Coronavirus:

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    Though 9-weeks seems a world way, it is helpful to recall that our self-imposed quarantine and national lock-down was about 'flattening the curve,' to prevent an unmanageable and perhaps much the more fatal surge of COVID19 cases, overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system during this pandemic. COVID19 testing, both public and private has ramped up considerably across the state, ranging from free drive-in testing offered by the state of Georgia and staffed by medical professionals and the National Guard, to private sector options offered by CVS, Walgreen, Emory Healthcare and others.  While a positive, false positive or a negative result may follow, those results are a specific snapshot of that testing day. Absent continued quarantine, infection is possible later that same day in an unprotected or non-hygienic environment, or from the sneeze droplets of an asymptomatic individual behind you in line at the grocery store...as social distancing spaces begin to erode and contract. The best minds in bio-science and pharmacy in the world or on this case, and collapsing typical testing timelines, but as those vaccines will later be injected into humans, we also do not want to rush a treatment or cure which might later prove to do more harm than good.  Anti-body testing shows promise, but is also rife with current tests wrongly indicating that the common cold (a different corona virus) or certain other viral strains are giving false-positive antibody test results. And on the treatment front, once fighting the virus, several drug therapies show promise, but again there is yet no silver bullet.  As each state wrangles with the assembly of its own Contact Tracing apparatus, I’d like to suggest a quick fix and a more viable solution. The U.S. Department of Commerce has already hired and is training 400,000 temporary workers (NOT A TYPO) for conducting field interviews to gather data for the U.S. Census. During a normal census year, those temps would be going door to door. The Census deadline has been extended, and most follow up work is now being conducted by phone, Email and other online methods. The as yet not entirely expended budget for our 2020 Census will be close to $16-billion, again, not a typo and for comparison purposes, prior to this pandemic, the budget for the entire state of Georgia for the next fiscal year was going to be $27-28-billion. These workers have already been hired and phone follow up for the U.S. Census is already underway. It seems a logical fit. Fear has always been among the most powerful and effective tools as a catalyst for behavior modification. The multi-million deaths projections of 8-9 weeks ago certainly had the desired effect, and most Americans stayed home...religiously.  But now, as it becomes equally important to begin the process of renewing and jump-starting our economy, it would be EQUALLY helpful to better disseminate data regarding patient recoveries and to tell and share success stories, as we have seen so effectively used in fundraising for treatments and cures of other chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson's. Americans NEED to be able to better visualize, as is now the case with both HIV and AIDS, that a COVID19 diagnosis, as with cancer, no longer means a death sentence.  As roughly 70 percent of GDP is consumer spending and behavior, it will require a major push regarding the relative safety, new sanitizing and hygiene procedures becoming pervasive and commonplace, AND stronger herd immunity as well as eventually successful treatments and a vaccine, before all Americans will again feel safe setting foot outside their front doors. We are not going to have a vaccine for fear anytime soon either, and virtually no one wants to unnecessarily risk the health and well being of a more fragile loved one. We may be in this for the long haul though and placing our seniors and the medically fragile somewhat apart from the rest of us for a time may be the only practical long-term solution as we plan for the virus and its likely return this fall.  This nation has weathered worse, and through a combination of self-sacrifice, community spirit and grit, we have almost always come together and pulled through. At least with family and your neighbors, let us all try to focus on our many commonalities, look out for and protect the weak, and take your common sense, as well as your mask, gloves and newly enhanced public hygiene habits as you begin to venture out. The curve has been flattened, now let’s reboot our economy.
  • I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro' the whole Army in a natural way....necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure,' letter from General George Washington to John Hancock and the Continental Congress explaining his decision to order his chief medical officer to inoculate all troops in the Continental Army against smallpox. (source National Geographic magazine) As a young man in 1751, George Washington visits the Caribbean island of Barbados, contracting smallpox. At the time, the disease caused by the variola virus killed nearly 1 in every 2 victims. Washington was lucky, after months of fever, chills, and painful pustules covering his face and body (the pox), he emerged with a pockmarked face, but alive and with later immunity to the virus In 1775, the smallpox virus arrived in Boston, carried in by British, Hessian and Canadian troops brought in to help quell the building Colonial rebellion (Boston Tea Party and coming Declaration of Independence). The virus was devastating to soldiers and civilians alike as it swept across the burgeoning colonies. An inoculation procedure against smallpox, dating back to ancient China, was called variolation. It was considered highly controversial in the colonies, and its improper admission had resulted in the painful death from smallpox of the son of King George III, an heir to the British crown.  The treatment required an incision in a patient's arm, inserting a small dose of the live virus, large enough to trigger an immune system response, but small enough to prevent severe illness and death. A much more exacting process involving live virus is present in many modern vaccines today. Washington was now immune to smallpox, but his ragtag troops were not. The British had just brought an additional 30,000 troops to New York harbor, approximately the population of the largest city within the fledgling colonies. Washington became an advocate for variolation, even convincing his wife Martha to take the treatment in May of 1776. The opening shots of the war for American independence were not in the colony's favor. Washington and his ill-trained forces were quickly losing battle after battle, as New York City fell, and Washington escaped with a small consort of remaining troops into neighboring New Jersey. A New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence recanted his participation and declared his loyalty to the crown, and while Washington considered inoculating his entire Army, many colonial governments forbade the procedure. Variolation not only had a risk of death, but it would also in the best of circumstances lay the vaccinated up for a few weeks as their body fought off and developed new immunity to the infection. Finding the right/best time for attempting mass inoculation was not only a gamble but if known to the British could trigger an en-masse attack when Revolutionary forces were at their weakest. The Continental Congress ordered Army Surgeons NOT to perform variolations. Washington was hamstrung but ordered instead that all new recruits receive the procedure, hoping that by the time they were trained and battle-ready they would be fully recovered and newly immune to the pox.  As the epidemic spread, Washington took a risk and against the direction of the Continental Congress, and Governors of many colonies and their prevailing laws, he directed that all troops are to be inoculated, and by the end of 1777, nearly 40,000 soldiers had received variolation therapy. Infection rates among the troops dropped from above 20 percent to below 1 percent...while the British forces were losing thousands to the smallpox epidemic, significantly more than to the musket balls and battles with Revolutionary forces. Washington made variolation mandatory for all of his troops. For the British who were being even more devastated by the pox, it remained voluntary, and both the conscripted, Hessian and superior British forces feared the treatment which had taken the life of their monarch's son. The superior British forces were as a result decimated by smallpox, as well as typhoid fever, dysentery, and other public health threats of the day. Thousands of more British soldiers fell as victims of disease than to colonial musket balls. Later vaccines were developed, while smallpox remained a global health threat until its eradication centuries later in 1980 by another longtime Georgian, Dr. William Foege of the CDC. Tough times require tough decisions to be made. At times we simply have to step back, keep some faith, and let our leaders lead.
  • There is only one thing worse then fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them,' said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), during the throes of World War II. It is as clear in my mind as yesterday how quickly many divides and gaps in the American culture and psyche narrowed, tightened or closed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Fortunately, that tragedy did not occur against the backdrop of a Presidential Election year. If anything, it caused much of the nation to forget how close and controversial the result of the 2000 election was between then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and sitting Vice-President Al Gore of Tennessee. I was in Washington covering that January 20, 2001, Bush Inauguration, and you could cut the tension between the respective Bush and Gore camps and clans, sitting together on that Capitol grandstand with a knife. How soon we can, as a nation forget. As later President Bush stood amongst the rubble of the World Trade Center Towers at Ground Zero, to inspect the damage as well as recognize and spotlight the ongoing heroic work of first responders, his approval ratings soared into the low 90 percentiles. Days after the attacks, on the steps of our U.S. Capitol building, Congress gathered for remarks of resilience and then broke, impromptu and without planning into an off-key but emotionally searing rendition of ‘God Bless America.’ Flying in and out of near-empty airports on jets which on a couple of occasions gave me my own private flight crew, America seemed to be looking beyond many divisions, the major and the minor, towards unifying as one people against our common, as yet unknown enemy. We do know this time, that our enemy is an invisible, insidious and easily transmitted virus, but it also appears that many are willing to extend this battle as an overlay or reflection of this presidential contest, down to local races for school board and county commission. I will echo Mr. Churchill, if we are not our own allies, who can we look to? Our greatest trade partner, China, may have played some role in this pandemic, either in misinformation or something viler and more like a James Bond movie. Our relationships with many of our strongest G-7 allies have been tattered by new trade agreements, withdrawal from other treaties and climate accords, and generally harsh statements offered on all occasions except when meeting in person and face to face. And yet, it is our own divisions, wobbling economy and efforts to turn almost on each other which give me much more pause and concern than this virus or the new killer Asian hornet which has also recently made landfall in Seattle, most likely onboard a cruise or cargo vessel from Asia. During WWI and WWII, the first Persian Gulf War, and later 9/11, Americans were able to put aside our differences in the main and attack these battles and common enemies together. As that same former President George W. Bush reminded us recently and eloquently, public health is NOT a partisan issue. In a video call for unity, released on May 2, the younger Bush president said, 'In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together. And we are determined to rise.” We may live in the shadow of this pandemic, without a vaccine or reliable treatment for some time. I'm not likely to agree with everything that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Georgia Governor Brian Kemp does, but I respect both their office and the individual in both cases, and if I can't bring some part of a solution to the table, you won't find me kibitzing about the verbiage or their leadership traits/intelligence in this space. And it was another favorite President of mine who wisely said in 1858, prior to a quite uncivil Civil War, during his pre-candidacy for the White House in a speech to Illinois Republicans, 'A house divided against itself, cannot stand.' We are still standing, but these legs feel a bit wobbly to me. Let's remember that despite a difference of opinion, political party and favorite pols, we are all in this together, and until we are on the other side of this, let's act a bit more like it. Take care out there, do not leave your common sense at home, and God bless America.
  • We are all creatures of habit. We crave routine and the expected, much as we may prefer surprises and occasional spontaneity. And though this 'new normal' is far from our normal routine, its ever-lengthening tenure is likely causing many of us, knowingly or not, to form new habits and routines.
  • There is no estimated loss of life which we should consider an acceptable number but during a pandemic, there will be loss of life. Minimizing risks, maximizing recoveries and finding viable treatments and preventative vaccines and therapies are all top priorities now for modern medicine, bio-science, pharmaceutical companies and the alphabet soup of intergovernmental health agencies across this globe. Thankfully, social distancing, virtual lockdown and self-quarantining/shelter in place orders are making more than a dent in potential infections, and generally having their desired effect. And even with testing numbers/percentages at far from desirable levels, COVID19 case numbers are plateauing, hots spots are getting a bit cooler, and the worst of the surge of infections appears close to being behind us, or at least within the next few weeks.  Just as our freedoms and movements were ratcheted down, in a series of more aggressive Emergency Orders, it will soon be time to start opening back up the spigot and America's economy. Fear and trepidation, in some respects thankfully, are expected also to remain here for some time to come.  The recovery will likely take longer than the shutdown. Six weeks ago, our nation was humming along at virtually full employment. And as of this past Friday, 22-million Americans had filed for unemployment insurance. During the Great Depression, that number was 15-million at the peak, with nearly 25-percent of the working-age population out of work for the better part of a decade, against the backdrop of a smaller national population (122-million as of the 1930 Census, slightly more than a third of our current population). Unemployment did not drop below 10 percent until the onset of WWII.  Just six weeks ago, one of the strongest sellers' markets in decades was finally bringing near full recovery of home prices to their highs prior to the financial market and real estate collapse of 2008 (12 years ago).  Just six weeks ago, the robust economy had small businesses hiring, and our beloved Delta Airlines was in midst of training nearly 10,000 new pilots and stewards it had recently hired.  Our world really can change on a dime, or in this case a microscopic virus which tells our own body to turn on itself, and which structure mirrors that of a healthy protein cell.  COVID19 has knocked us out of our boots, and there are likely a few more shoes yet to drop. But we still have to stand up, and go ahead, with caution, and strap our boots back on and walk out of the house.  Pay cuts, lay-offs, and terminations are dropping like flies from businesses large and small. The public sector, which derives its revenues from taxes and fees of all kinds of individuals and the private sector is about to see its lagging revenues and cash flows drop off a cliff. We have to begin the process of turning the spigot back on before for many it is too late. Congress moved unusually quickly for a body that takes its time walking from one side of Capitol Hill to the other. The CARES Stimulus Act is far from perfect, but it is moving billions (actually trillions) in aid to the states, major population centers and almost every sector of our economy.  But after nearly one month of no income for many, it simply is not moving FAST enough. Though LARGER small businesses are successfully receiving Payroll Protection loans and assistance, the truly smaller businesses and self-employed who occupy so much of Main Street, are likely to find their application denied or insufficient funding available.  I'm not suggesting we ignore the public health experts, throw caution to the wind or assume we have suddenly developed immunity to this horrible virus that we did not have before. However serum treatments, promising clinical trials, and new uses for several old drugs, and NOT just the treatment protocol being hawked by the President, ARE each positively impacting survival rates.  Our boots are off, and the chips are down. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to stand up and strap'em back on. These boots are made for walking and climbing, not cowering, and not for expecting the state, federal or local government to drop by, keep handing me checks and to disinfect my home and entire community. When those folks in the know tell us to proceed with caution, let's do that, but c'mon folks pretty soon it is going to be time to GO. Ready when you are.
  • As I write this, on Thursday, April 2, Georgia had its first diagnosed case of COVID-19 one month ago. I started journaling about two weeks ago. I am already curious to see how today will seem to look back through the lens of yesterday. But for today, freshly under a statewide order to shelter in place which begins tomorrow, school kids learn that their school year is over, before ever even having Spring Break.  Helter Skelter was a book and movie telling the tale of the cult of Charles Manson and his heathen followers. Helter Shelter will be perhaps a longer tale written one day about one strange winter/spring which very slowly became summer, and the year we almost never left home. Hey kids, you got your wish, in a 180-day school year, in effect nearly 90 snow days. But oh yeah, without snow. It is interesting discussing, with friends, peers, colleagues, and family, what are the hardest aspects of these challenging times to adjust to, while maintaining sanity and a smile. I think for me currently, the most challenging part is keeping a distance (I don't mean six feet) from the folks who matter most. My youngest child is with her mother and step-father. Olivia has asthma, which puts her more at risk, and we have several slightly compromised immune systems in our family...and my work has required me to not entirely shelter in place. I am grateful for the many modern marvels of communication technology that are allowing us to stay in touch. My older daughter is a school teacher, not even allowed the option of a fond year-end farewell to her kiddos. Thankfully, again technology and the recently mega-adopted platform of Zoom are allowing and facilitating some student/pupil interaction.  Running a firm which in part specializes in crisis communications and management, this has actually been a very good time for our small enterprise, and if everyone pays their bills, it will be our best month of 2020... But I feel for so many that are experiencing the exact opposite, loss of business, loss of a job, or crippling blows to their household income. Thankfully Washington and local governments do appear to be moving more quickly and responsively than usual, and though I don't expect them to 'save us,' real help does appear to be on the way. Remember that many of your banks/lenders ARE also making help available, but the onus is on YOU the borrower to reach out, make the contact and make them aware of your situation. Everything from car and mortgage loan to college loan payments is being suspended for a period of time, typically tacked on to the back end of your loan, with no additional penalty charges or interest. Togetherness is generally an asset in limited supply for most families, and a lot of working couples...but sudden and extended co-habitation with limited options, sometimes with multiple generations under one roof can also be vexing. I recommend taking some time outside or in your yard to blow off steam.  Our expanded Victory Garden, much larger than prior years, with a more diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, is already in the ground, with more seeds and seedlings in our little backyard greenhouse. Exercising is not only allowed but encouraged, keeping social distancing spacing in mind, and I am expecting perhaps a record level Baby Boom, not unlike the post-WWII surge which gave us the Baby Boomers within whom I am lumped. Some types of recreating never go out of style. And I know it seems we all live online these days, my children and Millenial friends almost all preferring text, but daily or several times weekly OLD SCHOOL phone calls can also be very calming and reassuring for those who matter most in your world, as well as a great way to reconnect with old friends and colleagues with whom you have not spoken for years. And though for me the prohibition on group worship makes sense, never under-estimate the power and value of group prayer, and sending warm and healing thoughts in bulk to those in harm's way, or perhaps already dealing with a case of COVID19. For some, as weeks roll into months, this 'home-based' lockdown will become hell. But remember, as you are generally surrounded by your creature comforts, with utilities working and the ability to connect and re-connect with friends and family, things could really be a helluva lot worse. Blessings to you all. See you on the other side of this.
  • Hard as it may sometimes be to admit, we crave the routine, the known and the customary. This time is not that. Some are surrounded by family, but even that is upset for many. Sheltering in place is comforting in its familiarity, but disquieting in the lack of normal routine.
  • Business travel demands had me back on the road, almost immediately in the aftermath of 9/11. I got back on jets as I had been spending 3-5 days a week at that point for a few years. It didn't seem odd to me, but I could see the shell shock all around me, starting with the empty seats, on one early flight there were only two passengers. Those times were more than a bit eerie, but as we came out of the shock, America pulled together. If you have ever had the misfortune of being in a serious car crash or a major near wreck, you are likely familiar with the unplanned but necessary chain reactions which follow SLAMMING on your breaks. Being tossed around inside your car, hopefully seat-belted, potential deployment of your airbags, shocks to your system, potential bruising and injury. The trauma to your body can last for weeks.  Welcome to an economy and new reality after multiple massive brake slams. Retailers and restaurant groups, as well as smaller local businesses, temporarily or permanently shutting their doors. Delta, the world's largest airline, on the verge of shut down, after multiple years of record profits and the recent hiring of thousands of new pilots and flight crew.  And there will be more. The ripples are just starting to hit. Sales and income taxes not collected and declining will impact everything from local school systems to state budgets. The federal government can spend and run up deficits, but your local municipality, county or state doesn't have that option. Services will have to be curtailed, and lay-offs there too will likely follow.  This isn't a speed bump, it's more like that car crash. BUT, if we work through this together, and help each other...not expecting our respective governments to handle every hiccup and detail we can and will get through this.  Some practical pointers for your day to day living, as lock-downs, shelter at home orders and even curfews expand in hot spots and metropolitan areas.  Limit your trips to grocery stores and shopping for essentials - Essential retailers and restaurants with limited service remain open. Don't make daily trips out, make a list and plan... You can carry 2-3 prepared meals home, or load up a cart (without hoarding) at the Big Box retailers or your local grocer. Most chains are giving their first hour of business to the most fragile populations. So shop later in the day and perhaps learn the stores where you shop more closely, cutting down on your 'shopping time' and getting quickly in and back out.  Recreate outside when possible, but in good weather and keep your distance - Sunshine is a natural disinfectant. Carry along a spray bottle of hand sanitizer or vinegar (and water), or lemon juice...all astringents which reportedly pierce the shell of the cell of the virus, killing it on contact. To prevent going stir crazy, bike, hike, walk or run and if you do so in pairs or with family, keep the safe social distance with the folks you encounter, and leave the longer visits and catch-up chats with folks you encounter for online or later.  Use this downtime constructively - Write actual letters, not just Emails and start with closest family and friends. Offer them your love, friendship and words of prayer and support. Start spring cleaning and garage/attic purging. List items for sale on eBay. Make the most of this new 'free-time'...don't just binge processed foods and Netflix.  Go through your pantry extensively - This is the time to go through your fridge and pantry, tossing out all expired date goods. COVID19 may be a current threat, but you may wish for that if you give yourself botulism, ptomaine or another bacterial food poisoning by consuming long expired consumer packaged goods.  In the best of cases, normalcy begins to return in weeks, not months. Those brakes will cause a deep economic trough. Help is on the way, but we will all need to do some heavy lifting on our own. Spread out consumption of your resources, support as best you can local businesses. Practice your faith of choice to keep your spirits up and be an exemplar for others. And like Kate Smith sang in Good Bless America, hopefully before too long we will all be back in “…Our home, sweet home,” with our nation much more as we remember it…pre-wreck and two weeks ago. Stay safe and healthy.
  • Dozens of thousands of Georgians and millions of Americans spent the weekend heading home from various destinations, adventures, and vacations from Spring Break. In addition to some surprise screening procedures at dozens of U.S. airports, they are returning home to a vastly new normal. As I well recall from the aftermath of 9/11, sudden and significant systemic change is often unsettling, for some unnerving and for others it produces difficulties with coping. We may consider ourselves the most high-minded creatures on earth, but in reality, not unlike that Pavlovian dog in your family...we are all accustomed to and in many cases crave repetition, habit, and routine.  Just two weeks ago, many were moaning and kvetching about Daylight Savings Time. Crises have a clarifying way of putting things into perspective.  Though the overall health havoc to be wreaked on Americans and our world may not be evident for some time, the economic injury and impacts may well be more lasting and debilitating sooner. For most who are exposed, come down with symptoms, quietly host and transfer the virus or feel its greater wrath, most likely atop other pre-existing conditions and the compromised immune system which comes with age...the illness will come and go in a matter of weeks. Yet tragically for thousands, perhaps millions globally, pneumonia and other related complications caused by COVID19 will take their lives.  In an effort to block and reduce viral transmission, we are hunkering down, burrowing in and for a period of weeks, if not months, we will become creatures of home. Some transitions are easier to swallow, others quite costly and jarring. If children cannot go to school, there must be childcare, but if both parents work, even from home, who will manage their time, online studies, and in the absence of daily structure and many recreational options...how best to make the most of their idle minds?  Here are some suggestions and thoughts...as we prepare to ride this out. It's not Snowmaggedon, we still have power and functioning utilities, though we can expect more rain, spring and warmer temperatures (which also help shrink spread of this virus) not far ahead of us.  For me, it means more time with my children and family, perhaps finally putting away all of Christmas, getting my 2019 income tax returns ready and completing both an office move and a financially appealing re-finance of our home. You can always find silver linings if you are willing to look.  Many larger employers are already shifting to telecommuting, but this isn't really possible for airlines, hotels, car rental companies or your favorite restaurant. Many businesses will fail as a result.  The blame for this outbreak should not be political, nor partisan, but our elected officials will be judged and held accountable for the responses which they plan and deliver. Again, crisis brings both danger and opportunity, as well as a brilliant spotlight.  And remember, our children will be less occupied, so not only will you matter more, they will be paying you more attention. What are you saying on the phone? How is your demeanor? How are you handling all of this and showing your stress? They learn from and in many cases will mirror your example.  Panic can spread much faster than a virus or germ. Humans are perhaps more greatly susceptible to fear than they this contagion. Witness the runs on toilet paper (no pun intended) and other basic commodities. Facts, logic, calm are generally trumped by rumor, innuendo, anxiety. It's, unfortunately, human nature.  As Americans, we have weathered numerous natural disasters, a Civil War, World War I., WWII, 9/11 and many prior outbreaks of contagions rising to the level of an epidemic and related concerns. As a young girl, my mother, prior to the invention and general availability of Jonas Salk's polio vaccine, contracted the disease and nearly died. During her own treatment and recovery, including time spent in an iron lung, her younger brother became infected, succumbing to the disease at the age of 3. While that emotional scar still exists, Mother survived, that and much more since. And so will most of us. Americans can be a hardy bunch, but this won’t be an easy hurdle.  Please buckle those seat belts, as we may have a slightly bumpy ride, one where your contents tend to shift a bit in flight...but just as the vast majority of thousands of aircraft land safely each day...again, this too shall pass. God bless you and yours.
  • For this past couple of sessions, if not longer, we have been making it a priority in our caucus and in the Georgia House, to define and refine our state in its offering of a culture of life. These are not empty words, and our priorities are being supported with programs, with personnel and with funding,' said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-District 7, Blue Ridge) in his remarks to the Atlanta Press Club on Monday, March 9, 2020. It is longtime considered conventional wisdom, particularly during election years, that the Republican Party would like to throw Grandma from the train, cut all social services and safety net spending to the quick, and give out only tax cuts to the rich and well-off. That is particularly in evidence on social media, though the Fourth and Fifth Estates hold their own share of the blame for perpetuating these misconceptions.  Currently, in the great state of Georgia, it is a GOP-led House and General Assembly, as well as strong leadership from Georgia's Governor and State Senate which in actuality are proposing a stronger foundation across this state towards a culture of life. And they are putting their money where their mouths are.  Though HB 481 of two sessions ago, during the first legislative session for Governor Brian Kemp, codified significant restrictions for legal access to abortion (still pending under challenges in federal court), these new protections being proposed by this GOP body extend to almost every vulnerable population segment in the state.  Following solid reporting by The Atlanta Journal & Constitution on the poor state and declining conditions of many assisted living, senior care and nursing homes, the House is responding with new regulatory authority, as well as additional funding for four new inspectors within the Department of Community Health. This problem, years in the making, won't be solved overnight, but both the regulators and their oversight (the General Assembly) now are placing a keener eye on these concerns.  The House has also passed the first Parental Leave benefits for both mothers and fathers who are state government employees. This leave will be available not only for post-partum childbirth but to adoptive and foster parents. State House leaders hope this new benefit and offering will be catalytic for additional private sector consideration and adoption, versus cumbersome and often ineffective mandates.  The freshly proposed House budget includes another $1,000 pay raise for all classroom teachers and certified educators, closing on funding a campaign promise of a $5K comp adjustment by Governor Kemp, and bringing Georgia teacher salaries to the highest in the southeast. And for the third or fourth consecutive budget cycle, the General Assembly and Governor will be fully funding Q.B.E., the Quality Basic Education Act, enacted by Democratic state leadership in 1985, but never fully funded until the administrations of Governors Nathan Deal and Brian Kemp.  And though the budget wrangling between the House, State Senate and Governor's office is far from done, the House is taking a hard stand on re-storing funds proposed for reduction in the GBI Crime Lab, with particular sensitivity to the backlog of rape kits across the state, finally eliminated in 2018. In the criminal justice arena, the House also proposes restoration of budget cuts proposed for Accountability Courts, which are particularly critical in reversing the challenged life trajectories of many addicted to alcohol and drugs.  And despite this apparent spending spree in support of many of the state's most challenged populations, the same leadership team is proposing an across the board individual income tax rate cut, to a flat tax rate of 5.375 percent for all individuals and a new corporate rate of 5.75. This effectively will return roughly a quarter billion in currently collected revenues primarily to individual taxpayers.  The House caucus and leadership team have their work cut out for them, because in addition to differences of opinion with the other chamber and Executive branch, there are 180 members of this House, each often with their own opinions on budget priorities. And 'cross-over' day, requiring passage by at least one chamber for a budget or other legislative initiative to live on, looms imminently later this week.  So as with the Corona Virus looming large in all headlines and news coverage, it is important to separate facts from fiction, innuendo from institutional memory and budget realities as well as to occasionally READ budget documents, as that is the most proven way to really see where your elected officials actually place their priorities. Happy reading.

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  • Multiple fires and violent encounters erupted across Minneapolis, Minnesota, and several other major U.S. cities late Thursday after the death of George Floyd while in police custody sparked the third consecutive night of nationwide protests.  Minneapolis mayor challenges Trump accusation of weakness: ‘We are strong as hell’ Update 3:20 a.m. EDT May 29: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey addressed U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet from earlier in the evening which criticized the weakness of the city’s leadership as Thursday night protests turned violent. “Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else, during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we’re going to get through this,” Frey said during a press conference. Trump vows military aid to Minneapolis as protests rage Update 1:32 a.m. EDT May 29: In a series of early-morning tweets, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized protesters in Minneapolis, calling them “THUGS” and promising Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz the weight of the military if needed. Minneapolis officials urge resident caution as third police precinct burns Update 1:05 a.m. EDT May 29: A police spokesman told NPR all personnel at the overrun third precinct are safe, but city leaders warned residents near the blaze to maintain distance, following unconfirmed reports of a possible explosion. “We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building,” the city tweeted. “If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes.” Original report: Protesters have overrun the Minneapolis Police Department Third Precinct, the third straight night of violent protests spreading beyond the city. Flames are visible around the precinct but it is unclear if it is on fire. Livestream video showed the protesters entering the building, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran as blazes were set. Police appeared to have left the building located in the neighborhood not far from where Floyd died Monday. A spokesman didn’t immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press. Anger over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man in police custody, has spread beyond Minneapolis with looting and fires set along a major St. Paul street. Earlier Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the National Guard to try to stem the violence. The governor’s order did not say how many Guard members were mobilized or whether they would be in service Thursday night. After calling in the Guard, Walz urged widespread changes in the wake of Floyd’s death. It was the third consecutive night of violent protests following Floyd’s death on Monday. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd can be seen pleading that he can’t breathe as Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneels on his neck. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving. Dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities have boarded up windows and doors Thursday in an effort to prevent looting. Minneapolis shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday out of safety concerns. Check back for more on this developing story. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • More than 5.8 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.7 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Friday, May 29, continue below:  Tyson Foods shuts down 7th meatpacking facility amid latest coronavirus outbreak Update 2:53 a.m. EDT May 29: Tyson Foods shut down its Storm Lake, Iowa, pork processing plant temporarily, following the latest novel coronavirus outbreak to infect the company’s operations. Citing a “delay in COVID-19 testing results” as a partial reason for the facility’s idling, the company issued a statement attributing the shutdown to “team member absences related to quarantine and other factors” as well. According to the Des Moines Register, 555 of the Storm Lake plant’s 2,517 employees have tested positive for the virus. The two-day stoppage is intended to allow for deep cleaning and sanitization with plans to reopen for business next week, the company statement said. Since the onset of the global pandemic, Tyson has shuttered six other facilities temporarily, including facilities in Waterloo, Columbus Junction and Perry, Iowa, as well as Dakota City, Nebraska; Logansport, Indiana; and Pasco, Washington, the Register reported. Iowa has confirmed a total of 18,586 novel coronavirus cases, resulting in 506 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. US deaths near 102K, total cases soar past 1.7M Published 12:49 a.m. EDT May 29: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 1.7 million early Friday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,721,750 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 101,617 deaths.  The hardest-hit states remain New York with 366,733 cases and 29,529 deaths and New Jersey with 157,185 cases and 11,409 deaths. Massachusetts, with 94,895 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,640, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 115,833. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 6,000 cases each. Five other states have now confirmed at least 53,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 103,813 cases, resulting in 3,993 deaths • Pennsylvania: 74,220 cases, resulting in 5,373 deaths • Texas: 60,395 cases, resulting in 1,611 deaths • Michigan: 56,014 cases, resulting in 5,732 deaths • Florida: 53,285 cases, resulting in 2,364 deaths Meanwhile, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut and Virginia each has confirmed at least 41,000 cases; Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 33,000 cases; North Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington each has confirmed at least 20,000 cases, followed by Iowa with 18,586 and Arizona with 17,877; Wisconsin and Alabama each has confirmed at least 16,000 cases; Rhode Island and Mississippi each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases; Nebraska, Missouri and South Carolina each has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Kansas, Kentucky and Delaware each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; Utah, the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases, followed by New Mexico with 7,364; Arkansas and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • The Bethel School District in Washington said it has fired a first-year high school wrestling coach after investigating a social media post that showed him on the ground with a knee on the back of his neck as he smiles and gives a thumbs-up. 'We have completed our investigation. Dave Hollenbeck is no longer employed by the Bethel School District. His behavior was not consistent with our equity initiatives and nondiscrimination policies,” said district spokesman Doug Boyles. The post was in reference to George Floyd, who died Monday after Minneapolis police pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck. Viral video showed Floyd pleading that he could not breathe. The Bethel School District said it’s investigating a social media post by a first-year high school wrestling coach that showed him on the ground with a knee on the back of his neck as he smiles and gives a thumbs-up. “This is for all the race baiters and people that don’t What (sic) they’re talking about when they’re saying that this could kill you,” reads the Facebook post, which appears to have since been deleted from the Coach Dave Hollenbeck’s page. The post’s caption appears to have been updated as a second screenshot being shared on social media states: “Not dead yet I’m doing this for Are (sic) police officers the media is a race-baiting machine and I’m tired of it I’m going to speak out every time if you don’t like that I’m sorry but I love All people.. Wake up America.” The post is in reference to George Floyd, who died Monday after Minneapolis police pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck. Viral video shows Floyd pleading that he could not breathe. “There is no reasonable rationale for him to post anything like that,” said Jay Davenport, one of the district parents outraged over the post. “It’s about humanity, it’s about integrity; that post lacks both.' Davenport, a youth sports coach himself, said staying quiet about the post was not an option. “You have young impressionable lives that you’re mentoring and you’re making stuff like this?’ said Davenport. “I have no tolerance for that.” Hollenbeck defended his post in an interview with KIRO-TV. 'I did not tell any lies; I showed that I was OK from a knee on my neck. That is it,” Hollenbeck said. “I did not say anything racist and maybe it was insensitive at the time.” The district said Hollenbeck wasn’t a teacher. 'This was his first year as a wrestling coach at Bethel High School. As wrestling season is over, he is not working for us right now,” Boyles said.
  • More than 5.9 million people worldwide – including more than 1.7 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Thursday, May 28, continue below:  Rising US job losses stir fears of lasting economic damage Update 10:55 p.m. EDT May 28: The coronavirus crisis threw at least 2.1 million Americans out of work last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, stoking fears Thursday that the scourge is doing deep and potentially long-lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Despite a few glimmers of hope, most of the latest economic news from around the globe was likewise grim, as some of the world’s most populous countries reported rising infections and deaths. The confirmed U.S. death toll has surpassed 100,000, the highest in the world. The latest job-loss figures from the U.S. Labor Department bring to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March. There were some encouraging signs: The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million. And first-time applications for unemployment benefits have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again. But the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment benefits is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn. Legal sports betting pitched as California budget salve Update 9:55 p.m. EDT May 28: Two California lawmakers on Thursday pitched legalized sports betting as a way to help prop up a state budget devastated by the economic shutdown designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though their revised proposal immediately reignited a turf battle between powerful gambling interests. State Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa and Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced are lobbying to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow horse racetracks and the Las Vegas-style casinos run by American Indian tribes to also offer sports wagering, both at their locations and through mobile devices. The proposal, like others before it, is controversial in part because of competition between gambling interests including card rooms, which offer table games like blackjack and poker. The legislation would also allow tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette, but the California Nations Indian Gaming Association fears it would aid card rooms by legalizing a practice that the state attorney general last year sought to outlaw. Card rooms say the attorney general’s regulatory proposal would change the way player-dealer games like blackjack have operated for decades. The tribal casinos contend that those operations have long been illegal and that writing them into law now would amount to “a massive expansion of games” by their rivals. Association chairman James Siva added that by the time the proposed new revenue surfaces, the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is likely to have subsided. It would take a two-thirds legislative vote to put the Democratic lawmakers’ measure on the ballot, and a majority of voters would then have to approve. Montana gates to Yellowstone park opening Monday Update 8:10 p.m. EDT May 28: Montana’s three entrances to Yellowstone National Park will reopen to visitors Monday, as the state moves to its second phase of restarting the economy after shutdowns because of the coronavirus. Parts of Glacier National Park could open in mid-June, Gov. Steve Bullock added Thursday, but a specific day has not been set. The West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City entrances to Yellowstone will open two weeks after Wyoming’s entrances near Cody and Jackson. The park, famous for its geysers and bison, remains open for day use only. No overnight accommodations are available, and large tour buses aren’t allowed yet, park Superintendent Cam Sholly said. Park employees won’t be policing visitors’ compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks, Sholly said Thursday. “We have to have the respect of the public to adhere to health guidelines,” he said. The opening of Yellowstone remains a gradual one. Limited overnight facilities, such as cabins and campgrounds, will begin reopening later in June, Sholly said. The Montana gates will reopen at 10 a.m. Monday. Hurricane season to be challenging amid pandemic Update 7:35 p.m. EDT May 28: Emergency management officials briefed President Donald Trump Thursday about the challenges of preparing for what is expected to be an above-average hurricane season amidst a coronavirus pandemic. During an Oval Office meeting, officials reported that the Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have 13 to 19 named storms and six to 10 of those storms could develop into hurricanes. Vice President Mike Pence says that when people are displaced by tropical storms or hurricanes, they are used to congregating at local schools or gyms. He says there will be “different challenges now” and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided recommendations to local and state officials on how to respond to natural disasters during a pandemic. Recommendations include encouraging evacuees to plan on staying with friends and families rather than end up in shelters. In a NY state of mind, Guetta readies virus relief concert Update 6:45 p.m. EDT May 28: When hundreds of artists started singing from their living rooms when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Grammy-winning DJ-producer David Guetta still wanted to perform in front of a live audience. So the hitmaker set up shop in front of a 205-foot pool at the Icon Brickell in downtown Miami, performing for 90 minutes as 8,000 locals danced along from their balconies during the feel-good moment last month. Now, he’s launching his second United At Home event at an undisclosed location in New York on Saturday to connect with fans and raise money for health care workers and virus relief efforts. “A lot of artists, especially DJs, were doing performances from their bedrooms. I felt like that was a little bit frustrating. I really wanted to feel like I have a crowd,” Guetta said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “So, I had the idea of doing this in the middle of towers and people were on the balconies and that was absolutely amazing.” Job losses continue to mount in US despite reopenings Update 5:50 p.m. EDT May 28: The coronavirus crisis threw at least 2.1 million Americans out of work last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, stoking fears Thursday that the scourge is doing deep and potentially long-lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Amid a few glimmers of hope, most of the latest economic news from around the globe was likewise grim, as some of the world’s most populous countries continued to report rising infections and deaths. The confirmed U.S. death toll topped 100,000, the highest in the world, on Wednesday. The latest job-loss figures from the U.S. Labor Department bring to 41 million the running total of Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March. There were some encouraging signs: The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million. And first-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again. But the number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn. “That is the kind of economic destruction you cannot quickly put back in the bottle,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork. Mitch McConnell says wearing masks is important Update 4:55 p.m. EDT May 28: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday preached the importance of wearing masks in public as the nation’s economy reopens from the “cataclysmic” damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. During a tour of hospitals in his home state of Kentucky, the Republican leader stressed wearing masks in public and following social distancing guidelines. “There should be no stigma attached to wearing a mask,” McConnell said during an appearance Thursday in Owensboro. “And even among age groups that are least likely to either contract this disease or die from it, you could be a carrier. So I think what we all need to do is say, ‘OK, I’m going to take responsibility not only for myself but for others.’” McConnell, who is in his late 70s and is in the midst of his own re-election campaign, has worn masks at his appearances. On Thursday, he stuffed the face covering into his coat jacket to speak, then donned it again afterward. President Donald Trump has refused to wear face coverings. Manw coronavirus epidemic, some two weeks ago. The country has been gradually lifting virus restrictions as the number of new cases fell to none or one or two daily. Ohio to allow for outdoor visitations at some assisted living facilities Update 3:45 p.m. EDT May 28: Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio on Thursday announced that, beginning next month, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities in the state will be allowed to resume outdoor visitations, WHIO-TV reported. The governor also announced guidance for county fairs and said he plans to release information about the reopening of amusement parks and zoos next week, according to WHIO-TV. >> Read more on WHIO.com Florida’s Pulse nightclub holding virtual ceremony to remember victims of 2016 mass shooting Update 3:35 p.m. EDT May 28: Officials said Thursday that Pulse nightclub will hold its annual ceremony to remember the 49 people killed at the club in one of the nation’s worst mass shootings online next month due to the coronavirus pandemic, WFTV reported. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. local time June 12 on Facebook and YouTube, according to WFTV. The ceremony will also honor survivors of the shooting and first responders. >> Read more on WFTV.com Businesses to face fines of $10K or more if they violate Washington state’s Safe Start plan Update 3 p.m. EDT May 28: Businesses in Washington that stay open or operate in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order and Safe Start plan could face fines of $10,000 or more, KIRO-TV reported, citing new emergency rules filed Wednesday by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. The rules allow the Department of Labor & Industries to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is “purposely defying the phased-in approach and, as a result, putting their workers at risk,” officials said. >> Read more on KIRO7.com 2020 Boston Marathon canceled Update 2:55 p.m. EDT May 28: Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston announced Thursday that the Boston Marathon has been canceled for this year, WFXT reported. The mayor had previously announced that the marathon would be postponed until September 14, according to WFXT. However, he said Thursday that it “became increasingly clear” that the planned date was no longer feasible. Instead, organizers plan to hold a virtual marathon, WFXT reported. >> Read more on Boston25News.com NY Gov. Cuomo to issue executive order allowing businesses to deny service to maskless customers Update 2:20 p.m. EDT May 28: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Thursday that he plans to issue an executive order allowing businesses to deny service to customers who decline to wear masks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “We are giving the store owners the right to say, ‘If you are not wearing a mask, you can’t come in,’” Cuomo said during a news conference. “That store owner has the right to protect himself.” 1,261 new cases of COVID-19 reported in New Jersey Update 1:40 p.m. EDT May 28: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said Thursday that 1,261 new coronavirus infections have been reported, raising the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 157,815. On social media, the governor noted that the number of new cases, new deaths and hospitalized patients reported statewide continued to fall. However, he urged people to continue to practice social distancing measures. “We’re not out of the woods,” he wrote. Officials also reported 66 more deaths associated with the coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday, 11,401 people have died statewide of COVID-19. Coronavirus restrictions eased on Long Island, continued in New York City Update 1:15 p.m. EDT May 28: The easing of some coronavirus restrictions Wednesday on Long Island left New York City as the only part of the hardest-hit U.S. state that has yet to begin the process of reopening the economy. The sprawling suburbs of Nassau and Suffolk counties, where the virus has killed at least 4,000 people, won approval Tuesday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to gradually restart construction, manufacturing, agriculture and retail activity two months after nonessential business ceased. The Democratic governor also lobbied President Donald Trump in Washington for help with massive New York City transportation projects — including train tunnels, a subway expansion and an airport rail link — and accused top Republicans who oppose more aid of “abusing” states, such as New York, that suffered heavy coronavirus losses. The projects require some federal funding or approval. Cuomo said he and the Republican president, who are often at odds, will talk again next week. 1,887 new coronavirus infections reported in the UK Update 12:10 p.m. EDT May 28: Officials in the United Kingdom reported 1,887 new coronavirus infections Thursday morning, raising the country’s total number of infections to 269,127. Officials said that as of 5 p.m. local time Wednesday, the most recent date for which data was available, 37,837 people had died nationwide of COVID-19. 74 new fatal coronavirus cases reported in New York Update 11:40 a.m. EDT May 28: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Thursday that 74 more people have died of COVID-19 statewide. The number of new fatal cases reported one day earlier was also 74. The governor said Thursday at a news conference that key indicators of the coronavirus pandemic continued to fall across the board. “The total number of hospitalizations are down. The rolling total is down,” Cuomo said. “The change in intubations -- the number of people put on ventilators -- is down, and that’s good.” COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina reach single-day high for second straight day Update 11:35 a.m. EDT May 28: Health officials in North Carolina reported the state’s highest single-day number of hospitalizations connected to the coronavirus pandemic for a second straight day Thursday, WSOC-TV reported. Officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said 708 people were hospitalized due to severe complications associated with the novel coronavirus. Officials said that 29% of the state’s 19,048 in-patient beds and 22% percent of its 3,223 intensive care unit beds remained open Thursday. Officials have reported 25,412 cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. Nearly 830 people statewide have died of coronavirus infections, WSOC-TV reported. >> Read more on WSOCTV.com Study: 5-day course of remdesivir as effective at treating COVID-19 as 10-day course Update 11:20 a.m. EDT May 28: A study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found no major differences between the recoveries of COVID-19 patients who took a five-day course of remdesivir and patients who took a 10-day course of the experimental drug. Dr. Francisco Marty, an associate physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, worked on the study, according to WFXT. “People were counting on 10 days of treatment per patient for the supply that’s available,” Marty told WFXT. “Now I think with confidence we can say, five days is enough, so now you have twice as many treatment courses.” >> Read more on Boston25News.com Sen. Tim Kaine says he’s tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies Update 11 a.m. EDT May 28: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Thursday that he and his wife, Anne, have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. Kaine said he tested positive earlier this year for the flu but that even after getting medication to treat the illness, his symptoms lingered. At the end of March, Kaine said he 'experienced new symptoms that I initially thought were flu remnants and a reaction to the unusually high spring pollen count.” He and his wife spoke to their health care providers in early April after she also began to feel ill. “They thought it possible that we had mild cases of coronavirus,” Kaine said. “Due to the national testing shortage, we were not tested for the virus but continued isolating and watched for any worsening of symptoms. By mid-April we were symptom free.' He said he and his wife got positive results from a coronavirus antibody test this month. “While those antibodies could make us less likely to be re-infected or infect others, there is still too much uncertainty over what protection antibodies may actually provide,” he said. 'So we will keep following CDC guideline s —hand-washing, mask wearing, social distancing. We encourage others to do so as well. It shows those around you that you care about them.” 86 new cases of COVID-19 reported in DC Update 10:45 a.m. EDT May 28: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. said Thursday that 86 new coronavirus infections have been reported in the area, raising the total number of cases in the area to 8,492. Bowser also announced eight more people between the ages of 37 and 96 had died of COVID-19 in Washington D.C., bringing the total number of deaths in the District to 453. Wall Street opens modestly higher, extending recent gains Update 10 a.m. EDT May 28: Stocks are opening slightly higher Thursday on Wall Street, extending recent gains that brought the S&P 500 back above 3,000 for the first time since March. The benchmark index was up about 0.1% in the first few minutes of trading Thursday. Health care companies and makers of consumer products were among the biggest winners in early trading. The modest gains came even as more dire reports on the economy came in, including another 2.1 million claims for unemployment benefits. Twitter fell as President Donald Trump prepared to sign an executive aimed at curbing liability protections for social media companies. Trump shares sympathies after more than 100,000 Americans die of COVID-19 Update 9:50 a.m. EDT May 28: President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to remember the more than 100,000 Americans who have died after contracting coronavirus infections. The president called the death toll “a very sad milestone.” “To all of the families (and) friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy (and) love for everything that these great people stood for (and) represent,” Trump wrote. “God be with you!” The United States has lost more people to the coronavirus pandemic than any other country in the world. Health officials in the country with the second-most number of fatal COVID-19 cases, the United Kingdom, said Wednesday that 37,460 people have died of the viral infection. 41 million Americans have lost jobs since virus hit Update 8:40 a.m. EDT May 28: Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees. About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans. The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20% in May. LA sues wellness company, alleging ‘sophisticated’ fraud via ‘at-home’ COVID-19 testing kits Update 7:29 a.m. EDT May 28: The city of Los Angeles is suing Wellness Matrix Group for what it called a “sophisticated” and “wide ranging” scheme to defraud people concerned about their risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, NPR reported. The suit contends the California-based company sold “at-home” coronavirus tests it claimed falsely were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The company also sold a supposedly coronavirus-killing “virucide,” claiming that the product could 'build a force field around your event or even spray your entire city,” NPR reported. L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer accused the company of “shockingly deceptive conduct” that included attaching “false government registration numbers to these products and fabricated phony scientific studies and white papers to substantiate their false claims,” the news outlet reported. NBA eyes ‘bubble’ to house select family members when season resumes Update 6:58 a.m. EDT May 28: The National Basketball Association and its players’ association are working to craft a plan that will allow select family members to stay in a “bubble” with the teams once the season resumes. The bubble refers to a proposed enclosed environment in which all dwellers live, practice and play games, CNN reported. The discussions come days after the network confirmed the league and players’ association are in talks with Disney to hold the rest of the season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. Google alerts nearly 2K users hackers posing as WHO targeted them in April Update 6:22 a.m. EDT May 28: Google sent 1,755 warnings to users who were targeted by government-backed hackers in April, according to a Wednesday blog post. The majority of the hacking and phishing schemes Google detected preyed on public fear of the novel coronavirus and lured users into disclosing personal information. The ruses included the creation of spoof email accounts purporting to be the World Health Organization. The ploys typically asked users to sign up for coronavirus updates, but the goal was to mine the information provided for passwords and other private data, The Washington Post reported. Business leaders in the United States, Slovenia, Canada, India, Bahrain, Cyprus and the United Kingdom were the most common targets of the phishing campaigns, the company said in its post. South Korea closing public facilities in Seoul in bid to stop potential COVID-19 outbreak Update 5:55 a.m. EDT May 28: Beginning Friday, South Korea will close all public facilities in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area following detection of a novel coronavirus cluster at a logistics center near the South Korean capital, CNN reported. Specifically, government-operated parks and retreat facilities as well as art galleries, museum and theaters will be shuttered until June 14, with all government-hosted events either postponed or canceled, the network reported citing Health Minister Park Neung-hoo. Meanwhile, Park also advised private businesses to follow suit and said residents should refrain from going outdoors or hosting public gatherings until June 14. To date, South Korea has confirmed 11,344 COVID-19 cases, resulting in 269 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The nation recorded Wednesday its highest spike in new infections since April 5 with 79 new cases, 54 of which have been linked to a logistics center in Bucheon, located about 25 miles from Seoul. To date, 82 cases have been linked to the logistics center cluster, CNN reported. Global coronavirus deaths surpass 356K, worldwide cases top 5.7M Update 4:51 a.m. EDT May 28: The global count of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 5.7 million early Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 5,707,163 people worldwide, resulting in at least 356,042 deaths.  Brazil records more than 20K coronavirus cases, 1K deaths in a single day Update 3:47 a.m. EDT May 28: Brazil added another 1,086 coronavirus-related deaths during the past 24 hours bringing its nationwide death toll to 25,598, the nation’s health ministry reported Wednesday. The latest figures, which added 20,599 new cases in one day, bring Brazil’s total number of confirmed infections to 411,821, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Brazil trails only the United States for the most confirmed cases. American Airlines slashing management, support staff by 30% Update 2:16 a.m. EDT May 28: The ongoing stress caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel the airline industry with one of the United States’ largest carriers telling employees Wednesday that steeper cuts yet are on the way. Elise Eberwein, American Airlines executive vice president of people and global engagement, said in a letter to employees that “fleet retirement accelerations are underway, and we will fly roughly 100 fewer aircraft next summer — mostly widebodies — than we had originally planned.” “Additionally, running a smaller airline means we will need a management and support staff team that is roughly 30% leaner,” Eberwein added. According to The Washington Post, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline had already reduced its carrying capacity and nearly 39,000 employees have taken either voluntary leave or early retirement. Meanwhile, Eberwein asked any willing employees to leave their jobs voluntarily by June 10, but she also noted that if voluntary departures do not result in the needed 30% reduction in staff, layoffs will be the next step, the Post reported. “There is no doubt this is going to be a painful time for all, especially for our departing colleagues, who have given American Airlines their all and are leaving through no fault of their own,” Eberwein wrote in the letter. “They deserve our respect and gratitude.” US coronavirus cases approach 1.7M, deaths climb past 100K Update 12:44 a.m. EDT May 28: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged toward 1.7 million early Thursday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,699,933 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 100,442 deaths.  The hardest-hit states remain New York with 364,965 cases and 29,484 deaths and New Jersey with 156,628 cases and 11,339 deaths. Massachusetts, with 94,220 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,547, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 114,306. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 6,000 cases each. Five other states have now confirmed at least 52,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 101,807 cases, resulting in 3,919 deaths • Pennsylvania: 73,557 cases, resulting in 5,265 deaths • Texas: 58,542 cases, resulting in 1,581 deaths • Michigan: 55,608 cases, resulting in 5,334 deaths • Florida: 52,634 cases, resulting in 2,319 deaths Meanwhile, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut and Virginia each has confirmed at least 40,000 cases; Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 32,000 cases; North Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington each has confirmed at least 20,000 cases, followed by Iowa with 18,369 and Arizona with 17,318; Wisconsin and Alabama each has confirmed at least 16,000 cases; Rhode Island and Mississippi each has confirmed at least 15,000 cases; Nebraska and Missouri each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 10,623; Kansas, Delaware and Kentucky each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; Utah, the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases, followed by New Mexico with 7,252; Arkansas and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  •  An enterprising company in Texas is bringing ice-cold margaritas to doorsteps in San Antonio. La Gloria launched its first La Gloria Margarita home delivery truck Thursday. A bright pink truck will take taco kits, chips and salsa and margaritas to anywhere 3 miles from the restaurant. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept from dine in restaurants and shifted the focus to food delivery. Chef Johnny Hernandez hopes that his service will not only provide a way to social distance a bit longer but will help his business recover from this change. 'Our Margarita Trucks are another fun and creative way to adapt to the ever-changing business landscape. Today, safety is top of mind for everyone, and many of our customers are simply not ready to dine out; however, we know that doesn’t mean they don’t crave one of our famous margaritas. Delivering to our customers’ homes does not only make enjoying our signature margaritas safer and more convenient, but this new avenue of serving our customers also helps to rebuild our business in turn allowing us to hire back more members of our team,” Hernandez told KSAT. Additional trucks will be added to the fleet in June, according to San Antonio Magazine. All orders must be placed online in advance and the company can also fulfill next-day orders. Currently there is a $40 minimum purchase and a $5 delivery charge. Unfortunately, in-person orders are not allowed.
  • A Newnan man is accused of an afternoon crime spree that involved stealing his ex-wife’s car and causing two wrecks, authorities said. Carlos J. Dejesus-Hernandez, 56, faces 10 charges after the incident last Friday, according to the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. His ex-wife accused him of taking the keys in January and waiting until last week to steal her 2019 Chevrolet Malibu. About 2 p.m., a deputy was waved down after a hit-and-run at the intersection of Bullsboro Drive and Celebrate Life Parkway, according to an incident report obtained by AJC.com. The victim said she was slowing down for a red light when her car was rear-ended by a sedan. The driver, later identified as Dejesus-Hernandez, yelled at the woman after the incident and drove off, the report said. An off-duty Union City police officer also happened to be in the area, and he corroborated the woman’s story. While at the scene, the deputy learned that Newnan police were at another hit-and-run scene two traffic lights away, the report said. No one was seriously injured in any of the wrecks. Simultaneously, another deputy was speaking to Dejesus-Hernandez’s ex-wife about her missing vehicle. She said she had a protective order against Dejesus-Hernandez and told deputies where he lived. Authorities realized that all three incidents were connected and went to Dejesus-Hernandez’s house off Lake Shore Drive, the report said. The damaged Chevrolet was outside the home. Authorities arrested Dejesus-Hernandez on counts of aggravated assault, aggravated stalking, leaving the scene of an accident, theft by taking, obstruction, driving on a suspended license and following too closely, jail records show. He was booked into the Coweta County jail, where he remains without bond. You may find this story and more at AJC.com. In other news: