5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: May 12, 2020

Hello CivMixers, and Happy Tuesday. It is another running behind day with the munchkin not having me working uninterrupted, so let’s get right down to business.

1) In February, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Glynn County, Georgia. The 25-year-old black man was followed by Gregory (64) and Travis (34) McMichael, father, and son, after seen out jogging down the road in the unincorporated community Satilla Shors, a coastal community to the south of Savannah.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) autopsy results were released yesterday showed that Arbery’s cause of death was two shotgun blasts to the chest. He had a wound in the upper and lower portions of his chest, as well as a graze to his right wrist, also from a shotgun.

The police in Glynn County have stated that he died in a struggle for the gun, and the report seems to corroborate that theory. Also, according to the Glynn County police, the McMichaels’ took off after Arbery in their pick-up truck after suspecting him of being a match for the description of someone who had been breaking into houses within their community. 

According to Travis McMichael, who allegedly shot Arbery, the shooting was in self-defense, he claims that Arbery attacked him once they caught up with him.

So far, two prosecutors on the case have recused themselves from the case due to ties with Gregory McMichael. He worked as an investigator in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit’s district attorney’s office before retiring back in May of 2019. The first one was Jackie Johnson, who cited personal ties to McMichael, the second was George Barhill, who stated that his son worked with McMichael in the DA’s office.

When first assigned to the case, Barnhill did not charge the McMichaels. In a letter written to the police, Barnhill claimed that there was substantial proof for them to have chased Arbery as a legitimate “burglary suspect.” He further contended that Arbery started the fight, grabbing the gun and causing Travis McMichael to shoot him in self-defense. All these claims have always been and continue to be denied by a lawyer for the Arbery family.

After a video was leaked that showed the incident and subsequent killing, as well as much criticism over the handling of the case by the local authorities, the GBI stepped in. After taking over the investigation, the GBI announced that both men were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and murder.

There is a third man under investigation, a neighbor of the McMichaels. The police and DA are looking into his role, as he is the one who they believe took the video. His lawyer claims he was simply a witness and had no active role in the confrontation.

Yesterday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to comply with the GA Attorney General’s request to review how the case has been handled. The DOJ also said they were going to be looking into whether there should be federal hate crimes applied to the situation.

2) The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is no stranger to helping the nation fight an epidemic – and doing so amid conflict and controversy.

In the 1980s, he was the head of immunology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a leader in the research into how HIV/AIDS affected the human body. It all started when a report was put onto his desk on June 5, 1981. In it, he read about a gay man who died from a strand of pneumonia that was usually only seen in cancer patients. The man who died was otherwise seemingly healthy. Fauci then received reports of 26 more deaths of gay men.

He knew then that he was reading reports that were going to change the course of medical history. Though he was working hard to figure out what was happening, he was judged by the disinterest and seeming lack of response that was being portrayed by the then-in-power Reagan administration.

Since he was the face of the NIH, Fauci received much of the criticism and hate for the lack of a response to the new pandemic wiping out the gay community – including death threats and strands of protestors. However, behind it all, he was working to find out exactly what HIV did within the body and how it destroyed the body’s natural defenses. Fauci would go on to lead the clinical trials for Zidovudine, which was the first antiretroviral drug that would be used to treat the disease.

As he saw the protestors on the lawn of the NIH, and the police stated they were going to arrest them for throwing smoke bombs, Fauci instead had them brought to his office so he could personally meet with them. It was a turning point, and since then, Fauci has been seen to be a calm, compassionate and brilliant doctor who has fought for the good of people no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.

In 1984 he got the role that he holds to this day as the director of the NIH’s Allergy and Infectious Diseases division. In 2008 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Fauci has been an advisor to six presidents, the political party in power notwithstanding. He has led research into diseases ranging from Asthma to Ebola.

Now, he is leading the charge into the White House response to COVID-19. He has stood as a strong presence, spouting facts and science even if he has to contradict President Trump to do so. Today’s virtual hearing to Congress about the dangers of reopening the country too soon.

Fauci was quick to point out that if federal guidelines are not explicitly followed, then little clusters will quickly become more significant outbreaks. He was unequivocal in pointing out that the virus will spread again if the country is opened too quickly.

He was referring to the current proposed Opening Up America Again plan by the White House, which includes three 14-day phases to be implemented before any business or school is allowed to reopen. He warned that outbreaks could be triggered that states have no hope of controlling, and these outbreaks could devastate already flagging economies.

Fauci pointed out that many of the states that are rushing to reopen have rising COVID infection rates, not falling ones. He also stated that he feels an autumn outbreak is not only possible but conceivable, though he hopes that if it happens, the US will be better able to deal with it before it reaches pandemic status.

Directly contradicting Trump, Fauci has also revealed that though there are many vaccines in development, there is no way to know if any of them will work. However, he is “cautiously optimistic.” He also confirmed that the earliest a vaccine will be ready would be at least another year and a half disputing Trump’s claim that one is close to being prepared.

He was challenged on almost every front by Sen. Rand Paul (KY-R), who stated that Fauci is not the final word of all of this and saying that COVID has not been a big issue outside of the New England States. Paul also implied that Fauci did not have the president’s or the country’s best interests leading his approach to the COVID response. He declared that schools should reopen now, or at least as soon as they can.

Fauci was a picture in calm as he stated there is so much unknown about the virus that it would be a mistake to act hastily. Rushing to reopen would put children at risk, especially since there is evidence emerging that implies children are not as immune to COVID dangers as thought initially.

He also declared that there was no time when he thought he was the be-all-end-all in the decisions of the response of the nation to the COVID epidemic.

“I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice of this. I’m a scientist, a physician, and a public health official.”     
 -Dr. Anthony Fauci

3) For the second day, coronavirus deaths in New York stayed below 200 total, but they also rose yesterday. Sunday had seen the death total drop to 161, and then rise to 195 yesterday.

Though it is indeed upsetting that there was an uptick at all, it is still positive to note that for the first time since the end of March the death rate was under 200 per day twice in a row.

The one-day death totals peaked on April 14 at 800. For the past nine days, the deaths have been under 300, and under 200 for the past two days. This tracks with the downward motion of hospitalization statistics, which have been dropping since the beginning of April. So have the number of intubations in those who are hospitalized.

For the first time since April, the average for three-day hospitalizations dipped below 500 on Monday as well. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, these trends prove that the efforts within New York to keep the virus contained are working.

Since the current shutdown executive order expires this Friday. Any region within the state that meets the requirements put forth by the state’s administration may begin phased reopening at that point.

4) For the past 10 weeks (approximately), the Capital Region has been closed with the rest of New York State. As some regions prepare to begin phasing open on Friday, however, the Capital Region is not one of them. 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin were both on a call with Cuomo today. McLaughlin stated that the governor’s criteria for reopening were not very clear. The big hold up, according to McLaughlin, are the number of trackers required, which he believes is too high.

Sheehan agrees that there needs to be better clarification, but she was more focused on who is getting counted in hospitalization and death rates. Sheehan wants clarity as nursing homes are hit harder and more clustered than the general populations, and if there is a bad day at a nursing home, it could undo any progress.

5) Late this afternoon, there was a shooting at the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Bleecker Terrace in Albany.

The Albany Police Department reported that a 17-year-old male was shot in the abdomen and was then taken by ambulance to Albany Med.

There have been no arrests made, and this is an ongoing investigation.

That is all for tonight folks, have a good one. See you tomorrow!!

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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