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VIDEO: Three bears caught playing in backyard pool in Westfield

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VIDEO: Three bears caught playing in backyard pool in Westfield

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Three bears in Westfield were caught on camera taking a dip in a viewer’s backyard pool then playing on the swing set.

Mike Lafond of Westfield sent 22News video of the three bears in his backyard. In the video, you can see the three bears playing around the deflated pool and then head to the swing set, attempting to climb the slide. One bear also seen playing on the swing set.

If you have any photos or videos of bears in your yard, you can e-mail them to [email protected].

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Lake County man dies from rabies; first human case in Illinois since 1954

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Lake County man dies from rabies; first human case in Illinois since 1954

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — An elderly north suburban man has died from rabies — the first human case in Illinois since 1954.

In mid-August, a Lake County man in his 80s woke up with a bat on his neck. The species was collected and subsequently tested positive for rabies.

Health officials urged the man to start post-exposure rabies treatment, due to its high mortality rate, but the man declined.

One month later, officials said the man began experiencing symptoms consistent with rabies — including neck pain, headache, difficulty controlling his arms, finger numbness, and difficulty speaking.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Without preventive treatment, rabies is typically fatal.

“Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies. If you think you may have been exposed to rabies, immediately seek medical attention and follow the recommendations of health care providers and public health officials.”

If you find yourself in close proximity to a bat and are not sure if you were exposed, do not release the bat as it should be appropriately captured for rabies testing. Call your doctor or local health department to help determine if you could have been exposed and call animal control to remove the bat.

So far this year, 30 bats have tested positive for rabies in Illinois.

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COVID-related attacks prompt Missouri hospital to issue panic buttons to employees

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COVID-related attacks prompt Missouri hospital to issue panic buttons to employees

Nurses and hundreds of other staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on workers tripled after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cox Medical Center Branson is using grant money to add buttons to identification badges worn by up to 400 employees who work in the emergency room and inpatient hospital rooms. Pushing the button will immediately alert hospital security, launching a tracking system that will send help to the endangered worker. The hospital hopes to have the system operational by the end of the year.

A similar program was successfully tested last year at CoxHealth’s Springfield hospital, spokeswoman Kaitlyn McConnell said Tuesday.

Hospital data showed that the number of “security incidents” at the Branson hospital rose from 94 in 2019 to 162 in 2020. Assaults rose from 40 to 123 during that same period, and injuries to health care workers rose from 17 to 78. Data for 2021 was not available.

The delta variant of the virus hit hard in southwestern Missouri starting in June, leaving hospitals so full that many patients were sent to other facilities hundreds of miles away. The hospital in Branson, the popular tourist town known for its many shows and attractions, has been at or near capacity for four months.

CoxHealth’s director of safety and security, Alan Butler, said the panic buttons “fill a critical void.”

“Personal Panic Buttons are one more tool in the battle to keep our staff safe and further demonstrate this organization’s commitment to maintaining a safe work and care environment,” Butler said in a statement.

The Missouri hospital isn’t alone. The Texas Tribune reported earlier this month about the rising number of assaults at Texas hospitals, incidents that officials believe are fueled by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Jane McCurley, chief nursing executive for Methodist Healthcare System in Texas, said at a news conference in August that staff members at the San Antonio hospital “have been cursed at, screamed at, threatened with bodily harm and even had knives pulled on them.”

Worldwide, a February report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year. Researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19, many motivated by fear or frustration.

Assaults on health care workers have been a concern for years, Missouri Hospital Association spokesman Dave Dillon said, but COVID-19 “has changed the dynamic in a number of ways.” Among them: The effort to slow the spread of the virus means relatives often can’t accompany a sick person, raising already-high stress levels.

Jackie Gatz, vice president of safety and preparedness for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the use of a button alert is among many steps hospitals are taking to protect workers. Security cameras are being added, and some security personnel are wearing body cameras. CoxHealth added security dogs late last year in Springfield.

The Missouri Hospital Association also provides training to help workers protect themselves, including training on how to recognize and de-escalate when someone becomes agitated. Gatz said nurses and staff also are encouraged to stand between the hospital bed and the door.

“You can control your environment without necessarily placing physical barriers,” Gatz said.

By JIM SALTER, Associated Press

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Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. on five-year, max extension: My path is “so much more gratifying”

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Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. on five-year, max extension: My path is “so much more gratifying”

SAN DIEGO – Michael Porter Jr. knew the news was coming but was the last to see it drop.

As Porter pulled up to the airport Monday afternoon, only hours after the Nuggets concluded their unofficial media day and were about to depart for training camp, he got a call from his agent, Mark Bartelstein.

The news — Porter’s five-year, max contract extension worth as much as $207 million — was about to leak.

“I’m the last one on the airplane,” Porter recounted following the first day of training camp from the University of California San Diego gym.

“I walk on there and everybody, man, it just shows so much about this team and this culture because I walked in there, and everybody was just hyped. … They’d seen it before me. They’d seen it on their phone on Instagram and Twitter. Will (Barton) was like, ‘Mike!’”

The deal, which had been in the works for months, gave Porter and his teammates something to celebrate for the two-hour flight.

“It’s funny how quickly news breaks in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Even before we took off from Denver to come out here, word was spreading throughout the airplane and guys were giving him the business.”

A day after Porter became the Nuggets’ third max contract player on the roster, locking in a potential championship trio for the foreseeable future, the 23-year-old appeared unimpressed with his accomplishment. Humble and sheepish, Porter said he was at a loss for words.

“In my opinion, it’s like, I don’t deserve this,” he said. “There’s people that are just as talented as me in other fields of life. Say you’re a professional ping-pong player. You’re not making that many millions of dollars …”

Porter hasn’t earmarked his windfall for anything in particular, he said, but he did plan to take care of certain people who helped him reach Monday’s landmark deal.

It was only three years ago when there was a question whether Porter would ever play basketball again following his second back surgery. Porter recalled training camp 2018 in San Diego, when he, Jarred Vanderbilt and Isaiah Thomas hobbled around the court, unable to contribute to the title quest.

To be back in San Diego on Tuesday, having secured his future in Denver for the next six years, became somewhat of a pinch-me moment for Porter.

“I think it’s a lot more gratifying,” Porter said. “I’m one of those dudes, that even growing up, I didn’t think of it like, ‘Dang, I’m going to be making millions of dollars when I go to the NBA.’ I thought of it as, ‘Dang, I’m going to get to play against LeBron, KD.’ It was never about the money for me.

“… The road that I took made it so much more gratifying,” he said.

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Local health care workers protest COVID vaccine mandate

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Local health care workers protest COVID vaccine mandate

CREVE COUER, Mo. – Hundreds of health care workers nationwide continue to protest mandatory COVID vaccines as deadlines approach that could see them lose their jobs.

In the St. Louis area, health care officials insist the vaccines are safe and while they understand people’s concerns, their position on mandatory vaccination remains unchanged.

On Monday, dozens protested outside Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. For context, Mercy employs approximately 44,000 people.

The deadline for healthcare workers to be vaccinated is just days away.

Mercy Hospital released this statement:

While Mercy respects differences of opinion about the COVID-19 vaccine and co-workers’ right to assemble and make their voices heard, Mercy’s position remains unchanged. Mercy co-workers have until this Thursday to complete their COVID-19 vaccination, receive an exemption or submit proof of the vaccination they have already completed.

We anticipated a small number of our co-workers would wait until the last days to meet our vaccination policy requirements before facing an unpaid suspension for up to 28 days. We will have an accurate number of co-workers who chose not to comply with the policy, including receiving approval for an exemption, after the suspension period has expired at the end of October.

Mercy Hospitals is not alone in issuing a vaccine mandate.

In June, BJC HealthCare required all team members receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Affinia Health Care is requiring its nearly 400 health care workers to be vaccinated.

“Professionally, I’m around patients who are vulnerable, who are pregnant, and I think it’s my responsibility to keep myself healthy, and also keep the community as healthy as possible,” said Dr. Melissa Tepe, Affinia’s chief medical officer.

Steve Harmon, the vice president of human resources at Affinia, said vaccines are safe and effective and encouraged health care professionals to get vaccinated

“We here at Affinia Healthcare mandated our employees to receive the vaccine because, as a healthcare organization, we want to make sure our employees and our patients and the general public are safe,” he said. “We believe that the vaccine will help us accomplish that.”

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Sedalia, Mo. man admits he tried to have victim of sex crime murdered

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Sex offender accused of exposing himself near Edwardsville High School

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 57-year-old Sedalia man admitted in federal court that he tried to arrange the murder of a victim in a statutory sodomy case.

Jon Mark Wilson pleaded guilty Tuesday to using a cell phone and crossing state lines in the commission of a murder for hire. He admitted that he paid an undercover agent $2,000 to murder the victim in a statutory sodomy case.

Prosecutors said Wilson asked another person in January 2019 to arrange the murder. That person contacted law enforcement and arranged a meeting with the undercover officer in Kansas City, Kansas.

Wilson was arrested after he gave the officer $2,000 and agreed to pay $5,000 more after the murder.

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Human cases of West Nile virus reported in St. Louis County

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Human cases of West Nile virus reported in St. Louis County

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Two St. Louis County residents recently tested positive for West Nile virus, the county health department said Tuesday.

Both individuals were recently released from local hospitals after being treated for West Nile symptoms.

Since 2011, the county has only recorded 11 confirmed human cases of WNV.

The virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito that had been feeding on an infected bird.

You can reduce your risk of exposure by staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active, eliminating sources of standing water (clogged gutters, pool covers, potted plants, birdbaths, and tire swings), and keeping doors and windows shut in the evening.

Health officials say using insect repellents that contain 20% – 50% DEET or Picaridin, wearing light-colored clothes, and covering exposed skin can also protect from mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. You can also treat birdbaths, ponds, and other water sources that cannot be drained with products containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti).

The most serious cases of West Nile can be deadly.

The elderly are more at risk of getting sick because their immune system is often weaker.

The CDC says that most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, is possible.

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Why did this happen? Parkway Central parents learn more about racist graffiti

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Why did this happen? Parkway Central parents learn more about racist graffiti

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Parents at Parkway Central High School are learning more about the graffiti found at the school last week. On Thursday, hundreds of Parkway Central High School students walked out of class in protest of hate speech.

Graffiti found in bathroom

The student responsible for the graffiti was identified, admitted to the offense, and will be held accountable according to the district’s discipline policy. The messages were written, “all over the stalls, on the ground, on the mirrors.”

The motivation behind the graffiti is not clear.

This is the letter sent home to parents today:

September 28, 2021

Dear Parkway Community,

I wanted to follow up regarding racist graffiti in our bathrooms last week. The investigation at North High is still ongoing. The investigation has concluded at Central High School related to this incident. The evidence led to a single student and the student admitted writing the messages.

The student responsible is not white, however this does not diminish the hurt it caused or the negative impact it has had on our entire community.

Our student discipline policy is clear. Regardless of the reason or the individual responsible, these acts are a significant violation of multiple codes of conduct outlined in our policies. The student is facing severe disciplinary consequences and referral to law enforcement for investigation. Parkway will continue to hold students responsible for any behavior that threatens or degrades others in our school community.

We remain hurt by the actions of the student, as it does not represent the values of our community. We cannot presume the reasons a student would do this and it will be important to understand why this happened as we move forward.

Last week was difficult for many of our students and staff. We also saw many positive outcomes. I want to acknowledge the actions our students took as a result of these incidents. Students proactively led walkouts at multiple Parkway high schools and in these moments, many students shared personal experiences of racism throughout their lives and at school. Their voice was a clear indication that more work is needed to ensure our school cultures and communities are safe for each student regardless of their race. I want to tell the thousands of students who participated on behalf of themselves and their fellow classmates: I am proud of you for supporting one another and we heard you loud and clear.

We will also continue to take action to ensure our schools are places where all students feel they belong. Let us use this opportunity to continue to grow as a community to be more compassionate, peaceful and loving individuals with care for all.

Thank you all for your support,

Dr. Marty

Letter from Superintendent Keith Marty

The Parkway School District announced that racial slurs were found in bathrooms at Parkway North High School in addition to Central High School. The district is working with the police to investigate the incidents.

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Army Gen. Mark Milley defends calls to Chinese at end of Trump presidency

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Army Gen. Mark Milley defends calls to Chinese at end of Trump presidency

WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military officer told Congress on Tuesday that he knew former President Donald Trump wasn’t planning to attack China and that it was his job to reassure the Chinese of this in the phone calls that have triggered outrage from some lawmakers.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a vehement defense of two calls he made to his Chinese counterpart, saying he was responding to a “significant degree of intelligence” that China was worried about a U.S. attack.

“I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. … And it was my directed responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: Stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you.”

Milley has been at the center of controversy after reports that he made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not suddenly going to go to war with or attack China. Details of the calls were first aired in excerpts from the recently released book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

While Tuesday’s hearing largely focused on the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others from the country, a few senators condemned Milley for what they saw as inappropriate communications with Li.

In his most extensive comments to date on the matter, Milley said the calls on Oct. 30 and Jan. 8 were fully coordinated with the defense secretaries at the time as well as other U.S. national security agencies. And he said that such military-to-military communications are critical to prevent war between great powers that possess nuclear weapons.

The calls came during Trump’s turbulent last months in office as he challenged the results of the 2020 election. The second call came two days after Jan. 6, when a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s White House victory.

Milley said the October call was made at the direction of then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the second was done at the request of the Chinese and coordinated with then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller’s office.

Asked if he spoke with the book’s authors and if his remarks were “accurately represented,” Milley said he spoke with Woodward and that he has not read the book but has seen press reports on it.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked that he provide more answers once he’s read the book. She and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., questioned whether Milley shared private presidential conversations with the authors.

Milley said he did not leak private conversations he had with Trump, and said he routinely speaks with the media to provide information and transparency to the American people.

Milley also addressed a call he received from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said Pelosi “called me to inquire about the president’s ability to launch nuclear weapons. I sought to assure her that nuclear launch is governed by a very specific and deliberate process.”

He said he assured her that while the president is the sole nuclear launch authority, “he doesn’t launch them alone.” He said that as chairman he is part of the launch decision process.

“There are processes, protocols and procedures in place, and I repeatedly assured her there is no chance of an illegal, unauthorized or accidental launch,” Milley said.

The book asserts that during the call, Milley agreed with Pelosi’s statement that Trump was suffering a mental decline after the election. During Tuesday’s hearing, Milley appeared to discount that, saying “I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the president of the United States.”

He said that after the call was over, he had a short meeting with staff to go over the process. He also said he informed Miller of the call at the time.

“At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority or insert myself in the chain of command, but I am expected, I am required, to give my advice and ensure that the president is fully informed,” Milley said.

___

This story has been corrected to show Chris Miller was acting defense secretary, not secretary.

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Belle-Clair Fairgrounds reopening as a COVID mass-vaccination site for booster shots

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Belle-Clair Fairgrounds reopening as a COVID mass-vaccination site for booster shots

BELLEVILLE, Ill – The mass vaccination site at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds is reopening next month. It is being re-activated to distribute Pfizer Booster shots.

The site will be open weekly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays starting on October 5, 2021.

You can get a COVID booster shot in St. Clair County now. The vaccination site at 330 West Main is open weekdays from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm.

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Missouri judge denies class-action lawsuit in AG challenge of school mask mandate

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Missouri judge denies class-action lawsuit in AG challenge of school mask mandate

COLUMBIA, Mo.– A judge has denied Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s effort to block mask mandates in schools across the state but did not dismiss the overall case. 

Public schools in Missouri requiring masks will get to keep their mandates in place for now, after Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, tried to file a class-action lawsuit against the 50 or so schools in the state that require face coverings. 

The Boone County judge denied his request for a class-action lawsuit over the mandate which means if Schmitt wants to challenge face masks requirements in the classroom, he’ll have to do it against each district individually. On the same day that Columbia Public Schools (CPS) returned to the classroom in August, Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the district for requiring masks. The lawsuit said the CPS mask mandate is “arbitrary and capricious.” He then wanted to add the 10%of school districts that require students to mask up into the lawsuit but was rejected. 

“The narrower route would be to pursue it in those districts,” Circuit Judge Brouck Jacobs said to solicitor general for the attorney general’s office John Sauer. 

Jacobs also refused CPS’s request to dismiss the case. 

“With 532 school districts, that means 532 different decisions,” Grant WSiens with Mickes O’Toole law firm representing CPS said. “He [Schmitt] wants all of it in one case in front of one judge. The question is, they all need different things.”

CPS, a district of nearly 19,000 students, said they were thrilled about the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing and went on to say in a statement: 

Today is a good day for Missouri. Columbia Public Schools is thrilled with the outcome of today’s proceedings.

The Missouri Attorney General sought to enjoin more than 500 public school districts regarding the local decisions each made in the best interest of their own community’s needs. These decisions were based on guidance and recommendations from local, state, and national health experts, including the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the CDC. 

Judge Jacobs agreed with the district’s arguments that the Missouri Attorney General does not have the authority to certify a class that includes every school district in the state and enjoin them regarding their individual decisions around mitigation measures.

Columbia Public Schools will continue to defend our district’s ability to implement recommended mitigation measures to keep scholars, teachers, and staff members safe and in school.

Columbia Public Schools

Less than 35% of people between the ages of 12 to 17 are vaccinated in Missouri. Earlier this month, the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) reported more than 1,100 children under 18 tested positive for COVID in one day, a record number of cases. 

Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, said: 

Our lawsuit against the forced masking of school children will continue. We plan to aggressively pursue discovery in this case to show how bureaucrats have incessantly moved the goalposts to justify never ending restrictions and mask mandates – the people of this state have had enough, and we plan to continue to seek answers. It’s crucial that the Court ruled that schools fall under the new state law in his denial of the motion to dismiss, and while the Court denied temporary relief, this fight is far from over.

Missouri Attorney General’s Office

Schmitt’s lawsuit refers to a new law that limits the authority of local public health officials. House Bill 271 limits local orders restricting businesses, churches, schools, or gatherings to 30 days under a statewide emergency unless approved by a majority vote of the local governing body, like a city council. If there is no emergency, then the restriction or order could only last for 21 days unless approved.

The lawsuit asks the court to find the mask requirement from CPS unlawful because it should have expired after 30 days because there was no approval from the board of education. 

The city of Columbia currently doesn’t have a mask mandate. 

Commissioner for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Margie Vandeven said last week it’s about local control. Vandeven said some of the guidance issued by DESE to schools, recommends people who are unvaccinated to mask up. She went on to saying during an interview Friday, quarantine has been, “one of the most disruptive components of the pandemic.”

Schmitt’s case against CPS is still ongoing and his office said will continue to fight until the district removes its mask mandate. 

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