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Local Politics

    Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will testify Friday before a U.S. Congressional subcommittee on the impact of the coronavirus on her city, along with six other mayors from across the nation. The noon hearing will focus on the need for additional federal funds to purchase personal protective and other health care equipment; the impact of a lack of federal comprehensive testing, tracing, and targeted containment plan; and how the government can address budget crisis and other economic hardships facing cities and their residents, according to committee aide. The hearing can be viewed online here: https://coronavirus.house.gov/ You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard received an additional $25,000 in salary supplements from the city of Atlanta that he funneled through a nonprofit he heads as CEO, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have learned. That means Howard padded his pay with $195,000 of the $250,000 in grant money the city signed over to the DA’s Office in two checks in 2014 and 2016. The final $25,000 in payments were disclosed in a recent letter from the state ethics commission that notified Howard he will face two more allegations of violating state campaign finance laws. In April, after the AJC and Channel 2 reported the unusual financial arrangement, the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission filed a dozen allegations against Howard, many for failing to disclose his secondary employment as the CEO for People Partnering for Progress. The nonprofit, set up about a decade ago, says its mission is to reduce youth violence. The disclosures also led the GBI to conduct a criminal investigation of Howard at the request of Attorney General Chris Carr. In prior statements, Howard has strongly denied any wrongdoing. His office did not respond this week for a request for comment. Atlanta lawyer Frank Strickland, who represents Howard before the ethics commission, declined to comment. Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor who has reviewed documents in the case, called on Howard to immediately address the accusations in public and open up the books for his People Partnering for Progress nonprofit to show he did nothing wrong. “It’s hard to see a non-criminal reason for his conduct, so I think the voters need to hear from him an explanation that is well documented and supported,” Cunningham said. “I can’t see any legal justification for doing it. It looks like theft by conversion, which is a felony under Georgia law.” Howard initially approached the city in 2014 and asked for a $70,000 salary supplement to the $158,000 he was receiving at the time from the state and a county supplement. (He makes roughly $175,000 today.) When the city declined that request, then-Mayor Kasim Reed arranged for the city to write a $125,000 check to the DA’s Office in 2014 and another $125,000 check in 2016. After he learned the city had approved the first payment, Howard wrote a thank-you letter to Reed on Aug. 22, 2014. In that note, he said the funds would be used to augment his community prosecution program. They also would “aid in crime reduction and improved quality of life within the city of Atlanta as well as provide additional compensation to the community prosecution staff and the district attorney,” Howard wrote. The letter made no mention of Howard’s plan to divert almost 80 percent of the city’s funds to himself. The AJC and Channel 2 previously reported that People Partnering for Progress used the city funds to pay Howard $170,000 from 2014 through 2017. Attached to the recent ethics commission letter were copies of four $5,000 checks that the nonprofit paid Howard in 2018 and another $5,000 check in 2019. Howard is being challenged in the upcoming Democratic primary by attorneys Christian Wise Smith and Fani Willis. On Tuesday, during a forum hosted by the Georgia Justice Reform Partnership, the two challengers criticized Howard for getting caught up in the controversy. In response, Howard said, “I would ask people to kind of ask themselves the question: Well, I wonder why is it all of a sudden during this election season that we now start to see allegations against Mr. Howard?” Then, referring to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he added, “I’m reminded of something that has happened throughout our history with people like Dr. King, and I’m not comparing myself to Dr. King. But always allegations were placed against him.” Such attacks have happened before, he said. “And I can tell you with those allegations, whatever process they take, I can tell you that I will be fully exonerated.” After the initial charges were filed against him in April, Howard amended his 2015-2019 financial statements to disclose his position as CEO at the nonprofit, said David Emadi, executive director of the state ethics commission. “That complaint and investigation remains open at this time.” You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • The Georgia Department of Public Health said Saturday it is distributing the first of two allotments of a promising anti-viral drug to eight hospitals across the state to help patients suffering from severe symptoms of COVID-19. In a news release, DPH said the distribution of remdesivir is based on need and U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, and all eight hospitals have at least 10 positive patients on ventilators or other breathing assistance. “DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in the release. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.” The first allotment of the drug will treat about 110 patients, the state said. The hospitals receiving the medicine are: Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and Augusta University Medical Center. Remdesivir is produced by Gilead Sciences. The drug was initially developed as a treatment for the Ebola virus and clinical trials have showed promise against the novel coronavirus. Emory conducted a trial of the drug in recent weeks, and the medication was granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA. But it has not gained full approval. The state has received a second allotment, which the release said is much larger. That distribution, which is still being planned, will happen in the coming days.
  • Hundreds gathered for a rally and march in Brunswick Saturday and called for the resignations of two South Georgia district attorneys, alleging the prosecutors committed misconduct in their handling of the investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. “We came to tell Jackie Johnson your time is up,” said Derrick Boazman, a former Atlanta City Councilman who spoke at the rally after joining in a caravan from Atlanta to Brunswick Saturday morning. Civil rights leaders, pastors, relatives of Arbery and other supporters gathered at the Glynn County Courthouse and demanded the resignations of Johnson, the Glynn district attorney, and George Barnhill, the DA in the Waycross circuit. “Their mishandling of the case, the fact they would make a public statement when they recused themselves … just reeks with prosecutorial misconduct,” said Mawuli Davis, an organizer for the caravan and an attorney with the Davis Bozeman law firm. “And it should not be allowed for them to continue to serve the citizens. The citizens of Georgia deserve better.” Both DAs have denied any wrongdoing in how they handled the investigation into the Feb. 23 shooting. Johnson said she recused herself from the case because one of the alleged assailants, Gregory McMichael, once worked as an investigator in her office, and Barnhill stepped in. Barnhill declined to prosecute and ultimately stepped down. But the case took a sharp turn when the GBI began investigating the case earlier this month. The GBI arrested McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, May 7 after reviewing evidence including a 36-second video that captured the shooting and, upon its public release, sparked national outrage. Both men were charged with felony homicide and aggravated assault and have been denied bond. Arbery’s family has said he was out for a jog when the McMichaels confronted him. Protests and runs in solidarity with Arbery’s family have sprung up across the country since the video of the shooting became public. Glynn County commissioners Peter Murphy and Allen Booker have said Johnson’s office told police not to make any arrests immediately after the shooting, which she has disputed in statements and a recent radio interview. In an early April letter to Glynn police, Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels were legally carrying weapons and were entitled to pursue and detain Arbery under the law that allows for citizen’s arrest. The McMichaels said they suspected Arbery of burglaries and that he became violent when confronted, none of which has been substantiated. In his letter, Barnhill said he believed Arbery had “mental health issues,” without providing medical evidence. A national association of district attorneys condemned Barnhill’s actions, saying, “No prosecutor should inject his or her opinion into a pending case to the point where she or he becomes a potential witness and risks compromising the just outcome of a case.” John Perry, president of the Brunswick chapter of the NAACP, said the Arbery killing spurred an awakening. “Justice is saying we need to clean up the house of Glynn County,” he said. “That we have to have a law enforcement and a system that will do right by all people.” The rally turned into a march to a nearby police station after a relative of Arbery’s said the police share some responsibility for Arbery’s death. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that Gregory McMichael had offered his help to police to watch for unwanted visits to a home under construction in the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Arbery was shot. A Glynn police officer, Robert Rash, texted McMichael’s phone number to a property owner in the neighborhood and said McMichael had offered assistance if anyone else came onto the construction site. Saturday’s demonstration started with a caravan of Arbery supporters that left a southwest Atlanta church about 8:30 a.m. for Brunswick, where the crowd joined hundreds more on the coast. Members of the caravan posted signs in their cars reading, “Justice for Ahmaud” and “Riding for Maud!!” The Rev. Gerald L. Durley, a member of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta and a longtime civil rights leader, said members of the caravan have taken up the torch of predecessors, including the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “You are going to Brunswick today to light up that place and get rid of those DAs and don’t feel no way tired,” Durley said. Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU of Georgia, said her organization is calling for an end to citizen’s arrest laws. “These laws let people think they can be vigilantes and take the law into their own hands,” she said. Staff writer Brad Schrade contributed to this report. 
  • The state’s growing army of contact tracers have contacted roughly 11% of the more than 34,000 Georgians who have tested positive so far for COVID-19, according to an analysis of Department of Public Health numbers released Tuesday. The new figures were released shortly after Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey told reporters her department plans to quadruple the number of trained contact tracers by June 23. “We’re incrementally increasing our capacity every day,” Toomey said during a press conference with Gov. Brian Kemp. Before the coronavirus, Georgia employed 250 tracers to contain the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV. In addition to deploying those staffers to cover the coronavirus, Toomey wants to hire up to 750 additional tracers, including student interns from the state’s medical and public health colleges. Read more: Coronavirus may spread too fast for Georgia tracers to catch up » Coronavirus in Georgia: stats in real time Tracers have already reached out to more than 3,800 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 13,000 of their close contacts, DPH said. The department previously declined to answer questions about where it has targeted its efforts so far, such as whether it was focusing on positive cases in senior living facilities, among medical workers or other high-risk groups. The coronavirus continues to sicken upwards of 700 Georgians a day. At Tuesday’s press conference, Kemp and Toomey urged Georgians to cooperate with the contact tracers if they are contacted. “We need your help to defeat this virus,” said Kemp. Tracers reach out to people who test positive for COVID-19 and ask who they’ve been in close contact with for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset. The tracers then reach out to those close contacts and urge them to isolate for 14 days and log their symptoms into a new online monitoring platform, the Healthy Georgia Collaborative, using their smartphone. The platform, which debuted last week, was developed for the state by the technology services company MTX Group using Google Cloud data. If users report they are experiencing symptoms, the program will prompt them to call 911 or consult with their doctor. They can also opt in to receive daily text messages for 14 days while they isolate that remind them to report their symptoms. People who don’t proactively log their symptoms will be contacted by a tracer over the phone. Both Kemp and Toomey emphasized that health data plugged into the program would remain confidential and that the application was not designed to be a tracking tool. Recent polling shows many Americans are hesitant about using a separate app being jointly developed by Apple and Google that uses Bluetooth data to locate and ping users who cross paths with the phone of someone who tests positive for the virus. Toomey sought to differentiate between the two on Tuesday. “Our app is not one that monitors your every move… as you’re driving around,” said Toomey. “What our app is designed to do is to allow our staff to monitor people without them having to call.” State officials face a steep set of challenges as they accelerate the contact tracing program. One of their largest will be quickly gaining the trust of people contacted, particularly those in the state’s most vulnerable communities who may be wary of government or think it’s a scam. Toomey suggested that was top of mind during Tuesday’s briefing. She said she was searching for celebrities and community leaders who could help act as ambassadors. “It’s so critical that communities understand why we’re doing this and why it’s important to cooperate with us,” she said.
  • Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error in the number of reported deaths as of noon May 9.  Gov. Brian Kemp said Saturday that Georgia has its lowest number of hospitalized patients positive for the novel coronavirus since hospitals across the state started reporting the number in early April. In a tweet, Kemp said 1,203 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state. Georgia also has the lowest number of ventilators in use since April — a total of 897 out of 1,945 available respirators, the governor said. “We will win this fight together!” Kemp said in the tweet, which featured a photo of the governor, masked, with members of the Georgia Army and Air Force National Guard. » Complete coverage: Coronavirus Georgia has ramped up testing for COVID-19 and late this week Kemp urged everyone to get tested, even in they do not show symptoms. At noon Saturday, the state Department of Public Health reported 32,497 total confirmed cases of the virus since reporting began, up 326 since Friday at 7 p.m. The total confirmed deaths now stand at 1,400, up one since Friday night. The state updates its figures for cases and deaths throughout the day, and some cases and deaths might have been confirmed in recent days and not solely within the past day. » AJC Coronavirus dashboard Late last month, Kemp’s shelter-in-place order ended and the governor has allowed businesses such as restaurants to open for in-person dining, with new restrictions, and allowed other businesses such as salons, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and fitness centers to reopen with some conditions. Public health experts have warned the state risks triggering a new wave of cases with the loosened restrictions, though any potential spike in cases might take a week or longer to appear. Cases of COVID-19 are now confirmed in all 159 Georgia counties.
  • The GBI has opened an investigation of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard and his use of a nonprofit to funnel at least $140,000 in city of Atlanta funds to supplement his salary, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have learned. The criminal investigation comes at a time when Howard, Fulton’s DA since 1997, is being challenged in the Democratic primary for reelection and is facing allegations of sexual harassment, which he strongly denies. In a statement issued Monday, Howard predicted he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. “This is not the first time what would be considered as an administrative matter for other Georgia elected officials is turned over to the GBI for investigation when it involves the Fulton County district attorney,” he said. This was in reference to the agency’s 2014 investigation of Howard’s use of money forfeited by criminals to pay for galas and dinners for his staff and their families. In that GBI probe, prompted by media reports, “I was totally exonerated,” Howard said. As for the ongoing investigation, he said, “(I)f the facts are followed, it is my expectation that the result will be exactly the same.” Howard said the timing of this investigation, weeks away from the June 9 primary, “is not lost on me.” Howard is also facing a state ethics complaint for not disclosing he was a chief executive of the nonprofit, People Partnering for Progress, in personal financial statements. On April 15, the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission charged Howard with a dozen disclosure violations, most of them involving PPP. The GBI probe and the ethics complaint followed a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News about discrepancies between financial disclosures Howard filed with the state and tax filings submitted to the IRS by the nonprofit he heads as CEO. This week, GBI agents were scheduled to visit Atlanta tax attorney Raymond Carpenter to review PPP’s records, Carpenter said. For years, Carpenter, a longtime friend of Howard’s, has served as the nonprofit’s chief financial officer. The GBI was asked by the state Attorney General’s Office to conduct the investigation of Howard, agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. “At this point, that’s all we can say.” Katie Byrd, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr, confirmed that was the case but declined further comment. Former DeKalb District Attorney Bob Wilson said he finds the investigation troubling. “When you become the controversy, there’s a problem,” said Wilson, now a private attorney in Decatur. “I think a criminal investigation of a district attorney — that is a very sad state of affairs.” A criminal probe of the prosecutor who heads Georgia’s largest and busiest district attorney’s office is highly unusual. But so was Howard’s decision to use PPP as a conduit to pad his salary by at least $170,000 from 2014 through 2017, according to tax records and the nonprofit’s own documents. (Howard’s annual salary, paid by the state and supplemented by the county, is roughly $175,000.) Howard initially sought an $81,259 salary supplement from the city of Atlanta in a May 2014 letter he sent to then-Mayor Kasim Reed. At that time, Howard wrote, nine other DAs around the state were earning more than he was. Howard did not get that annual supplement, but the city did present him with $125,000 checks in each of the next two years. In a previous statement, Howard said Reed tied the money to Howard’s efforts to address repeat criminal offenders and expand his community prosecutors’ program. When contacted Monday, Reed said he had no comment. It’s unclear whether the city knew how much of the $250,000 would go to Howard because he paid himself differing amounts from year to year. In 2015, he took in $50,000, then $20,000 in 2016 and $70,000 in 2017, the nonprofit’s tax filings show. PPP’s most recent tax filing in 2018 did not disclose whether Howard received additional funds. Nonprofits do not have to provide detailed financial information for a year in which they collect less than $50,000 in contributions, which was the case for PPP that year. On April 13, the AJC and Channel 2 filed an Open Records Act request with the city to determine how the funds were transferred to Howard and for documents relating to it. But City Hall, shut down because of the pandemic, has yet to produce the records. In a statement issued last month, Howard said he deposited the city’s checks into the nonprofit’s account and then received checks to supplement his salary. The arrangement is open to question because state law says only counties can supplement a district attorney’s state pay. In his statement, Howard said he tasked one of his former appellate attorneys to determine whether he could receive supplements from the city. He also provided a memo in which the attorney said there was no law prohibiting it. But the July 2014 memo did not address the legality of Howard using a nonprofit to funnel city funds as a way to supplement his salary. PPP’s records say the nonprofit’s mission has been to reduce youth violence. In his prior statement, Howard said the money he received from the city through PPP “represents reasonable compensation.” He also said that PPP’s involvement, through his supervision, in his office’s community prosecution program has been meaningful and had a positive impact. Howard has been named in two sexual harassment complaints filed by county employees and another alleging gender discrimination. During a recent virtual pre-election forum, his two opponents, former Fulton chief deputy DA Fani Willis and Atlanta lawyer Christian Wise Smith, criticized Howard for the harassment allegations. Wilson, DeKalb’s DA from 1981 to 1992, said he chaired and worked with child advocacy and rape crisis center nonprofits while he was in office. If a nonprofit can help victims of crime, it’s appropriate for a district attorney to be involved, he said. At the same time, he added, “You would not undertake that with any idea of ever being paid.” Wilson said he never asked for a raise while he was district attorney. “You know what the job is,” he said. “You know what it pays, and if that’s not good enough for you and your family then seek other employment.”
  • Sunbathers on blankets dotted the Piedmont Park meadow Sunday and some state parks were so busy that rangers would only let in one car for each vehicle that left. Outside a Decatur church, worshippers lifted their hands to the azure sky and sang. Bishop James Morton thanked congregants, some seated in their cars, for offerings to keep the church running. “This too shall pass,” Morton said. The sun-splashed day offered a hint of normalcy amid crisis — almost enough to make people forget about the toll COVID-19 has exacted on Georgia and the nation. A toll of lives and livelihoods. Public health experts warned Sunday the coronavirus hasn’t vanished because of the sunshine, and that easing social distancing restrictions could have deadly consequences. As of Sunday night, the virus has killed 1,179 in Georgia, and infected 28,671 with known cases, according to the state Department of Public Health. Georgia is one of about three dozen states that have loosened social restrictions or rescinded shelter-in-place orders. The mandate is still in effect for medically fragile persons through June 12 and Gov. Brian Kemp has urged citizens to stay home, stay apart and wear masks. But like most states that are reopening, Georgia has yet to fully meet White House benchmarks that are recommended before easing restrictions. Given the incubation period of the virus, experts say it might take two or three weeks before they know if the relaxed restrictions trigger a new wave of infections. The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, on Sunday again criticized states for reopening businesses where workers and customers come into close contact. Asked on Fox News Sunday if masks make it safer to patronize a spa or salon, Birx replied: “It’s safer, but we’ve made it clear that’s not a good Phase One activity, and I think the president made it clear when we discussed the case in Georgia.” More malls open Monday brings a fresh test of another step toward normalcy. Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza and three other flagship malls — Mall of Georgia, Town Center at Cobb and Sugarloaf Mills — will reopen across metro Atlanta, with new hygiene protocols in place. Cumberland and Perimeter malls will reopen Tuesday. The hospitality and retail industries have been particularly battered by the outbreak. Nationally, some 30 million people have filed unemployment claims in the past six weeks. Since mid-March, nearly 1.4 million jobless claims have been processed in Georgia, or more than a quarter of the state’s workers. Raphael Bostic, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, told Face The Nation on Sunday that federal loans and stimulus checks have yet to reach the bank accounts of all eligible recipients. “We know for many businesses and many families they don’t have six or seven or eight months of savings,” he said. “They may only have one or two months of savings, which means we’re getting to about the time when those savings are going to be depleted.” ‘Keep everyone safe’ Many of the restaurants that chose to reopen this weekend for sit-down service were busy, especially those with outdoor patios. Moe’s Original Bar B Que near Midtown reopened both its patio and main dining room. Employees changed gloves and washed their hands after every order, which sometimes led to short delays in service, said manager Qorra Suarez. Suarez said it was a bit worrisome being around so many strangers over the weekend. READ MORE: 28,671 COVID-19 cases in Georgia; death toll rises to 1,179 “To keep everyone safe, we’re like: ‘Y’all, food takes a little while longer than normal,’” she said. Sunday was calmer than Saturday at Piedmont Park and on the Beltline, where huge crowds gathered on Saturday for flybys by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds. Tiffany Luo donned a mask and hit the Piedmont Dog Park Sunday to let Minerva, her 4-year-old beagle terrier mix, enjoy some time outside. “I figured I can still keep my distance while my dog can have fun,” said Luo, 26. Near the park’s bocce ball complex, Jeff and Terry Brown enjoyed some takeout lunch on a park bench, which the Roswell couple covered with a blanket, so they didn’t touch it directly. “I think it’s kind of a feeling-out period to see what’s going to work, what’s going to be acceptable,” Jeff Brown, 60, said. “My impression is, folks are being real respectful and social distancing.” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said officers talk to people each day to inform and prevent possible violations, “with voluntary compliance as our goal.” Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said state law enforcement is closely monitoring for compliance with the governor’s orders. She said there have been no issues on Georgia’s beaches, but several state parks were at capacity, and rangers implemented a “one car in, one car out” policy to help ensure social distancing. “At some parks, law enforcement encountered gatherings in violation of the order, but all were immediately rectified with verbal warnings and education about current orders,” Broce said. Churches seek and offer aid At New Beginning Full Gospel Baptist Church in Decatur, Bishop Morton said expenses have to paid even without in-person services. “Thank you one and all for helping keep our church going,” Morton told those who could tithe. “And we are going to make it. We’re going to get to the other side of this.” » GALLERY: Sunday’s  service at the Decatur church As houses of worship cope with the pandemic’s challenges, congregations continue to help their communities through food assistance and even coronavirus testing. » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia On Monday, House of Hope on Flat Shoals Parkway near Decatur will offer free testing from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling the DeKalb County Board of Health at 404-294-3700. Mount Nebo Baptist Church and Life Center on McDonough Boulevard in East Atlanta will open a testing center Monday and Tuesday in conjunction with the Fulton County Board of Health. Appointments can be made at 404-613-8150 and are advised, but unscheduled drive-ups and walk-ups are available. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, more than 80 percent of Georgia coronavirus hospitalizations in March were among African Americans. “We know about the health disparities that exist in our community and the need for widespread testing,” the Rev. Aaron Jones III said.
  • The Georgia Supreme Court has approved a new rule for landlords seeking to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent amid concerns over enforcement of renter protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The rule, issued Thursday, requires landlords to submit verification that they are not subject to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, otherwise known as the CARES Act, when filing new evictions. The law bars properties that have federally-backed loans or receive many types of housing subsidies from pursuing eviction over nonpayment of rent. But without a central, publicly-accessible database of covered properties, it can be difficult for tenants to know whether their landlord is bound by the law. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets, including ProPublica, have reported recently on properties that continue to file evictions in Georgia in apparent violation of the law, which went into effect March 27. For complaints that have already been filed, landlords must submit the required documentation before or at the dispossessory hearing. Hearings in most jurisdictions are currently not being scheduled due to a statewide judicial emergency. Cobb County Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy welcomed the new rule. “Without the sworn affidavit, it would be almost impossible for a clerk to determine to refuse a filing concerning a covered property as required by the Act,” he wrote in an email. “Perjury is a felony in Georgia. If a landlord knowingly and willfully submits a false affidavit as to the material issue of whether the CARES Act applies to a particular property, the eviction case can be dismissed and the individual referred for prosecution.” Read the rule here: 
  • A group comprised of roughly 50 leaders in medical, business, cultural and legal communities will hold their final meeting on May 5 before submitting recommendations to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on how to reopen the city during the coronavirus pandemic. “With this group of diverse minds, experiences and voices, the City will be well-equipped to reopen Atlanta in the thoughtful and safe manner needed to overcome the spread of COVID-19,” Bottoms said in a press release. Bottoms convened the Advisory Council on the Reopening of the City of Atlanta on April 24, and the Council will have held four meetings before submitting their suggestions sometime before May 15.

News

  • 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.
  • Multiple fires and violent encounters erupted across Minneapolis and several other major U.S. cities late Thursday after a man’s death in police custody sparked the third consecutive night of nationwide protests. 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.
  • 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: