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Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms contracts COVID-19

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 21:34

FILE - In this July 17, 2019, file photo, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during a Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington. Bottoms announced Monday, July 6, 2020, that she had tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Andrew Harnik/)

ATLANTA — Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

The 50-year-old Democrat is among the women named as a potential vice-presidential running mate for presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden.

"COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive," Bottoms tweeted.

She told MSNBC that she decided her family members should get tested again because her husband "literally has been sleeping since Thursday." She said the only other symptoms she and her husband have been experienced are those similar to allergies they have.

"It leaves me for a loss for words because I think it really speaks to how contagious this virus is," Bottoms told MSNBC. "We've taken all of the precautions that you can possibly take. We wear masks, we're very thoughtful about washing our hands, I have no idea when and where we were exposed."

Bottoms' national profile has risen in recent months both as a mayor handling the coronavirus pandemic and amid the national reckoning on race that has followed a white Minneapolis police officer's killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25.

A first-term mayor, Bottoms issued a firm plea for peaceful protest as demonstrators gathered on downtown streets after Floyd's killing — and urged the protesters to get tested for COVID-19. She invoked Atlanta's civil rights history and her personal experience as the mother of Black sons. She won plaudits from progressives after firing Atlanta officers for using excessive force during the protests.

She has also been noted for earlier criticizing Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on his slowness to order Georgians to shelter in place and his quickness to lift that order.

Bottoms was an early and vocal supporter of Biden, who has been considering Bottoms as his possible vice presidential running mate in his own presidential bid.

Violence in the city has grown worse since protesters burned down a fast food restaurant where a white officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks after he seized a stun gun and ran. Armed people have been manning roadblocks at the site and an 8-year-old girl was shot dead near the site on Saturday. At the same time, some police officers have been refusing to answer calls, angry that the district attorney has charged officers in the Brooks shooting.

Atlanta police again broke up the roadblocks at the site Monday, but that wasn’t enough for Kemp, who said he was mobilizing up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a spike in shootings in Atlanta.


Man indicted for murder after body found under floorboards of Wasilla home

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 20:40

Daniel Roy Buckwalter, 46, of Big Lake, had been missing for nearly five years before investigators say they found his remains underneath the floorboards of a Wasilla man’s home.

A Palmer grand jury has now indicted the man, Jay Osmond Gardner, 55, with the first- and second-degree murder of Buckwalter, according to an Alaska State Troopers report. Gardner is also charged with tampering with physical evidence, troopers said.

Gardner had long been a suspect in Buckwalter’s disappearance, which troopers declared a death investigation in 2016.


Daniel Buckwalter, 46, was last heard from Aug. 4; he was reported missing Aug. 12, with his vehicle found in the Meadow Lakes area on the same day. Alaska State Troopers now say Buckwalter's disappearance apparently occurred under "suspicious circumstances," and ask anyone with information on him to call Palmer troopers at 745-2131.

Investigators on April 20 dismantled floorboards at Gardner’s residence on Kerry Lynn Lane, in Wasilla, troopers said in the report. Buried beneath about 3 feet of dirt and rocks they found the “heavily decomposed remains of an adult human,” troopers said. The state medical examiner later determined the remains to be Buckwalter, troopers said.

The medical examiner determined Buckwalter died from a gunshot wound and asphyxiation, troopers said. His death was a homicide, troopers said.

Investigators had made multiple previous attempts to find Buckwalter’s remains at various locations in the Mat-Su, including an April 6 search during which Gardner’s property was excavated but no remains discovered, troopers said.

Gardner has been in state custody since Alaska State Troopers arrested him on March 25 at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage for an outstanding felony warrant for a charge of misconduct involving weapons. Gardner said he was attempting to flee the state under a false identity, troopers said.

A federal affidavit shows that Gardner had been using a fraudulent ID with the name of a woman he said is his sister at the airport. He was charged in federal court last month with the felony crimes of identity theft and making false statements.

But the affidavit in that federal case also reveals other details about the circumstances of Buckwalter’s death and the investigation.

According to the affidavit, Gardner was identified as a primary suspect in 2015 after Buckwalter’s vehicle was found near Gardner’s home.

Buckwalter was last seen on August 4, 2015, and was reported missing several days later on Aug. 12, according to the state troopers’ report. He was believed to be heading to the Meadow Lakes area near Wasilla at the time of his disappearance, troopers said.

[Related: Affidavit on the arrest of Jay Osmond Gardner]

Six days before he had been reported missing, Buckwalter’s vehicle had been found abandoned on Three Bees Road and impounded, troopers said. Investigators later linked the vehicle to his disappearance and found blood evidence inside, according to troopers. DNA testing confirmed that the blood was Buckwalter’s, troopers said. His vehicle had also been moved from the initial crime scene, they said.

According to troopers and the affidavit, investigators believe that Gardner’s home is the scene of Buckwalter’s death. Investigators also believe that Gardner participated in removing Buckwalter’s vehicle from his property after he was killed.

Blood revealed to be Buckwalter’s by DNA testing was found at Gardner’s home, where investigators saw Gardner sawing wood at the residence to cover up a remaining blood stain in the driveway, according to the affidavit.

Gardner also made “several inconsistent statements” during the investigation, according to the state troopers report.

According to the affidavit, when questioned by investigators, Gardner admitted that Buckwalter owed him and another man money for drugs, and that on the day of Buckwalter’s disappearance Gardner had convinced the Buckwalter to come over to his residence.

Gardner then said he alerted the other man to Buckwalter’s arrival and that two others came over to his property, according to the affidavit. Gardner said he then went inside his home while the others remained outside and then heard a gunshot and looked outside to see Buckwalter was “shot and running around.”

Troopers said Buckwalter was likely killed at a home on Kerry Lynn Lane in Wasilla, about 2 miles from where Buckwalter’s vehicle was found.

During the investigation into Buckwalter’s disappearance, investigators interviewed more than 50 people, served more than 30 search warrants and sent more than 30 pieces of forensic evidence to the State of Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, according to troopers.

The affidavit shows that Gardner may also be connected to a Nov. 2, 2019 triple-homicide; an eyewitness for Alaska State Troopers identified him as present during the homicide, but Gardner later told troopers that he been at home and did not witness the murders, according to the affidavit.

Gardner is currently being held without bail, troopers said.

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Anchorage bar owners push back at city for naming them as places where people were exposed to COVID-19

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 20:29

“I feel like the bar industry is being singled out,” said bartender Saverio Logatto outside The Cabin Tavern in Muldoon on Monday, July 6, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

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Still reeling from an eight-week closure this spring followed by weeks of mandated limited capacity, Anchorage bar owners looked to the summer as a way to get back on track during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But after city and state leaders lifted business restrictions and COVID-19 case numbers rose, the Municipality of Anchorage on Friday released a list of bars where people with the coronavirus spent an extended period of time.

The next day, July 4, usually brings throngs of partiers to local watering holes.

“We just had the slowest Fourth of July weekend in history,” said Danny Zivanich, owner of F Street Station and Cabin Tavern. “That’s 39 years. I bet you every bar in town is the same way.”

F Street Station and the Cabin Tavern are among the 17 Anchorage bars and other establishments where between one and eight people believed to have the virus visited in mid- and late June, according to the city. Both of Zivanich’s bars were identified as being visited by two people with COVID-19.


Jenni Sottile, a bartender at the Cabin Tavern in Muldoon, said “I feel bad about the businesses that have been singled out and lost business.” (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Zivanich and other bar owners on Monday said they think bars were singled out, while other businesses may have had multiple instances of COVID-19 exposure, but the city has not released their names.

[Related: Number of Alaska COVID-19 patients hospitalized reaches new high]

“They blame the bars for everything,” Zivanich said. “Why don’t they name every business where people get he coronavirus, not just the bars?”

The naming of locations came after the city announced it had maxed out on its ability to contact trace. In its Friday announcement, the city said it hasn’t been able to identify and reach every person who might have been in contact with the infectious people at the bars, and it urged people who visited the establishments during the exposure period to monitor for symptoms.

[Related: Anchorage names more than a dozen businesses with COVID-19 exposure, urges monitoring and testing]

In a Twitter post on Saturday, Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, asked people to avoid indoor bars.

It is time to pull back and slow down. Don't go to indoor bars, pick up food instead of dine in, air hugs instead of real hugs, elbow bumps instead of handshakes. Take care of your physical and mental health while minimizing the spread of COVID. 6/

— Anne Zink (@annezinkmd) July 4, 2020

Anchorage Health Department Director Natasha Pineda on Wednesday called bars a “high-risk” setting. She said in recent weeks, people who are contagious have visited several businesses, including bars, where they potentially came in contact with more than 100 people.

Dr. Bruce Chandler, the city’s chief medical officer, said at the same briefing that people at bars often don’t wear masks, and they get close to each other and sing and dance.

“I have great concern for the safety of the people who work in the bars,” Chandler said. “They’re really working in a danger zone.”

[Virus cases tied to Anchorage bars prompt calls for businesses to step up precautions]

City officials were not available for interviews Monday, said Carolyn Hall, spokeswoman for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The city did not respond to emailed questions from the Daily News.

Hall said she is not aware of the city previously naming a business where the virus potentially spread, other than discussing an outbreak at the Providence Transitional Care Center in May and June.

On Friday, Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, said on Facebook that Berkowitz “crossed the line” in naming the bars, and encouraged the owners to take “whatever legal recourse necessary.”

By Monday, the post garnered almost 300 shares and more than 700 comments, many of which were critical of Hughes. Hughes did not respond to a request for an interview.

The state’s hospitality and entertainment industry trade group issued a statement on Monday evening criticizing the city’s decision to release the names of bars that had exposure, while not naming points of exposure in other business sectors.

“Alaska CHARR finds it extremely concerning that to date, the only business types listed are those in the hospitality industry — namely bars and restaurants,” Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association President Sarah Oates said in the statement. “It appears as if one industry — arguably that which has been most devastated by this pandemic — is being unfairly targeted, at a time when public exposure is occurring in many other types of establishments, settings, and public gatherings.”

Oates said her organization had worked with the city to implement new guidelines for bars and restaurants to help slow the virus.


The Anchorage Moose Lodge #1534 on Arctic Boulevard, July 3, 2020. (Anne Raup / ADN)

The Anchorage Moose Lodge No. 1534, which the city said Friday had eight cases of exposure, has since temporarily shut down. The establishment is different from most bars in that it’s a private club. Moose Lodge Gov. Jamie Miller said the organization has worked hard to implement safety precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.

When three lodge members reported testing positive last week, the organization canceled a horseshoe event, Miller said.

Pineda last Wednesday said during the community briefing that if businesses didn’t announce the exposures to customers, the city would step in.

[Seward requires face coverings, bans large gatherings and limits camping amid COVID-19 outbreak]

Miller said he isn’t aware of the city having any communication with the Moose Lodge, and he didn’t find out about the eight case visits until the city publicly announced it.

“I believe it could have been done a different way,” he said.

Miller said the organization is serious about protecting its members. He sees people around town in grocery stores and other businesses not wearing masks. While he said he can’t speak for the entire organization, he said he personally didn’t appreciate the city putting a spotlight on one sector of the economy.

“I felt it was kind of an unfair way to just segregate one part of an industry,” he said. “It would have been nice if we’d seen it in advance, just so we can let the city know what we’re doing.”


JJ's Lounge in Muldoon on Monday, July 6, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Jerry Buffington is owner of the Panhandle Bar and part-owner of JJ’s Lounge, both of which the city says had six case visits.

Buffington said he and his employees are washing their hands and cleaning surfaces. When a bartender tested positive last month, they shut down for about a week to clean.

“We are doing everything right here,” he said. “If everybody was doing what we do, everything would be all right.”

He said he’s trying to take care of his customers and follow the guidance put out by the city. If a new precaution is advised, he’ll implement that too. He said his customers, for the most part, are behaving safely.

“We are doing a pretty good job at that,” he said. “Most of them like the compliance factor. Those that want to disagree, go and take a walk down the street.”

John Pattee, owner of the Gaslight Bar, said he thinks naming the bars is not fair.

“It seems to me that it was never (the mayor’s) intent to try and curve the COVID, but his intent was to close bars,” Pattee said.

Pattee said he’s followed the city guidelines and implemented social distancing policies. Over the holiday weekend, business was down about 60%.

Pattee said after bars were singled out, everyone is looking at the industry as the bad actor.

“Just pointing out the bars, and kind of giving us a scarlet letter on our forehead,” he said. “It’s wrong. If you are going to start naming places, name them all.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that three Moose Lodge staff members had tested positive. Three lodge members tested positive.

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Here’s what to do when you suspect your employee is lying about testing positive for COVID-19

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 20:07

When your employee or coworker calls to let you know he tested positive for COVID-19, you respond immediately with sympathy and worry, and then spring into action and offer what help you can. If you are his employer, you tell your employee to take care of himself, let him know you can provide two weeks of paid leave and reassure him you will hold his job for him. If you are his coworker, you offer to drop off groceries or whatever else he needs on his porch. You wonder if you are infected and have brought COVID-19 home to your family.

If you are the employer, you notify your other employees, many of whom are frightened; some say you should have done more to protect them. Depending on their level of contact, you let them know whether they need to get tested. You notify any customers and let them know you will keep them informed; you know you will lose some of them. You call a cleaning firm and ask them to come as soon as possible. If you are a coworker, you immediately step up your personal sanitizing precautions to safeguard your family.

If you are the employer, only later do you remember to ask your employee to send you his medical paperwork. When he does, you notice something odd about the medical provider’s letterhead. If your company has been swimming upstream against the rapids, what you learn after that may knock you sideways a second time.

In April, the FBI warned employers to be alert for employees who submit fraudulent COVID-19 claims. The FBI warning described a Fortune 500 manufacturing facility worker who faked a positive COVID-19 test result. As a result, his employer shut down their facility and suffered a $175,000 productivity loss. One of the employee’s coworkers lost money as well, because he paid for a rental property to self-quarantine himself so he could safeguard his family.

In a similar case, police in in South Carolina cited an employee who submitted fake documentation to his employer, resulting in his employer’s call center being shut down for five days to disinfect the facility. And in Toronto, an 18-year-old McDonald’s employee submitted a fake doctor’s note, resulting in her coworkers’ isolating. Her restaurant had to be sanitized and was closed for several days.

Here’s the new, unexpected challenge — How do employers protect themselves and their employees from both COVID-19 and the stray coworker who selfishly and falsely claims COVID-19? First, employers need to continue placing safety first. If an employee says he has tested positive for COVID-19, send him and others who’ve been in contact with him home. Close your workplace until you can ensure it has been fully disinfected.

Second, examine the documents your employee provides, and if you have questions contact the medical provider listed to confirm their legitimacy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially asked employers to eliminate barriers that might prevent infected employees from remaining home by not requiring sick employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or health care provider’s note to validate their illness and qualify for sick leave, but an employee who has tested positive can generally produce documentation. Further, employers can require documentation confirming the employee’s need for paid time off or leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or FFCRA. Employers may later require their employees to provide medical documentation of his COVID-19-free status.

Next, while you don’t want to punish an employee who genuinely fears he has COVID-19, because you want them to remain home to heal and to protect your other employees, you need to ensure that your leave policies include rules outlining the consequences for providing false documentation. These policies would allow you to fire an employee who knowingly falsely reports he has COVID-19.

Letter: Restoring compassion

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 19:14

I woke up on Independence Day thinking about my grandma repeating, in her sweet enthusiastic voice, “Celebrate the Fourth!” My family did just that, with watermelon and homemade ice cream. There was swimming, flag waving and fireworks, always a happy time.

I am grateful to my son, my dad and my grandpa for their sacrifice in defending our country. With that background, I feel sad today for the state of our nation. I am reminded of the day of our last presidential election. I was questioned by a TV reporter who asked how I was feeling. My response was simply that I was sad, sad that so many people care so little about their neighbors that they would vote for a candidate who, in my mind, clearly had nothing but his own self-interest in mind.

Last night’s performance again brought to mind Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” People were cheering for the hypocrisy of conservative ideals: All people, born and unborn, are precious, but we have the right to bear arms. I don’t need a mask because God will protect me, but I need a gun. Government can’t tell me I need to wear a mask; it’s my choice, but government can tell me not to use birth control. Anything that helps our most vulnerable people is socialism, but my tax dollars can be spent for a campaign rally.

I have to have faith that the coming election will bring back some compassion and integrity to our government. Please be sure to vote.

Susan Lee Gilleland

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Alaska’s last remaining big-ship cruises of 2020 have been canceled

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 18:34

Juneau's cruise ship docks are seen empty on Monday, April 27, 2020, as the downtown Juneau Public Library displays a message urging residents to stay at home. (James Brooks / ADN)

Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled the last remaining big-ship voyages of Alaska’s 2020 cruise ship season, saying in a written statement that it is suspending all of its cruises through the end of September, plus its three October sailings to Alaska.

Carnival Cruise Line canceled its sailings in early May, as did Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. Celebrity Cruises, a division of Royal Caribbean, canceled its Alaska sailings one month later, as did Disney.

“This effectively cancels all of the large-ship cruise passengers as projected ... in 2020,” wrote Kirby Day, head of government and community relations in Alaska for Holland America and Princess, in an email Monday.

Day estimated that the cancellations mean over 1 million tourists will not be visiting Alaska this summer as scheduled.

Those missed trips will have a massive impact on Alaska’s economy. In Juneau alone, Day estimated a $225 million economic hit, using estimates from the McDowell Group, a research firm.

[First Alaska ferry passenger with COVID-19 confirmed in traveler from Washington state]

A handful of small-cruise operators are unaffected by no-sail public health orders in Canada and the United States and remain on the summer schedule, but their voyages are uncertain.

Lindblad Expeditions, which operates National Geographic cruises, has canceled its sailings through mid-August. American Cruise Lines, which said it intended June sailings, later recanted and has now suspended sailings through June 23. UnCruise Adventures, which has laid up one of its ships in Juneau, has suspended sailings through July 25.

“With the pending small-ship traffic, there is still a potential of approximately 2,500 cruise visitors for 2020, which continues to be beneficial to the health of our economy,” Day wrote by email.

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Letter: Be a louder voice

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 18:09

For a month, I read each and every story of survivors, both men and women, who have survived sexual assault. When I received my July 1 paper, I was moved by the large white front page. "This space is dedicated to those not yet ready to share. We are leaving this open for you." It was moving.

Yet, by Thursday of the same week, the ADN buried the story of 10-year-old Ida Aguchak, who was kidnapped, sexually abused and killed by an 18-year-old man from her own village. Her killer was indicted on Tuesday.

ADN, be a louder voice for others like Ida who will never get a chance to voice their own story. Put such stories on the front page, not on pages opposite the comics pages.

Erin J. Knotek

Moose Pass

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Ravn Air Group to be auctioned in closed-door event Tuesday

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:52

Some of the Ravn Connect Part 135 aircraft that serve rural Alaska have been parked at Palmer Municipal Airport on Thursday, April 2, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Fourteen bidders are interested in at least part of Alaska’s largest rural air carrier, but the winners may not be known until Wednesday.

Ravn Air Group, including PenAir, RavnAir Alaska and RavnAir Connect, declared bankruptcy in April and will be sold at auction in a private event on Tuesday. Neither attorneys nor the auction’s administrator responded to questions on Tuesday, but Debbie Reinwand, a spokeswoman for Ravn, said the auction is closed to the public.

A list of prospective bidders has not been made public.

In a written statement, RAVN said the airline’s creditors set a minimum price of $43 million for all of the airline’s assets, making it more likely that Ravn will be broken up.

Dave Pflieger, Ravn’s president and CEO, said that while there is “a great deal of interest from other airlines in Alaska in purchasing Ravn’s assets,” he hopes there will be bids that allow some or all of the company’s airlines to continue operating.

Court proceedings have been held in Delaware, and a hearing has been scheduled for 7 a.m. Alaska time on Wednesday to finalize the results of the auction.

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Number of Alaska COVID-19 patients hospitalized reaches new high

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:46

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The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alaska hit a new high, with 16 residents sick enough to require medical attention as of Monday.

The state also logged a new record of 622 residents with active infections, while 526 people have recovered from the virus. As of Saturday, there were more infected Alaskans than recovered ones for the first time since the pandemic spiked here in April.

It wasn’t clear how many of the people with active infections are showing symptoms or, if so, how sick they are.

But the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association on Monday reported 16 people positive for COVID-19 who are hospitalized, the largest number reported since March, state officials say. There are 25 people hospitalized with either a positive diagnosis or a case under investigation.

Until then, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Alaskas remained in the single digits on any given day, according to hospital association data. As last week began, there were anywhere from three to five COVID-19 hospital patients each day.

“And then we got into double digits starting July 3,” said Jared Kosin, association president and CEO. “And we’ve been in double digits since.”

Alaska logged single-digit daily case increases for weeks until the state lifted most coronavirus restrictions in late May. Officials blamed Memorial Day gatherings for a number of new cases. Testing requirements for seafood industry workers and incoming travelers also led to a spate of positive results.

Most recently, health officials late last week identified more than a dozen establishments, mostly bars, where infected people spent enough time to possibly spread the virus.

Nine of the 16 people hospitalized with coronavirus on Monday were in Anchorage hospitals. Four were in Mat-Su, two in Fairbanks, and one in a region including the Kenai Peninsula, Cordova and Valdez.

The numbers are small compared to more populated states with surging COVID-19 cases like Texas or Arizona. And Alaska’s overall hospital capacity for now remains healthy in terms of beds including in the ICU, Kosin said.

What he and hospital CEOs and administrators are watching is the combination of rising patient numbers and the state’s growing COVID-19 cases. If the patient counts start increasing rapidly, that could stress hospital capacity and trigger surge plans, Kosin said.

“The good news is capacity is still intact ... but obviously we do not want to see hospitalizations with COVID going up,” he said. “It’s not what we want. And they are starting to go up.”

Sixteen Alaskans have died with the virus. The state reported two new hospitalizations on Sunday, for a total of 74 since the pandemic began in March.

The new hospital count comes as confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska continue to rise and health workers can’t keep up with the contact tracing that’s considered an integral part of the state’s strategy to contain the virus.

The state reported 30 new infections reported in Alaska on Monday, including 28 residents and two nonresidents, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard.


By location
Hospital resources

Nineteen of the new cases were in Anchorage. There was also one new case each in Kenai, Seward, Sterling and Wasilla, with three new cases reported in Fairbanks, and two in North Pole.

In Alaska’s largest city, where the majority of recent coronavirus cases have been identified, local health officials said over the weekend they are no longer able to keep up with current demand for contact tracing. The influx in cases has put a stress on the system, the Anchorage Health Department said in an update sent out on Sunday.

The state’s health structure is also under extreme strain, chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink told federal lawmakers late last week, Politico reported.

“Our cases are increasing, our public health staff is exhausted, and people are having bigger and bigger group gatherings,” Zink said during a Senate roundtable. “It used to be to get four or five contacts, and now you have 50 or 100 or ‘I don’t want to talk to you on the phone.’ And so the ability to trace is becoming incredibly challenging.”

[Influx of virus cases pushes Anchorage’s contact tracing capacity to its limit]

Part of the problem is a lack of resources, officials say. Last week in Anchorage, just 15 municipal workers were tasked with monitoring more than 500 people who had tested positive for the virus or may have come into close contact with someone who had, according to the health department update. There’s currently a two to three day delay in conducting interviews of new cases to determine how they became infected, and who they might have contacted.

“It takes a long time to interview each case and collect all their information and contacts,” Dr. Bruce Chandler, the city’s chief medical officer, said at a community briefing last week. “It’s not one short phone call and you’re done.”

The percentage of tests that came back positive, however, increased only slightly last week, at 1.6 percent, up from .8 percent from the week before.

Overall, Monday’s case counts reflect a slight drop in new cases after record-breaking daily highs reported late last week, in advance of the holiday weekend.

The Kenai Peninsula city of Seward rose from a handful of cases in early June to 43 this week including two new cases reported Monday by the state and a third reported by city officials.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 1,166 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alaska including 955 residents and 239 nonresidents.

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States mandate masks, begin to shut down again as coronavirus cases soar and hospitalizations rise

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:45

A health care worker works at a COVID-19 testing site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinica Campesina Health Center, during the coronavirus pandemic, Monday, July 6, 2020, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky/)

The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders.

After an Independence Day weekend that attracted large crowds to fireworks displays and produced scenes of Americans drinking and partying without masks, health officials warned of hospitals running out of space and infection spreading rampantly. The United States is "still knee deep in the first wave" of the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, said Monday

Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down - and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens - U.S. communities "never came down to baseline and now are surging back up," he said in an interview conducted on Twitter and Facebook with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

Despite President Donald Trump's claim that 99% of covid-19 cases are "harmless," Arizona and Nevada have reported their highest numbers of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent days. The seven-day averages in 12 states hit new highs, with the biggest increases in West Virginia, Tennessee and Montana. The country's rolling seven-day average of daily new cases hit a record high Monday - the 28th record-setting day in a row.

In Arizona, 89% of the state's ICU beds were full Monday morning, the state's Department of Health announced, as the recently hard-hit state surpassed 100,000 cases.

In Miami-Dade County, authorities reversed course on a reopening plan, issuing an emergency order that shut down gyms, party venues and restaurants, with exceptions for takeout and delivery. That order will go into effect Wednesday. Florida has seen its caseload soar past 10,000 per day and 200,000 overall.

"We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, said in his announcement.

Gimenez said the spike has been driven by infections among 18- to 34-year-olds who have been gathering in congested places - indoors and out - without wearing masks and maintaining proper distancing.

"Contributing to the positives in that age group, the doctors have told me, were graduation parties, gatherings at restaurants that turned into packed parties in violation of the rules and street protests where people could not maintain social distancing and where not everyone was wearing facial coverings," Gimenez said.

Despite the steep new rise in infections, the House and Senate have adjourned for a two-week recess, setting up a potential battle when they return over another pandemic relief package.

And more politicians continue to contract the virus. In Mississippi, where cases are rising, several lawmakers have tested positive, including the speaker of the State House of Representatives. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter he was "briefly in contact" with one of them, so he plans to isolate himself until he gets his own test results back. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, tweeted Monday evening that "COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive."

The United States has reported 2.9 million coronavirus cases to date, and at least 127,000 people have died from the virus nationwide. The United States has had more than twice as many reported deaths as any other country and accounts for nearly a quarter of all deaths attributed to the virus worldwide.

Some states imposed fresh restrictions on Monday in an attempt to tamp down rising case numbers and preserve hospital capacity.

West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced that face coverings will be mandatory inside buildings, and he asked residents to comply voluntarily. West Virginia hit an all-time peak of 130 new cases in one day on Sunday, putting its total at 3,356 cases.

"If you go to work in a building, I expect you to wear a mask as you enter work, and if you're working in an area that is completely socially distanced, take your mask off," Justice said during a briefing. "If you go to a drinking fountain, put your mask on. If you go into a retail business, then I expect you to wear a mask."

Local ABC affiliate WCHS reported that Justice added that he had put off mandating masks but eventually decided "it is the very thing I want to do the most because I know in my heart if we don't, we are going to have funeral after funeral."

Universities, quickly approaching their fall semesters, also were grappling with how to provide an education without risking student health.

Harvard University announced Monday it will reopen with fewer than half of its undergraduates on campus, a sign of the extraordinary constraints colleges face across the country as they map out plans for the fall term. No more than 40% of Harvard's undergrads will live at the Ivy League campus in Cambridge, Mass., when the school year begins, the university said. Most of them will be first-year students, who will get priority access to help them adjust to college life. All undergraduate courses will be taught remotely, the university said, no matter where the students are living. Tuition will remain the same.

Public health officials have been pleading with younger people to take the virus more seriously, as new cases among that demographic has driven spikes in several places. Fauci on Monday called on young people to realize that they are not "invulnerable to serious consequences" of the virus. Even though they may not get sick enough to end up in the hospital, they still could get "very sick" for weeks, he said. And by getting infected, he added, "they are propagating the outbreak" and might inadvertently infect someone vulnerable, with potentially fatal outcomes.

Though largely considered less vulnerable, young children have shown susceptibility as people try to return to their normal routines. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday that at least 1,335 people have tested positive at child care facilities, and about a third of the cases were children.

President Donald Trump and his campaign have increasingly argued that Americans need to continue to live their lives despite the pandemic. On Monday afternoon, Trump tweeted, in all caps, "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"

Trump has played down the rise in cases, attributing it to expanded testing, and has recently emphasized that U.S. deaths have not spiked with new cases. He tweeted on Monday: "The Mortality Rate for the China Virus in the U.S. is just about the LOWEST IN THE WORLD!"

Other Republicans have struck a more serious tone. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday said: "This is not over."

"We had hoped we'd be on the way to saying goodbye to this health-care pandemic. Clearly it is not over," McConnell said at a news conference at a Louisville food bank. Public health officials in both parties have criticized the Trump administration for dismissing science and expertise in its handling of the pandemic. Dozens of former government scientists on Monday called for a science-based approach.

"Sidelining science has already cost lives, imperiled the safety of our loved ones, compromised our ability to safely reopen our businesses, schools, and places of worship, and endangered the health of our democracy itself," wrote officials from the Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush administrations.

Another group of more than 200 scientists from dozens of countries urged the World Health Organization to take more seriously the possibility of airborne-transmission of the virus, saying there is growing evidence that it can linger in the air indoors in small aerosol particles. More than 11.5 million cases have been reported worldwide.

Also on Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for a rapid, point-of-care covid-19 diagnostic test that can yield results within 15 minutes, medical technology company Becton Dickinson announced.

The new antigen test that detects the presence of the virus will be used in conjunction with another diagnostic tool from the company that is in use in more than 25,000 hospitals, medical centers and retail pharmacies across the country.

Dave Hickey, president of Integrated Diagnostic Solutions for Becton Dickinson, said in a statement that the test will be a "game changer" for health-care workers and patients.

In May, the FDA issued an emergency approval for the first covid-19 antigen test that was made by Quidel Corp.

Fauci and Collins ended their 30 minute session on Monday with something of a pep talk."We will get through this," Fauci said. "We have already suffered through a lot of pain, a lot of economic and personal pain and inconvenience." He said "science will get us through this" by delivering drugs for early- and late-stage covid-19.

"Hang in there, it will end," he said. "We promise you."

The Washington Post’s Laurie McGinley, Felicia Sonmez, Hannah Denham, Lateshia Beachum, Nick Anderson and Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.

Man in custody after backing onto hood of a patrol car during police stop in East Anchorage

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:42

Anchorage police respond to an incident in the Nunaka Valley neighborhood, July 6, 2020. (Tess Williams / ADN)

A man was arrested after an hourslong standoff with police in the Nunaka Valley neighborhood Monday afternoon, Anchorage police said.

Officers were called to the 1400 block of Twining Drive just before noon on a report of two people passed out in a vehicle, police wrote in an online statement.

After officers arrived at the scene, the driver, 31-year-old Alex Fox Jr., woke up and began to drive away, police said. Officers attempted to stop Fox at the intersection of Twining and Miley drives.

Fox tried to get away from police and backed his gray Ford pickup onto the hood of a police car, the statement said. He became stuck and a woman got out of the passenger seat and was detained, police said.

Officers pinned in the vehicle and shouted commands to Fox as they surrounded the truck. They deployed pepper spray and sent a K-9 in through the pickup’s window at around 2 p.m., the statement said. The dog bit Fox’s arm and police said he began to comply with officer commands.

The passenger was released from custody without any charges. Fox was medically evaluated for the dog bite and pepper spray and is facing charges of assault, criminal mischief and vehicle theft because the truck had been reported stolen. Police said Fox was also wanted on two outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

The residential street was temporarily closed Monday afternoon. No officers were harmed, but police said the damaged patrol car had to be towed from the area.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Trump criticizes NASCAR, Wallace over flag and noose

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:19

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday n Daytona Beach, Fla. NASCAR’s layered relationship with Trump took a sharp turn Monday, July 6, 2020, when Trump blasted the series for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the sport’s only full-time Black driver of perpetrating “a hoax” when a crew member found a noose in the team garage stall.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Alex Brandon/)

WASHINGTON — NASCAR’s layered relationship with President Donald Trump took a sharp turn Monday when Trump took a sideswipe at the racing organization for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the sport’s only full-time Black driver of perpetrating “a hoax” when a crew member found a noose in the team garage stall.

Trump suggested Bubba Wallace should apologize after the sport rallied around him after the noose was found in his assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Federal authorities ruled last month the noose had been hanging since October and was not a hate crime. NASCAR and the FBI have exclusively referred to the rope — which was used to pull the garage door closed — as a noose.

It was the only garage pull out of 1,684 stalls at 29 inspected NASCAR tracks to be fashioned as a noose.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps has bristled at suggestions the noose was a hoax. Wallace was shown a photograph of the noose, never personally saw it, and was told by NASCAR officials he was the victim of a hate crime.

“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?” Trump tweeted. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

The tweet came after Trump used a pair of Independence Day speeches to dig deeper into America’s divisions by accusing protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.” The remarks served as a direct appeal to the Republican president’s political base, including many disaffected white voters, with less than four months to go before Election Day.

Wallace responded on Twitter with a note to “the next generation and little ones following my foot steps” in which he urged people to use their platform and not be detracted by “hate being thrown at you.”

“Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate,” Wallace tweeted. “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS .. Love wins.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s decision to wade into the Wallace case, likening it to actor Jussie Smollett’s claims he was a victim of a hate crime. McEnany criticized the press in a White House briefing, calling Trump’s tweet a “complete indictment of the media’s rush to judgement.”

McEnany declined to explain why the president thought Wallace should have to apologize given he didn’t report the noose. McEnany refused to say whether or not the president supports NASCAR’s ban on the Confederate flag.

NASCAR did not directly address the Trump tweet in a Monday statement.

“We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership,” NASCAR said. “NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”

Andrew Murstein, co-owner of the Richard Petty Motorsports team that fields Wallace’s car, called Trump’s tweet “a late, misinformed, and factually incorrect statement.” He also said it was unwarranted and cited the photo NASCAR released of the noose.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Murstein said in a statement. “Bubba has reacted in a truthful, professional, level headed manner. The NASCAR community and those in the know all stand by him.”

Wallace led the push for NASCAR to ban Confederate symbols at tracks. Two weeks later, the noose was found at the first race some fans were allowed to attend since the shutdown. On the same day, a plane pulling a banner of the Confederate flag that read “Defund NASCAR” was circling the track and protesters outside the speedway displayed their flags.

Two NASCAR drivers came to Wallace’s defense Monday. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, currently sidelined with the coronavirus, posted an image of Wallace’s No. 43 that had been used by drivers in an earlier #IStandWithBubba campaign. Rookie Tyler Reddick tweeted but later deleted a reply to Trump that read: “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”

LeBron James and Chelsea Clinton were among those outside of NASCAR who backed Wallace on social media, with James stating he stands with Wallace.

NASCAR’s complex relationship with Trump dates to early in his campaign when former chairman Brian France brought a contingent of drivers to a rally in Georgia.

France later sent a memo to NASCAR employees stating his political beliefs were his own and he was not speaking on behalf of the organization. France was replaced as chairman following his arrest for driving while impaired in 2018.

Other members of the France family welcomed Trump to Daytona for the season-opening race in February. Many drivers and owners mingled with Trump and posted selfies with the president.

Wallace, who was born in Alabama, has taken an active role in the push for racial equality. He has worn a shirt saying “I Can’t Breathe,” and raced with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme in Virginia.

Ramsey Poston, a former NASCAR consultant and now head of crisis management firm Tuckahoe Stategies, said Trump’s tweet is harmful to NASCAR’s push for inclusion. Wallace is one of just a handful of non-white drivers. Daniel Suarez is Mexican and Aric Almirola is of Cuban descent. Kyle Larson, who is half-Asian, was fired in April for using a racial slur.

“The brewing cultural war within NASCAR for equality has just erupted and the sport’s efforts to separate from its past just got tougher,” Poston said. “The president’s comments are essentially a rallying call for people who support the Confederate flag to challenge the sport’s recent flag ban and create chaos.”

While Trump claimed NASCAR’s ratings are down, they are actually up. Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president at Fox Sports, tweeted that Fox viewership is up 8% since the sport returned from the pandemic hiatus on May 17. NBC took over the broadcast rights this past weekend and said its ratings for Sunday’s race were up 46% from last year’s event at Indianapolis.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, pushed back against Trump’s NASCAR tweet on Fox News Radio, saying NASCAR is trying to grow the sport by removing divisive symbols.

“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Graham said.

‘Senseless crime’: The victims of July Fourth shootings

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:15

Chicago police officers investigate the scene of a deadly shooting in Chicago on Sunday, July 5, 2020, where a 7-year-old girl and a man were fatally shot during a Fourth of July party Saturday. At least a dozen people were killed in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, police said. Scores of people were shot and wounded. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP) (Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times/)

A 6-year-old computer whiz. A young mother working for a better home for her kids. An 8-year-old who loved to make dance videos.

From San Francisco to South Carolina, a spate of shootings claimed the lives of people celebrating or just taking a drive over the Fourth of July weekend. Chicago saw one of its bloodiest holiday weekends in memory, with 17 killed and 70 wounded by gunfire. The incidents come amid fears the coronavirus pandemic, protests against racism, rising gun sales and an election year could make for a particularly deadly summer.

Here's a look at some of the victims from this weekend.

‘SHE DIED IN MY ARMS’

Secoriea Turner should have been making TikTok videos on her phone Sunday evening, her mother said.

Instead, Charmaine Turner appeared before reporters with Atlanta’s mayor and interim police chief to plead for anyone with information about her 8-year-old daughter’s death to come forward.

Secoriea was riding in a car with her mother and another adult just before 10 p.m. Saturday. They exited the interstate and tried to enter a parking lot when they were confronted by “a group of armed individuals” blocking the entrance, police said. Before the driver could make a U-turn, shots were fired and Secoriea was hit, Turner said.

“She died in my arms,” Turner said.

The shooting happened near the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer June 12. The fast-food restaurant was burned during protests the following night and became a gathering place for demonstrations against police brutality.

Charmaine Turner noted the time as she spoke at a news conference Sunday, saying her daughter would have just finished eating dinner: “She would have been on TikTok dancing in her phone.”

The girl’s father, Secoriya Williamson, further reflected on the simple pleasures of an 8-year-old girl: “She just wanted to get home to see her cousins. That’s all she wanted to do.”

‘A CHANCE AT LIFE’

Studious and sweet, Natalia Wallace was preparing to start second grade in a few weeks at a Chicago elementary school.

The 7-year-old was killed Saturday night by a gunshot wound to the head. She was standing on the sidewalk in a West Side neighborhood where she’d visited her grandmother. Authorities said gunmen got out of a car and started firing rounds.

Her father, Nathan Wallace, said he’d hugged his daughter minutes before the shooting.

“I just wanted her to have a chance at life,” he said. “Whatever she wanted to do, I was going to be there no matter what. To see my daughter on the table with a gunshot wound to the forehead, that’ll change somebody’s life.”

A 33-year-old man was charged with murder Monday.

Teachers remembered Natalia as shy yet diligent as she completed remote lessons at the end of first grade.

“Sometimes, her quiet spirit gave her the strength to lead the reading lessons within her group, and she soared when it came to doing math,” said a statement from the school. “During e-learning, Natalia was always present and participating. At the end of each class session, she would type in the chat box, ‘I Love You.’”

‘HE WAS GOING TO BE SOMETHING’

Jace Young was a “bright star” with an unlimited future, his uncle said.

Six-year-old Jace was shot and killed while attending a birthday party Saturday in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco.

Nate Ford said his nephew was intelligent and empathetic beyond his years.

“We knew he was going to be something,” the boy’s uncle told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday.

Jace was a whiz with computers, always chose milk over soda, and refused to eat meat, the unc said.

“‘Because it will kill animals',” Ford recalled Jace saying.

No arrests have been made.

“Senseless violence like this that could so tragically claim the life of a small child is unacceptable in our City,” San Francisco police Chief William Scott said in a statement.

‘THE HARDEST PART’

Mykala Bell and Clarence Sterling Johnson were killed in a South Carolina nightclub shooting.

Johnson worked as a security guard at the Lavish Lounge, where gunfire erupted early Sunday during a performance by trap rapper Foogiano.

Bell’s family described the 23-year-old single mother of two small children as a caring person who looked after her younger family members.

“That’s going to be the hardest part – looking at my niece in a casket,” Ramon Arnold, Bell’s uncle, told WHNS-TV in Greenville. “Can’t see her face no more. A senseless crime.”

Ashley Arnold, Bell’s aunt, said her niece had just gotten a new job at a call center and planned to move her children into a new home.

“They love their mommy,” Ashley Arnold said, according to the Anderson Independent Mail newspaper. “And it’s up to us to keep her legacy alive for them.”

Friends affectionately referred to Johnson as “CJ” and “Big Sterling,” an affable man always happy to help out when he could.

“He was one who showed no partiality when it came to serving,” pastor Henry Johnson of Queen Street Baptist Church, where Sterling Johnson served on the usher board, told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg. “Sterling was what I called a ‘servant’ who served in so many areas in our community wholeheartedly, making sure everyone felt safe.”

A GoFundMe page was set up to help the 51-year-old security guard’s family, which includes two daughters, two sons, two grandchildren, two sisters and three brothers.

‘TIRED OF SHOOTINGS’

Davon McNeal wasn't even supposed to be at the Washington, D.C., cookout where he was shot and killed. The 11-year-old had only stopped by to pick up a phone charger and some earbuds, his family said.

Tony Lawson, the boy's maternal grandfather, wept as he recalled the boy's love for family and football.

“He was a good kid ... 11 years old. He hadn’t lived his life yet,” Lawson told WTTG-TV.

John Ayala, Davon's paternal grandfather, told the news station that it was shortly after the boy arrived that partygoers heard gunshots and everyone dropped to the ground.

“Everybody’s just saying they’re just tired – tired of the shootings in the community,” Ayala said. “We’re protesting for months, for weeks, saying, ‘Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter.’ Black lives matter it seems like, only when a police officer shoots a black person. What about all the black-on-black crime that’s happening in the community?”

‘A BABY WE’LL NEVER SEE AGAIN’

Royta Giles Jr. would have started third grade this fall.

The 8-year-old boy was waiting in line Friday at an Alabama mall with his family to buy new outfits for the Fourth when gunshots rang out, AL.com reported. Police said a group of men got into an argument near the food court and fired at one another.

Family members, friends and his school described Royta as an energetic, smiling boy who dreamed of a future in the music industry and wanted to be a rapper.

Former assistant principal Mr. Van James said: “He was bright, articulate, and very convincing. We even tried to convince him to become a lawyer.”

The boy’s grandmother said the family was devastated.

“This is a baby we’ll never see again,” Kesha Layfield said. “I have to comfort his mother, and I don’t even know how to begin. I can only imagine what she’s feeling. Not only am I grieving for my daughter, but I’m grieving the loss of my grandson.”

Associated Press reporters Kate Brumback in Atlanta, Sophia Tareen in Chicago, Rebecca Santana in New Orleans, and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

NHL, players’ union announce plan to resume play on Aug. 1

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:08

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2020, file photo, Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith warms up for the team's NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets in Edmonton, Alberta. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press on Sunday, July 5, that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed on protocols to resume the season. Daly said the sides are still negotiating a collective bargaining agreement extension. A CBA extension is still crucial to the process. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP, File) (JASON FRANSON/)

The NHL is not only in a position to resume playing within the next month, the league has the potential of enjoying labor peace through 2026.

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association on Monday announced reaching a tentative deal on a return to play format which is coupled with the two sides agreeing to a memorandum of understanding on a four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

Should both agreements be ratified, the NHL would proceed immediately to its expanded 24-team playoff format, with play beginning on Aug. 1. Under the plan, training camps would open July 13, with teams traveling to their respective hub cities for exhibition games on July 26.

A person with direct knowledge of the agreements told The Associated Press that the NHL has selected Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to be the hub cities in hosting the qualifying round and at least first two playoff rounds.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league and NHLPA have not released this information. The person said, the league is being cautious, and allowing itself flexibility in the event of potential spikes in COVID-19 infections in not yet determining which cities will host the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

The agreements need two-thirds approval by owners. On the union side, the agreements must first be approved by a majority of the NHLPA's 31-member executive committee before going to a vote to the full membership.

The executive committee is expected to make its recommendation by the end of day Tuesday. If approved, the players would be expected to complete their voting process by Friday.

Extending the CBA, which was set to expire in September 2022, was considered a necessary step in restarting the season, which was placed on pause in March as a result of the pandemic.

The CBA extension covers numerous on- and off-ice issues, including the NHL's potential return to the Olympics, the person said.

If approved, players would be in a position to compete at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 and Cortina Milan Games in 2026. In order for that to happen, the NHL would first have to resolve its outstanding issues, which include marketing rights and health insurance, with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.

The NHL, NHLPA and IIHF had what were called productive talks earlier this year.


FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, crews cover the ice at American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of the Dallas Stars hockey team, after the NHL season was put on hold due to the coronavirus. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press on Sunday, July 5, that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have agreed on protocols to resume the season. Daly said the sides are still negotiating a collective bargaining agreement extension. A CBA extension is still crucial to the process. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File) (Ashley Landis/)

The NHL participated in five consecutive Olympics from 1998-2014 before skipping 2018 in Pyeongchang.

Financially, this CBA extension would address the monetary hit affecting the league and players as a result of lost revenues stemming from the remainder of the regular season being wiped out and with the resumption of games being played in empty arenas.

A second person familiar with the proposed agreement told The AP, that players would defer 10% of salaries next season which owners would pay back over three consecutive seasons starting in 2022-23. The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for at least next season, the person added, and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were not revealed.

Escrow payments to owners to even out hockey-related revenue at 50/50 would be capped at 20% next season, with the cap decreasing throughout the deal, the second person said. If owners are still owed money from the players, the CBA would be extended for an additional season.

Escrow has remained one of the biggest complaints of players in the past several years.

Over the weekend, the league and players agreed to an extensive series of return-to-play protocols involving training camps and games.

Players will be allowed to opt out of competing in the expanded playoffs, and will have three days to make their decision once the agreement is ratified.

Letter: Staying safe

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 17:02

If you are not wearing a mask, please stay away from me. You could well be a COVID-19 carrier, along with family and friends.

Pat Bow

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Country rocker and fiddler Charlie Daniels dies at age 83

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 16:58

FILE - Charlie Daniels, center, joins members of the Charlie Daniels Band with their Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 27, 1980, as best country vocal performance by a group for their hit "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Daniels has died at age 83. A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died Monday, July 6, 2020, due to a hemorrhagic stroke. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon, File) (Lennox McLendon/)

Charlie Daniels, who went from being an in-demand session musician to a staple of Southern rock with his hit “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” has died at 83.

A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died Monday at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after doctors said he had a stroke.

He had suffered what was described as a mild stroke in January 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013 but continued to perform.

Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.

“I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,′ I can say I’ve played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,′ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998.

Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.

He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie “Urban Cowboy” and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. Some of his other hits were “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” and “Uneasy Rider.”

“I’ve kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll,” Daniels said in 1998. That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.

He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and his son, Charlie Daniels Jr.

“There are few artists that touched so many different generations in our business than Charlie Daniels did,” said Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, in a statement. “Today, our community has lost an innovator and advocate of Country Music. Both Charlie and Hazel had become dear friends of mine over the last several years, and I was privileged to be able to celebrate Charlie’s induction into the Opry as well as tell him that he was going to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

“Well, the devil went down to Georgia, but Charlie went straight to heaven,” said Dolly Parton in a tweet. “My heart, like many millions of others, is broken today to find out that we’ve lost our dear friend Charlie Daniels.”


Charlie Daniels and musicians with The Charlie Daniels Band perform as the opener for Alabama at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on Friday, April 14, 2018, in Atlanta. (Photo by Robb Cohen/Invision/AP) (Robb Cohen/)

Contemporary country artists like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean also paid tribute to Daniels on social media. “What a hero. A true patriot, Christian, and country music icon. Prayers to his family,” said Bryan in a tweet.

“Charlie Daniels embodied the fire of the South,” said Ronnie Milsap in a statement. “He blurred lines between rock and country, when rock didn’t think country was cool, and his Volunteer Jams weren’t just legendary, they brought people from both of those worlds together.”

In the 1990s Daniels softened some of his lyrics from his earlier days when he often was embroiled in controversy.

In “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a 1979 song about a fiddling duel between the devil and a whippersnapper named Johnny, Daniels originally called the devil a “son of a bitch,” but changed it to “son of a gun.”

In his hit “Long Haired Country Boy,” he used to sing about being “stoned in the morning” and “drunk in the afternoon.” Daniels changed it to “I get up in the morning. I get down in the afternoon.”

“I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age,” Daniels said in 1998.

Otherwise, though, he rarely backed down from in-your-face lyrics.

His “Simple Man” in 1990 suggested lynching drug dealers and using child abusers as alligator bait.

His “In America” in 1980 told the country’s enemies to “go straight to hell.”

Such tough talk earned him guest spots on “Politically Incorrect,” the G. Gordon Liddy radio show and on C-Span taking comments from viewers. Later in life, he wrote frequently about his conservative political views on his website and on Twitter, issuing daily tweets aimed at Hillary Clinton about the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya, but also bringing attention to veteran suicides.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was No. 1 on the country charts in 1979 and crossed over to the pop charts. It was voted single of the year by the Country Music Association and earned his band a Grammy for best country vocal performance by a duo or group.

In the climactic verse, Daniels sang:

“The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.

“He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.

“Johnny said, ‘Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.

“I told you once you son of a (gun), I’m the best that’s ever been.‘”

He hosted regular Volunteer Jam concerts in Nashville in which the performers usually were not announced in advance. Entertainers at these shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman.

“Charlie Daniels embodied the fire of the South,” said Ronnie Milsap in a statement. “He blurred lines between rock and country, when rock didn’t think country was cool, and his Volunteer Jams weren’t just legendary, they brought people from both of those worlds together.”

Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including “New Morning” and “Self-Portrait.” He also played on albums by Marty Robbins, Claude King, Flatt & Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper and Ringo Starr.

He also performed gospel music, which earned him Dove Awards as well. He co-founded a veterans charity called The Journey Home Project.

Eventually, at the age of 71, he was invited to join the epitome of Nashville’s music establishment, the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

He said in 1998 that he kept touring so much because “I have never played those notes perfectly. I’ve never sung every song perfectly. I’m in competition to be better tonight than I was last night and to be better tomorrow than tonight.”

Daniels said his favorite place to play was “anywhere with a good crowd and a good paycheck.”

Letter: Taking action against COVID-19

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 16:57

I don't understand people in the spotlight. Channel 2 posted a list of businesses that have been exposed to the virus, then right afterward, they had Jackie Purcell doing a broadcast from the same business. Are they not aware what message they are sending? Not too bright, if you ask me.

Then you have the folks in the Mat-Su throwing total caution to the wind by having a festival. You would think that the mayor there would take some responsibility and protect her people.

You would also think that our governor would have a spine and be more forceful in his restrictions. But no, he "suggests" his ideas. Seems that those who decide to defy those mandates should not be allowed any financial aid for damages if they seek it.

At least Mayor Ethan Berkowitz stands firm in his position. No wonder people want to recall the governor. He is afraid to be authoritative in his position. We didn't hire him to be timid; he is suppose to be a "leader," not a mouse. Way to set the example, governor; you won't be getting my vote next time around! People, start using your heads.

Michael Childers

Anchorage

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NPR-A land use plan sacrifices wildlife protection for oil

Alaska News - Mon, 2020-07-06 15:59

Caribou and geese at Teshekpuk Lake in North Slope Borough, Alaska, on May 26, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount)

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released its final land-use plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in Alaska’s western arctic. This new plan would supersede the current plan finalized in 2013. It would dramatically increase the areas open to oil and gas leasing by seven million acres, as well as the areas allowing surface developments by 4.3 million acres.

The development of the 2013 plan, on which I participated, included substantial public outreach and input — more than 400,000 public comments were received in support of the final 2013 plan. It included carefully constructed land use designations that balanced statutory provisions for oil and gas leasing and protection of key wildlife and surface values. It recognized existing and potential oil and gas lease areas, including the recently discovered “Willow” unit, and it also recognized the importance of subsistence uses of Reserve lands by North Slope residents.

The 2013 plan struck a good balance in protecting the outstanding wildlife, subsistence and other natural and cultural values of the Reserve while leaving a little more than half — 12 million acres — open for oil and gas leasing and development.

The new plan put forth by the Trump administration adopts a “preferred alternative E” which was not proposed or available for public comment during the draft plan and EIS processes. This alternative would open nearly 19 million acres — 82% of the Reserve — to oil and gas leasing, more than the area proposed in any of the alternatives analyzed in the draft plan and EIS. Most of the acreage not available for oil and gas leasing is in the Utukok Uplands Special Area, a remote area of low oil and gas potential.

The new plan most notably opens the entire Teshekpuk Lake Special Area to oil and gas leasing. The outstanding values of this area were specifically mentioned for protection in the 1976 Act transferring the Reserve from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior. No leasing has been allowed in the Special Area since that time. The 2013 plan prohibited leasing in approximately 3.1 million acres surrounding Teshekpuk Lake to protect the calving, migration and insect relief areas required for the Teshekpuk Lake caribou herd — counted at more than 56,000 animals in 2017. Several thousand animals are harvested annually by North Slope residents. The Special Area also protects critical goose molting areas, and nesting areas for globally significant numbers of shorebirds, loons and Endangered Species Act-listed eider ducks.

Although a thin margin surrounding Teshekpuk Lake would continue to prohibit new infrastructure, much of the remaining Special Area is a hodge-podge of areas open to all development, open to roads and pipelines, subject to seasonal restrictions, and other operating procedures subject to waivers and exemptions. These areas of special conditions are clearly geographically designed to accommodate and promote oil development, not to protect key areas utilized by the Teshekpuk Lake caribou or other wildlife resources.

The new proposed alternative completely does away with the Colville River Special Area. This area was designated shortly after the 1976 Act by the Secretary of the Interior specifically to protect the nesting habitat of significant numbers of birds of prey including Peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks and golden eagles.

Caribou, waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife are dependent on specific undeveloped habitats that have been protected under the 2013 plan. The permitting of oil leasing, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure in greatly expanded areas of the Reserve under this new plan can be expected to have substantial and serious impacts on wildlife resources. Wildlife in the Reserve require large areas for their health and survival as their ranges and habitats are dynamic, varying with conditions year-to-year. This is particularly true against a backdrop of dramatically changing temperatures, vegetation and sea level rises in the Reserve and across the Arctic.

The new plan does not adequately identify nor mitigate these impacts. Nor does the final plan and EIS benefit from public input on the preferred alternative “E.” The federal government is a long way down the road on this plan, and we can only hope that some change soon can prevent a looming tragedy to some of our nation’s most outstanding natural resources.

Pat Pourchot retired as Special Assistant for Alaska Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior in 2015. He also served in the Alaska State House and State Senate, and as Commissioner of the Alaska State Department of Natural Resources. He currently serves on the board of directors at Alaska Wilderness League.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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