columbia, South Carolina, expressed similar concerns. Asked to withhold her last name for privacy reasons, Denise jokes she would feel more comfortable seeing the neighborhood kids get their shots fist, just in case there is some rare side effect that researchers missed.

And as a Black mother, Denise said she worries not enough African American children were represented in the clinical trials.

“My husband is gung-ho,” she said. “And I’m definitely not opposed to it. But I do just want to wait and see … I want to make the best decision as a parent.”

With the first pediatric vaccine for COVID-19 expected to roll out as early as Nov. 3, only 27% of parents with kids ages 5-11 say they will vaccinate them “right away,” according to the latest poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Another 33% of parents with the elementary-aged kids say they want to “wait and see” how it works in others before getting their child vaccinated. And at least two thirds of those parents say they are concerned about potential long-term and serious side effects.

This hesitancy is worrying many health officials, who contend widespread vaccinations in schools will be critical to vaccinate kids ahead of the cold weather to prevent another surge in cases.

They also counter that parents should be much more worried about the virus than the vaccine. Of the 1.9 million kids ages 5-11 who contracted the virus, 8,300 wound up hospitalized. One third of those children hospitalized had no underlying health conditions.

Another concern pediatricians have is that children exposed to the virus are at risk of developing “long-haul” symptoms. While very rare for children, the symptoms such as brain fog, chest pain and debilitating fatigue persist for weeks after exposure.

None of the 2,200 kids who received the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine last June in the clinical trials has experienced serious side effects, including the myocarditis that’s been seen in a small group of older teen and adult males. Experts say any side effects to a vaccine typically occur within two months of getting a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with independent vaccine and health experts, also have found no evidence that the vaccine could impact a person’s fertility and is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

The CDC also warns that people shouldn’t count on prior exposure to the virus. In a study released Friday, the CDC found adults with “natural” immunity through infection were more than five times more likely to develop COVID-19 compared to people who were fully vaccinated.

Still, even vaccine experts say it can be nerve-wracking to make a decision for millions of children based on a study involving only a few thousand kids.

The trial also wasn’t as diverse as some experts would like. Of the children participating in the clinical trials, the vast majority of participants – 78% — were white. Six percent were Black, while 21% were Hispanic and 6% were Asian.

Dr. Paul Offit, an adviser to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who voted in favor of authorizing the vaccine at a meeting this week, said he still supports the rollout because he believed the benefits outweigh the risks.

The FDA was expected to authorize the pediatric vaccine as early as Friday, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expected to sign off next week.

“The question is when do you know enough? And I think we certainly know that there are many children between five and 11 years of age who are susceptible to this disease who could very well be sick and are hospitalized or die from it,” said Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

For its part, the White House is planning to launch a social media campaign to urge parents to vaccinate their kids. To increase trust, federal officials also have pushed to make the vaccine for kids – which is a third of the dosage used in adults and comes in a special orange-capped vial — widely available in pediatrician offices and pharmacies, rather than relying on mass vaccination sites.

Still, many parents don’t want to be rushed.

Paul Ekeoha, a father of four kids in Odessa, Texas, says he’s not convinced yet that his kids need it because they seem healthy now and strong. At the same time, he’s not opposed to vaccines for other people and said he is open to changing his mind.

“If my hands are tied, and I don’t have options, I wouldn’t have any objection,” Ekeoha said.

Other parents said they would be keeping a close eye on how the rollout goes for pediatric vaccines.

“Probably what I’ll do is just wait and see how it goes,” said Jennifer Spaetti.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Where NYC stands as COVID-19 vaccine deadline looms for city employees

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(NEW YORK) — As the clock counts down, nearly 80% of New York City municipal employees have complied with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, city officials said.

Nearly all city workers, including police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, have until 5 p.m. Friday to get at least one dose of the vaccine or be placed on unpaid leave, starting Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city anticipates that many outstanding employees will get vaccinated close to the deadline, and city agencies have been making final pushes to drive up their numbers.

On Thursday, more than 1,000 NYPD members got their first shot, Commissioner Dermot Shea said. As of Friday morning, 80% of the department was vaccinated, Shea said on 1010 WINS radio. He said he believes that the department will be in “good shape for Monday morning,” but will move resources to ensure appropriate coverage.

Prior contingency plans are “being actually scaled-down” as NYPD officials watch vaccination rates rise, with Shea telling Channel 5 on Friday they’re now more concerned about filling “individual shifts” than staffing precincts on Monday.

“We will move resources around. We have had significant increase in people getting vaccinated in the past three days, and that’s the good news,” Shea told Channel 5. “The contingencies are there. New Yorkers should not, should not, be worried about this.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How Puerto Rico became the most vaccinated place in the US

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(NEW YORK) — Puerto Rico is the most vaccinated place in America, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 73% of its 3.3 million citizens are fully vaccinated, beating several states like Vermont and Connecticut with high vaccination rates.

The island also has the highest rate of total vaccine doses administered: 154,563 doses per 100,000 people.

Puerto Rico has outpaced several states in the race to the top vaccinated spot in the U.S. despite the odds stacked against it. Not only is it home to a larger population than 21 U.S. states, but it’s also been battered by COVID-19, poverty, climate change and an ongoing financial crisis.

“It’s impossible to talk about the pandemic without the context in which Puerto Rico encountered and faced the pandemic,” ​​Daniel Colón-Ramos, a Yale medical school professor and the president of Puerto Rico’s Scientific Coalition, told ABC News.

Hurricane María uncovered Puerto Rico’s fragile infrastructure that has yet to recover. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the island has a poverty rate of 43.5%, with some municipalities struggling with little to no operational clinics or hospitals for long periods of time. Residents have also been struggling with ongoing power outages triggered by the unstable electric grid.

COVID-19 only exacerbated the weight of these pre-existing structural issues on the territory, Colón-Ramos said.

COVID-19’s toll on Puerto Rico

The island was hit hard by the pandemic. Puerto Rico reported at least 151,432 COVID-19 cases and over 3,200 deaths linked to the virus, according to Puerto Rico’s Health Department. Amid the threat of the coronavirus, the island was the first place in the U.S. to implement the strictest COVID-19 restrictions, including a curfew that lasted over a year.

“Together, we have achieved good results through vaccination efforts and measures that were implemented,” Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi said in a press release written in Spanish. “Although we are doing very well, we still cannot let our guard down and we have to continue to protect ourselves.”

Until recently, the local government prohibited certain businesses from operating between midnight and 5 a.m. and banned alcohol sales after midnight. Some requirements, like indoor mask and vaccine mandates, remain.

Now, Puerto Rico is on a steady decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with a positive test rate of 2.43%, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Marieli González-Cotto, a molecular biologist and educator, urges the community to remain cautious and vigilant about their health and safety, even as the virus slows its course.

“People should understand that we still need to take care of ourselves, take care of our communities and really take this one step at a time because [we could regress] and start all over again,” González-Cotto told ABC News.

The method behind Puerto Rico’s successful vaccine rollout

“It was an all-hands on deck type of plan,” Colón-Ramos told ABC News.

The effort to get Puerto Ricans vaccinated included local officials, community leaders, health care providers, Public Health Department officials and scientific experts, according to Colón-Ramos.

TV ads, social media posts and radio commercials were rolled out to educate residents across the island and combat misinformation before it had a chance to spread.

“The information channels were flooded with the right kind of information,” Colón-Ramos said. “The scientific and the health care community got very engaged and proactive in educating people in collaboration with journalists, civic leaders, and public leaders.

“Communities had conversations with the population about concepts from flattening the curve to herd immunity,” he added.

The research showed that thousands of consumers were more accepting or knowledgeable about vaccines after viewing digital ads and messaging.

“At the very beginning, it was very hard for the people to grasp because it was an ‘info-demic’ — there was too much information out there,” González-Cotto said. “What we focused on was not only putting out the information but also putting it in a way that would be easy for people to understand.”

All educational efforts from public and private sectors towards individuals had a significant impact on Puerto Ricans’ response to the vaccine rollout. Public health policies, like lockdowns, curfews and mandates, helped solidify messaging and protocol across the island, according to Colón-Ramos.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Can background checks curb gun violence?

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(NEW YORK) — Darien Richardson, a 25-year-old woman in Maine, was sleeping in her apartment when armed intruders burst in and shot her several times in January 2010.

Her boyfriend survived the incident, but after weeks in the hospital, she died the following month due to complications from her gunshot wounds, Portland police said.

Finding her assailant seemed possible when authorities discovered that the handgun used to shoot her was apparently recovered at the scene of another murder, according to her family and news reports. But they were not able to trace it to the person who shot Darien.

“A sad and unfortunate twist in this case is that a little more than a month after Darien and her boyfriend were shot, the same gun was used in a murder on Park Avenue here in Portland,” Portland Police Assistant Chief Vernon Malloch told the Bangor Daily News in 2012. “That case is solved. We recovered the firearm. We know that it’s the same gun that killed both people. Unfortunately, we don’t know where the gun came from.”

The person who pulled the trigger remains a mystery in part due to a major loophole in the nation’s gun background check system: a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigation traced the gun back to a private sale at a Maine gun show, where the first owner sold it to someone he didn’t know, without a background check and without any record of the sale, the Bangor Daily News reported authorities said.

Not only did the loophole make the crime harder to solve, but it may also have made it easier for the crime to be committed in the first place.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Remains found in California desert identified as missing 30-year-old Lauren Cho

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(NEW YORK) — Remains found in a Southern California desert have been identified as 30-year-old Lauren “El” Cho, a New Jersey woman who was missing for months, authorities said.

Her cause and manner of death are pending toxicology results, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.

The remains were recovered on Oct. 9 during a search for Cho “in the rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley,” the sheriff’s department said. Cho was reported missing on June 28 “when she reportedly walked away” from the Yucca Valley home where she was staying, the sheriff’s department said.

The search for Cho was launched this summer and included planes searching the remote mountain terrain and canines scouring the area for evidence, the sheriff’s office said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: Global cases, deaths on the rise for first time in two months

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(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 743,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.4% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 29, 10:18 am
Montana, Idaho leading nation in death rates

In recent weeks, cases have been creeping up in Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington, according to federal data.

The nation’s daily death average has dropped by about 36.3% in the last month, but it remains persistently high, around 1,150 new deaths reported each day.

Montana currently has the country’s highest death rate, followed by Idaho and West Virginia, according to federal data.

Oct 28, 12:44 pm
Florida files lawsuit against Biden administration over vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, arguing that the vaccine mandate for federal contractors is “unconstitutional.”

“Florida companies, public and private, receive millions of dollars in federal contracts annually and will be negatively impacted by the unlawful requirements,” a statement from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

DeSantis said in a statement, “The federal government is exceeding their power and it is important for us to take a stand because in Florida we believe these are choices based on individual circumstances.”

Oct 28, 11:37 am
Global cases, deaths on the rise for 1st time in 2 months

The global number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are now increasing for the first time in two months, largely driven by an ongoing rise in Europe that outweighs declines in other regions, W.H.O. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The highest case increases in the last two weeks were in the Czech Republic (up by 234%), Hungary (up by 200%) and Poland (up by 183%), according to the W.H.O.

The director-general attributed ongoing infections “in large part” to inequitable access to tests and vaccines.

“Eighty-times more tests, and 30 times more vaccines, have been administered in high-income countries than low-income countries,” Tedros said. “If the 6.8 billion vaccine doses administered globally so far had been distributed equitably, we would have reached our 40% target in every country by now.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two adults charged with assaulting minors at youth football game in Maryland

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(MANCHESTER, Md.) — A recreational youth football game in Maryland that devolved into a brawl among at least 30 people has resulted in accusations of racism and charges against two white adults are accused of assaulting two Black minors from the opposing team.

The game between the Olney Bears, a team with predominantly Black and Hispanic children, and the North Carroll Colts, which predominantly was composed of white children, took place in Christmas Tree Park in Manchester, Maryland, on Sept. 25.

Police and North Carroll Rec Council officials say they have so far found no evidence that racism played a part in the scuffle.

Multiple parents who spoke with ABC News described a tense environment that was heightened because parents from both teams were on the same sideline.

Olney was winning when a heated disagreement over a referee’s call exacerbated tensions and referees called off the game early, according to police and multiple witnesses who added that the brawl broke out as coaches, parents and players walked off the field.

“[The game] disgustingly ended with approximately 30 persons in a melee, which is a very rare occurrence,” Manchester Police Chief John Hess told ABC News on Sunday. “The single officer on scene at the start was forced to use pepper spray to defuse the situation because his clear verbal commands were ignored, and the melee was escalating as he was waiting for multiple support units to arrive.”
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Criminal charges and disciplinary action

According to court documents and police, Nicole Starr Ellis, 31 and Keith Gregory Lockner, 32, each were charged with second-degree assault against two 13-year-old Black players.

According to the District Court of Maryland for Carroll County, a trial is scheduled for Dec. 7. Joseph Ashley, an attorney representing Ellis, told ABC News on Wednesday that his client denies “all allegation of uttering racial epitaphs and of assaulting anyone.” Attorney Frank Turney, who’s representing Lockner, declined to comment to ABC News on Thursday.

According to court documents obtained by ABC News, a 13-year-old Olney player whose name was withheld to protect his identity, allegedly was punched by Lockner. Ellis is accused of assaulting KC Robinson, the son of Olney head coach Kirk Robinson.

The Carroll County Youth Football League to which both teams belong told ABC News that the executive board launched an investigation last month that’s so far led to the expulsion or suspension of several individuals associated with both teams.

“As additional details emerge the CCYFL will continue to evaluate and take further actions as necessary,” the executive board said in a statement to ABC News. “The League has a zero-tolerance policy for any physical altercations on its sidelines and unfortunately the decisions made by a few adults has impacted the season.”

The league would not disclose the names of those who faced disciplinary action, but Kirk Robinson confirmed that he was one of them.

According to Robinson, he initially was suspended for two games for using foul language during the game after he disagreed with a refereeing decision, but later he was banned for life from coaching in the league or attending games.

Robinson told ABC News he thinks that decision is unfair because he was defending his family.

“My job is to protect the kids that are on the field … and I’m paying the consequences for it,” he added. “You can’t tell me that any adult is going to be OK with — whether their child’s Black or white — being assaulted by another adult.”

Robinson’s wife, Amanda Robinson, told ABC News she witnessed the alleged assault against the first child.

LaTasha Robinson, KC Robinson’s mother, said that following confrontations involving Ellis, Lockner and parents of Olney players, there was pushing and shoving as they walked through the crowd. Amid the commotion, she said KC fell to the ground after he was allegedly assaulted by Ellis.

“He was upset, he was hurt,” LaTasha Robinson said. “You don’t just swing into a crowd and there’s kids there.”

Allegations of racism

Several individuals associated with the Olney team who were present at the game, including family members of the two 13-year-olds who were allegedly assaulted, claimed that their children were subjected to racial slurs by North Carroll players and parents.

Tamisha, the sister of the first child who was allegedly assaulted, told ABC News that her brother was crying so hard afterward that he “couldn’t even catch his breath.”

Tamisha said that her brother scored two touchdowns, and as tensions were getting high before the scuffle broke out, he and his teammates were being taunted throughout the game by individuals associated with North Carroll.

“I went over to him originally … and I just asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘They’re calling me the N-word, they’re calling us the N-word, They’re taunting us.’ And I said, don’t worry about that, go to your coaches, just stay with them,” she said.

Hess told ABC News there is no evidence of racial slurs on various spectator videos obtained by police, but it’s unclear how much footage is out there and the criminal case is still open.

North Carroll Rec Council President Andy Kiler told ABC News on Sunday that the North Carroll Colts executive board took disciplinary action against several individuals, but “racist remarks have not been found, which includes an investigation by police that included video and conversations with those at the event.”

“NCRC takes all accusations of any type of discrimination very seriously, and we do not tolerate that type of behavior within our programs,” he added. “Our review has concluded unless new information is brought to our attention.”

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