On the surface, West Virginia might have seemed immune to coronavirus.
While the other 49 states had reported more than 5,000 cases combined, West Virginia didn’t report its first case until Tuesday afternoon, when Gov. Jim Justice announced an infection in the state’s eastern panhandle.
But that doesn’t mean the deadly virus hadn’t earlier reached the state, where coal miners and elderly residents can be especially vulnerable.
West Virginia’s lag might be due to a lack of testing, said a federal lawmaker and a sick nurse who’s been rejected repeatedly for testing.
“We’ve only had 84 tests in my state” as of Monday, said Joe Manchin, the state’s senior US senator.
“I have over 720,000 elderly. I’ve got over 220,000 that are critically ill under 60 years of age,” Manchin said. “If you put all this together, of the 1,800,000 people (living in West Virginia), I have over a million that could be absolutely, totally devastated by this virus if it hits.”
He said he’s extremely worried about those with respiratory illnesses.
“If we don’t even have the tests to identify who is ill, who needs treatment … what do we do?” he said. “I don’t have the ventilators. I don’t have the respirators. I don’t have anything available to that many people that are that vulnerable.”
Manchin said he’s asked Vice President Mike Pence, who’s leading the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak, and others to increase testing capabilities in West Virginia.
In the meantime, some sick residents are left to worry and wait.
‘We have been unable to get permission’
One nurse in West Virginia said she’s been very sick for more than a week but has been unable to get a coronavirus test despite repeated requests by her and her doctors.
The nurse, who asked not to be identified for fear that she will lose her job, told CNN that she first developed a fever of between 100 and 103 degrees and an “unrelenting cough” that won’t let up.
The nurse said she was tested for two strains of the flu, and both came back negative. But when she asked to be tested for the coronavirus she was declined repeatedly.
“I have had several doctors ask for me to be tested, but we have been unable to get permission for me to be tested,” she said.
The nurse said she and her doctors have repeatedly contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the West Virginia health department.
She said her requests were declined because she has not been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive.
Now, other members of her family have also fallen sick. When they tried to get tested for coronavirus, they were also declined, the nurse said.
“At this point I’m so angry and outraged at the way this is being handled,” she said.
Why testing in West Virginia is scarce
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said testing supplies “are not unlimited.”
“Currently, COVID-19 testing is used in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the health department said in a statement Monday.
Confusion over the availability and criteria for coronavirus testing leaves sick people in limbo
It said two groups of people have been prioritized for testing since early March. They include:
— Seriously ill people who are hospitalized or otherwise are at high risk of complications — for example, people with coronavirus symptoms who are elderly or have serious underlying chronic illnesses. “No history of potential exposure is needed for these patients,” the health department said.
— People who are at medium to high risk of having been infected. “This includes any individual with symptoms of lower respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath) AND a history of likely exposure to COVID-19 within 14 days of symptom onset (e.g., close contact with an individual confirmed to have COVID-19 or recent travel history from or living in areas with widespread community transmission) AND do not have another identified cause for their illness (e.g., flu, or other respiratory viruses),” the health department’s statement said.
“These are slight modifications of CDC Guidelines, focusing on those most ill in criteria one above, given that supplies are limited, and some products remain on backorder in West Virginia and nationally. They are subject to change.”
What West Virginia did proactively
Even before its first confirmed case, the state rolled out a series of precautions aimed at staving off coronavirus.
On Friday, Gov. Justice announced all schools will be closed to students through at least March 27.
On Tuesday, Justice ordered the closure of bars, casinos, and restaurants to seating customers.
Earlier, Justice had asked all nursing homes to restrict visitors, with exceptions for serious cases such as end-of-life situations. The governor also banned out-of-state and international travel for state employees on official business.
But even the governor knew coronavirus in West Virginia was inevitable.
“Even though we still don’t have a confirmed case at this time, in talking to our great medical professionals we know that eventually that will no longer be the case,” Justice said last week.
“So we’re continuing to do everything in our power to be prepared, but we also have to be proactive to make sure all West Virginians are as safe as possible.”
The brother of President Trump files new lawsuit to block niece’s book
President Trump’s brother filed a new lawsuit to block the publication of their niece’s upcoming book about the president after a judge in another court blocked his efforts.
Robert Trump‘s newest suit, filed in the Dutchess County Supreme Court in New York, alleges that Mary Trump‘s tell-all book would violate a nondisclosure agreement.
The suit hinges around a 2001 agreement signed after a legal battle over Fred Trump Sr.’s will, with Robert Trump saying the agreement bars members of the family from writing about their relationships with each other.
The president has said recently that his niece is “not allowed” to publish the book.
The book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” is scheduled to hit the shelves on July 28.
The new suit comes the day after Queens County Surrogate Court Judge Peter Kelly ruled that Robert Trump’s first filing contained “several improprieties” and dismissed it on the grounds that it should have been filed in the New York Supreme Court.
“The court has promptly and correctly held that it lacks jurisdiction to grant the Trump family’s baseless request to suppress a book of utmost public importance and concern,” Mary Trump’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous, said in a statement. “Democracy thrives on the free exchange of ideas, and neither this court nor any other has authority to violate the Constitution by imposing a prior restraint on core political speech.”
Mary Trump is widely anticipated to reveal in the book that she is a primary source behind an investigative series in The New York Times regarding the Trump family’s finances that ultimately won the paper a Pulitzer Prize.
Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, has said the book is a “revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him.”
“We look forward to publishing Mary L. Trump’s TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, and are confident we will prevail should there be further efforts to stifle this publication,” the publisher said in a statement, which was the first to report on the new suit, after the first suit was dismissed.
Dr. Deborah Birx Contradicts Trump, Privately Tells Govs To Increase COVID Testing
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, told the nation’s governors in a call Monday that it was vital that they ramp up testing to find asymptomatic individuals to prevent further community spread.
Her remarks stood in stark contrast to those by the president at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend—and the days since—in which he said he had asked his team to slow-walk testing initiatives so as not to inflate the country’s official case count. “Hopefully I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. “We would like to even see it even more. Identifying cases early including your asymptomatic [ones] will really help us protect the eldery and the additional people with comorbidities.”
In her weekly call with governors, Birx said her team had collected data that suggests an uptick in cases in people between the ages of 18 and 35, and that state officials should continue to test that population to better contain the virus and to ensure hospitalizations and deaths do not spike. For good measure, she asked governors to enhance testing of workers in nursing homes and of individuals in Hispanic communities, saying it would be helpful to enlist bilingual testers for the latter.
The call with governors comes just two days after President Trump told rally-goers that he asked his team to “slow the testing down” to keep the U.S. case count artificially lower. Trump’s advisors told reporters that he was merely joking. But on Tuesday morning, before departing for Arizona, Trump told reporters he was not. “I don’t kid,” he told CBS News’s Wija Jiang.
Birx’s remarks on Monday’s call underscore the extent to which the president and members of his own coronavirus task force are increasingly operating off of different playbooks. Appearing before a House committee on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the government, said he’d never been told to slow down testing and expected it to ramp up.
The internal administration debate over the efficacy of testing comes at a time when cases of coronavirus are rising fast in several states and ticking up nationally. Both Birx and Pence acknowledged on the call that there was still plenty of reason for state officials to worry about the trajectory of the virus’s spread, particularly in the south and southwestern part of the county.
“We have about 110 counties … that are in that alert status,” Birx said.
The call featured remarks from several of the governors in the hardest hit states. Those governors stressed, as did Birx, that much of the rise in cases was due to younger individuals, often asymptomatic, testing positive for the disease. And in explaining those spikes, the governors offered an implicit admission that the relaxing of social distance policies that they’d undertaken had given way to complacency about health standards writ large.
“Obviously some of our folks aren’t following the rules and some of the businesses we are working on making sure these folks are following the phased approach,” said Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL) whose state has had an appreciable spike in COVID-19 cases, especially among those aged 18 to 35.
“They aren’t necessarily sick but they are definitely transmitting it. There’s an unmistakable shift,” Desantis said.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) said there had been an uptick in the percentage of people testing positive who are under the age of 30 and that state officials had begun revoking alcohol licenses from some bars that were not following reopening guidelines.
“We do have bars opened up at 50 percent and we have found that some bars are not following those rules and are crowded just like they were before the pandemic occurred,” Abbott said. “If they do not follow [the protocols] they will lose their ability to remain open.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, whose state’s hospital system is under increasing stress, blamed the sharp increase in COVID cases, in part, on Mexicans with U.S. citizenship coming across the border for better medical care. But he also spotlighted residents of the states not practicing best public health practices, calling it “human nature.” “They’ve wanted to get out and about,” said Ducey. “We are seeing even with social distancing policies in place, they are gathering. We are working with our business owners for accountability there.”
During the course of the hour-and-a-half call, none of the governors who spoke said they felt as if testing should be ramped down. But only one participant—Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D-NV)—challenged Pence to explain the president’s remarks.
“The president’s comment Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helping,” Sisolak said. “We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing and increase the availability of our testing.”
Pence’s response to Sisolak was not far off from those put out by White House officials and advisors over the weekend who said Trump’s statements were not meant to be taken seriously. “The president’s observation,” Pence said, “was a passing observation.”
Man Allegedly Admits to Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting Black Lives Matter Activist Before Killing
Aaron Glee, Jr., allegedly held Oluwatoyin Salau captive for several days, sexually assaulting her “numerous times” before killing her
In newly released court documents, authorities in Florida allege Aaron Glee, Jr., confessed several times to kidnapping and murdering Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau and longtime volunteer Victoria Sims — two women who’d recently befriended each other during demonstrations over police brutality and systemic racism.
Glee’s arrest report, alleges that the 49-year-old spoke to police after waiving his right to remain silent. He is charged with two counts of murder and kidnapping and one count of sexual assault.
According to the report, Glee allegedly confessed to the crimes on multiple occasions and provided detail about them to police in both Tallahassee, where the crimes occurred on separate days, and Orlando, where he was eventually apprehended by officers.
Police say Glee claimed to have first met Salau — a student and protester, active in the Black Lives Matter movement — on June 6, hours after she said she was sexually assaulted by a different man. The two met at a bus stop in Tallahassee, and he claims she confided in him about the sexual assault, which she described in a series of Twitter posts.
Salau allegedly told Glee she had no place to stay, and he offered to take her back to his home, where she could bathe and sleep.
According to police, Glee called Sims, who he knew from volunteer work and who, he said, would occasionally give him rides and bring him meals. Sims picked them both up in her white Toyota sedan, and drove them to Glee’s home, where she dropped them off. The report indicates video footage from the bus station confirms Glee’s version of events.
Soon after they arrived at his home, Glee told investigators Salau took a shower. Afterwards, according to the report, he tried to have sex with her, but she refused and resisted, fighting him off.
“He stated that she physically resisted him, and that she bit him upon his right forearm during the struggle,” the report says.
Police allege that he then confessed to overpowering her and raping Salau before tying her up.
According to the report, Glee kept Salau imprisoned in his home for three to five days, untying her only for meals and to bathe. Police say he admitted to “sexually assaulting her numerous times during those three to five days.” Because he has a criminal record, Glee allegedly said he realized he’d likely end up in prison if he let Salau go free.
“Glee indicated that he determined that his only course of action was to end her life,” reads the report. He bound her with rope, in a manner he believed would obstruct her ability to breathe, and left her in a bedroom. “Glee explained how over the course of several hours he would re-enter the bedroom multiple times to see if [Salau] was still alive,” the report says. “Ultimately, he entered into the bedroom and determined [she] was deceased.”
Glee allegedly confessed that after Salau died, he kidnapped Sims, binding her with rope as well. Investigators believe Glee ransacked her apartment before kidnapping her and fleeing in her car — which was found outside Glee’s home, stuck in the mud.
Salau was reported missing on June 6, while Sims vanished on June 11. On June 13, Tallahassee police traced Sims’ cellphone to Glee’s home, where they found her beneath a bloody sheet in a bedroom. Salau’s body was found in the woods behind his home, covered with leaves.
Official causes of death have not been released in this case.
Authorities allege Glee fled to Orlando on a bus before Tallahassee officers arrived at his home.
The arrest report states Glee made his confession to officers at the time of his arrest as well as later on, after he was rushed to an Orlando hospital after complaining of breathing problems.
Police allege he “had made voluntary admissions to officers guarding him that he had murdered two women in Tallahassee,” reads the reports. “He would also place a telephone call to his mother and make these same admissions.”
Police allege all of these admissions, including those he made to his mother, were recorded by the officers’ body cameras.
Glee, who remains in custody without bond, has yet to enter pleas to the charges, and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
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