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COVID-19 live updates: Cases dropping across US, rising in parts of Midwest, Northeast

Chaz Bharj/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 736,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.2% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest headlines:
-South Florida schools may amend mask mandates as cases decline
-US releases details of vaccine, testing requirements for international travelers
-Cases dropping across US but rising in some Midwest, Northeast states

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Oct 25, 8:48 pm
South Florida schools may amend mask mandates as cases decline

Two South Florida school districts may be changing their policies on mask mandates in schools as COVID-19 cases decline.

A Broward County Public Schools spokesperson told ABC affiliate WPLG that an item could be added at a school board meeting Tuesday "regarding district’s COVID-19 protocols including the use of face coverings.”

The district had said it would revisit the mask mandate when the COVID-19 positivity rate reached 3% or lower for 10 consecutive days. Broward County has reached that threshold, the county's health department data shows.

Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also indicated there may be a change to its mask mandate policy.

The school board is looking at several metrics including hospital admissions, community transmission and daily student cases. Carvalho said Friday would be a benchmark day.

Carvalho said last week that a new plan could entail "a mandatory mask policy but with an unrestricted, unrestricted, parent opt-out provision."

Oct 25, 2:20 pm
European Medicines Agency approves Moderna boosters for adults

The European Medicines Agency on Monday approved the Moderna booster (which is a half dose of the initial booster) for people 18 and older.

The booster "given 6 to 8 months after the second dose led to a rise in antibody levels in adults whose antibody levels were waning," the EMA said.

ABC News' Christine Theodorou

Oct 25, 2:03 pm
US releases details of vaccine, testing requirements for international travelers

The federal government on Monday released more details about how foreign tourists and other non-citizen, non-immigrant people flying to the U.S. can comply with recently-announced rules requiring them to be fully vaccinated.

These rules go into effect on Nov. 8.

People will be able to submit proof of vaccination to airlines electronically or via paper, an official said.

All vaccinated people -- Americans and non-Americans -- need to show proof of a negative test taken within three days before departure.

For unvaccinated people -- both Americans and non-Americans -- you need to show proof of a negative test within one day before. Children ages 2 to 17 must take a test but those under 2 don’t need to test.

Vaccine exemptions include: children under 18; some medical exemptions; and people traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low availability of vaccines (signified by a country having a vaccination rate less than 10%). The U.S. will follow a list maintained by the WHO and these people will need have a “specific, compelling reason” for coming to the U.S., a senior administration official said.

The exemptions will represent a “very, very small number” of travelers to the U.S., a senior administration official said.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Oct 25, 10:23 am
Cases dropping across US but rising in some Midwest, Northeast states

In the last month, the daily case average in the U.S. has dropped by nearly 43% thanks to falling metrics in states like Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, which have all seen their case averages drop by nearly 90% or more since August, according to federal data.

But in recent weeks, cases have been creeping up in several states in the Northeast and the upper Midwest, including Minnesota and Michigan.

Alaska currently has the country's highest infection rate, followed by Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota, according to federal data.

About 52,000 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the U.S., a major drop from the 104,000 hospitalized patients in late August.

But the U.S. death toll remains persistently high, with nearly 1,300 new deaths being reported each day, according to federal data.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 

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Two dead, 4 injured in shooting at mall in Boise: Police

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(BOISE, Idaho) -- Two people were killed and four others, including a Boise police officer, were injured in a shooting at a mall in Boise, Idaho, police said.

One person is in custody, Boise police said. Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee told reporters that police were working to notify the victims' families.

"I cannot stress enough how traumatic enough this event was for the community at large," he said at a news conference.

Police responded to reports of shots fired at the Boise Towne Square Mall on N. Milwaukee Street around 1:50 p.m. local time, authorities said.

When officers arrived at the scene they found someone matching the description of the suspect and there was an "exchange of gunfire" that took place, Lee said. One officer was injured and the suspect was taken into custody, according to Lee.

Both the FBI and ATF are assisting in the investigation. Authorities closed the roads leading to the mall following the shooting.

Officers were working to clear each business in the mall, police said, adding that there's no indication there are additional threats or additional shooters.

The investigation is ongoing and Lee said the police would release more information about the incident as it becomes available.

Boise Mayor Lauren McClean offered her condolences to the victims and her thanks to those in the mall who came to the aid of people inside the shopping complex.

"I want to thank the shopkeepers, the people in the mall that reacted so quickly to take care of folks who were there," she said. "You showed in a tough and chaotic moment how much you care, and what you are willing to do to support and care for strangers."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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El Chapo appeals his conviction, argues for new trial

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(NEW YORK) -- Lawyers for the drug kingpin known as El Chapo argued Monday for a new trial, insisting "breathtaking jury misconduct" and an "unparalleled set of stifling defense restrictions" marred his conviction.

Joaquin Guzman, 64, was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty in February 2019 of running an industrial-sized drug trafficking operation, the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world's largest, most profitable and most ruthless drug smuggling organizations.

Guzman's attorney, Marc Fernich, argued El Chapo did not get a fair trial because his solitary confinement in what the lawyer called a "modern dungeon" impaired his "cognitive, emotional and mental" faculties.

"The combination of unprecedented restrictions made it impossible to meaningfully prepare a defense," Fernich said in court Monday.

Under questioning from a three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, Fernich conceded the defense made no specific objections during trial. Prosecutors said the strict conditions of El Chapo's confinement were deemed necessary.

"This judge was presented with a defendant who had already escaped from prison twice in Mexico in dramatic fashion, who had a history of intimidating and killing perceived rivals and who had previously run his criminal enterprise while incarcerated," the Justice Department's Brett Reynolds said in court Monday.

Guzman's appeal also argued the trial judge should have more forcefully questioned whether jurors disobeyed repeated instructions to avoid information about the case that was not included as evidence.

An anonymous juror told Vice News that five jurors consumed news coverage or followed the trial on social media. Fernich called them "5 jurors who don't know the meaning of an oath" and urged the appellate court to pursue an inquiry.

"It's very disquieting in a case like this to do an end-around and let it go," Fernich said. "This guy is going to be in a box for the rest of his natural life. I'm not asking you to play violins for him and I'm not playing any violins for him either. This is very, very serious business for everybody concerned."

Prosecutors argued the Vice article was insufficient to merit an inquiry.

"The evidence here is not competent. It's just not. It's anonymously sourced. It's non-corroborated. It is hearsay and double hearsay," the Justice Department's Hiral Mehta said in court Monday.

There was no immediate ruling.

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Charlottesville civil trial over deadly 2017 'Unite the Right' rally set to begin

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(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A dark moment in U.S. history is being revisited as a federal civil trial began in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday over a violent 2017 white nationalist rally that ended with an alleged neo-Nazi ramming his car into counter protesters, killing one and injuring more than 30.

Jury selection got underway in the high-profile civil case in the U.S. district court in Charlottesville against organizers and certain participants of the "Unite the Right" rally. Nine people injured over the two-day event are accusing promoters of exhorting followers to "defend the South and Western civilization" from non-white people and their allies, according to the lawsuit.

"There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal-clear at the outset -- the violence in Charlottesville was no accident," contends the suit that is seeking unspecified damages from 24 defendants, including James Alex Fields Jr., the Ohio man who plowed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants started questioning potential jurors at about 9:30 a.m. Monday and quickly learned that candidates have developed strong views on the case.

The first juror questioned told the court he could set aside his belief that the defendants were terrorists, according to ABC affiliate station WIRC in Richmond. The man was dismissed from the case, but several other would-be jurors expressed similar views, WIRC-TV reported.

Fields, now 24, was convicted in 2018 of murder and multiple counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding and hit and run. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Fields also pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes in a deal his attorneys worked out with prosecutors to spare him the death penalty.

Among the other defendants named in the civil suit are the alleged key organizers of the 2017 rally; Jason Kessler -- who took out the permit for the rally -- and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, which the plaintiffs have described in court documents as a white nationalist think tank.

Also named as defendants in the suit are the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina, the East Coast Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Andrew Anglin of Ohio, founder of the far-right website the Daily Stormer.

The trial marks the first major civil suit to be tried under the Enforcement Act of 1871, which is also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act and passed by Congress in response to a wave of terrorist violence against African Americans in the South.

"These defendants planned violence on social media and on other communication forums and even in-person conversations. They went to Charlottesville, committed that violence and then celebrated that violence," Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, a nonprofit supporting the plaintiffs, told ABC affiliate WRIC in Richmond, Virginia.

The defense

The defendants claim they were exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and their right to self-defense, claiming counter protesters initially turned violent.

"Plaintiffs complaint is long on coarse internet language regarding non-whites and short on allegations of racial violence perpetrated by any moving defendant," defense attorneys argued in a motion to dismiss the case that was denied.

The defendants also said the lawsuit fails to demonstrate that they conspired to incite violence.

"Plaintiffs have failed to make any credible allegation that any moving defendant came to any agreement with anybody, to do anything, other than march and chant in Charlottesville," defense attorneys said in a filing.

Kessler and Spencer both denied the allegations that they helped instigate the violence in their responses to the lawsuit.

Immediately after the Charlottesville rally ended in the deadly hit and run, Kessler released a statement blaming local police for the mayhem.

"The blame for today's violence is primarily the result of the Charlottesville government officials and the law enforcement officers which failed to maintain law and order by protecting the First Amendment rights of the participants of the 'Unite the Right' rally," Kessler said in a statement to WVIR-TV, the NBC affiliate station in Charlottesville.

The "Unite the Right" rally was organized in response to a February 2017 decision by the Charlottesville City Council to consider a petition to remove a statue honoring Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Far-right demonstrators from across the country descended on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Aug. 11, 2017, where many were seen marching with tiki torches, giving Nazi salutes, and chanting "white lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us."

Broken legs and emotional distress

Several of the plaintiffs were marching on Aug. 12, 2017, with a group of counter protesters on Fourth Street in downtown Charlottesville when Fields' was recorded driving his car into the protesters at high speed.

Marcus Martin, one of the plaintiffs, was peacefully protesting when he saw Fields' car bearing down on him and pushed his fiancee out of the way right before he was struck by the vehicle, suffering a broken leg and ankle, according to the lawsuit.

Martin's now-wife, Marissa Blair, who is also a plaintiff, was a co-worker and friend of Heyer, the woman killed in the incident. Both Martin and Blair suffered not only physical injuries but also emotional distress from the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Another plaintiff, referred to in court papers as Jane Doe 1, said she was marching with her mother and sister when Field's car plowed into her, breaking both her legs and a knee.

'Very fine people on both sides'

In the aftermath of the violence, then-President Donald Trump came under fire from Democrats -- and many Republicans -- for failing to strongly condemn the white supremacists and said during a news conference that there were "very fine people on both sides."

President Joe Biden has said the turmoil in Charlottesville is the reason he ran for president.

"In that moment, I knew that the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime. I wrote at the time that we're in a battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said in his 2019 campaign launch video.

The civil trial is expected to last at least four weeks, and the aim of the litigation, according to the lawsuit, is to get justice for the plaintiffs and "to ensure that nothing like this will happen again at the hands of (the) Defendants, not on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and not anywhere else in the United States of America."

 

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Nine-year-old boy's remains found in home along with abandoned kids: Sheriff

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(HOUSTON) -- The remains of a 9-year-old boy have been discovered in a Houston home along with three abandoned children, authorities said.

One of the children, a 15-year-old, said his 9-year-old brother had been dead for one year and his body was in the room next to his, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Monday.

The 15-year-old and the other two children -- boys under the age of 10 -- were found home alone on Sunday, the sheriff said.

Both younger kids "appeared malnourished and showed signs of physical injury," he tweeted.

Deputies also "found skeletal remains of a small child," the sheriff said.

All three children were taken to the hospital, he said. Their conditions were not released.

Authorities believe the parents hadn't lived in the home for several months, Gonzalez said.

The children's mother and her boyfriend were found late Sunday night and have been interviewed and released, Gonzalez said Monday.

The investigation is ongoing, the sheriff said, adding that no charges have been filed.

At a news conference Sunday Gonzalez called it a "horrific situation."

"I have been in this business for a long time and I had never heard of a scenario like this," he said.

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Philadelphia students 'scared to go to school' as gun violence escalates

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(PHILADELPHIA) -- Joshua Corneilius, 17, should be enjoying his senior year of high school, but instead, he is constantly worried about the violence occurring both inside and outside of his North Philadelphia school.

In the last year, nine kids at Simon Gratz High School were shot to death -- three of them just last month, the school's principal, Leyondo Dunn, told ABC News.

"It's a war zone, like with the drugs, with the guns, with the violence, it's a real war zone. It's a real dog-eat-dog world, like it's not for anybody that's soft," Corneilius said. "If you live in Philly, you're going to naturally become hard ... like you're going to have armor, like you'll have a shield."

Since 2015, more than 10,000 people have been shot in Philadelphia, and of those, three out of four were Black males. More than 80% of homicide victims in the city over the las year were Black males, according to city data.

Black boys also made up 96% of victims in child homicides in the city, and most of the killings occurred in North Philadelphia, according to Action News data.

"It just happens, so even if you do really sit down and try to process, it's really no time for that," rising senior student Kaliyah Fletcher, 17, said.

"You still have to think about, 'What can I do to make sure that I'm not in that situation?' or 'What can I do to make sure that my future and my life are set so I could get out of the city?'"

With such violence going on in the city and in schools, students, stressed and concerned, rarely get to truly focus on the things they should be thinking about: classes, graduation and college.

Akea Williams, a therapist who was born and raised in Philadelphia, is trying to bring a sense of peace to her city.

In early July, Williams, who has a master's in mental health discipline, started the "Therapy over Revenge" Program, where she gives free therapy sessions to people who have experienced or been affected by gun violence. Among other things, she teaches them decision-making skills and coping mechanisms. So far, she has given sessions to over 350 people.

"They're kind of in a point where they're afraid to go to school, or they're afraid to even leave the house," Williams said of her student patients. "And if they are not afraid, or pretending like they're not afraid, they're going out and they're armed and ready for war."

In 2019, Black children and teens made up only 14% of all children and teens in the city, and yet they accounted for 43% of child and teen gun deaths and are four times more likely to be killed with guns than their white peers, data from The Children's Defense Fund shows.

"The PTSD from the kids ... a lot of kids are refusing to go to school. I am seeing a lot of crisis calls and getting a lot of calls from students who are losing their friends left and right," Williams said.

"I think that the dynamics need to be changed," she added. "I think there needs to be a lot more programs offered. I think there needs to be a lot more safe havens, a lot more availability to mental health professionals for these young people to have the option to speak with them and feel safe."

Philadelphia has seen 41 victims under the age of 18 die from gun violence so far this year, according to the City of Philadelphia's Office of the Controller.

Philadelphia City Council member Kenyatta Johnson helped create the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention in 2017 to fight gun violence throughout Philly. He is now the chairman of the committee.

"We have to invest in areas that have had a lack of investment over the past several years, so making sure we have quality after-school programs, quality job opportunities for young people, addressing mental health, to trauma care and trauma informed services, those are key areas that we're gonna be focusing in going into the new year," Johnson said. "I'm confident if we all work together, we can reduce the level of gun violence that we are seeing here in the city of Philadelphia."

Dunn, of Simon Gratz High School, is adamant about helping put a stop to the violence.

"I recognize that gun violence in North Philadelphia existed before our current mayor existed before our current police commissioner, and it's going to exist long after that," he said. "But we as a community have to recognize that we are at war with guns, and right now we're not winning that war, and it's going to take every single leader, principals, staff members elected officials appointed officials hired officials to come to the table and prioritize this issue and do all that we can to protect and keep young people safe."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hate crimes against Asians rose 76% in 2020 amid pandemic, FBI says

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(WASHINGTON) -- Hate crimes against people of Asian descent rose by 76% in 2020, according to newly republished data by the FBI.

The FBI previously issued hate crime data in August, but due to an error in reporting Ohio's statistics, the data was incomplete. The FBI has now corrected the technical problem in Ohio's reporting system.

In 2020, 279 hate crime incidents against individuals of Asian descent were reported, compared to 158 incidents reported in 2019.

More than 60% of hate crimes in the United States were carried out on the basis of an individual's race, according to FBI data released Monday.

"Every hate crime is an attack on the community," Jay Greenberg, deputy assistant director of the FBI's criminal division, told ABC News' Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Greenberg said most hate crimes are directed at African Americans, but acknowledged there was an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes due to COVID-19.

In total, there were 8,052 single-bias incidents -- crimes motivated by one type of bias -- involving 11,126 victims. Comparatively, there were 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 victims in 2019.

The FBI said 20% of the hate crimes targeted a person's sexual orientation and 13% of the hate crimes that occurred in 2020 were due to religious bias.

More than half of the offenders were white, and 21% of the offenders were African American.

Greenberg said they are working to make sure there is trust not only in the FBI, but in local communities as well.

"Because a hate crime is defined as a violent or property crime with a bias motivation, that crime could be categorized a number of different ways," he explained. "We would like the public to reach out to us if they believe that they are a victim of a hate crime. It's not for the public to make that determination; we will work with our state and local partners and help determine how best to investigate that."

When someone is a victim of a hate crime, people have different reactions, according to Regina Thompson, the head of the FBI's victim services unit.

"Everybody has their own way of reacting and on their own timeline, so sometimes people will react immediately in the aftermath of a crime," said Thompson, who was named head of the unit last year. "Sometimes they'll go immediately into crisis and crisis intervention will be needed. Sometimes the full impact isn't felt for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months after the criminal event and the way that they react, there's absolutely no normal."

Greenberg said that while they don't discuss the number of cases they are currently investigating, leaders at the FBI "have brought a renewed focus to enforcing the civil rights program consistently across all our offices, and we have seen the number of cases rise in the last year."

The bureau takes a victim-centered approach to hate crimes, the two senior FBI officials explained.

"The FBI does have a victim services division that is focused on assisting and supporting the victims of federal crime and that when they are a victim of a federal crime, we are there to assist them and they can expect us to do that with understanding, dignity, fairness and respect," Thompson said.

Thompson said that hate crimes are especially unique because it is a direct assault on someone's identity and individuality.

"It really strikes at the fundamental core of who the person is, which makes it very different from some of the other violent crimes," she explained. "It is an attack on something that is within the person's identity, something that's very immutable about them and often something that they can't even change. So that has a very deep psychological effect."

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1 dead, 7 injured in shooting at off-campus party near Georgia university

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(GEORGIA) -- One person is dead and seven others injured after a shooting at an off-campus party near a Georgia university.

The incident occurred early Saturday morning in Fort Valley, near Fort Valley State University, authorities said.

Several students suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the university said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, shared a photo from the "active scene" on Twitter Saturday morning, showing a house located several blocks from the campus.

GBI also confirmed the deceased was not a Fort Valley State University student, though did not share further details.

The university's campus was temporarily placed on lockdown "until campus police determined there was no threat to the campus community," school officials said.

The lockdown has since been lifted.

The shooting occurred during the state university's homecoming weekend.

School officials announced that its Saturday morning alumni breakfast and homecoming parade had been canceled. There will be "increased security protocols" at the homecoming game, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, it said.

"Our thoughts are with the students and their families as they recover," the university said.

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Howard University students protest housing conditions with on-campus tent city

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Dozens of Howard University students are sleeping outdoors in a tent encampment on campus grounds to protest what they describe as "poor" and "unlivable" conditions in the college dormitories.

Students told ABC News that portions of the university living quarters have mold and insect and rodent infestations, as well as leaky ceilings and flooding -- all of which they say put their health at risk.

Lamiya Murray, an 18-year-old freshman currently living in one of the tents, believes the mold that she said she spotted in her dorm room was responsible for a respiratory infection she battled earlier this year.

"I'm not going to say that I expect a lot more, I expect the bare minimum. I expect decent housing," Murray told ABC News. "I expect to be in a space where I will feel safe and secure, but the dorms became a health hazard. I was waking up every morning with a cough that I didn't go to sleep with the night before, and struggling to breathe at night."

Murray said her reports to campus maintenance have often gone unresolved.

One day after the protest began, on Oct. 13, the Howard University Division of Student Affairs issued a warning to protesters occupying the Blackburn University Center, citing the demonstrators for multiple violations of the university's student code of conduct.

"You will proceed through a student conduct hearing and face consequences up to and including expulsion from the University. The judicial process will be conducted within the procedures of the Student Code of Conduct," Cynthia Evers, vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to students, obtained by ABC News.


"We take great pride in Howard students leading the nation in public and private fights for justice and equality in all corners of the nation and, in fact, the world," the email continued. "However, there is a marked delineation between historic protests and what we witnessed yesterday [Oct. 12] . The University looks to fully preserve the integrity and authenticity of students' constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and assembly while protecting against the weaponization of these rights as false representations of the Howard student experience at large."

Outside the building, a banner draped across the sidewalk reads: "Enough is enough." A number of students told ABC News they would rather sleep outside than in their dorm rooms.

Fellow student protesters took turns guarding the door of the center, where some demonstrators inside could be seen through the window resting in sleeping bags, studying or eating food donated by alumni and local civil rights groups who visited them in support of their cause.

"All of our Blackburn family is allowed in and out of the building," Murray said, telling ABC News they are not allowing administrators or press into the building. "It's the outsiders that we're worried about. We're trying to keep students safe and keep everybody in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable to express the things that are happening on campus."


Annual border arrests hit record high despite trending down in recent months

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Border Patrol arrested migrants more times in the past year than in any other fiscal year in recorded history, according to Customs and Border Protection data released Friday.

Authorities encountered unauthorized migrants along the southwest border more than 1.73 million times in budget year 2021, according to the data. Of those, about 1.66 million arrests were made by Border Patrol.

The prior record was set in 2000 at about 1.64 million, according to Border Patrol data.

However, migration experts caution that the data has become complicated to track over several decades.

The estimated number of migrants who evaded Border Patrol custody in 2000 was pegged at more than 2.1 million by the Department of Homeland Security. That number declined by about 92% between 2000 and 2018 as Border Patrol funding increased. For 2021, reports analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute estimate the number of successful unlawful entries to be about 540,000.

In recent months, more than a quarter of encounters involved migrants who had previously tried to cross at least once before in the past year. That's compared to a re-encounter rate of 14% between budget years 2014 and 2019.

Despite the surge of Haitian migrants seen in Del Rio, Texas, last month, overall enforcement actions declined for the second month in a row from 209,840 in August to about 192,000 in September. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has pointed to the declining numbers as evidence the administration's migration strategy is working.

"Tragically, former President Trump slashed our international assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, slashed the resources that we were contributing to address the root causes of irregular migration," Mayorkas said in August as anticipated seasonal migration declines failed to bear out over summer. "Another reason is the end of the cruel policies of the past administration and the restoration of the rule of laws of this country that Congress has passed, including our asylum laws that provide humanitarian relief."

Immigrant advocates, and some immigration officials, have pointed to the rapid expulsion protocols carried out under Title 42 of the U.S. health code by both the Trump and Biden administrations as the reason behind the elevated rate of repeat offenders attempting to cross illegally.

Biden administration officials have also blamed the Trump administration's hardline measures at the border, saying it resulted in pent up demand for humanitarian relief. Critics of the administration consider the record-high number of overall encounters to be the product of Biden's moves to roll back some of Trump's aggressive policies.

Asked at a CNN town hall event if he planned to go to the border himself, President Joe Biden said, "I guess I should," but did not provide certainty.

"I've been there before and I haven't -- I mean, I know it well," Biden said. "I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is, I haven't had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Justice Department says Utah school district ignored racial harassment, abuse

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(DAVIS COUNTY, UT) -- The Davis School District in Utah intentionally ignored widespread racial harassment, according to a scathing new report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

School officials have been accused of failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students who said they've been called racial slurs, including the N-word, been threatened or even been physically assaulted. Asian American students also were subject to widespread harassment in the district, according to the DOJ.

"White and other non-Black students routinely called Black students the N-word and other racial epithets, called them monkeys or apes and said that their skin was dirty or looked like feces," the DOJ said students reported to them.

"Peers taunted Black students by making monkey noises at them, touching and pulling their hair without permission, repeatedly referencing slavery and lynching, and telling Black students, 'Go pick cotton' and 'You are my slave,'" the report said students told the DOJ.

The Justice Department said the school district deliberately showed indifference to race-based student harassment, violated Black students' equal protection rights and violated the equal protection clause when it refused to allow Black students to form student groups.

The two-year-long investigation also found students frequently were harassed and abused verbally and physically, and that even when such behavior was witnessed by faculty or staff, nothing was done to halt it.

Investigators also found that some staff members directly targeted students with racially abusive remarks.

Black students said the harassment was pervasive and consistent, and many students said they'd concluded faculty and staff effectively condoned the behavior because reporting it felt useless. Several students told investigators they "disliked attending school and at times missed school because of racial harassment."

Other students said they feared retaliation for reporting the racial harrasment.

Davis School District has signed a settlement agreement with the Justice Department in connection with the district's alleged mistreatment of students of color.

The agreement outlines steps required of the district to strengthen its procedures, training and practices in investigating and resolving allegations of racial harassment and discrimination, district representatives told ABC News in a statement. A consultant will be hired to review and help revise potential policies for the district, which serves tens of thousands of students across 91 schools, the district said.

District officials said they'll work to correct its issues over the next few years and that they'll soon share plans for doing so with students, parents and staff.

"During the investigation, the district was made aware of serious incidents of racial harassment and discrimination and instances where those incidents were not handled appropriately," the statement continued. "The district takes these findings very seriously. They do not reflect the values of this community and the expectations of the district. The district pledges to correct these practices."

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Robert Durst charged with murder of former wife

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(NEW YORK) -- Robert Durst has been charged in Westchester County with the murder of his former wife, Kathie, who disappeared in 1982, according to the district attorney's office.

A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday of this week.

"The Westchester County District Attorney's Office can confirm that a complaint charging Robert Durst with the murder of Kathleen Durst was filed in Lewisboro Town Court on Oct. 19, 2021. We have no further comment at this time," a statement from a spokesperson for Westchester DA Mimi Rocah said.

The single-page complaint from New York State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra charges Durst with second degree murder. It offers no new evidence but is based on "the files" of the state police, the Westchester DA's office and the Los Angeles DA's office, along with "conversations with numerous witnesses and observations of defendant's recorded interviews and court testimony."

The complaint follows last week's sentencing in Los Angeles of Durst to life in prison for the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, an associate whom prosecutors said Durst killed because he feared she would have revealed details of Kathie Durst's death.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Durst had retained an attorney in New York. A call to his longtime attorney Dick DeGuerin was not immediately returned.

Durst, 78, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was put on a ventilator, DeGuerin has said. He appeared frail during his murder trial in Los Angeles and sat in a wheelchair during his sentencing.

Kathie Durst's body has never been found, though authorities have periodically searched over the years. There was never an established crime scene.

"Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormack Durst. We are very happy with this development. At this time, however, we will not be making any further comments until the Grand Jury process is completed," said Robert Abrams, attorney for Kathie Durst's family.

Robert Durst, eldest son of Seymour Durst, has long been estranged from his wealthy family. He was acquitted of a second murder in Galveston, Texas.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Baby goes home from hospital 5 months after mom stabbed while pregnant

Amorn Suriyan/ iStock

(ATLANTA) -- A infant who was born at 25 weeks, after his mom was stabbed while walking on a trail in Atlanta, went home this month after spending nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The baby, Theodore Jude, was released from the Children's Hospital of Atlanta at Egleston on Oct. 8 with a farewell parade from nurses, who lined the halls with rattles to say goodbye.

"We're obviously super grateful and praising that he's alive and with us," said Theodore's mom, Valerie Kasper. "It's been a long journey and it's already been exhausting and like a rollercoaster, and now that he is home, this is the start of a new thing."

Kasper, 34, was walking near her car with her 3-year-old son, Benjamin, on June 5, when she was stabbed multiple times by a homeless man who later admitted to the stabbing, according to the Associated Press. Police said they believe "mental illness played a role" in the case.

While Benjamin sustained no physical injuries in the attack, Kasper was transported to a local hospital, where she underwent an emergency C-section.

"The trauma of the attack was pretty intense obviously and the moment of going into surgery was just as scary," said Kasper. "When I went into surgery I was crying, saying, 'Save my baby and save my uterus,' because I thought if he didn't make it, I would want to have another baby."

Theodore weighed just two pounds when he was born, and was immediately whisked away to the NICU, according to Kasper.

While they were performing the C-section, doctors also repaired Kasper's colon and liver, which she said were both damaged in the attack.

She was not able to see her newborn son until 24 hours after giving birth, when she went in a wheelchair to visit him in the NICU.

"I was in so much pain that I couldn't handle sitting in the wheelchair and I almost passed out in the NICU," recalled Kasper, who was also not able to hold her son because he was still so fragile. "It was really hard."

Kasper spent the next week in the hospital recovering from her injuries and from giving birth. Shortly after she was discharged on June 12, Kasper received a call from the NICU that Theodore was not doing well and would have to be transferred to another hospital for surgery.

"That was devastating," she said. "I was thinking, 'This is it. This is the life of the NICU. How am I ever going to fall asleep waiting for these phone calls?'"

Theodore survived what would be the first of four surgeries following his birth.

Kasper and her partner, Steven Barkdoll, both teachers, spent the next several months traveling back and forth between the NICU and their home, where they stayed with Benjamin.

Kasper was only able to hold Theodore for the first time during a visit to the NICU on June 28, three weeks after his birth.

"It took like three people to help me into the chair, to help the baby in my arms, and he was still intubated so it was just extremely fragile moving him," she said. "I was sitting there kind of in pain, wanting to enjoy the moment but also having to be aware of my own limitations."
After several more months of treatment, doctors discharged Theodore from the NICU on Oct. 8.

It was then that he met his older brother, Benjamin, for the first time.

"Benjamin just like ran over to the stroller, so excited to see his brother," Kasper said of the meeting, five months in the making. "That was a big day."

Though the family is now home under one roof for the first time in months, the recovery continues for both Theodore and Kasper, who still has limited mobility and pain from her wounds.
Theodore remains on oxygen and a feeding tube, as well as a heart monitor, according to Kasper. He also takes several medications and has frequent appointments with doctors and specialists.

"It's like bringing home a newborn baby that needs lots of attention, and he needs a little even more attention," said Kasper. "He's a cutie pie and we love all the snuggles, but it's still a stressful situation to be in."

"We're just monitoring him as he grows and supporting him the best we can to try to get him off all the machines and let him be a big boy," she said of Theodore, who now weighs 11 pounds.

Kasper said she and her family have been touched by the outpouring of support they have received, from a GoFundMe account that has raised over $100,000 to friends and family offering support and the nurses and doctors who helped she and Theodore recover.

"It's definitely a big motivator and relief, in a way, to know that evil can happen, or bad things can happen, and the love shines through," she said. "I just get overwhelmed by that."

"I feel that once we're back on our feet, we're going to have to be giving back for sure," Kasper added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


COVID-19 live updates: Pfizer vaccine highly effective in children 5-11

Bill Oxford/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- More than 731,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 66.9% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.

Oct 22, 5:22 pm
Your guide to booster eligibility 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now signed off on boosters for all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S., after Thursday's recommendation for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.
 

Oct 22, 2:32 pm
Delta doesn't cause more severe illness than prior variants: CDC 

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that although the delta variant is significantly more transmissible than prior variants, it is not more likely to lead to hospitalization.

Instead, the dramatic uptick in hospitalizations seen during the summer's delta surge was fueled by the highly transmissible variant spreading easily among mostly unvaccinated people, the CDC said.

The report, which analyzed COVID-19 hospitalization data from 14 states, also found that the proportion of people aged 18 to 49 hospitalized with delta increased "significantly" in July and August to 35.8% of all hospitalizations compared to 24.7% from January to June of this year. This was likely due to lower vaccination rates among younger people, the CDC said.

-ABC News' Sony Salzman

Oct 22, 8:56 am
Pfizer vaccine highly effective in children 5-11

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 91% effective against symptomatic illness in children ages 5-11, according to new data posted Friday ahead of a major FDA advisory committee meeting on Tuesday.

The vaccine also appeared safe, with none of the children experiencing a rare heart inflammation side effect known as myocarditis. If authorized in children 5-11, the Pfizer vaccine will be given at a smaller, one-third dose.

This efficacy estimate is from the company's clinical trial of 2,268 children in which some children got a placebo, and some children got the Pfizer vaccine. During the trial, 16 children who got the placebo shots developed COVID-19. Only three children who got the real vaccine developed COVID-19.

A small number of the children who were vaccinated and later developed COVID-19 experienced symptoms far fewer and milder than the children who were unvaccinated. For example, none of the vaccinated children developed a fever, while a majority of the unvaccinated children developed a fever along with other symptoms.

None of the children experienced serious adverse events. Many experienced typical symptoms like pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache.

The FDA's advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on whether to authorize the vaccine. From there, the FDA itself and the CDC will need to sign off -- a process that can take several days -- before shots could become available to children nationally.

Oct 21, 8:39 pm
CDC signs off on Moderna, J&J boosters

Hours after the unanimous vote from its independent advisory committee, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on recommending booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for certain populations.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended boosters for Pfizer and Moderna recipients with no preference on the brand, leaving that decision up to the individual.

People who are 65 and older, or individuals as young as 18 who have underlying medical conditions or live in high-risk or long-term care settings, are eligible to receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster at least six months after their second shot, the CDC said.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is eligible to anyone aged 18 and up, at least two months after their initial dose, the CDC said.

Oct 21, 5:44 pm
CDC recommends Moderna and J&J boosters

An independent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted unanimously Thursday evening to recommend booster shots for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for certain populations.

The panel recommended a third dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months after a person’s initial course for those 65 and older, as well as those as young as 18 who are at higher risk due to underlying health conditions or where they work or live.

A second dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was recommended for anyone aged 18 and older, at least two months after the first dose.

The panel also cleared the way for allowing mixing and matching of booster doses.

The recommendations fall in line with the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the boosters Wednesday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the panel's recommendations. A decision is expected within a day.

Oct 21, 3:14 pm
Hospital admissions on the decline

COVID-19 hospital admissions in the U.S. have dropped by about 9.7% in the last week, according to federal data.

Death rates are also falling, though they remain persistently high, with an average of just under 1,250 Americans dying from the virus each day, according to the data.

Alaska currently has the country's highest infection rate, followed by Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota.

The U.S. is currently averaging around 76,000 new cases per day, down from 160,000 in early September. Despite boasting high vaccination rates, several Northern states continue to see cases tick up as the weather gets colder.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Winter weather outlook: California drought could worsen, what else to expect

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The devastating drought in Southern California is expected to continue or worsen this winter, with drier-than-average conditions forecast for the hard-hit Southwest, including Southern California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday in its winter weather outlook.

NOAA predicts drought conditions to continue in the Southwest, Plains and Missouri River Basin. But drought improvement is possible in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Hawaii, NOAA said.

Drier-than-average conditions are also forecast for the Southeast this winter. Wetter-than-average conditions are forecast in areas including the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, NOAA said.

NOAA predicts a warmer-than-average winter in the Southeast and much of the eastern U.S.

Temperatures may fall below average from the Pacific Northwest through the northern Plains.

But more-than-normal snow and rain is forecast for the Ohio Valley and some of the inland Northeast, from western Pennsylvania to western New York to parts of Vermont.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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