Memphis community celebrates after crude oil pipeline proposal scrapped


(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — They were called the “path of least resistance” by energy giants proposing a new crude oil pipeline. Now, after months of activism and resistance, a Black community in Memphis, Tennessee is celebrating the announcement that construction of the pipeline has been called off.

“This is a significant victory for our community, and for all people who have been pushed to the margins of our society,” Justin J. Pearson, a local resident and one of the co-founders of the grassroots group Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (MCAP), told ABC News on Tuesday, adding that the community responded to the news by erupting in “jubilation.”

“It’s an extraordinary feat for people who were called the path of least resistance to have pushed back and beat back two billion-dollar crude oil pipeline companies,” he added. “You can walk through the neighborhood and see all these signs and the spirit that endures, showing that we really are the path of resilience.”

Plans for the Byhalia Connection pipeline, a joint venture from Plains All American and Valero Energy, were officially called off last Friday. The proposed 49-mile crude oil conduit faced mounting community opposition, and lawmakers and celebrities also added their voices to the resistance movement.

Brad Leone, the director of communications at Plains All American, said in a statement posted to the Byhalia Connection’s website that the company was no longer pursuing construction of the project “primarily due to lower U.S. oil production resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We value the relationships we’ve built through the development of this project, and appreciate those that supported the project and would have shared in its ongoing benefits including our customers, communities, energy consumers, landowners, area contractors and suppliers,” the statement added.

The pipeline initially threatened to cut through predominantly Black communities that have historical significance to those who live there — such as Boxtown, an area in Southwest Memphis that got its name after formerly enslaved people built their homes there out of train boxcars.

A representative of the pipeline company initially told the community the route was chosen because it was the “path of least resistance.” A company spokesperson later clarified to ABC News that, “What should have been said is that we looked for the path with the fewest collective impacts.”

Still, community members protesting the project said they were tired of bearing the brunt of industrial projects and potential pollutants in their backyard.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who attended anti-pipeline rallies, reacted to the cancellation news on Twitter. Gore congratulated MCAP and the community, “who made their voices heard to stop this reckless, racist ripoff!”

Actor Danny Glover, of the Lethal Weapon franchise, also sent well-wishes on Twitter to the community, calling the news a “huge win.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented MCAP and other community organizations as they fought state and federal permits for the project, applauded the news as “a victory for the people of Southwest Memphis, for the city’s drinking water, and perhaps most monumentally, it is a triumph for environmental justice,” according to a statement from Amanda Garcia, the group’s Tennessee office director.

Pearson, who was at the forefront of the pipeline resistance movement over the past several months, said the battles for environmental justice for all are not over. Still, he said he hopes others can see this victory as inspiration to fight for what they believe in.

“There’s no power more powerful than people power,” Pearson told ABC News. “Even when we don’t have as much money or clout as these billion-dollar businesses, we have our bodies, we have our voices, we have our time. We have our spirits, which cannot be broken.”

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Baby monitor captures oak tree crash onto crib as 5-month-old baby sleeps

Courtesy Kale and Courtney Buchholtz

(NEW YORK) — Courtney and Kale Buchholtz had just put their 5-month-old son Cannon to bed and sat down on the couch the night of July 2 when a loud bang shook the walls of their Prairieville, Louisiana, home.

The couple said they thought lightning had struck their house until Courtney Buchholtz looked down at the baby monitor and saw debris flying into Cannon’s room.

Thinking a window had busted open, the couple ran to their son’s room and discovered that instead, a giant oak tree had fallen through the roof.

“When I saw the tree I almost couldn’t even comprehend what was happening, that there was a tree in our house,” Courtney Buchholtz told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “And the thought of it being on top of Cannon, I felt physically ill.”

The Buchholtzes said they heard Cannon crying in his crib, which they took as a good sign that he was at least alive.

Courtney Buchholtz weaved through the debris in the room to pull Cannon out of his crib and handed him to her husband, who checked the infant for injuries.

“I just turned him over and checked him really well to make sure there was nothing wrong with him,” said Kale Buchholtz. “He had been crying, but as soon as I got him in my hands, he was laughing as I was turning him.”

Cannon escaped the incident without a scratch, according to the Buchholtzes, who said he only had to be washed clean of debris from the fallen ceiling.

The family of three quickly evacuated the house and drove to a family member’s nearby home. When Kale Buchholtz returned that night, he found the weight of the tree had destroyed nearly the entire house, aside from Cannon’s crib.

“It was just kind of like a little bubble around him,” he said. “The hallway on one side of his room was where most of the tree was, and around his crib it was just wood and sheetrock and everything else.”

When Courtney Buchholtz re-watched the footage of the tree falling, as captured by the baby monitor app on her phone, she described it as being like there was a “shield” protecting Cannon.

She said she immediately thought of her late son Kasen, who died in 2016, one month after he was born prematurely.

“We always say that he’s watching over his little brother, so my immediate thought was that Kasen was protecting his brother and keeping him safe,” she said. “Losing one child and the thought of anything happening to another child is gut-wrenching.”

The Buchholtzes, who had to rebuild after water flooded their home in 2016, are now trying to salvage whatever they can from their home and prepare to rebuild again.

“It’s been a pain but, you know what, we can deal with that. We’ll clean up a mess any day,” said Courtney Buchholtz, adding, “It could have been so much worse.”

“It makes you realize a house is just a house and the material things can be replaced,” said Kale Buchholtz. “Family is what matters.”

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Trevor Reed’s dad protests outside White House, says he’s ‘hopeful’ for his son’s release after Biden-Putin summit

Beatrice Peterson/ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — On one of the hottest days of the summer, Joey Reed stood alone outside of the White House, holding a sign with a picture of his son that said in bold type: “Free Trevor Reed.”

“Former U.S. Marine Presidential Guard wrongfully imprisoned by Russia for almost 2 years! Innocent & being used as a bargaining chip by Russia,” the message on the sign continued. “Mr. President, our son protected you. Please bring him home. Please meet with me.”

The plea was written next to images of his son in uniform, including two taken of him with former President Barack Obama.

U.S. officials said the Marine veteran, has been held for nearly two years in Russia on charges that U.S. officials said were fabricated in an effort to use him as bargaining chips in a potential prisoner swap between the two countries.

Joey Reed told ABC News on Tuesday that he hopes that more Americans learn that his son is one of two former U.S. Marines being held there.

The elder Reed, who has met with several White House officials, said that he hopes to meet with President Joe Biden but until then he plans on standing outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We’re really surprised at how many Americans don’t know what’s happening with our son,” he said.

He added, that he “just wanted to be here and then also just raise attention with the president who’s already doing a great job for our son.”

Trevor’s saga started in Moscow in August 2019, the younger Reed, while visiting his girlfriend in the city, and studying Russian, was taken to a police station to sober up after a drunken party. He would later be questioned by agents from Russia’s FSB intelligence service, and suddenly charged with assaulting an officer according to his father.

During Biden’s June meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president spoke about Reed and another Marine veteran, Paul Whelan, who has also been held in Russia for two years. The Kremlin during the June meeting signaled it might be prepared to discuss a deal for their release.

In response to ABC News on Tuesday, a White House spokesperson said, “The president raised the case of Trevor Reed directly to President Putin in Geneva. He was very clear about the need to resolve his and other cases and see him freed.”

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the U.S government,” the statement continued. “We will continue to speak on his behalf until Russia does the right thing and returns him to his family in the United States. Trevor has been deprived of his freedom for far too long. We continue to engage with Russia on this case, as well as other U.S. citizens wrongfully imprisoned in Russia.”

Joey Reed, a Texas native told ABC News on Tuesday, that his life revolves around freeing his 30-year-old son, who followed in his father’s footsteps to become an elite Marine. He even uprooted his life to move to Russia for 14 months in an effort to free him.

He said after the meeting between Biden and Putin he was “hopeful,” but he wants other Americans to know that his son is “innocent and he didn’t do any of the things that they say he was doing.”

Trevor “received the longest sentence in modern Russian history for assaulting police officers when no one was hurt, and the only evidence that shows that he didn’t do anything,” he added.

He said he’s spoken to several Biden officials about his son, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, earlier in the year for nearly two hours. Reed said he gets weekly updates from the State Department and that “they try and keep us informed and find out if there’s anything we need. And they tell us what they do.”

Reed said Russia is a beautiful country however, he’s warning other Americans thinking of traveling to Russia to think again.

“If we didn’t have this problem with their — with their government and or their law enforcement, you know I would — I would tell everyone to go there, but I recommend the opposite. No American should go there,” he said.

The past two years have been hard — he said his wife has crying spells and “sometimes I break down.”

“I see a movie or something related to what my son’s going through it hits home all of a sudden.”

However, he also said he takes each day at a time and is hopeful because he knows, “nothing’s gonna happen immediately, but you know there’s hope on the horizon with President Biden.”

ABC News’ Patrick Reevell, Tanya Stukalova and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Elsa strengthens to Category 1 hurricane before Florida landfall: Latest forecast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Elsa has strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday night just southwest of Tampa Bay with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Landfall is expected around 8 or 9 a.m. Wednesday near the Big Bend region along Florida’s west coast.

Storms with winds of 74 mph or higher are considered hurricanes.

Elsa’s path is sparing Miami, where rescuers are still searching for victims of the deadly Surfside condo collapse.

Search and rescue efforts continued through the rain and wind overnight, pausing only briefly for lightning as per the law, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday. The wind has also hampered large cranes from moving heavy debris, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

A hurricane warning is in effect along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast while a tornado watch has been issued from Miami to Tampa through 11 p.m.

The University of Florida in Gainesville has canceled all classes for Wednesday as Elsa closes in.

Tampa International Airport is suspending operations from 5 p.m. Tuesday until 10 a.m. Wednesday while the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport is stopping operations from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Storm surge could reach 3 to 5 feet along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Rainfall totals may climb to 6 to 8 inches across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas through Thursday.

The ground in many parts of the Sunshine State is already saturated after a 300% rain increase over the last two weeks, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said Tuesday.

Residents should be prepared to be without power for the next few days, but widespread evacuations aren’t expected, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

After barreling through Florida, Elsa will weaken to a tropical storm or tropical depression as it moves through Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.

By the end of the week, Elsa will bring rain and wind to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

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Will the military make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

Ivan Cholakov/iStock

(WASHINGTON) — Nearly 70% of all military personnel have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but a debate has begun to swirl about whether the Pentagon should make vaccinations mandatory for the ranks should the Food and Drug Administration formally approve the vaccine in the future.

While COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. military are taking place under the same emergency use authorization that has allowed vaccinations to take place in the general population, Pentagon officials have said publicly that they would consider whether to make the vaccinations mandatory, as is done with more than a dozen other vaccines, should the FDA formally approve the vaccine.

The issue blew up over the weekend when Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted that he had been contacted by members of the military who told him they would “quit” if ordered to take the vaccine.

The tweet generated both positive and negative responses, with some pointing out that because military personnel sign enlistment contracts they cannot quit. Others noted that the U.S. military requires as many as 17 vaccinations for military service.

Massie later tweeted “NO ONE should be forced or coerced by ANYONE to take the COVID vaccine. The fact that policy discussions in the US are centered around “proof of vaccine” instead of ‘evidence of immunity’ shows that science and reason have been drummed out by politics, profits, and superstition.”

According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, three in 10 American adults said they have not gotten a coronavirus vaccine and definitely or probably will not get one.

Earlier this week the Army Times obtained an internal Army memo that said commanders should “prepare for a directive to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for service members (on or around) 01 September 2021, pending full FDA licensure,” the order said.

“As a matter of policy we do not comment on leaked documents. The vaccine continues to be voluntary,” Maj. Jackie Wren, an Army spokesperson told ABC News. “If we are directed by DOD to change our posture, we are prepared to do so.”

At a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday the Pentagon’s top spokesman emphasized the success that the U.S. military has had in recommending the use of the vaccines.

“It is not FDA approved, and therefore, it is still a voluntary vaccine,” said John Kirby. “I would like to add that as we speak, almost 69% of DOD personnel have received at least one dose. That’s not bad.”

However he added that should the FDA fully approve one of the vaccines “then I am certain that Pentagon leadership — we’ll take a look at what our options are going forward, including the potential option of making mandatory but I’m not going to get too far ahead of process right now,” he added.

Kirby acknowledged that there had been “some preliminary discussions at senior levels within the department to think about what the next logical steps would be if and when FDA approval comes in.”

“I don’t think that should surprise anybody that we’re trying to think about what the implications would be and what how we would, how would react to that but I don’t have any decisions to announce today or specific procedures and protocols to speak to,” said Kirby.

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Surfside building collapse latest: 8 more bodies recovered from rubble, bringing death toll to 36

Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(SURFSIDE, Fla.) — At least 36 people, including three children, have been confirmed dead and 109 others remain unaccounted for after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County last month.

The disaster occurred on June 24 around 1:15 a.m. local time at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. Approximately 55 of the oceanfront complex’s 136 units were destroyed, according to officials. Since then, hundreds of first responders have been carefully combing through the pancaked piles of debris in hopes of finding survivors.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Tuesday morning that four more bodies were recovered from the rubble. In the evening, she announced another four bodies had been recovered, bringing the official death toll to 36. Twenty-six of the victims have been identified.

Meanwhile, investigators have confirmed that 70 of the 109 people who are still missing were in fact inside of the condominium at the time of the partial collapse. Another 191 people who were living or staying in the building at that time have been accounted for and are safe, according to Levine Cava, who has stressed that the figures are “very fluid” and “will continue to change” as detectives continuously audit the list.

Although officials wouldn’t say when the search and rescue operation will formally transition into a recovery mission, Levine Cava told reporters that the crews will “continue as now to thoroughly, carefully sift through these piles,” looking for “bodies and belongings.” The process is a “very thorough and exhaustive” one, she said.

Crews have hauled away nearly 5 million pounds of concrete from the vast scene of wreckage, but large piles of rubble still remain. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said the rescue workers have been “aggressively” searching for any voids or “liveable spaces” within the debris where there could be trapped survivors but that they are “not coming across that.” No survivors have been discovered in the wreckage of the building since the morning it partially collapsed.

“We’re not seeing anything positive,” Cominsky told reporters on Tuesday morning.

The massive search and rescue mission is now in its 13th day, as teams are able to operate at full capacity and search in areas that were previously inaccessible.

The part of the building that remained standing was cleared of any people or pets before it was demolished on Sunday night, due to concerns about its structural integrity. However, it was too dangerous for surviving residents to enter the building to retrieve their belongings, officials said.

Video released by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue on Monday night showed crews working atop the piles, braving the elements as Tropical Storm Elsa approached the Sunshine State.

The incoming storm, which has weakened from a hurricane, initiated the discussion about demolishing the rest of the building and fast-tracked the process, according to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. Elsa made landfall in Cuba on Monday and by Tuesday morning the storm’s center was moving through Key West with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Prior to the demolition, the search and rescue operation was halted for almost an entire day last week due to safety concerns for the crews regarding the remaining structure. Poor weather conditions have also forced them to temporarily pause working.

The cause of the partial collapse to a building that has withstood decades of hurricanes remains unknown and is under investigation. Built in the 1980s, the Champlain Towers South was up for its 40-year recertification and had been undergoing roof work — with more renovations planned — when it partially collapsed, according to officials.

“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Levine Cava told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I look forward to learning the truth, as do we all, but I think it’ll be a while before it is understood.”

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Lawmakers face time crunch on infrastructure deals


(WASHINGTON) — When the Senate returns to Washington next week, lawmakers will be in a race against the clock to navigate a precarious political landscape in time to progress President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda before the summer comes to a close.

There are only four weeks remaining for lawmakers to make major moves on infrastructure, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised that both a bipartisan package focused on core infrastructure items and a second, larger, fast-tracked budget bill aimed at other priorities in Biden’s American Families Plan will be introduced in July.

Prospects for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan deal, forged by a group of five Senate Democrats and five Senate Republicans got a boost Tuesday from the bipartisan House Problem Solvers caucus, who gave the proposal it’s seal of approval in a statement.

“I’m thrilled to have the Caucus’s support for our bipartisan agreement to make historic investments in upgrading America’s critical infrastructure, creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities across the country without raising taxes,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who led Senate negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure package.

But critically, the caucus only lent it support to the stand-alone bipartisan bill. The group did not endorse tying the bipartisan infrastructure package to a larger bill that would be passed using a fast-track budget procedure called reconciliation, as some progressive Democrats have called for.

“We support bringing this bipartisan, bicameral proposal, which is strongly supported by the White House, to the House floor as a stand-alone vote,” Problem Solvers Caucus co-Chair Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said Tuesday. “Let us vote on this package now — no strings attached. Let this bill be considered up-or-down on its own merits.”

It is not yet clear whether lawmakers will have a chance to consider the bipartisan package separate from a reconciliation package. Democratic leaders are pursuing a “two-track” approach that would move both pieces of legislation at the same time.

Biden faced considerable backlash following the announcement of the bipartisan deal last month for saying he would only consider the bipartisan package “in tandem” with the larger reconciliation package. The president had to issue a clarification to soothe Republican detractors.

Republicans have all but demanded the bipartisan bill stand alone for it to earn their backing while progressive Democrats have threatened to vote against the bipartisan deal unless they’re assured the larger package will also pass.

Legislative language is still coming together behind the scenes while the Senate is on recess.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Tuesday that the White House is in contact with congressional staff working on crafting both the bipartisan package and the legislation that would be used in a budget reconciliation process. No bill text on either package is yet available.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen with Congress, and we expect over the next week there to be a lot of behind the scenes bill writing negotiations discussions on Capitol Hill, long nights, lots of coffee over the course of the next several days,” Psaki said. “Given that Leader Schumer has conveyed that he would like to see both the reconciliation package and the infrastructure bill on the floor in July, and we’re in July now in terms of the president’s priorities.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed on Wednesday that she is still committed to tying the bipartisan package to a reconciliation package. It remains to be seen if those commitments will be enough to coax progressives in both the House and Senate who are reluctant to support the bipartisan deal without assurances of a reconciliation package to vote in favor of the bipartisan deal.

Democrats are working with the narrowest of margins in both chambers. In the House, there is a slim majority. In the Senate, every single Democrat, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, will be needed to pass a reconciliation package that will almost certainly face unanimous opposition from Senate Republicans.

Unanimity among the Senate Democratic Caucus is going to prove its own challenge, especially under such time constraints. Budget reconciliation is a time-consuming process, and Democrats as of late are on wildly different pages about the appropriate amount of money to allocate.

Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whose committee will lead the reconciliation process, has proposed as much as $6 trillion for the second package. But moderate Democrat Joe Manchin said he will only support that which can be credibly paid for.

“I want to make sure we pay for it. I do not want to add more debt on,” Manchin said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “So if that’s $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, whatever that comes out to be over a 10-year period, that’s what I would be voting for,” Manchin said.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell conceded at a press event on Tuesday that if all Democrats are united behind a reconciliation effort, there’s little he can do to prevent them from moving forward.

That leaves the Republican leader dependent on Manchin — as well as other moderate Democrats — who he said may find the spending levels Sanders is proposing “offensive.”

McConnell said he still sees a path forward on the bipartisan infrastructure deal but promised that Senate Republicans are “going to make it hard” for Democrats to move forward on a reconciliation package.

“This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis,” McConnell said of the larger reconciliation package. “This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and that’s all going to unfold here in the next few weeks.”

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Biden doubles down on vaccine efforts after missing July 4 goal

Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President President Joe Biden is doubling down on efforts to get more Americans vaccinated despite missing his self-imposed Fourth of July deadline of having 70% of American adults vaccinated with at least one dose and 160 million people fully vaccinated.

The president was briefed on the state of the coronavirus by his COVID-19 response team Tuesday afternoon and continued to urge Americans to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated — particularly as the delta variant continues to spread across the country.

“Our fight against this virus is not over. Right now, as I speak to you, millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and unprotected. And because of that, their communities are at risk, their friends are at risk, the people that they care about are at risk. This is an even bigger concern because of the delta variant,” Biden said in remarks Tuesday afternoon.

The president said one topic of discussion during his briefing was the alarming rate of spread for the variant he described as “more easily transmissible” and “potentially more dangerous.”

“It seems to me it should cause everybody to think twice. And it should cause reconsideration, especially to young people who may have thought that they didn’t have to be vaccinated, didn’t have to worry about it and didn’t have to do anything about it up to now.”

The president stressed the efficacy of the vaccine against the delta variant, and said the administration’s efforts to get more shots into arms was far from over — pledging to “devote the remainder of the summer to a special focus on five ways to make gains” in the vaccination rate, in part by turning to a hyperlocal focus in place of mass vaccination sites.

“We need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood and, oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” Biden said.

“We’re gonna put even more emphasis on getting vaccinated in your community, close to home, conveniently, at a location you’re already familiar with,” Biden said, “First thing we’re gonna do, this includes 42,000 local pharmacies where folks with questions can talk to the pharmacists they know and already have … dealt with.”

The White House will also focus on getting the vaccines to more family doctors and health care providers, according to Biden, to allow those hesitant to get the vaccine “from the folks that they know and they trust the most.”

The administration will also increase the number of vaccines available to pediatric doctors in an effort to ramp up rates among children 12 to 18 as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Biden reiterated the administration’s call to employers to reduce barriers for their employees to get their shots and said the administration would expand their mobile clinic outreach in an additional effort to meet Americans where they already are.

“At special events, summer festivals, sporting events, as well as places of worship, wherever we can find people gathered,” he said

The White House faces an uphill battle on that front. A new ABC News-Washington Post poll found that among unvaccinated Americans, 74% said that they are unlikely to get the vaccine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed Tuesday afternoon about the polling and if unvaccinated Americans were still persuadable. Psaki said that the community approach was already having an impact.

“So, we’ve seen, actually, even people who didn’t — had no intention of getting the vaccine for a range of reasons, maybe they didn’t know how to get it, maybe they don’t know where to get it, maybe they were scared of the impacts, actually get vaccinated. And that, to us, is an encouraging sign that we can continue to press and make progress moving forward,” she said.

While neither of Biden’s July Fourth goals have been met, the president did tout the strides the U.S. has made under his administration, teasing that his goal of having 160 million Americans fully vaccinated should be met at the end of this week — only a few days off from his self-imposed deadline.

“We can’t get complacent now. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family and the people you care about the most is get vaccinated. The best thing the community can do to protect themselves is to increase vaccination rates. You can do this. You can do this. Let’s finish the job, finish it together,” he said.

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Nearly 150 COVID-19 cases tied to Texas church summer camp


(LEAGUE CITY, TX.) — Nearly 150 children and adults have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a church summer camp in Texas, officials announced.

The Clear Creek Community Church, based in League City, Texas, announced that Sunday services would be canceled this week due to the number of cases.

Over 400 people participated in Camp Creek, a four-day camp for 6th to 12th graders, in late June.

Upon returning, more than 125 of the people who attended tested positive for the virus, the church said in a statement, and “hundreds more were exposed to COVID-19 at camp.”

The Galveston County Health District, which is investigating the outbreak, told ABC News that 57 Galveston County youth and adults who attended the camp tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 90 people, including non-Galveston County residents, have self reported to the district that they tested positive for the virus, bringing the total tally to at least 147.

It’s not clear if the campers who are eligible for the vaccine were vaccinated prior to the camp trip. The church has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

The church is contacting all those impacted.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have sought to love our neighbors by practicing strict safety protocols. We are surprised and saddened by this turn of events. Our hearts break for those infected with the virus,” Bruce Wesley, the church’s lead pastor, said in the statement.

The church recommended in-person worship starting April 7 and allowed for the removal of masks in May, in accordance with the state’s phased reopening.

The Galveston County Health District was notified of the first positive case tied to the camp on June 27, GCHD said in a release.

GCHD officials told ABC News on Tuesday the delta variant was identified in three test samples tied to the outbreak, and additional samples are being tested.

Of the 57 Galveston County cases, six are breakthrough cases, defined as someone becoming infected more than 14 days after their second COVID-19 vaccination, according to the department.

In total, 47 of the cases are among those 12 years and older, and 10 cases are in children younger than 12.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is still here and we have to take precautions,” Dr. Philip Keiser, the Galveston County local health authority, said. “If you’re old enough to get vaccinated and haven’t, now is the time. These vaccines are safe and offer the best protection against COVID-19 to you, your family and your community.”

In Galveston County, the population of those aged 12 and up is 57% partially vaccinated and 52% fully vaccinated. Overall in Texas, 51% of the population aged 12 and up is fully vaccinated, per state data.

White House officials recently said younger Americans seem “less eager” to get the COVID-19 vaccine. At the moment, anyone 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Those who are 18 and older are eligible for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“Younger people, 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,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

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 result may be increased cases among youth. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released July 2 shows that confirmed COVID-19 admissions among those under 18 increased 11% over the past week.

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Emails suggest slow response to repair plans in the weeks before Surfside condo collapsed

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

(SURFSIDE, Fla.) — Champlain Towers South condo board members, Surfside town officials, and engineers grappled with issues related to the building’s 40-year recertification process, potentially delaying much-needed plans for repairs in the weeks leading up to the collapse of the building, emails released by the town show.

It’s unclear if or how the apparent delays in the repair plans detailed in the messages may have contributed to the collapse, but the series of emails published by the Town of Surfside offers a glimpse into what kind of communication was taking place right before the deadly accident.

As of Tuesday, 32 people were confirmed to have died and 117 people remained unaccounted for following the collapse of the 12-story building on June 24.

In the weeks before Champlain Towers South’s collapse, emails about a “dire parking situation” suggest that the town’s approval process for a satellite parking space may have contributed to delays in submitting plans for repairs of the condo building, the documents show.

In one email dated May 20, Champlain Towers South engineering consultant Frank Morabito told Surfside town planner Walter Keller that before the engineers could begin working on the building, they needed to hear from the town about how to deal with the upcoming issue of construction vehicles occupying a significant portion of the residents’ parking spaces, according to the documents.

The emails suggest that Morabito and the Champlain Towers South Condo Association did not receive a reply from town officials for a month, prompting building manager Scott Stewart to email Keller, town manager Andrew Hyatt, and Surfside building official James McGuinness on June 21, asking for prompt approval of a satellite parking location for five vehicles so renovation plans could “keep moving forward.”

“This is holding us up, and costs are going up, and [our] 40 year is coming up fast,” Stewart wrote three days before the collapse. “This temporary satellite parking location would allow us to better expedite the repairs on one of [the] Surfside gateway properties.”

According to the records, the town manager and the town building official responded to Stewart on June 22 and 23 — the eve of the collapse — about issues that needed to be addressed before they could grant temporary use of the requested satellite parking lot.

Meanwhile, McGuinness, the town official, was in correspondence with a real estate management company regarding remodeling work that was needed on the building’s facade, pool, and plaza, another chain of emails shows. According to the emails, the condo sought to submit a dry run to “at least start reviews of the plans” as early as June 9, then later followed up with the building official for an invoice for the dry run.

Surfside officials told ABC News that McGuiness was not available to comment on the matter.

Earlier emails outlined challenges faced by building representatives as they tried to keep repairs on track. In a message dated May 26, resident and former condo board member Myriam Notkin complained about tar kettle fumes coming into her apartment during the building’s roof repair, asking if the operation could be relocated. Condo board president Jean Wodnicki responded that the roof remediation plan was approved by the town and that the operation couldn’t be relocated without significantly changing the course of the project.

“We have had a number of presentations on the plans over the last 6 months outlining the process,” Wodnicki wrote in an email responding to the complaint. “The specific location of the coal tar kettle and crane has been explained to the residents for at least a month.”

Further delays could cause further damage and more expense, Wodnicki wrote in the email, noting that the roof repair needed to be done before the rainy season.

Notkin is among those missing following the collapse.

In response to questions about the emails released by Surfside, town manager Hyatt said in a statement that at no point did the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association indicate in any plans or permit applications that emergency action by the town was required.

“There was no indication during any communications between the Town and the association by telephone or electronic mail that this submission required emergency action by the Town of Surfside,” Hyatt said. “The scope of work for repairs was not received until June 21, 2021, and not in the form of a building application. To date, no permit application for these specific repairs has been received by the Town.”

Hyatt also emphasized that plans sent to officials in May were only preliminary.

“The plans received by the Town of Surfside beginning on May 12, 2021, were preliminary and clearly marked ‘Not for construction.’ The Town’s position is that these plans were not final. In fact, no applications for construction permits were submitted,” he said. “It would appear that the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association sought to address a number of issues outside the scope of any proposed 40-year re-certification work such as the installation of new natural gas service and delivery lines, the reconfiguration of existing parking, the moving of parking off site, and other repairs.”

Asked about the messages, a spokesperson for Champlain Tower South Condominium association said, “The emails speak for themselves.”

Joel Figueroa-Vallines, an Orlando-based forensic structural engineer and president of SEP Engineers, told ABC News that the delay in addressing issues with the building is concerning, and that periodic checkups, inspections and overall maintenance are important to keep a building in good shape. Figueroa-Vallines has no ties to Champlain Towers South, and no personal knowledge of the investigation.

For officials, the latest emails are among the many things that will be investigated.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told ABC News that he’s still in the process of gathering information to understand what exactly happened, but said, “I think it sounds like those emails are going to be important.”

Last week, a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was sent to the site by the Biden administration, and is currently in the preliminary stages of investigating what caused the apparent building failure.

“It will take time, possibly a couple of years, but we will not stop until we have determined the likely cause of this tragedy,” said Dr. James Olthoff, the director of the NIST, which also investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center.

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