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CNN-Health

California hospitals stressed to the ‘brink of catastrophe’ by the coronavirus surge

By Sarah Moon and Cheri Mossburg, CNN

Overflowing hospital morgues, increased 911 wait times, beds only opening when patients die. Hospitals in California, where almost all of the state’s 40 million residents are living under stay-at-home orders, are seeing historic stress points.

The surge of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations is pushing hospitals in Los Angeles County to the “brink of catastrophe,” a top health official there said.

To the north in Santa Clara, one doctor said: “What we are seeing now, is not normal.”

Every day since November 7, Covid-19 hospitalizations in California have increased.

As of Thursday, 21,449 Covid-19 patients were in hospital beds throughout the state, with more than 4,500 of those in intensive care units.

“We are in the midst of a disaster,” Los Angeles County Director of Emergency Medical Services Agency Cathy Chidester said, talking about the challenges faced by hospitals due to the lack of resources and staffing.

The amount of oxygen required for each coronavirus patient is putting extreme pressure on the hospital, according to Chidester.

They also are running out of ambulances while response times to 911 calls are getting longer and longer, she said.

Los Angeles County shattered its record of the highest number of coronavirus deaths reported on a single day since the start of the pandemic with 290 deaths Thursday, according to data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The high number of deaths includes a backlog of cases from the holidays as well as an internet service interruption.

“As we see 2020 come to a close, we’re experiencing extreme conditions in L.A. County,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said at a news conference. “With no decline in the number of new cases, our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed as more and more people are rushed to hospitals.”

The medical examiner’s office, which is accepting overflow from hospitals that don’t have any more room in their morgues, is also expected to receive help from the California National Guard on Monday.

About a dozen refrigerated storage units, which were secured in March as part of the county’s “mass fatality plan,” are in place at the Downtown Los Angeles campus, according to Captain Emily Tauscher at the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner’s Office.

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly described the medical facility situation as on the “brink of catastrophe.”

Some health department primary care clinics have had to close or reduce their hours because the county’s hospitals are “so incredibly taxed,” Ghaly said.

More than 700 nurses have been reassigned to fulfill duties within the inpatient units, the emergency department, as well as the quarantine and isolation beds provided by the health department. All types of health care staff are being used and the county is requesting additional help.

Teams from the US military with 75 doctors, nurses and staff are being deployed to the state.

While no hospitals in the L.A. County have formally declared they are operating under “crisis care,” health officials have said that some Southern California hospitals have put in place practices that would be a part of crisis care, including redirecting ambulances when facilities are overwhelmed.

Ferrer warned that the data trends will continue into January and hundreds of people will die each week.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said people need to stay home to help blunt surges from the holidays.

“We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days,” Garcetti said. “It’s so critical we change our behavior. Everybody’s doing something but everybody can do more.”

Problems throughout the state

Doctors in Santa Clara, 45 miles south from San Francisco, are treating some critically ill patients in the emergency room, as there’s no room in intensive care units.

“Often, the only time we can move someone is when a Covid patient dies,” emergency room Dr. Marco Randazzo said in a news conference. “Despite these conditions, we come to work to do our part,” Randazzo said, pleading with residents to sacrifice this New Year’s Eve “for a lifetime of other experiences yet to come.”

California added 27,237 coronavirus cases Thursday and 428 deaths. More than 2.2 million Californians have been infected to date, and well over 25,000 of those have died.

“What we are seeing now, is not normal,” Dr. Ahmad Kamal of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center said. “We are clearly not out of the woods, we are in the thick of the woods.”

CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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CNN-National & Wolrd

21 things to look forward to in 2021 … if everything works out

By AJ Willingham, CNN

Yes, it may be tempting fate. Yes, the 2020 version of this story now reads like a depressing farce.

But come on. Something good has to happen in 2021, right?

A lot of things that were canceled in 2020 are back on this year. Tentatively. And a lot of commonplace activities that we’ve previously taken for granted may slowly return to our lives, things like hugging and not being uneasy about getting on a plane. TENTATIVELY.

If everything goes right, we can dare to look forward to these notable spots in 2021.

1. The Tokyo Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were put on pause because of the pandemic, but are now scheduled for July 2021. It may not look like Olympics past — the IOC says it will be a “simpler, more restrained approach,” — but that won’t stop us from indulging in the communal joy of pretending to know how gymnastics is scored.

2. Eurovision Song Contest

Remember concerts? Remember music shows? Remember seeing big, undulating throngs of overly energetic people enjoying the vibes without a care in the world? Those may be coming back, and that includes the uber-popular Eurovision Song Contest, which was postponed from 2020. The contest’s organizers say there will “definitely be a Eurovision Song Contest in 2021.” It’s currently penciled in for May in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

3. NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars

Mars will get a new little inhabitant when NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down in February. Like its charming rover predecessors in the Mars Exploration Program, Perseverance will no doubt have an entire Earth-bound fandom rooting it on. Is it because we like to anthropomorphize complex robotics, or because we secretly wish we, too, could be blasted off this Earth onto another planet?

4. Traveling and large gatherings

Raise your hand if the most exotic sight you’ve seen this year is literally anything outside your own home. Even if you’re not planning a huge getaway once the pandemic gets better, just the idea that you could is kind of comforting. And you know what’s better than a vacation? A nice big (safe) get-together with friends. Hopefully, we’ll all remember how to socialize.

5. Widespread Covid-19 immunity

Of course, for any of this exciting stuff to happen, we need safe pandemic practices, and a Covid-19 vaccine that’s available to everyone. Several countries are starting to roll out vaccination plans, and it looks like there are more vaccine authorizations on the way. It’s going to take a while — experts say we may not see some semblance of “normal” until the back half of the year. But, oh, it will be worth waiting for.

6. UEFA Euro Championship

The quadrennial football tournament was supposed to be held in 2020, and it was supposed to be a special one marking the 60th anniversary of the contest. But don’t worry, it will still be special when it kicks off this summer! Instead of one host region, the games will take place in 12 host countries around Europe, from Spain to Romania to Russia.

7. T20 Cricket World Cup

In other sports news, the International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup will be back on — postponed from 2020, of course — in India in the fall. Americans, if you need a primer before you dip your toe in the waters of cricket fandom, say no more.

8. The 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World

Speaking of milestones, October 1 will mark the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. The park will also be unveiling lots of new things to do, including a “Ratatoiulle” attraction, a “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride and a “Tron” ride.

9.New climate policies and action

2020 was supposed to be the year the world’s climate plans got on track. But … they didn’t. Next year may be better! The EU has put a seal on plans to reduce carbon emissions and pour billions into clean energy alternatives. China, the world’s biggest polluter, has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060. Japan, South Korea and Canada have all made similar promises for fossil fuel reduction. And we may see more silver linings at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this November.

10. The presidential Inauguration

No matter your politics, a presidential inauguration is a piece of history. So all eyes will be on the US in January when Joe Biden assumes the presidential duties. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, will make all kinds of history when she takes office as the first woman and first woman of color to serve as vice president.

11. New TV shows

If you’ve Netflixed all there is to Netflix, never fear! It will be a very fruitful TV year. The long-awaited “Friends” reunion is set to air in March. A “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot is coming to Peacock, Netflix is developing a live-action version of the classic anime “Cowboy Bebop.” AND Disney+ is dropping what feels like a million new shows and concepts. Whatever happens with your social agenda, your TV watching agenda is definitely packed.

12. New movies

Where to start? Take a deep breath: “Dune” with Timothee Chalamet!” “Cinderella” with Billy Porter! A new “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy! A new Bond film, “No Time to Die!” A new “Fantastic Beasts!” “Black Widow!” Oh, and Warner Brothers will stream their new movies on HBO Max the same day they drop in theaters. Wait, it feels like we’re missing something ….

13. Tom Cruise going to spaaace

In addition to starring in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise will blast off — literally — when he works on the first narrative movie to be filmed in outer space. With the help of NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Cruise will travel to the International Space Station to work on the project this year.

14. The largest brood of cicadas

Hope you like bugs, because billions of them will swarm parts of the US when Brood X, the largest and widest-ranging of the 15 US cicada broods, pops out of the ground in the spring. This is a once-in-17-years event, people! It’s a cultural moment! It will take months to get the crunch crunch crunch sound of their abandoned shells out of your head. But hey, you may learn a thing or two about cicadas, and that is precious knowledge.

15. 6G

Now is the time to fess up if you don’t actually know what terms like 4G, 5G and 6G actually mean. It refers to different generations of technology standards for cellular networks. In other words, it’s the level at which your cell phone, internet and lots of other telecommunications architecture perform. That’s why lots of people were excited about 5G. Phone fast! Stream all the things! Less painful Zoom meetings! Well, things are going to get even faster and even better when more 5G networks pop up worldwide. And Japan and Korea are already working on 6G capabilities. This next generation will help improve things like teleworking and distance learning, as well as more futuristic pursuits like holograms and virtual and augmented reality.

16. Artificial intelligence. Everywhere.

AI technology has been a huge focal point for a while now, but in 2021 we’ll see it pop up in even more places. And no, not in a scary “Black Mirror” sort of way. Imagine, for instance, everything AI can do to help us interpret and use medical and scientific data if. You know, just in case a massive pandemic were to hit. AI is also helping more businesses make smarter decisions about customer behavior. Wilson Pang, the chief technology officer at Appen, told Forbes he hopes that 2021 will see more companies address troubling issues of bias in AI technologies, so innovators can develop AI in responsible ways.

17. Drone delivery

Walmart, Amazon, UPS and others companies are stepping up their drone game, so don’t be surprised if packages start landing at your door soon. The Federal Aviation Administration just released new rules about “unmanned aircraft,” which will advance “the integration of drones into the national airspace system.” Amazon’s drone delivery service Prime Air got the go-head from the FAA earlier in 2020.

18. The Queen of England turns 95

Queen Elizabeth II is already the longest-reigning monarch in British history, and in 2021 she’ll celebrate a similarly impressive accomplishment: Turning 95! Her birthday is April 21. She probably doesn’t need gifts, but we hope our British friends will do something fancy to celebrate. Meanwhile, we’ll be watching “The Crown.”

19. Highly anticipated concerts

Nostalgia is going to have quite a year in 2021 with all of the reboots, remakes and reunions. Could we be getting another dose with a potential Spice Girls World Tour? There have been rumors swirling about a 25th anniversary tour, and Spice Girl Mel C herself hinted that it could be happening. Meanwhile, The Doobie Brothers will hit the road for their 50th anniversary tour in July. Celine Dion, Guns N’ Roses, Harry Styles and dozens of other acts are making plans to get back out on the arena stage as the year goes on.

20. New albums

Want your music a little more socially distanced? Evanescence, Kendrick Lamar, Kacey Musgraves, Lorde, Cardi B, Adele, the Foo Fighters and The Cure are all confirmed or heavily rumored to be releasing new albums this year.

21. Hugs 🙁

C’mon, 2021. Please let us have this one.

Categories
CNN-Politics

Trump extends immigration restrictions, citing pandemic’s impact on labor market

By Jason Hoffman, CNN

President Donald Trump extended certain restrictions on legal immigration and on visas that allow immigrants to temporarily work in the United States on Thursday, just hours before those restrictions were set to lapse. Trump extended the restrictions through March 31, two months after he will leave office.

The continuation of the restrictions, which comes with just 20 days left in the President’s term, are the latest effort to bar the entry of immigrants to the country. Restricting immigration has been a focus of the administration since its first days when it issued the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and it has continued into Trump’s final year in office as the White House uses the coronavirus pandemic as cover.

In April, Trump signed an immigration proclamation targeting people outside of the US seeking to legally migrate to the US, with some exceptions. That order, which was set to lapse, was extended in June until the end of 2020 and expanded to include some guest worker visas.

“The effects of COVID-19 on the United States labor market and on the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern,” Trump’s Thursday proclamation read. “The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the World Health Organization, for example, is higher than the comparable number present during June, and while therapeutics and vaccines are recently available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labor market and community health has not yet been fully realized.”

Citing the pandemic’s continued impact on the job market as the reason for the restrictions contradicts the President’s campaign trail refrain that the US was “rounding the turn” of the pandemic and his continued rhetoric that the US has done a great job handling the coronavirus — even as the country continues to set new daily records for deaths and hospitalizations.

The proclamation’s message about the economy is also contradictory for the President. In a video posted to his Twitter account earlier Thursday, in which the President touted the growth of the US economy, he bragged about the unemployment rate and said the number is “heading a lot lower” than the current 6.7%.

As CNN has previously reported, one of the key figures behind the push to limit immigration has been Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser and the architect of the President’s hardline immigration agenda.

Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this story.

Categories
CNN-Politics

Distilleries that made hand sanitizer won’t face hefty fee for helping out during pandemic

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

Distilleries that helped out in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic by making alcohol-based hand sanitizer won’t have to pay a hefty fee the government charged them this week by mistake.

When hand sanitizer was in short supply in March, hundreds of distilleries jumped in and made it themselves. In order to do so, they had to register as drug makers, which have to pay user fees every year to the government.

Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, charged each of the distilleries a $15,000 fee, according to a senior HHS official.

But the department rescinded that fee on Thursday, claiming it was charged to distilleries by mistake.

“Small businesses who stepped up to fight Covid-19 should be applauded by their government, not taxed for doing so. I’m pleased to announce we have directed FDA to cease enforcement of these arbitrary, surprise user fees,” Brian Harrison, HHS’ chief of staff, said in a statement.

“Happy New Year, distilleries, and cheers to you for helping keep us safe!” he added.

Harrison said the distilleries were charged “by mistake” and that the fees were not cleared by HHS leadership.

“Many of these are rather small business, craft distilleries, and their business and livelihoods were damaged when restaurants closed down,” he said. “But they jumped into the fray and joined the fight against Covid. It was nothing short of heroic. They are American heroes.”

As the pandemic set in earlier this year, hand sanitizer supply dropped as people stocked up on it to try to ward off the coronavirus.

To meet the increase in demand, some distillers began using the alcohol in their facilities to create their own alcohol-based solutions. Some packaged it in small bottles, while others encouraged people to bring in their own containers for refills.

“Due to the recent reports of outages and low supply in our community, We have decided to provide hand sanitizer free of charge to anyone in need. Made with aloe vera gel and 95% ethanol,” one such company, Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta, said at the time.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story and headline mischaracterized the type of payments the government had charged distilleries as fines. They were facing fees.

CNN’s Devan Cole and Harmeet Kaur contributed to this report.

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CNN-Politics

Former Pennsylvania Gov. and US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh dead at 88

By Devan Cole, CNN

Richard “Dick” Thornburgh, a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania who went on to serve as US attorney general under two presidents, has died at age 88, according to an announcement from the Pennsylvania governor’s office.

In honor of Thornburgh, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the US and Pennsylvania flags on all commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds to fly at half-staff immediately.

Thornburgh served as Pennsylvania’s governor for two terms between 1979 and 1987. The following year he was tapped by President Ronald Reagan to lead the Justice Department, a position he kept during George H. W. Bush’s administration, until 1991.

“Governor Thornburgh served two terms as governor of Pennsylvania, and calm, grounded leadership was a hallmark of his governorship,” Wolf said in a statement.

Thornburgh’s tenure as governor is marked in part by his management of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear crisis, when a partial meltdown at the plant resulted in the most serious accident at a commercial nuclear power plant in US history.

“He guided Pennsylvania through a tumultuous period in our commonwealth’s history following the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station,” Wolf said. “His was a necessary and steady voice of calm in the midst of crisis … All of Pennsylvania mourns the loss of one of our great public servants.”

The nuclear accident occurred just 71 days after Thornburgh was sworn in as governor. Among some of his early actions during the crisis was his ordering of the evacuation of pregnant women and young children from the area. Though there’s no indication the release of radiation caused any health issues among either employees or the general public, the incident led to stricter federal oversight of nuclear power plants.

Thornburgh also “balanced the state budget each year during his two gubernatorial terms, reduced personal and business tax rates, cut the state’s record high indebtedness, and left a surplus of $350 million,” according to the National Governors Association.

At the Justice Department, Thornburgh focused on white-collar crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, among other issues, according to the NGA.

As Bush’s attorney general, Thornburgh played a key role in the implementation of the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which expanded civil rights protections for Americans with disabilities.

Wolf celebrated Thornburgh’s involvement, saying that “during his tenure, the office of the Attorney General used its power to advocate for the needs of vulnerable Americans.”

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen remembered Thornburgh in a statement Friday as a “brilliant lawyer, a true patriot and a model leader.”

“His contributions to the nation, our department and the legal profession are legendary and the memory of his contributions will live on for generations to come,” Rosen said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph and Christina Carrega contributed to this report.

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CNN-Health

How the effort to vaccinate the elderly is going in some states

By Harmeet Kaur, CNN

As Covid-19 vaccines roll out across the US, some states are already offering shots to people other than health care workers and nursing home residents.

West Virginia recently announced it would start vaccinating some of its elderly population, joining states such as Tennessee, Nevada and Florida in expanding vaccine distribution.

Federal recommendations advise that the first round of vaccines be allocated to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, followed by adults aged 75 and older and “frontline essential workers.” But, in reality, states are free to make their own decisions on who gets vaccinated when.

Leaders in some states have argued that focusing on vaccinating elderly people rather than younger essential workers could help reduce the burdens on their health care systems.

Still, though some governors have expanded who can receive the vaccine at this time, when exactly those people get a shot depends on supplies and how localities administer them.

Here’s how the effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable residents is going in some places.

West Virginia

Residents aged 80 and older became eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine beginning on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced.

Doses for people in that age group were being delivered to 82 organizations, including primary care physicians, health clinics and local health departments, Justice said at a news briefing.

The state is planning several vaccination clinics for people aged 80 and older at National Guard armories and other selected sites around the state, though the clinics have not yet been scheduled.

But though some elderly people in the state are now eligible for the vaccine, it could be some time before they actually get one — at the moment, demand is high and supplies are limited. The number of vaccines available depends on how many West Virginia receives each week from the federal government, according to the governor’s office.

“… Patience is urged while the West Virginia National Guard’s Joint Interagency Task Force finalizes plans for the widespread distribution of vaccines for West Virginians in this age category,” Justice’s office said in the news release.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, which serves the state’s most populous county, said it was flooded with eligible residents eager to get a shot after the governor’s announcement. By the end of Wednesday, it had run out of its allotted appointment times for the following day.

The department has since announced that it expects to receive 500 doses for those 80 and older on Saturday. Eligible residents who wish to be vaccinated should call for an appointment starting at 8 a.m. on Friday, the department said.

Staff at the Berkeley County Health Department pulled a 12-hour shift to coordinate vaccine shipments, schedule appointments and administer doses to eligible members of the community.

Appointments were given on a first-come, first-serve basis and soon, the department announced that it had run out of doses — with no word yet on when it would receive the next shipment as of Thursday morning.

“We understand the desire to get our loved ones vaccinated as soon as possible and are doing our best to ensure we get the vaccines out, based on the priority groups given, as quickly as possible,” the department wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, residents aged 75 years and older are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Wednesday’s announcement came as part of an update to Tennessee’s current vaccination plan, which the health department said was based on new recommendations from the federal government’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and several other groups.

As a part of that update, K-12 teachers and child care workers also moved ahead in the line to receive the vaccine, putting them right behind frontline health care workers.

“COVID-19 vaccines remain limited at this time, and Tennessee’s allocation plan prioritizes those most at risk of illness and death from COVID-19,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said in a statement.

Piercey said that some counties had already started vaccinating elderly residents.

In Hamilton County, lines of cars with people seeking vaccines stretched for miles on Thursday morning.

Wait times were longer than two hours, and at around 10 a.m., the county health department advised people to exit the line and come back at another time. More vaccination slots for eligible residents would likely open up starting January 5, the department said later.

Georgia

Georgians 65 and older, along with law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders, will soon be among those eligible for the vaccine.

State officials announced on Wednesday that those groups could get the vaccine within the next two weeks, as long as the state had enough supplies.

This latest wave of individuals will now be included in the state’s Phase 1A, joining health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities, who have already started getting the vaccine.

The state health department didn’t offer much detail on how it would roll out vaccines to elderly people and first responders. But it appears that when those populations will get a shot will depend on where they live and the availability of vaccines in their area.

Different parts of the state are completing the state’s Phase 1A at different times, based on the number of health care workers and long-term care residents and staff they have to vaccinate, according to Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

“This expansion of 1a eligible vaccination criteria will allow vaccine to be administered as quickly as possible to our most at-risk populations in terms of exposure, transmission and severity,” Toomey said in a statement.

Nevada

Nevada recently updated its distribution plan to prioritize people 75 and older.

Individuals in that age group are now included in Tier 2, meaning that they’ll be vaccinated at the same time as the state’s frontline essential workers. Other people in the Tier 2 category include those who work in the education, agriculture and transportation sectors.

Residents between 65 and 74 years of age and people with underlying health conditions will be part of the Tier 3 group, along with a second group of essential workers.

“It’s important for Nevadans to know that during the time period when COVID vaccines are limited, the allocation is based on scientific data, key ethical principles, federal recommendations, and our unique implementation challenges,” Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted on Wednesday.

But it’s still unclear how exactly those vaccines would be administered to those newly eligible.

Immunization program manager Shannon Bennett said during a news briefing that the state’s vaccine distribution plan “continues to be fluid.”

“As more doses of the vaccine are received in Nevada and distributed to counties, some regions of the state may move into the next tier sooner than others, based on factors such as population size and vaccine demand and the tier group,” Bennett said.

As of Tuesday, more than 25,000 doses have been administered and reported across the state, Sisolak said.

Vaccination at assisted living facilities will start next week, the governor said.

Florida

Florida, which has among the highest proportion of residents over the age of 65, is prioritizing vaccinating the elderly over essential workers.

But in practice, getting shots in the arms of those residents has been more complicated.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has left it up to each county health department to decide how it administers the vaccines. The approach has created a mass scramble for a limited number of doses, with hourslong wait times at vaccination sites and overburdened county hotlines and websites.

In southwest Florida, huge lines formed overnight Tuesday after the Lee County Department of Health announced that anyone 65 and older and high-risk frontline health care workers could receive a vaccine on a first-come, first serve basis.

Each of the county’s seven vaccination sites had just 300 doses, leading people to camp out on lawn chairs and wait for hours.

Other counties have tried to set up vaccination appointments for those who sign up online or through a hotline.

In Orange County, the department of health set up an online portal to make vaccination appointments, and 30,000 appointments were scheduled in the last 24 hours. The county then said it reached capacity and closed its online portal on Wednesday.

In Palm Beach County, the department of health directed people 65 and older to call an appointment hotline to get their vaccine. But the hotline can only handle 150 calls at a time and was being overwhelmed, the county said.

And in South Florida, Broward Health said all of its appointments are booked until February.

Some vaccine recipients said that though they considered themselves lucky, the process of distributing the shots could be improved.

“Although I’m grateful to get the vaccine, I feel that there’s got to be a better way to distribute this,” Bruce Scott, who received the vaccine at a site in Fort Myers, told CNN.

“For people that really need it, elderly that might be disabled in some way, they can’t endure this process, so there’s got to be a better way to manage this.”

CNN’s Carma Hassan, Rebekah Riess, Gisela Crespo, Tina Burnside, Eric Levenson, Angela Barajas and Ryan Young contributed to this report.

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CNN-Politics

Pence asks judge to reject Gohmert lawsuit asking the VP to interfere in the Electoral College count

By Dan Berman

Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyers asked a federal judge Thursday to reject a request from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas that attempts to force Pence to ignore electoral votes of several key states when Congress meets to certify the 2020 presidential election next week.

Pence argues that the legal issues raised by Gohmert, along with a slate of Arizona Republicans, should be addressed to the House and Senate (if they should be raised at all).

Gohmert’s lawsuit is a last-gasp attempt by Republicans to persuade Pence to interfere in the declaration of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and flip the election for President Donald Trump. The brief, filed with the Eastern District of Texas, does not say if Pence would entertain that possibility, but there is no public indication he will.

“Plaintiffs have presented this Court with an emergency motion raising a host of weighty legal issues about the manner in which the electoral votes for President are to be counted,” Pence’s filing states. “But these plaintiffs’ suit is not a proper vehicle for addressing those issues because plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendant.”

Pence later adds: “(A) suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction.”

The lawsuit falsely claims the election was stolen by Democrats, citing unproven allegations of fraud that federal and state courts have rejected again and again. Gohmert and the Republicans argue that the Electoral Count Act unconstitutionally binds Pence to the Electoral College count certified by the states, saying that Pence has “exclusive authority and sole discretion” to count the states’ electoral votes.

“Under the Twelfth Amendment, Defendant Pence alone has the exclusive authority and sole discretion to open and permit the counting of the electoral votes for a given state, and where there are competing slates of electors, or where there is objection to any single slate of electors, to determine which electors’ votes, or whether none, shall be counted,” the suit argues.

Pence’s filing pointed out the irony of Gohmert’s argument. “Ironically, Representative Gohmert’s position, if adopted by the Court, would actually deprive him of his opportunity as a Member of the House under the Electoral Count Act to raise objections to the counting of electoral votes, and then to debate and vote on them.”

At least 140 House Republicans are expected to vote against counting the electoral votes on January 6, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported Thursday. Gohmert has said he will be one of them.

There have been no credible allegations of any issues with voting that would have impacted the election, as affirmed by dozens of state and federal courts, governors, state election officials and the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the votes. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said Wednesday he will object, which will force lawmakers in both the House and Senate to vote on whether to accept the results of Biden’s victory.

The Justice Department gave the White House a heads up earlier this week that the Pence filing was coming, according to a person familiar with the matter. Word was sent to chief of staff Mark Meadows that the department would be asking the judge to reject the lawsuit. White House counsel Pat Cipollone was also aware it was coming.

It’s not clear whether Trump, who remains furious at the Justice Department for its perceived inaction on voter fraud, was informed himself. He has taken an interest in Pence’s role during the January 6 proceedings, though Pence and others at the White House have tried to explain to him that it’s merely a ceremonial post.

House General Counsel Doug Letter filed an amicus brief with the court on Thursday, asking for the Gohmert case to be dismissed, calling it a “radical departure from our constitutional procedures and consistent legislative practices.”

“This Court should dismiss the complaint and deny the extraordinary and unprecedented relief requested: a declaration that the Electoral Count Act is unconstitutional and an injunction that would interfere with the time-honored procedures of Congress for counting electoral votes. Plaintiffs lack standing; their claims are barred by laches; and their legal and constitutional claims—which this Court should not reach—lack merit,” Letter stated.

“At bottom, this litigation seeks to enlist the federal courts in a belated and meritless assault on longstanding constitutional processes for confirming the results of a national election for President,” the House attorney added.

The Trump campaign is also continuing its quest at the Supreme Court with the same baseless and unproven voter fraud claims. It twice this week asked the court to overturn Biden’s win in Wisconsin. Other cases from the President and his allies looking to throw out Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona are pending on the court’s docket.

Also Thursday, attorney Alan Kennedy, an elector for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Colorado, asked to join the lawsuit to oppose Gohmert.

“(N)either the Constitution nor Electoral Count Act offer any basis for claims by people who are not duly elected and certified presidential electors to replace duly elected and certified presidential electors solely because such non-electors were not elected, but would have liked to have been elected, resulting in their preferred candidates losing re-election,” Kennedy said in court papers. “Plaintiffs’ claims to the contrary find no support in the text of the cited constitutional provisions or the Electoral Count Act, and are contrary to the whole point of holding elections.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, Kristin Wilson and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Categories
CNN-National & Wolrd

NYPD releases video it says shows woman attacking Black musician’s son after falsely accusing him of stealing her iPhone

By Kristina Sgueglia, Melanie Schuman, Brynn Gingras and Ray Sanchez, CNN

The New York Police Department has asked for the public’s help in locating a woman it says is seen in a short security video clip attacking the son of a prominent Black musician after she falsely accused the teen of taking her iPhone.

The video was tweeted late Wednesday by NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, who wrote: “The woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone. She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene.”

The video includes an image of the woman above the word “Wanted.”

The tweet comes days after award-winning jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold posted his own phone video showing the woman making claims against his son on Saturday at the Arlo SoHo boutique hotel.

Police previously told CNN they know the identity of the woman and wanted to speak with her about the incident. The NYPD would not comment on whether she is wanted for questioning or whether charges are forthcoming.

Harrison tweeted the clip with multiple hotel camera angles, showing a woman in a light-colored cap rushing at someone who appears to be Harrison’s son in a red cap. The woman grabs him by the waist and the two fall to the floor.

CNN has requested the unedited video from both the NYPD and the Arlo Hotel and both declined to provide a copy.

Harrold and his son are Black and were guests at the hotel in lower Manhattan. The ethnicity of the woman in the video is not clear, although New York police described her as White.

Harrold’s video of the encounter has been widely shared on social media, prompting an outcry about what many felt was yet another incident of racial profiling against Black men. The hotel apologized and called the woman’s behavior a “baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest.”

Harrold said in an Instagram post that he and his son had left their hotel room to get breakfast when they encountered the woman.

The parents of the teenager, Keyon Harrold Jr., and their attorney Ben Crump said Wednesday they were meeting with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. They told CNN’s Don Lemon that the DA told them the video is worse than what the father posted on Instagram on Sunday.

The parents and their lawyer contend the incident was a racially motivated, but the NYPD said Tuesday it is not being investigated as a bias crime.

After viewing surveillance video, investigators are considering charging the woman with assault and possibly grand larceny or attempted robbery, Harrison said Tuesday.

The woman’s phone was returned to her at the hotel moments after the incident by a ride-share vehicle she used before trying to check in to the hotel, according to Harrison.

The woman has not come forward, but CNN on Tuesday was the first news organization to talk to her by phone. She disputed Harrold’s account of what happened.

While the 22-year-old woman claimed she was assaulted during the altercation, CNN hasn’t been able to corroborate her account with investigators or with the hotel where the incident took place.

In a 20-minute phone interview in which she acted erratically and was rambling at times, she said the incident unfolded after she first demanded to see the hotel’s surveillance video to try to pinpoint who may have taken her phone.

She says she then asked someone else in the hotel lobby to “empty their pocket,” before ultimately confronting Keyon Harrold Jr., who she maintained had her phone in his pocket.

“That’s when everything got a little bit more serious,” the woman said referring to the interaction.

The woman said she would be willing to cooperate, speak with the NYPD and the Harrold family. CNN has made repeated and unsuccessful attempts to contact the woman since Tuesday.

CNN’s Faith Karimi, Carma Hassan and Nakia McNabb contributed to this report.

Categories
CNN-Politics

John Roberts praises ‘unsung heroes’ of pandemic and sidesteps election controversies in annual report

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Chief Justice John Roberts sidestepped the roiling controversy over election results on Thursday instead using his annual report to recall the nation’s early history combating pandemics and to praise the “unsung heroes” in the judicial branch as they confronted Covid-19.

Roberts’ report reflects a clear desire to keep the court and its work out of the headlines at a fraught time while carefully and deliberately ignoring attacks from President Donald Trump, who recently tweeted that the Supreme Court has been “totally incompetent and weak” for failing to act on his erroneous claims of massive election fraud.

Trump and his allies have suffered blistering losses in the courts, but continue to petition for the justices to overrule election results. This week, the Trump campaign launched two appeals targeting returns in battleground state of Wisconsin, even though the justices have sent a clear signal that they are uninterested in attempts to overturn the election.

Roberts, who submits an annual report on the state of the federal judiciary, chose to begin his 2021 edition by describing how more than 200 years ago John Jay, the nation’s first chief justice, traveled the country during a deadly spread of the flu.

In 1790, Jay wrote from Connecticut that “almost every Family here is down with the Influenza” and later told his wife that “the Whole Country has been sick,” including President George Washington.

Three years later it was Jay who had to adjourn the court due to the yellow fever epidemic that killed 5,000 of Philadelphia’s 50,000 residents. In 1918, the court was once again closed with an outbreak of the Spanish flu.

Roberts said that advancements in medicine have diminished pandemic threats — until now.

“For the past ten months, it has been all hands on deck for the courts, as our branch of government confronted the COVID-19 pandemic” he wrote.

He noted that while most courts worked remotely, they managed to hold oral arguments by teleconference, made video and audio conferences available for certain criminal proceedings and carried out critical court functions “from their home offices — or their kitchen tables.” He said that courts in Michigan and Florida held drive-thru naturalization ceremonies, while San Francisco courts held proceedings outdoors when possible.

Roberts’ message is a departure from last year, when he said Americans in the modern era have come to “take democracy for granted,” and lamented that civic education has “fallen by the wayside.”

“In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital,” Roberts wrote on December 31, 2019.

The Supreme Court has been holding oral arguments by telephone during the pandemic, allowing the public to listen in real time.

The justices are on their usual winter break, although they will be back at work on January 8 for their regularly scheduled private conference that will be conducted by telephone.

Categories
CNN-Regional

Family ‘grateful’ for off-duty Boston officer who stopped dog from mauling child

By WCVB Staff

Click here for updates on this story

    BOSTON (WCVB) — An 11-year-old boy had surgery Wednesday after he was mauled by a dog in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, according to authorities.

Boston police Commissioner William Gross says an off-duty police officer heard the sounds of screaming in the area of Davidson Avenue and Rockfield Terrace at 12:09 p.m. Wednesday, and the officer saw a pit bull attacking the child in the back yard of an apartment building.

According to Gross, the officer intervened and fired his department-issued gun in order to stop the attack from continuing. It is not clear at this time if the dog or child was struck by gunfire, the commissioner says.

The boy was taken to an area hospital by Boston Emergency Medical Services. Gross says the child suffered bites to his neck, arm and groin, and is being treated for “vicious injuries.”

“Thank God the officer was there to intervene because if he didn’t, the dog was going to continue to attack this child,” Gross said.

The family of the boy released a statement Wednesday night, echoing the sentiments of the police commissioner. “The family is grateful for the police hero who rescued our son,” the statement read in part. “God pour out all the blessing on him and his family.”

“We need to be really grateful that a Boston police officer intervened in this circumstance,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins. “There’s an 11-year-old child we are hopeful will make it, but has been harmed significantly. But for the bravery of this officer, we might be having a very different press conference right now.”

Gross says there was another pit bull present during the attack, but that dog was being restrained by a person and did not attack the boy. If the second dog was not restrained, the commissioner said he was “confident” that it also would have attacked the child.

According to Gross, both dogs are being detained by authorities and police have received several calls regarding unleashed dogs in the area where the attack happened.

The officer was taken to the hospital for observation.

No charges have been filed at this time.

The shooting will be investigated by the Boston police Firearms Discharge Investigative Team, which will report to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Later in the day, Gross said that police learned the boy and the dog that attacked him live in the same apartment building, but it is not clear if they lived in the same household.

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