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Minnesota Supreme Court reverses 3rd-degree murder conviction of ex-Minneapolis cop Mohamed Noor

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Minnesota Supreme Court reverses 3rd-degree murder conviction of ex-Minneapolis cop Mohamed Noor

By AMY FORLITI

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman in 2017, saying the charge doesn’t fit the circumstances in the case.

Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter.

The ruling means his murder conviction is overturned and the case will now go back to the district court, where he will be sentenced on the manslaughter count. He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence. If sentenced to the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year.

Caitlinrose Fisher, one of the attorneys who worked on Noor’s appeal, said she’s grateful that the Minnesota Supreme Court clarified what constitutes third-degree murder, and she hopes that will lead to greater equity and consistency in charging decisions.

“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a tragedy but it wasn’t a murder, and now the Supreme Court agrees and recognizes that,” she said.

Messages left Wednesday with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, were not immediately returned.

The ruling could give former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin grounds to contest his own third-degree murder conviction in George Floyd’s death in May 2020. But that wouldn’t have much impact on Chauvin since he was also convicted of the more serious count of second-degree murder and is serving 22 1/2 years. Experts say it’s unlikely Chauvin would be successful in appealing his second-degree murder conviction.

The ruling in Noor’s case was also closely watched for its possible impact on three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd’s death. Prosecutors had wanted to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against them, but that’s unlikely to happen now. The trio are due to go on trial in March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the court said that for a third-degree murder charge, also known as “depraved-mind murder,” the person’s mental state must show a “generalized indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed.”

The justices said that the only reasonable inference that can be drawn in Noor’s case is that his conduct was directed with particularity at Damond, “and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction … for depraved-mind murder.”

State law has defined third-degree murder as “an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.” A central dispute has been whether “dangerous to others” must be read as plural, or if the fatal act can be directed at a single, specific person.

Fisher argued on appeal that the language requires that a defendant’s actions be directed at more than one person, and that the law is meant for cases such as indiscriminate killings.

But prosecutors urged the Minnesota Supreme Court to uphold the third-degree murder conviction, saying that nearly all killings by officers are directed at a specific person.

“If you maintain that a person cannot be convicted of third-degree murder … if their actions are directed at a particular person, there is not going to be an officer-involved shooting that can be prosecuted under Minnesota’s depraved-mind murder statute,” Hennepin County prosecutor Jean Burdorf said during oral arguments in June.

Noor testified in his 2019 trial that a loud bang on his squad car made him fear for his and his partner’s life, so he reached across his partner from the passenger seat and fired through the driver’s window. Fisher told the Supreme Court justices that “it would be very hard to imagine” that an officer’s “split-second reaction to a perceived threat” would count as a “depraved-mind murder” but that other charges could be justified instead, such as manslaughter.

“Mohamed Noor did not act with a depraved mind. Mohamed Noor was not indifferent to human life,” Fisher said during her arguments before the Supreme Court. “With the benefit of hindsight we now know that Mr. Noor made a tragic split-second mistake. But if there is to be any meaningful difference between murder and manslaughter, that mistake is not sufficient to sustain Mr. Noor’s conviction for third-degree murder.”

She said Wednesday that she had not yet talked to Noor, but knows the opinion will mean a lot.

“He really believed that he was saving his partner’s life that night, and instead he tragically caused the loss of an innocent life,” she said. “Of course that is incredibly challenging, but I think just having reaffirmation that a mistake like that isn’t murder will mean more than words can say.”

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‘I need help,’ Illinois mother of missing college student asks for FBI’s help

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‘I need help,’ Illinois mother of missing college student asks for FBI’s help

NORMAL, Ill. – Twenty-five-year-old Jelani Day is a graduate student studying to get his master’s in speech pathology at Illinois State University. He was last seen Aug. 24 and hasn’t been heard from since. 

Police found his car, a 2010 White Crysler 300 with a blacktop, in a wooded area in Peru, Illinois, a few days later. 

“Nothing is more important to me than getting Jelani back,” Carmen Bolden Day, Jelani’s mother said. “I need help to find my son, it’s been 28 days.”

Jelani’s family from Danville and a faculty member reported Jelani missing after he did not show up for class for several days. Bloomington police said they need tips from the public in their ongoing search.

Carmen Bolden Day said they have not been receiving tips lately. She said it’s not like him to disappear without telling them his whereabouts. 

“Now, we need another agency that has more resources,” she said. “It was just proven with the Gabby Petito case. She was missing, the FBI got involved, she was found within 3-4 days. Can I have the same help is all I’m asking.”

Carmen Bolden Day said she asked the police if the FBI could get involved and she said she was told that there was a “discussion” they were having.

Bloomington Police did not return Fox 2’s phone call Tuesday.

Carmen Bolden Day said her heart goes out to Gabby Petito’s family.

“I know what it feels like to be sitting in this seat, and you wanting your child back, wanting to know what’s wrong with your child. You want to know where your child is … My heart goes out to her,” she said.

“But I have a young black son that I want the same attention. I want the same effort given too.”

Theda Person is the founder of Looking for an Angel, a nonprofit she created after her son went missing at just nine years old. The nonprofit creates awareness for missing people.

 “I can’t determine whose going to receive the blessings who won’t receive the blessings, but I can acknowledge the differences and the inequities,” Person said.

She also said that people in the community need to be aware of each person that is missing in their area so they can keep their eyes open for their loved ones. She said to treat each missing person like it’s your own family.

“Wherever you are, these people could be anywhere, this means we should have our eyes totally focused on whoever is missing,” she said.

While Carmen Bolden Day searches and waits for her son’s safe return, she said she just keeps praying. 

“I have to trust God right now like I’ve never trusted him before, I have to believe things that I don’t see, that I can’t touch,” she added.

The family is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads them to Day.  

Anyone with information can contact their local police department or the Bloomington Illinois Police at 309-820-8888 or Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548. 

To make a donation, visit the family’s Go Fund Me page.

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Ask Amy: Tough diagnosis brings disclosure dilemma

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Ask Amy: Woman should leave abusive relationship

Dear Amy: I am 58 years old. I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s two years ago. My friends all know about my diagnosis.

My question relates to my sister. She and I had been estranged for almost a decade. Two years ago, I realized that our disagreements were water under the bridge, and we re-established a relationship. She lives several states away and has no contact with my friends.

I have never disclosed my diagnosis to her.

I don’t want her to come to the conclusion that I broke down the barriers between us because of my illness.

I did that because I love her, and not because I am staring in the face of my own mortality.

I also don’t want to bring stress into her life, she has enough of that, and she will fly into stress mode — that is who she is.

Also, because she is my “big sister” I also know that she will go into: “I’ll take care of you” mode (again, it is her nature), which is not what I need or want to be the basis for our relationship.

On the other hand, I don’t want her to feel betrayed when she inevitably learns about my illness.

Right now, I am able to hide my symptoms well.

When the day comes when this is not the case, I plan on telling her (and her children).

I am extremely torn as to whether I am making the right decision.

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Bill to bring back eviction moratorium filed in Congress

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Bill to bring back eviction moratorium filed in Congress

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., hope to bring back the COVID-era eviction moratorium, a move property owners continue to oppose.

“An extremist Supreme Court cut short eviction protections and put millions of people at risk for losing their homes,” Warren said in front of the White House Tuesday. “Forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes will only make this public health crisis worse as (the delta variant) surges.”

The Supreme Court struck down the federal eviction moratorium late last month, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services lacked the authority to implement eviction moratoriums and that Congress had to specifically authorize it.

The bill, titled the “Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021,” would also implement an automatic eviction moratorium that would not require renters to apply, an issue Massachusetts renters and landlords have struggled with, and would remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.

But landlords, who have long opposed the moratorium, said it would only saddle renters with debt they can’t pay.

“Instead of responsibly addressing the crisis at hand, moratoriums leave renters strapped with insurmountable debt and housing providers left to unfairly hold the bag,” said Greg Brown, a senior vice president for government affairs at the National Apartment Association. “Ultimately, any effort to pursue additional moratoriums will only balloon the nation’s rental debt … and exacerbate the housing affordability crisis, permanently jeopardizing the availability of safe and affordable housing.”

Warren argued that a stay on evictions have staved off some COVID-19 spread, and cases spike after they expire. One study from MIT found that the average risk of contracting COVID-19 in states that ended eviction moratoriums jumped 1.39 times in the five weeks following the expiration, and 1.87 times after 12 weeks. The effect was amplified in low-income communities.

The Bay State senator acknowledged that, although Congress approved $45 billion for rental assistance to help landlords, “the money is going out too slowly.”

She cited statistics that almost 90% of the funds haven’t been distributed. “There are still billions of dollars to distribute and millions of families who need that help to avoid losing their homes,” she said.

Massachusetts received $768 million in federal emergency rental assistance funds and has spent almost $270 million on over 40,000 households since March 2020, according to recent data from the Baker-Polito administration.

Massachusetts currently has a temporary law in place that prevents evictions, providing the tenant has filed for rental assistance.

— Herald wire services contributed

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Ross Douthat: The extremely weird politics of COVID

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Ross Douthat: The extremely weird politics of COVID

I want to put a text before you, from February 2020, the ideological landscape into which the coronavirus first arrived. It’s a review in The London Review of Books, a fine highbrow left-of-center publication, covering a book about plague and quarantine in 17th-century Italy. The book, by University of London historian John Henderson, details the attempts by the city of Florence — led by its public health board, the Sanità — to avoid the awful fate of other Italian cities: first by closing the city to commerce and then by imposing quarantines, lockdowns and what we now call social distancing.

The sympathies of the reviewer — Erin Maglaque, another historian of early modern Europe — are not exactly with the Sanità. Like our federal government in 2020, the Florentine state spent lavishly to make its restrictions sustainable, delivering wine and bread and meat to households (“On Tuesdays, they got a sausage seasoned with pepper, fennel and rosemary”) during the mandatory confinement. But the quarantine was also inevitably punitive and authoritarian, and Maglaque’s review details the way public health restrictions reproduced and deepened inequality and how already-disfavored groups — the poor, Jews, prostitutes — were regarded as particularly dangerous “vectors of contagion” and policed accordingly.

Meanwhile, the most sympathetic characters in her account are people who found ways to steal a bit of normal life in defiance of public health restrictions — like two girls, Maria and Cammilla, who danced illicitly with their friends and got those friends’ parents arrested. At the end of the review, Maglaque notes that Florence achieved a much lower mortality rate than other Italian cities — just about 12%, compared with 33% in Venice, 46% in Milan and a staggering 61% in Verona. But she hesitates to give the Sanità all the credit; maybe the disease was just “less virulent” among the Florentines. And besides:

Percentages tell us something about living and dying. But they don’t tell us much about survival. Florentines understood the dangers but gambled with their lives anyway: out of boredom, desire, habit, grief. To learn what it meant to survive, we might do better to observe Maria and Cammilla, the teenage sisters who danced their way through the plague year.

It’s a fine review of a fascinating-sounding book, but I confess that when I reached this ending — and again, I was reading it in early 2020, when COVID was a concern but not yet a world crisis — I rolled my eyes a little. The Sanità’s measures obviously worked! The percentages do tell us about survival, because thousands of Florentines survived to dance and gamble and go to Mass and frequent brothels for years and years after their difficult but temporary spell of quarantine! One could sympathize with the prostitutes who kept working, the peasants slipping “past bored guards as they played cards” or the girls who broke the rules and danced. But given that the Sanità was fighting a disease that killed more than half the population in some cities, it felt like folly to romanticize the rule-flouters.

And not just folly but a particular kind of left-wing folly — still worse, left-wing academic folly — whereas my more pro-Sanità reaction felt impeccably right wing. In a crisis the government needs to act to save lives, even if ordinary liberties need to be suspended. Yes, there will be unevenly distributed injustices; yes, it’s good to point that out. But if the Sanità’s temporary authoritarianism saved thousands of lives, then it deserved the gratitude of Florentines, despite the costs.

That was my view in February 2020. It was also my view in March, April and May 2020, when I was a COVID hawk but many other American conservatives embraced a much more libertarian position on how to respond to our own pandemic. Indeed, by late spring, it was commonplace for the right to critique the Sanità of Anthony Fauci on roughly the same grounds that The LRB’s reviewer critiqued the 17th-century Florentine authorities — arguing that lockdowns were instruments of class discrimination; that elites flouted the rules while demanding compliance from the lower orders; that distancing imposed too much unhappiness and loneliness and misery, especially on the young; that the bare living preserved by public health restrictions wasn’t worth the cost to life in full.

Over the past 16 months, I have shifted somewhat in this COVID-dovish direction. I think schools should have been open everywhere last fall; I think mask requirements should have mostly gone away with widespread vaccination; I think you can see in certain public health mandarins and certain countries chasing COVID zero a pathology of control that is incompatible with human flourishing. I also have a general sympathy for Americans who haven’t been immediately on board with all the rulings from our Sanità — in part because I have had my own difficult medical experiences and in part because there has been so much obvious expert-class bumbling throughout the pandemic.

But at the same time, I remain a COVID hawk relative to many conservative writers and talkers. Knowing what we know now, I would have supported much more draconian measures in February 2020, in terms of travel restrictions, border closures and quarantine requirements, than anything we did. I still think the March response to the first coronavirus wave — shut everything down and spend a lot of money until we figure out just how bad this is going to be — was fundamentally correct.

Likewise, maintaining indoor mask mandates, social distancing rules and limits on mass gatherings into the winter of 2021 still seems entirely reasonable, especially since the speed with which we developed vaccines created a window in which restrictions that lasted mere months could save a lot of lives. And more recently many Republicans have let reasonable doubts about vaccine mandates undercut their commitment to finding ways, by hook or crook, to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Informing my continued COVID-hawk status is the fact that while the COVID death rate has not been nearly as a brutal as those 17th-century Italian percentages, it has still been much, much higher than a lot of COVID doves wanted to initially believe. In the first months of the pandemic, I was often reassured by conservative friends that data would reveal that more people had already been infected than the official numbers showed and thus the disease was far less lethal and herd immunity far closer than official projections assumed. Or, alternatively, that the first plunge in death rates in the late spring of 2020 was the disease burning itself out, independent of anything we did, and that the belief that this needed to be treated as an extended emergency was all hype from anti-Trumpers.

These friends were wrong. And as someone who thought of my COVID-hawkish position as the more right-wing one, I have found it remarkable that through all those hundreds of thousands of deaths — deaths that many doves didn’t think would happen — the American right’s libertarian stance has mostly stuck.

But as someone who can see lots of specific issues on which the doves and libertarians have a point, I’m equally fascinated by how dramatically liberals have swung against any acknowledgment of what until very recently seemed like a core left perspective — that stringent public health responses are inherently authoritarian and inevitably ratify various forms of inequality and social control.

As Justin E.H. Smith, an American-born academic in Paris, noted in a recent essay, a left that just a little while ago seemed committed to Foucauldian critiques of biopolitics and fears of what governments do with emergency powers now is “dug in so deeply on the side of anti-anti-vaxx signaling” that it can’t “acknowledge anything worrisome about the new high-tech hygiene regime, about how hard it might be to dismantle it once it has outlived its purpose, about how it might sprout new purposes that are inimical to human thriving.”

What’s especially striking is how smoothly and absolutely these shifts happened — how quickly, and without embarrassment or backward looks, much of the right started talking like Michel Foucault and his disciples and much of the left starting embracing the mindset of the Florentine Sanità, as if those had been their natural and inevitable positions all along.

Whatever the explanation, in the short run I think the bare acknowledgment that this weird flip took place might help a little with our polarization — tempering the liberal sense that the right is just a pro-COVID death cult and the right’s sense that the left wants us all to mask up and eat Soylent in our disease-free habitats forever.

In less than two years, we have gone from a world where it was normal for a left-leaning publication to run an essay gently celebrating the defiance of public health rules during a brutal outbreak of the plague, to a world where the defiance of public health rules during a less lethal pandemic is coded as incredibly right wing.

I don’t know exactly why or exactly what it means. I just want people to acknowledge that it has happened and it’s really, really weird.

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New York docs ‘very excited’ about Pfizer vaccines for 5-year-olds on up

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New York docs ‘very excited’ about Pfizer vaccines for 5-year-olds on up

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works for children as young as 5-years-old. It’s now waiting on FDA approval for emergency use.

“Pfizer is saying that they expect an FDA approval in weeks, not months,” said Dr. Kathleen Grisanti, the president and medical director of Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY. “We’re really hoping, as we move forward in the next month or two, that we’ll be able to start vaccinating these school-aged children.”

“We want to get as many people as possible vaccinated because the more people that are vaccinated in the community, the quicker we can return to normal,” said Stephen Turkovich, who’s the chief medical officer at Oishei Children’s Hospital. “By making the 5 to 11 year-olds within the nation eligible, we will increase the number of eligible people by 28 million.”

People in the community say they’re on board with children in that age group getting vaccinated. “This will help with the curve. I think the numbers are going to go down,” said Tyshawn Thomas. “I’m 100% pro-vaccine, because if you go with science, science is not wrong. So I’m all for it. I think it’s a good idea. It’s about time.”

“I have a cousin who’s in that age group, and I think she’s been wanting to get the vaccine because she’s been very anxious about the whole thing. And with kids being out of school, I think it’s increased their anxiety,” Caroline Terhaar said. “Getting vaccinated would just help them get back into their normal routine.”

Because the vaccine would be for a younger age group, the vaccine dose is lower than what’s used for people older than 11-years-old, but experts say it’s just as effective. “They found that the antibody levels that the vaccine produced were equivalent or even a little bit higher than what we’ve seen in the adults and older children that got the vaccine,” Turkovich said.

Local pediatricians also stress parents go to the experts with their vaccine concerns. “There’s always concern with anything new—and again, we just kind of reassure them that this is not a new technology, that we have been using this type of technology in all sorts of vaccines,” Grisanti said. “We just encourage them to talk to their pediatricians to find out their recommendations and vaccinate their children as soon as it becomes available to them.”

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4 in custody after police pursuit ends in O’Fallon, Mo.

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4 in custody after police pursuit ends in O’Fallon, Mo.

O’FALLON, Mo. – Four people are in custody following a police pursuit Tuesday night that ended along highway 364 in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Police said it started just before 8:00 p.m. when the thieves stole from a store on Mexico Loop Road West. One of the four was left behind and arrested. The other three piled into a car and took off.

Officers eventually used stop sticks to disable the vehicle on 364 where the three bailed out of the moving car. They were arrested after a short foot chase.

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Rockies fall to Dodgers in extra innings to open final homestand of season

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Rockies fall to Dodgers in extra innings to open final homestand of season

On the last night of summer at Coors Field, with a lively crowd split evenly between purple and blue, the Rockies went ahead by two runs over the NL West-contending Dodgers.

But Los Angeles emerged with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.

Colorado was unable to produce clutch hits — 4-of-20 with runners in scoring position — while closer Jhoulys Chacin gave up L.A.’s game-winning run on an Albert Pujols RBI single. The Rockies (70-80) continue their final homestand Wednesday in their second matchup of a three-game series against the Dodgers.

Colorado’s bullpen combination of Robert Stephenson, Tyler Kinley and Carlos Estevez was spectacular Tuesday with no runs allowed on just one hit. The Rockies also had an opportunity to go ahead in the seventh and ninth with no outs and a runner on second. They never came through.

“I thought we pitched well and had some chances because of our pitching,” manager Bud Black said. “But we just couldn’t get the big knock as the game unfolded, especially late in the game.”

Pujols put the game away with an RBI infield single off Chacin that scored the Dodgers’ designated runner in the 10th.

The night began with a pitching duel. Starters Antonio Senzatela and Julio Urias combined to retire a stretch of 23 consecutive batters to keep the game scoreless through three innings.

Garrett Hampson broke through for Colorado in the fourth with a leadoff single. He came home when Charlie Blackmon smacked a two-out RBI double off the wall in right. C.J. Cron followed it up with his own RBI double to put the Rockies ahead 2-0.

“We’ve faced (the Dodgers) a bunch this year and we know what they’ve got,” Cron said. “I don’t know if you can even say: Get to the pen early. It doesn’t really do much when they have the caliber of arms they have down there. It was a tough game.”

Senzatela ran into trouble when he gave up two-out singles in the fifth to Gavin Lux and Luke Raley. A Urias RBI single brought L.A. to within one run. Then Mookie Betts reached base on an infield single that tied the game.

Ryan McMahon ripped a double to deep left to lead off the fifth. He advanced to third on a called balk on Urias. But Ryan Vilade grounded out, Senzatela struck out swinging and Hampson flied out to end the frame. It came back to bite Colorado the next inning when a Max Muncy RBI double put the Rockies into a one-run hole. Los Angeles bolstered its lead, 4-2, on a Will Smith sacrifice fly that scored Muncy.

Colorado fired back in the sixth with two-out RBI doubles from C.J. Cron and Elias Diaz to tie the game.

Senzatela ended his spectacular stretch of quality outings in seven consecutive starts dating back to Aug. 11. He finished the night with four earned runs on seven hits over six innings. He issued zero walks and three strikeouts.

“In the fifth inning I just started making mistakes,” Senzatela said. “They capitalized on that. I think I threw too many pitches in the middle.”

Lambert decision looming. Starting right-handed pitcher Peter Lambert is nearing his MLB return since enduring Tommy John Surgery before the 2020 season. Lambert threw a bullpen session Tuesday.

“I’m going to check with Peter and the pitching coaches to see how he did and how he feels tomorrow. The next step will be for him to throw a game probably later in the week. Either here with us or in Triple-A,” manager Bud Black said. “I want to see how he feels physically. I want to know his emotional state coming back from all these minor league rehab assignments and whether he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues.”

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Massachusetts coronavirus cases increase by 1,283, highest daily death count in months

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Massachusetts coronavirus cases increase by 1,283, highest daily death count in months

Massachusetts health officials on Tuesday reported 1,283 new coronavirus cases and 25 COVID deaths, which was the highest daily death count in more than five months.

Total COVID hospitalizations in the Bay State dropped again, while the positive test rate ticked up.

Virus cases have been climbing for months amid the more highly contagious delta variant. Now deaths have been higher in recent weeks.

The 25 new COVID deaths was the highest single-day tally since April 3’s count of 30 deaths. Last week, the state reported 24 new COVID deaths in one day.

The state’s total recorded death toll is now 18,480. The seven-day average of deaths is now 7.1. The record-low daily death average was 1.3 in mid-July.

After the new 1,283 virus cases, the seven-day average of cases is now 1,222. Two months ago, the daily average was 352 infections.

The positive test average has been coming down, however. The percent positivity is now 2.10%, a dip from 2.98% last month. The daily positive test rate for Tuesday’s report was higher at 2.98%.

There are now 636 COVID patients in the state, a daily decrease of five patients.

The state reported that 173 patients are in intensive care units, and 103 patients are currently intubated.

Of the 636 total hospitalizations, 211 patients are fully vaccinated — or about 33%. Those who are unvaccinated are at a much higher risk for a severe case.

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West St. Paul plans $2.1 million upgrade to Marthaler Park

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West St. Paul plans $2.1 million upgrade to Marthaler Park

A planned overhaul to Marthaler Park in West St. Paul will feature a brand new design, with an improved sledding hill, modern bathrooms and new playground equipment.

The improvements will cost about $2.1 million, said Dave Schletty, the city’s assistant parks and recreation director. The work could begin in 2022 and be completed in 2024.

Improvements for Marthaler Park have been ongoing for some time, Schletty said. The city started working with WSB, a Minneapolis based design and consulting firm, in the mid-2010s, but was held up because the recent Robert Street development cost more than anticipated. Now the plan is to move ahead in three phrases.

“Instead of waiting three years where we could have full funding, we’d rather start,” Schletty said. “With the help of our consultant, we felt like it would be doable and fine to break it into phases.”

  • Phase 1: In 2022, demolish parking lots and put in new ones. The city may also put in a paved trail connecting a parking lot to the River-to-River Greenway Trail.
  • Phase 2: In 2023, improvements will be focused on the central portion, including the playground, picnic area and possibly the bathrooms.
  • Phase 3: In 2024, focus on pond cleanup and the park’s sledding hill.
Rendering for the Marthaler Park in West St. Paul with details on upgrades planned through 2024. (Rendering made by WSB. Courtesy of Dave Schletty)

The city has held public meetings and collected comment cards from residents. Officials have also been working with the Marthaler Park Neighborhood Group, an informal group formed after a shooting at the park to help take care of it.

Carol Keyes-Ferrer, a member of the Marthaler Park Neighborhood Group, said that she wants to see trash and security improve in the park. She looks forward to increased lighting in the park.

“I’m glad that they’re keeping the basketball court and keeping the tennis courts because we see those used a lot,” Keyes-Ferrer said.

Plans for Marthaler Park are not final. The parks department will have a table at the West St. Paul open house on Thursday and will take any questions and suggestions for Marthaler Park. The gathering is located at the city’s Municipal Center, which is across the street from the park.

Schletty encourages residents to contact the city and share ideas.

“I’ve been with the city 20 years, so about the time I started was when we were first talking about (Marthaler Park) improvements,” Schletty said. “To actually see it finally coming together, I’m really, really excited.”

OPEN HOUSE

West St. Paul will host a free Open House at its Municipal Center, 1616 Humboldt Ave. with live music, kids games, police and ire demonstrations, free food and more. The event will run from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 23.

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

Posted: Updated:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — An 84-day extension of emergency housing benefits is set to expire for more than 540 Vermont households this week. Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) and housing advocates are asking the state for more time.

“Most of us are afraid for our lives, the winter itself,” said 24-year-old motel voucher participant Randy Tatro. “If you’re homeless in the winter, and you can’t end up in centers—People will freeze to death.”

April Metcalf, a participant in the voucher program, says she’s lived in several different motels in Central Vermont throughout the pandemic. “It’s just really hard. I’m scared to death, and I’m sure everybody else is,” she said. “When Thursday comes, what are we going do to?”

In a letter to the Department for Children and Families, VLA and shelter providers are asking the department to extend the benefits “for as long as possible, dictated only by room availability,” for 543 households. VLA staff attorney Mairead O’Reilly said that with COVID cases rising due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, ending the benefits doesn’t make sense. “When the legislature approved the administration’s plan to offer benefits for only 84 days, the circumstances were really different,” she said.

Rick DeAngelis, executive director of the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said that without an extension, 50 to 75 people in Washington County, Vermont, will lose housing. He said the state should take advantage of the recent decision by FEMA to extend a 100% cost-share through the end of the year. “In this period of uncertainty and crisis, why wouldn’t you use that funding to provide support and protection?” he asked.

The advocates’ letter also points out that while the state is investing in affordable housing and additional shelters, the units won’t be ready in time. Another Way, a drop-in site in Montpelier, is supplying camping gear—tarps, tents, sleeping bags, and meals—to those in need.

However, Ken Russell, executive director of the site, says it’s a temporary fix. “We’re helping them get stable emotionally to the best of our ability,” he said. “But this feels like pulling the rug out from underneath the motel system. These are human beings we’re talking about, here. These are people who are not outside just because of moral failings, they’re in life crisis.”

Metcalf says she’s hoping and praying for more support from Gov. Phil Scott and his administration. “What do they expect us to do?” she said. “Really.”

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