Welcome to Wednesday, CivMixers. Just like that, September is half over. Break out the mums and the pumpkins and get ready to do a spooky makeover soon. October and Halloween will be here before you know it.
An update to a story that we have covered over the past two days: Hurricane Sally has made landfall and is more than living up to expectations for being a rainmaker. According to the National Hurricane Center, Sally has caused “historic and catastrophic flooding” from Alabama to Florida.
Sally came ashore as a category two hurricane early this morning close to Gulf Shores, Alabama. She was downgraded to a tropical storm this afternoon when the sustained winds per hour dropped to 70 miles per hour – just below what is deemed a hurricane.
Don’t be fooled by the downgrade, however. Sally is still packing quite the punch, dropping over 18 inches of rain in just 24 hours. The NHC expects the downpour will continue as she moves slowly along the coast.
Onto our 5 Things for the day.
1) This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the family of a Fort Hood soldier who went missing back in April. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, 20, was found in a shallow grave on June 20. Pelosi met with the family to let them know a bipartisan bill that was named for Spc. Guillen has gained 73 cosponsors in both parties. She committed to them that the bill will be brought before the House for a vote during the fall session.
According to California Rep. Jackie Speier, that vote could be anywhere from in the next few weeks to November, but it is coming. The bill is known as the “I am Vanessa Guillen Act.” Its goal is to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice to make sexual harassment a crime. It also calls for moving the prosecution of those accused of sexual assault and harassment out of the hands of the military chain of command.
In addition, the bill calls for an independent prosecutor to investigate decide whether a case is to proceed or not. There would also be an opportunity for any victims to go to the Department of Defense to file compensation claims. The final step: The Government Accountability Office would perform an external review of not only the military’s harassment policies, but the procedures followed in a missing person case.
Spc. Aaron Robinson, who also served at Fort Hood, was the primary suspect in the Guillen case. He killed himself when confronted by the police back in July, in Killeen, TX.
As of July, Fort Hood has seen 23 deaths on base.
2) In direct opposition to the announcement by the Trump administration that a COVID-19 vaccination will soon be administered, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, spoke before a subcommittee in the Senate today and projected the earliest date for distribution to most Americans would be no earlier than late next summer.
During questioning, Redfield said it is possible, even likely, that there will be a viable vaccine produced by the end of this year. But it will likely only be available in minimal doses, and those doses would have to be prioritized for frontline workers and first responders etc.
He very clearly said that the vaccine would only be available to the amount of helping restore everyday life here in the U.S. is at best later in the second quarter of 2021.
According to Operation Warp Speed – the name given to the government’s vaccine development task force – mass distribution of the approved vaccine will begin within 24 hours of FDA approval. The Department of Health and Human Services released the planned strategy, and, according to Redfield, they plan to provide doses to all who want it.
The HHS document also stated that there should be millions of doses and that no American should pay for either the distribution of the vaccine or the dose itself. It also says they are still working on a plan to mitigate costs for the administration of the vaccine as well.
Currently, nine companies – including Pfizer and Moderna here in the U.S. – have a drug in efficacy trial Phase III, with five already approved for early/limited uses.
Pfizer’s CEO has said his company has manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses, will likely know more about its effectiveness by the end of October, and will seek FDA approval to distribute the vaccine by the end of the year. Over the Labor Day weekend, President Trump seemed to double down on this, saying that a vaccine could come by the end of October – days before the highly contentious presidential Nov. 3 election.
Former commission of the FDA Dr. Scott Gottlieb is on the board of directors for Pfizer, and he has said that he does not believe a vaccine will be available for mass distribution until next year.
Experts maintain that any vaccines are likely to be two-dose vaccines, with around a month required between doses. Right now, there is no outline set up for prioritizing the doses as they come out. Most experts have said that the strategy and final process for prioritizing and distributing the doses will be based on the data regarding the virus when a vaccine is finally ready for distribution.
3) Emails recently released regarding how Rochester police commanders handled the murder of Daniel Prude show that Deputy Chief Mark Simmons urged other city officials not to release video of the incident due to their volatile nature and the tense debate taking place across the nation about police abuse and reform.
He and other police commanders were afraid of public reaction if the videos added more fuel to the fire ignited by the death of George Floyd. Simmons also told now terminated Chief La’ron Singletary to advise the city’s lawyers to deny the public records request for the bodycam footage from the fateful March 23 incident.
On Sept. 4, the video was released by Prude’s family. A naked Prude is shown handcuffed, with a spit hood over his head, and then pushed into the ground by an officer. He was pressed into the ground for approximately two minutes when he stopped breathing. He died a week later after being taken off of life support.
Rochester released all documents related to the incident this past Monday when the announcement was made that Singletary was terminated, effective immediately, and both Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Director of Communications Justin Roj were suspended without pay. Simmons was then named as interim RPD Chief of Police.
The whole email chain shows many higher-ranking officers telling Simmons that it was likely if the video were released, it would lead to a public misunderstanding of the situation, lumping it in with the Black Lives Matters protests and resulting in severe ramifications. Simmons sent these emails onto Singletary with his message to urge for discretion. Singletary replied that he agreed.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has denied seeing the video until recently. Emails in the document dump show her condemning Singletary for downplaying what happened to Prude, and showed outrage for what she saw on the video.
Since the release of the video two weeks ago, Rochester has seen nightly protests and many are calling for Warren herself to resign. Prude’s family has filed a lawsuit in federal courts stating that RPD attempted to cover up the truth of his death.
4) The FBI has gotten involved in the hunt for the murderer of 11-year-old Ayshawn Davis, offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to a suspect in the drive-by shooting that claimed the child’s life.
Davis was with a group of kids on Old Sixth Ave in Troy a little before midnight Sunday, Sept. 13, when he was hit in the head by a bullet from the drive-by. He was treated at the scene and transferred to Albany Med, where he died.
Please, if you have any information on Aysawn’s death, call the TPD Detective Bureau at (518) 270-4772.
You can see the reward poster by the FBI here.
5) Attention, all dog owners – the first and only indoor dog park in Saratoga is now open.
The canine social club is called Chow Bella and is located at 50 West Ave. It is a climate-controlled space that encompasses a total of 7,500 square feet. Out of that 3,000 square-feet is a fenced-in dog park with everything to entertain a pup from bridges to tunnels.
In the front of Chow Bella is a 2,200 square-foot store selling all things pup.
Saratoga has always been dog friendly, and Marijo English feels this was the logical next step for the massive dog community. There are multiple tiers of membership that you can purchase for the doggy club.
Right now, the first 100 annual passes sold will have an opening discount of $100.
Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.
Photo credit: George Fazio.