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Coronavirus live updates: 3 new cases reported in China
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Coronavirus live updates: 3 new cases reported in China

Coronavirus outbreak: What you need to know

Coronavirus live updates: 3 new cases reported in China

More than 5.2 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.6 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 Saturday, May 23, continue below:

3 new cases reported in China

Update 11:25 p.m. EDT May 23: Three new confirmed cases of the coronavirus were reported Sunday in China.

The National Health Commission said two of the cases came from outside of the country and the other was a locally transmitted in the province of Jilin. No new deaths have been reported.

There are 79 patients in treatment and another 380 are in isolation.

There have been 4,634 deaths from the coronavirus in China.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pig hunt planned in Guam to help families in need of food

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT May 23: Families in need of food are invited to participate in a pig-hunting derby by the Guam Department of Agriculture.

The two day hunt starts next Saturday.

The hunt is intended to help feed families, encourage familial hunter development and reduce the feral pig population.

There are 1,134 confirmed cases and six deaths from the coronavirus in Guam, according to The New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Order allowing foreign professional athletes into US signed by acting DHS secretary

Update 9:30 p.m. EDT May 23: An order allowing foreign athletes from multiple professional sports leagues into the country was signed by acting Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Friday.

Foreign athletes, essential staff and their dependents in professional sports including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League will be allowed to enter the country.

“Professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, but equally important, they provide community pride and national unity,” Wolf said in a statement. “In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.”

Leagues include:

  • Major League Baseball
  • National Basketball Association
  • Women’s National Basketball Association
  • Professional Golfers’ Association Tour
  • Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour
  • National Hockey League
  • Association of Tennis Professionals
  • Women’s Tennis Association

Coronavirus live updates: Places of worship in Minnesota can open at 25% capacity

Update 8:30 p.m. EDT May 23: Places of worship in Minnesota can open at 25% capacity starting May 27, Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday.

Congregants can gather as long as the places of worship follow strict social distance measures and other safety guidelines, CNN reported.

"As we move to try and have some of these places of worship open up, they’re done with a common goal of the safety and security of not only the congregants but the community at large," Walz said.

There are 19,854 confirmed cases and 861 deaths from the coronavirus in Minnesota, according to The New York Times.

Swim party in Arkansas leads to several reported cases

Update 7:15 p.m. EDT May 23: A high school swim party in Arkansas lead to several swimmers testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday.

"I'm sure everybody thought was harmless," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, CNN reported. "They're young, they're swimming, they're just having activity and positive cases resulted from that."

Hutchinson did not offer additional information about the party.

"It is an important anecdote for people to understand how easy that this can spread and that we still need to be careful," he said. "During this Memorial (Day) weekend, we want to be out and we want to enjoy ourselves, we want to remember this holiday and those that have served our country and given their lives in service of our country. But let's be safe and let's be disciplined at the same time."

Hutchinson never issued a stay-at-home order for the state, CNN reported. He said the state is reaching a second peak as it recorded 163 new cases Saturday. There were 160 cases recorded in a day during the state's first peak, CNN reported.

There are 5,612 confirmed cases and 113 deaths from the coronavirus in Arkansas, according to The New York Times.

New York Times fills entire front page with names of virus victims

Update 6:20 p.m. EDT May 23: As the coronavirus death toll inches toward 100,000 nationwide, The New York Times printed the name of 1,000 people who have died from the virus, covering its entire Sunday front page.

The unique page design is a rare move to not feature multiple stories or any images or art to bring attention to the loss caused by the pandemic.

The Times also launched a special section "Those We've Lost," which features stories about those who have died from the coronavirus.

There are more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 96,875 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins’ tracking information.

North Carolina has highest single-day total for cases

Update 3:28 p.m. EDT May 23: North Carolina experienced its highest one-day increase of cases, the day after Phase 2 protocols were implemented in the state, health officials said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, there were 1,107 cases reported Saturday.

“Phase two runs through at least Friday, June 26, unless changed or canceled,” the agency said in a tweet.

North Carolina’s Phase Two includes expanding restaurant capacity to 50% and reopening camps for children.

NBA, Disney negotiating to resume season near Orlando in July

Update 1:56 p.m. EDT May 23: The NBA and the Walt Disney company have begun talks about restarting the 2019-2020 season at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said.

The season would resume in late July, according to ESPN.

"The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing," Bass said. "Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."

Expect longer lines at airport security checkpoints

Update 1:01 p.m. EDT May 23: Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wold said lines at airport security checkpoints will likely be longer as the Transportation Security Administration adjusts its staffing. The move is in anticipation of more people beginning to travel.

More than 300,000 people went through airport security checkpoints Thursday, CNN reported, marking the highest number since March.

In an interview with Fox News, Wolf said the TSA would try to reduce person-to-person contact by having travelers scan their own boarding passes. Travelers also will be asked to pack food in a separate container to cut down the number of bags security agents must search.

Cuomo signs order allowing gatherings of 10 or fewer

Update 10:24 a.m. EDT May 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order allowing 10 people or fewer to gather as long as they practice social distancing rules, The New York Times reported.reported.

Cuomo signed the order after the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a suit that objected to the governor’s order Thursday allowing groups of 10 people or less to gather for religious services or for Memorial Day celebrations. Cuomo’s latest order Friday night modified the previous one.

Navajo Nation reports 149 deaths

Update 9:22 a.m. EDT May 23: The Navajo Nation reported 149 deaths Friday related to the coronavirus, CNN reported. There have been 4,529 total positive cases.

The Navajo Nation encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Spain’s prime minister says soccer league will resume June 8

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT May 23: Pedro Sanchez, the prime minister of Spain, said the country’s soccer league will resume play June 8, according to The Associated Press.

Global deaths near 339K, total cases soar past 5.2M

Update 7:55 a.m. EDT May 23: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus reached 338,612 early Friday, 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 5,235,452 people worldwide. Meanwhile, 12 nations now have total infection counts higher than China’s 84,081. 

The 10 nations with the highest number of infections recorded to date are as follows:

• The United States has reported 1,601,434 cases, resulting in 96,007 deaths.

• Russia has confirmed 335,682 cases, resulting in 3,249 deaths.

• Brazil has recorded 330,890 cases, resulting in 20,047 deaths.

• The United Kingdom has reported 255,544 cases, resulting in 36,124 deaths.

• Spain has confirmed 234,824 cases, resulting in 27,940 deaths.

• Italy has reported 228,658 cases, resulting in 32,486 deaths.

• France has confirmed 182,015 cases, resulting in 28,218 deaths.

• Germany has reported 179,0730 cases, resulting in 8,212 deaths.

• Turkey has recorded 154,500 cases, resulting in 4,249 deaths

• Iran has recorded 133,521 cases, resulting in 7,359 deaths.

FDA warns groups to stop pushing fake vaccines, CBD oil to fight COVID-19

Update 7:25 a.m. EDT May 23: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have placed two groups on notice for selling fraudulent products to fight the novel coronavirus.

Both Apollo Holding LLC and North Coast Biologics received warning letters Thursday for their virus-related products, CNN reported.

According to the letters, Apollo Holding was selling “NoronaPak” products, including “cannabidiol (CBD),” derived from the cannabis plant, according to one of the warning letters. The federal agencies chastised the company for marketing the products as “intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 in people” because the drugs do not carry federal approval and have been sold in violation of federal law.

Meanwhile, the letters state North Coast Biologics was offering an “nCoV19 spike protein vaccine” and that someone associated with the program bragged about the unverified vaccine in a March 21 Facebook post, saying “Just vaccinated 12 people in west Seattle tonight . . . 12 more to vaccinate in Burien . . . off to Anchorage and PHX next.”

Brazil surpasses Russia for 2nd-highest coronavirus cases worldwide, trails only US

Update 5:27 a.m. EDT May 23: The COVID-19 infection count in Brazil surpassed that of Russia early Saturday, meaning the nation has now confirmed the second-highest number of novel coronavirus cases worldwide.

According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, Brazil has reported a total of 330,890 cases, resulting in 21,048 deaths, and the South American country’s pace of new infections continues to increase. Health officials confirmed Friday that 20,803 new cases had been confirmed in the prior 24 hours.

The latest figures drop Russia’s 326,446 cases to third-most globally, but the United States’ more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases are nearly five times higher than Brazil’s.

US hairstylist who exposed 91 people to coronavirus highlights reality of community spread

Update 5:05 a.m. EDT May 23: A hairstylist who exposed as many as 91 customers and coworkers to the novel coronavirus has emerged as the poster child for the threat of community spread, Missouri health officials said.

Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, told CNN the stylist worked for eight days in May while symptomatic, exposing 84 clients and seven Great Clips colleagues to the virus.

“The individual and their clients were wearing face coverings. The 84 clients potentially directly exposed will be notified by the Health Department and be offered testing, as will seven coworkers,” the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said in a statement. “It is the hope of the department that because face coverings were worn throughout this exposure timeline, no additional cases will result.”

Weight Watchers executes mass firing via Zoom, cites coronavirus for restructuring

Update 4:15 a.m. EDT May 23: WW International, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, fired an undisclosed number of employees one week ago during simultaneous Zoom calls across the country, multiple media outlets reported.

Not only did the move shock many longtime staffers who believed they were simply participating in a standard company Zoom meeting, but the health and wellness company declined to confirm the exact number of its roughly 17,000 mostly part-time employees let go, The New York Times reported. Company representatives attributed the restructuring in part to the novel coronavirus and in part to a shifting digital strategy.

“This is supposed to be a caring, wellness corporation,” Joanne Patten of Houston, a part-time WW employee for 11 years, told the newspaper adding, “The way they did it, it was just heartless.”

Numerous governors moving cautiously to reopen places of worship, despite Trump’s demands

Update 2:25 a.m. EDT May 23: Several governors responded late Friday to President Donald Trump’s threat earlier in the day to override state leaders who do not allow places of worship to reopen amid the lingering novel coronavirus.

Asked about the president’s declaration, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told CNN he stands by his state’s policy of allowing services with 50% capacity, while a spokesman told the network Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan supports reopening churches and has no plans to force local county officials to enforce a recent 50% capacity order.

Meanwhile, David Postman, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff, told The New York Times, “We don’t believe the president has the ability to dictate what states can and cannot open.”

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said her state continues to work toward resuming worship services on May 30 but not before protective social-distancing measures can be enacted.

“We’re not ready. Honestly, that would be reckless,” Raimondo said during a news conference.

US coronavirus cases top 1.6M, deaths surpass 96K

Published 12:23 a.m. EDT May 23: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged past 1.6 million early Saturday 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 1,601,251 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 96,001 deaths. 

The hardest-hit states remain New York with 358,154 cases and 28,853 deaths and New Jersey with 152,579 cases and 10,985 deaths. Massachusetts, with 90,889 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,228, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 105,444. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each.

Seven other states have now confirmed at least 41,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including:

• California: 90,454 cases, resulting in 3,667 deaths

• Pennsylvania: 70,211 cases, resulting in 5,010 deaths

• Michigan: 53,913 cases, resulting in 5,158 deaths

• Texas: 53,539 cases, resulting in 1,470 deaths

• Florida: 49,451 cases, resulting in 2,190 deaths

• Maryland: 44,424 cases, resulting in 2,207 deaths

• Georgia: 41,482 cases, resulting in 1,808 deaths

Meanwhile, Connecticut, Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 30,000 cases; Colorado and North Carolina each has confirmed at least 22,000 cases; Tennessee, Washington and Minnesota each has confirmed at least 19,000 cases; Iowa, Arizona and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases; Rhode Island and Alabama each has confirmed at least 13,000 cases, followed by Mississippi with 12,625; Missouri and Nebraska each has confirmed at least 11,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 9,638; Kansas, Delaware, Kentucky and Utah each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases; the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases, followed by New Mexico with 6,625; Oklahoma and Arkansas each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases.

Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.

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  •  A restaurant owned by rapper 2 Chainz has been cited by the state for violating social distancing guidelines. According to an incident report from the Department of Public Safety, a manager for Escobar Restaurant and Tapas was cited after public safety officials received complaints that there were too many people inside the restaurant and bar, violating the state’s executive orders over the coronavirus. DPS said it responded to the first complaint early Saturday after people called them saying that the restaurant and bar were too full. “When I enter the establishment, the entire facility was full of patrons, shoulder to shoulder, and was unable to enter safely,” the DPS officer wrote in the incident report. The public safety officer said he gave a warning to the manager on duty that night and the manager had everyone leave for the evening. The next night, DPS said it received another social distancing complaint about Escobar. “Once I entered the facility, I observed the same violations as I did when the warning was issued,” the officer wrote in the incident report. The on-duty manager, Rasheed Gaines, had security personnel make everyone leave, and the DPS officer cited Gaines for violating the state’s executive order. “When speaking to Mr. Gaines, he was aware of my previous warning as he was at the location the time it was given,” the DPS officer wrote in the report. Escobar Restaurant and Tapas, owned by Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps and Mychel “Snoop” Dillard, is in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hills neighborhood near Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena. Epps delayed the reopening of the restaurant when Gov. Brian Kemp originally announced that dine-in service could restart. He originally was going to reopen at that time but opted to hold off. He also contacted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to tell her about the decision. Bottoms spoke about it on the Tamron Hall Show last month. “I know that 2Chainz and his wife, Keisha, have a loving heart for a community which is unparalleled. For them, you’re talking about laying off 80% of his employees,” Bottoms said. “I was so glad that he reached out to me and told me that he would not be opening because he is listening to reason and logic. What he is saying is, ‘I’m not going to risk putting my employees in harm’s way because we are opening up too soon.’” Instead of reopening right away, Epps helped feed the area’s homeless. The restaurant later reopened after Kemp signed a new executive order that said restaurants could have limited dine-in service and allowed up to 10 people at one table. The order also said occupancy was limited to 10 people for every 300 square feet inside the restaurant. According to its website, Escobar features “a beautiful bar, elegant lounging, and a menu featuring a choice wine and champagne selection, innovative cocktails, craft beers and undoubtedly the most desired tapas and entrees.”
  • An inebriated man passed out on a raft and floated 7 miles down an Indiana river before he was rescued by authorities as he approached a dam. The man, who has not been identified, was passed out with a bottle of rum on his lap, MLive reported. Department of Natural Resources officers first found the man but were unable to awaken him while they shouted and blew a whistle from an embankment along the Blue River. Officers later used a boat and set up a tagline in order to stop the man from going over the Milltown Dam. However, the man had washed ashore a few miles before the dam. Authorities found the man. After a medical evaluation, he was arrested. Charges were not released.
  • Veteran actor Richard Herd, who played Mr. Wilhelm on the television sitcom “Seinfeld,' died Tuesday at this Los Angeles home, Variety reported. He was 87. The cause of death was cancer-related, Herd’s wife, actress Patricia Crowder Herd, told The Hollywood Reporter. On “Seinfeld,” Herd played Mr. Wilhelm, the New York Yankees executive who was the boss of George Costanza (Jason Alexander), was who the team’s assistant to the traveling secretary. Herd was the second “Seinfeld” character actor to die this month. Comedian Jerry Stiller, who played Costanza’s father on the show, died May 11. Stiller was 92. Some of Herd’s movie credits include roles in “The China Syndrome” (1979) “F.I.S.T.” (1979), “The Onion Field” (1979), “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (1997). He also starred as the Klingon L’Kor on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and Admiral Owen Paris on “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Renegades.”
  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s office has confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has closed an investigation into recent stock trades made on her behalf. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Loeffler is among the senators who are no longer under scrutiny. The others are Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Dianne Feinstein of California. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina remains under investigation, according to that report. Loeffler’s portfolio came under scrutiny when a large amount of stocks that she or her husband owned were sold off shortly after she attended a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus and during the time that the virus began to spread across the country. She said that the Jan. 24 meeting included no private information and all stocking trading on her behalf is handled by financial advisers who act independently and without her input.  Loeffler denied that any trading on her behalf had broken laws or U.S. Senate rules. A campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the investigation has shown that the criticism was fueled by politics. “Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along– she did nothing wrong,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians.” A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the investigation. Loeffler initially refused to admit she was under investigation. Earlier this month, she said  she had turned over documents to federal investigators. But she would not say if she had volunteered or was asked to supply information or if she had been questioned.  Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, have already taken steps to address the controversy about stock trading on their behalf during the COVID-19 pandemic. They directed their consultants to sell off stocks they own in individual companies. The only company’s shares they still own are Intercontinental Exchange, the conglomerate that Sprecher founded and now leads.  Loeffler worked for the company until she was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Although the threat of an investigation seems to be over, Loeffler should still expect to face questions about her portfolio on the campaign trail, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said. Collins is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat in November’s special election. 'Her expensive lawyers might keep her from going to prison,” Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said, “but she's not going back to the U.S. Senate because we all know what she did.” This article was originally published on the ajc.com
  • The video is heartbreaking and chilling. Security footage from a Florida condominium complex shows the moment a woman, identified by authorities as 45-year-old Patricia Ripley, first tried to drown her son Thursday evening in a canal in West Kendall, an unincorporated area of Miami. Alejandro Ripley, 9, had severe autism and was nonverbal. Ripley holds Alejandro’s hand in the video, which was first obtained by Spanish-language television station Univision. She appears to caress his face and head and rub his back. Moments later, the footage shows Ripley take the boy by the arm and shove him into the canal, located behind the Kendall Acres Condominiums, before running away. She looks back several times over her shoulder as she vanishes out of the camera’s view. Watch the video of Alejandro Ripley’s near-drowning below, courtesy of Univision. Warning: The footage may be disturbing to some viewers. Several seconds later, she returns into the video frame with one of multiple bystanders who authorities later said rushed to Alejandro’s aid after hearing screaming. The man is seen lowering himself into the water to pull the boy to safety. Alejandro appeared unhurt, so no one called police or paramedics, authorities said. He and his mother walked away. About an hour later, Alejandro was dead. According to Miami-Dade County detectives and prosecutors, Ripley took the 9-year-old to a second canal near the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club and, with no witnesses to save him that time, shoved him once again into the water. Alejandro’s body – clad in a blue Captain America T-shirt and a diaper – was found floating in the canal Friday morning. The boy had previously been a student at Great Heights Academy, a Miami-area school for children with special needs. Miami-Dade County civil court records show the school sued Patricia Ripley and her husband, Aldo Ripley, in 2016 for more than $4,000 in unpaid tuition for their son. It was not clear when Alejandro had last attended the school but the Miami Herald reported that he was being tutored at home at the time of his death. The school’s administrators shared on Facebook both the news of his alleged abduction and the subsequent news of his slaying. “Ale, we will forever miss you,” a post on the school’s Facebook page read. It was accompanied by a video of Alejandro working with a teacher. “Praying you rest in peace.” A Miami-Dade County medical examiner told WPLG in Miami on Tuesday that the boy’s autopsy confirmed he drowned. His mother has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree premeditated murder, prosecutors said. A witness who lives at the condo complex told WPLG he saw Alejandro in the canal behind his home but didn’t think much of it. “Kids fall in the canal all the time,” said the witness, who declined to speak on camera. “Usually, you grab them, yank them out and away you go.” Alejandro appeared to be seated in water that was chest deep, the man said. “The only odd thing was she kind of started screaming and called his name, and then turned around and ran off screaming,” the man told the news station. 'He was just sitting there, and I tried to speak to him a couple of times and he looked at me, and that’s when she returned with an older couple. ”At the time, I thought they were together because that woman was giving it to her, screaming, ‘What are you doing? Why’d you leave the kid there?‘” The witness described the bystanders pulling Alejandro from the water. Video footage shows them drying the boy off before he and his mother leave. “Unfortunately, when she took him to the second canal, there was no one there,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press on Saturday. “She tried it once, and people rescued him. He was alive. He could have stayed alive. She intended, from all the facts of the case, to kill him.” Because he was nonverbal, Alejandro could not tell his rescuers how he ended up in the canal near the condo community, Fernandez Rundle said. “We talk about children being voiceless. This is another level of voicelessness,” the prosecutor told the AP. “He was incapable of saying, ‘Mommy put me in the water.’” Miami-Dade County Jail records show Ripley is being held without bond. Aldo Ripley sobbed Friday as he spoke to reporters following his wife’s bond hearing. “We love Alejandro, and we don’t agree with whatever they said about my wife,” a masked Aldo Ripley said through tears. “It’s not real.” Watch Aldo Ripley speak below and hear from Patricia Ripley’s attorney, courtesy of the Herald. It was not immediately clear if the boy’s father has seen the evidence against his wife. Patricia Ripley’s attorney, Nelson Rodriguez-Varela, told reporters outside the courtroom that he would not discuss any evidence in the case but would “leave that for another day.” “There is obviously a great deal of support for her,” Rodriguez-Varela said. “Everybody’s very concerned about her situation. “By all accounts, she has been an excellent mother, an excellent person, a great family as you can see from the people who are here.” The defense attorney said he is amassing a legal team to ensure his client’s rights are protected and she has the “opportunity to vindicate her good name.” Alejandro’s killing has provoked outrage in Florida and across the country, not only because of the circumstances of his death but also because of the nature of Ripley’s initial story to police. She claimed two black men had run her off the road and abducted her son at knifepoint, authorities said. “The only voice in his life that he depended on to get through this world was his mom’s,” Miami-Dade police Director Alfredo Ramirez said Friday during a news conference. “To think that voice would be the one that would harm him the most. “As a parent and as a member of this community, I’m deeply saddened for what happened to that young boy. And then for her to displace blame of her crime on another community, it’s just … well, another crime that was committed. It is very disappointing.” According to an affidavit in the case, Ripley called 911 shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday and reported that she and Alejandro had been traveling near a Home Depot in West Kendall when her vehicle was sideswiped, causing her to crash. She claimed the driver of the other car got out and approached her vehicle with a knife, demanding drugs before opening the front driver’s side door and stealing her cellphone and tablet. “She stated this male then removed her 9-year-old autistic child and fled in an unknown direction,” the affidavit says. Ripley was taken to the police station for questioning, according to the document. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials issued an Amber Alert for Alejandro. The alert described Ripley’s alleged assailants as “two unknown black males driving an unknown light blue four-door sedan.” “One of the abductors may be wearing all black clothing and a black bandanna as a face mask,” the alert said. “He may also have cornrows in his hair.” At the police station, Ripley gave “conflicting statements” to missing persons detectives, the affidavit states. The case was transferred to homicide detectives when Alejandro’s body was found, about 11 hours after he was first reported missing and 4 miles from the scene of the alleged abduction. Ripley was taken from the missing persons bureau to the homicide division for additional questioning. Again, she gave conflicting statements, the affidavit says. “These statements contradicted the statements of witnesses and the video footage obtained from the area of SW 103rd Avenue and Kendall Drive,” the document states. The footage described in the affidavit matches the surveillance video obtained by Univision. The Herald reported that security camera footage from outside the Home Depot near where Ripley claimed Alejandro had been kidnapped showed Ripley sitting alone in her car for 20 minutes before she called 911 to report him missing. Witnesses also told police they’d seen Ripley with her son near the canal where he was eventually found dead, CBS Miami reported. When confronted with the evidence, Ripley admitted she had not been robbed, the affidavit says. “She admitted that she drove to SW 62(nd) Street and SW 138(th) Court at approximately 8:30 p.m. and parked near a canal,” the document states. “She then led the victim to the canal, where he drowned. “She stated he’s going to be in a better place.” The CBS affiliate reported that a law enforcement official said Ripley told detectives she’d been thinking about killing her son for a while because the older he got, the more difficult he was to physically control. According to the Amber Alert, Alejandro weighed 120 pounds and was 4 feet, 11 inches tall. Miami-Dade County Jail records show that Ripley weighs 138 pounds. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Since Alejandro’s death, at least one Miami-area support group for special needs children and their families has seen an uptick in calls from parents whose children are in crisis. Rabbi Yossi Harlig, co-director of Friendship Circle Miami, told the Herald the boy’s killing has rippled through the community as the nation deals with the deadly COVID-19 outbreak, which had killed more than 98,000 Americans as of Tuesday morning. The social distancing required to help stem the spread of the virus has placed already-struggling families in even more tense situations as they shelter in place and parents homeschool their children. “One of the concerns is that when someone acts like that, it could trigger other people. You never know,” Harlig told the Herald. “Typical families are feeling overwhelmed. Imagine if you’re raising a child with special needs.” In a Facebook video posted on the Friendship Circle’s profile, Harlig described the love and caretaking provided by the parents of most special needs children as “something that is like the work of angels.” With that love, however, comes pain, worry and an often overwhelming challenge. He begged those feeling that challenge to reach out for help. Friendship Circle Miami, which held a memorial service for Alejandro on Friday and has an online town hall meeting planned for Wednesday night, is implementing a hotline service for overwhelmed parents, the rabbi told the Herald. The group is also hoping to establish group therapy or child care centers to help families cope. “One thing that people always tell us is that they feel very isolated and alone, and there’s nowhere to turn to,” Harlig said. “One of the big things that people need is a respite, to have a place where they can drop off their child for a few hours and they can take a break.” The Lifeline Project will be launched in the days and weeks ahead, Harlig said on the organization’s Facebook page. “If anyone who cares for a person with special needs feels they are in crisis, they can reach us at 305-234-5654 or rebyossi@friendshipcirclemiami.org,” the page states. In Friday’s news conference outside Fernandez Rundle’s office, the prosecutor said nothing is worse than the death of a child. “The death of a child is tragic; the killing of a child is horrific,” the prosecutor said. Fernandez Rundle praised the work of Miami-Dade County detectives, who she said combed the community for evidence and witnesses and quickly established the truth of the case. “The tragic loss of the life of a 9-year-old boy, and the loss, really, of any young life, leaves all of us grieving,” Fernandez Rundle said. “This boy’s senseless, senseless death will stay with all of us, just as his bright smile that shines out from the photographs we’ve all seen.” Harlig said in a statement that his organization’s leaders are shocked and saddened by Alejandro’s death. “No child should ever be in this position, especially a child with special needs who cannot call out for help,” the rabbi said. “We all grieve for Alejandro and his family.”
  • Rabbit, run? Not this hare. And for what it was worth, it was a hairy encounter between an aggressive rabbit and equally feisty crow that was caught on video by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. The two species rarely fight, particularly in parking lots, but state biologists believe the rabbit had a reason for protecting its turf. “Mama rabbits will rush and bite at some hungry predators that threaten her babies, but only if that predator cannot also eat her,” Alabama wildlife officials wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “That means that she’ll stand tall against this crow, and also attack a snake, but will split if you or your dog come onto the scene to potentially eat her young,' wildlife officials wrote.“If you find a nest of baby rabbits, leave them alone and keep pets away.” The video was filmed outside a division office in northern Alabama, AL.com reported. According to wildlife experts, crows are not considered birds of prey but will eat anything they can find, including bugs and roadkill, AL.com reported.