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COVID-19 live updates: US faces summer surge as delta variant spreads

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(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing a COVID-19 summer surge as the delta variant spreads.

More than 610,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 57% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 has infected more than 194 million people worldwide and killed over 4.1 million.

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

Jul 26, 10:00 am
Unvaccinated NYC municipal workers will have to get weekly testing

All unvaccinated New York City municipal workers will have to get weekly testing by the start of school in September, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio's office.

The new requirement will apply to all city workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers. The new rule will go into effect on Sept. 13, when students are expected to return to public schools.

The New York Police Department has a 43% vaccination rate while about 55% of New York City Fire Department employees are vaccinated.

Workers in publicly run residential or congregate care facilities, like nursing homes, must present proof of vaccination even earlier, on Aug. 16.

Jul 26, 9:11 am
Symptomatic breakthrough infections rare, CDC data estimates

New data shows how rare COVID-19 breakthrough infections likely are.

With more than 156 million Americans fully vaccinated, about 153,000 symptomatic breakthrough cases are estimated to have occurred as of last week, representing approximately 0.098% of those fully vaccinated, according to an unpublished internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document obtained by ABC News. These estimates reflect only the adult population and do not include asymptomatic breakthrough infections.

But in Provincetown, on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, at least 551 COVID-19 infections, many of them breakthroughs, were confirmed after the July Fourth weekend. Of the Massachusetts residents who tested positive as a result of the Provincetown cluster, 69% reported to be fully vaccinated, according to local officials.

Most people were symptomatic. Apart from three hospitalizations, symptoms from cases associated with this cluster were known to be mild and without complication, said Alex Morse, the town manager for Provincetown.

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Provincetown implements indoor mask mandate after COVID-19 cluster grows to 551 cases

Rattankun Thongbun/iStock

(PROVINCETOWN, Mass.) -- Officials in Provincetown, Massachusetts, voted unanimously during an emergency town meeting Sunday night to reimplement the town’s indoor mask mandate, amidst rapidly rising COVID-19 infections and community spread.

Since data was last updated last week, the cluster has grown to a cumulative total of at least 551 confirmed cases following a busy July Fourth weekend. Of these cases, 394 individuals are Massachusetts residents, 171 of whom reside in Provincetown, while the remaining individuals who tested positive reside in other states or jurisdictions.

Sixty-nine percent of confirmed cases among Massachusetts residents have occurred in individuals who were fully vaccinated, officials confirmed, and those infected have been found to be predominantly symptomatic.

In addition, officials reported that 88% of the cases are among males, and the median age of those testing positive is 39.

The new mandate will be upheld until Provincetown’s positivity rate falls below 3%, for five consecutive days, at which point it will shift to an advisory. When the town’s positivity rate dips to 1% or below, for five consecutive days, the advisory will end.

Local leaders also gave Town Manager Alex Morse the authority to implement additional measures, as needed, upon consultation with health officials, including social distancing orders and capacity requirements.

“We're prepared to take further action, if the positive activity rate doesn't decline,” Morse said during Sunday's emergency meeting.

The new mandate comes as the U.S. faces a surge in new coronavirus infections, driven largely by the rapidly spreading delta variant, which now accounts for more than 83% of new cases.

Over the weekend, the country’s daily case average increased to more than 47,000 cases a day, up by 54.7% in the last week, and 314% since mid-June, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly every state in the country is now reporting an increase in cases.

Hospitalization levels are also on the rise, with now more than 27,300 patients currently receiving care around the country, which is nearly a 40% jump in the last week.

Barnstable County, which includes Provincetown, is currently reporting “high” community transmission, with the county’s daily case average is up by nearly 245% in the last seven days.

Officials stressed that although the “vast majority” of infections have been breakthrough cases, vaccinations have significantly reduced the presence of severe illness.

Three individuals have been hospitalized, one of whom was vaccinated, while the vaccination status of the other two individuals was unavailable. However, the vaccinated individual, who was hospitalized, was said to be “released rather quickly,” reported Vaira Harik, deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services.

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Friday that genetic sequencing of initial viral samples, associated with the cluster, had indeed tested positive for the delta variant.

"Labs identified the delta variant in cases associated with this cluster and additional specimens from the Provincetown cluster are continuing to be prioritized for sequencing. No new variants have been identified," officials wrote in a press release.

Town leaders corroborated the findings, reporting that of the 53 cases sequenced to date, 100% of samples have come back as delta variant cases.

Officials noted that the Department of Public Health is working closely with the CDC, as well as with other state health departments, to track and monitor symptomatic cases.

The town has also resumed wastewater surveillance, in an effort to further track the spread of the virus within the community, which officials said has been a valuable surveillance tool and was conducted in Provincetown throughout the pandemic.

“COVID, unfortunately, and I think it's depressing for many of us, isn't going away anytime soon, and I think what Provincetown is experiencing is what other places will be experiencing, earlier,” Morse said.

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Seven dead in Utah after sandstorm causes series of car crashes

Utah Highway Patrol

(MILLARD COUNTY, Utah) -- Seven people are dead in Utah after a sandstorm caused a series of car crashes Sunday, according to Utah Highway Patrol.

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m. local time on Interstate 15 in Millard County and involved at least 20 vehicles. Several other people have been transported to local hospitals in critical condition following the pileup, authorities said.

Highway Patrol said no names of victims will be released until 24 hours after notifications are made to next of kin.

"We’re stunned and saddened by the horrific accidents in Millard County," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted. "We fervently pray for the loved ones of those who perished and for those fighting for their lives."

Officials said winds caused a sand or dust storm and severely impaired visibility on the roadway, which led to the crash.

“It’s very tragic, it’s very hard to see the loss of life, and the families and the people affected,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Cameron Roden told ABC News Salt Lake City affiliate KTVX. “There’s still lots of crews out here, on-scene, still actively working the scene. I-15 is still closed and will be at least for a couple of more hours.”

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Thirteen-year-old girl killed at picnic table in North Carolina drive-by shooting, four arrested

kali9/iStock

(MONROE, N.C.) -- Four men have been arrested Sunday following a drive-by shooting that killed a 13-year-old North Carolina girl who was struck by a bullet as she sat at an outdoor picnic table with other children, police said.

The child, whose name was not immediately released, was shot around 8 p.m. on Saturday in the Charlotte suburb of Monroe, a town of about 36,000 people, according to police.

Monroe police announced the arrest of Javon Demontre Robinson, 20, of Monroe, who was booked into the Union County Jail on one count of first-degree murder on Sunday afternoon.

By Sunday night, police arrested three other men in connection to the girl's death. Darius Roland, 19, Jamarius McLain and Jamarius Crowder, 22, have now all been taken to jail and are being held for first-degree murder with no bond, officials said.

"Our officers have done an amazing job in leaving no stone unturned to ensure the individuals who committed this crime are not only identified, but also apprehended and brought to justice," Monroe Police Chief Bryan Gilliard said in a statement Sunday.

Gilliard declined to comment on a motive for the shooting but said, "This is such a devastating act that has far-reaching implications that was entirely uncalled for."

"These individuals took an innocent life for absolutely no reason, and now a family and community has to live with this forever," Gilliard said.

Gilliard said a black 2005 Ford Freestyle SUV that witnesses told police the shots came from was also recovered.

Gilliard announced the arrests less than 24 hours after pleading with the public to help investigators identify the suspects and asking residents of Icemorlee Street, where the shooting occurred, for any surveillance video that may have captured the incident.

"Someone knows who did this. This was an innocent child, and we need people to be brave and step up so we can catch those responsible for this senseless act of violence," Gilliard said.

Police said the child, who was initially reported to be 12 years old, was sitting with friends on a picnic table when the SUV drove by and someone inside opened fire without warning.

Multiple shell casings littered the scene, but no other victims were shot, police said.

The gravely wounded girl was taken to Atrium Health Union hospital in Monroe, where she was pronounced dead, according to police.

The girl was the second child killed in a drive-by shooting in a suburb of Charlotte in less than a month.

On June 28, 8-year-old Ah’Miyahh Howell was shot to death in Statesville, North Carolina, about 40 miles north of Charlotte, when someone in a Mercedes drove by and opened fire, police said. A 7-year-old boy with Ah'Miyahh at the time was also injured in the shooting.

As Statesville police responded to the fatal shooting, they heard gunshots ring out nearby from a second drive-by shooting that left a 10-year-old boy wounded, officials said.

At least six people, ranging in age from 17 to 19, have been arrested and charged with murder in Ah'Miyahh's death, according to police.

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2 arrested after fatal shooting of Washington state sheriff's deputy

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(SEATTLE) -- Two people were arrested after a Washington state sheriff's deputy was fatally shot in the line of duty Friday night.

After an "exhaustive search," a 28-year-old man, Abran Raya-Leon, and a 35-year-old woman, Misty M. Raya, were arrested on unrelated felony warrants, Vancouver, Washington, police said in a press release on Saturday night.

Another man, Guillermo O. Raya, 26, is still being sought, police said.

The deputy involved in the shooting that unfolded around 7 p.m. has been identified as Clark County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Jeremy Brown.

Brown was in his vehicle conducting surveillance at 3508 NE 109th Avenue, according to police. Other units in the area on the same detail were unable to reach Brown on radio, and around the same time, a citizen reported hearing gunshots, saw a man bleeding inside a vehicle and called 911, police said.

Two men and a woman fled the area by vehicle and were pursued by police, officials said. Their vehicle crashed near Padden Parkway and Interstate 205. Police said the three then fled on foot.

Police said Guillermo O. Raya is considered armed and dangerous, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest in connection with the shooting.

"This is a difficult time for the Clark County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement agencies in Clark County and the surrounding Clark County, Portland metro area. Clark County law enforcement appreciates the support and understanding of the community in these tough times," the department said in a news release.

The investigation is continuing and nothing further is releasable at this time, police said.

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140,000 without power as storms rip through Michigan

Meindert van der Haven/iStock

(DETROIT) -- Nearly 140,000 customers in Michigan are without power this morning after storms hit the Detroit area Saturday night.

Poweroutage.us reports 138,990 customers in the state lack power.

Ferocious storms whipped through the Detroit metro area and led to a tornado watch for other areas including Armada, ABC News affiliate, WXYZ reported.

In the storm's wake, trees, houses and businesses sustained major damage.

"It appears there might have been a tornado, we have to wait for officials to make that determination, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel told WXYZ. "There's a substantial amount of damage to businesses, houses, power lines down."

The Detroit Police Department issued an alert for area residents, cautioning them roadways are flooded and not to drive through standing water.

The storm comes amid a tumultuous weather season in the United States as wildfires and drought ravage the West, and unprecedented rainfall and floods plague the Northeast as well as other areas of the country.

Wildfllife is also feeling the effects of the severe weather. Baby birds have been jumping out of their nests to escape the heat and falling to the ground, on the West Coast. A bear and her cubs jumped into a home's pool to cool off from the recent scorching temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.

ABC News' Ben Stein and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dixie Fire, California's largest, forces evacuations amid a rapid spread

DaveAlan/iStock

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- More than 100 people were forced out of their homes overnight as California's largest wildfire continues to spread at a rapid pace.

The Dixie Fire has now expanded to more than 190,000 acres -- increasing by 20,000 acres in just 24 hours -- prompting new mandatory evacuations near the Feather River Canyon as firefighters struggle to increase the 21% containment. Officials are still investigating the cause.

More than 8,300 people in Northern California are currently under evacuation orders, according to the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Over the weekend, the Dixie Fire surpassed the Beckwourth Complex Fire in Doyle, California, as the state's largest wildfire. The Beckwourth Complex Fire, which was sparked by lightning on July 3, is now 98% contained after it scorched through 105,670 acres.

The Tamarack Fire near Gardnerville, Nevada, had burned through nearly 67,000 acres by Sunday morning, destroying at least 13 structures, and was just 27% contained. It sparked on July 4 in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, currently the largest in the country and the third-largest in state history, is so hot it's creating its own weather pattern. Pyrocumulus clouds, or fire-driven thunderstorm clouds, are created as large pockets of heat and smoke from the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon rise and meet a relatively cool atmosphere.

The Medford National Weather Service has also confirmed that a tornado occurred on July 18 near the eastern side of the Bootleg Fire due to extreme fire behavior, dry fuels, and an unstable atmosphere.

The Bootleg Fire, approximately 11 miles northeast of the town of Sprague River in southern Oregon, had scorched through nearly 409,000 acres by Sunday morning and was 46% contained.

The Long Draw Fire in 2012 at 557,028 acres and the Biscuit Fire in 2002 at 500,000 acres were the top two largest fires in the state.

Nearly 90 large wildfires are burning in 13 states, with more than 2.5 million acres burned so far this year. More hot and dry conditions are expected in the West today, enhancing the fire risk for the already blaze-ridden region.

More than 3 million people in the West are under heat and fire alerts through Monday, and several states also have air quality alerts due to the wildfires.

Four states from Nevada to Montana will experience triple-digit temperatures on Sunday, while relative humidity is expected to remain at just 11%, with wind gusts up to 35 mph.

ABC News' Jenna Harrison, Sarah Hermina, and Hope Osemwenkhae contributed to this report.

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One nation under fire: A week's glance at gun violence ripping across America

ABC News

(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Thousands of fans gathered in Wisconsin to celebrate the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA championship, but scenes of celebration soon turned into chaos when gunfire rang out.

Two shootings broke out early Wednesday in downtown Milwaukee that wounded three, sent people running for their lives and left the community shell-shocked.

The shootings are only a snapshot of the skyrocketing gun violence that has swept the nation in recent months. Between Saturday, July 17, and Friday, July 23, the Gun Violence Archive tracked at least 915 shooting incidents -- or, a shooting every 12 minutes -- that left at least 430 people dead and 1,007 wounded. In total, more than 1,000 were wounded or killed this week alone. These numbers are not static, and are constantly updated as data comes in.

Last year marked the deadliest year for shooting-related incidents in the U.S. in at least two decades, according to Gun Violence Archive data with more than 43,000 gun deaths. But GVA's data suggests 2021 is on track to surpass those figures with more than 24,000 gun fatalities reported so far.

ABC News partnered with its owned stations and affiliates across the nation to track the devastation. The findings reveal that gun violence, for many Americans, isn't far removed from everyday life.

Gun violence in all its forms

As attention turned toward the shooting outside the Nationals game last Saturday, across the country in a dark church parking lot in Utah, 13-year-old Lance Moorehead was shot in the head around 1:40 a.m.

Lt. Richard Bell of the West Jordan Police Department called the shooting "a truly unfortunate, tragic accident" during a press conference. He said that Moorehead and his 15-year-old friend had snuck out and that one had brought a gun.

The two were "not being safe" with the gun which resulted in the 15-year-old unintentionally shooting and killing his 13-year-old friend, Bell said. He added that there was some criminal culpability and the 15-year-old was booked into a juvenile detention center on suspicion of manslaughter.

According to the 911 dispatch call, the teens did not know the gun was loaded.

"We've got a 13- and a 15-year-old. They're inside a vehicle. Did not know the gun was loaded. The juvenile's been shot in the head," a 911 dispatcher told officers in a recording of the call.

Derek Thatcher, the heartbroken father of Moorehead, said in a statement to local station KSL-TV that his son "loved to skate, play football and video games. He had a contagious smile that could warm anyone's heart. You couldn't help but smile back."

"Gun safety is of the utmost importance to prevent this kind of tragedy and heartache our family has experienced. We can't stress enough how important gun safety is," Thatcher said in his statement.

The tragedy shows that even children aren't spared from this spike in gun violence.

In west Philadelphia last Saturday, a white Jeep pulled up to a store and an unknown number of occupants began to shoot indiscriminately into the store, striking two people, including a year-old child who was there with their mother, according to Joel Dales, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. He said a man inside subsequently returned fire.

Police said one person had been arrested in connection to that shooting, Philadelphia ABC station WPVI reported.

"They don't care who's around when they use these guns. It's a big problem. This is not OK. ... I'm tired of this. I'm sick and tired of this," Dales said during a press conference.

In San Antonio early Tuesday morning, 15-year-old Tristan Jaden Rosas was playing video games in his bedroom with his younger cousin when a stray bullet entered the room and hit him in the head.

"Dudes were fighting in the back. They were shooting at each other and they brought it up here to the front," Ray Rosas, the victim's uncle, told San Antonio ABC affiliate KSAT.

Rosas told ABC News that after the bullet struck his nephew, his cousin tried to keep him alive.

"I should have been there, because when you tell your kid you're going to protect him, that's a promise you can't ever take back," Epi Rosas, Tristan's father said.

San Antonio police told ABC News no one has been arrested in the case.

Altogether, more than 800 Americans under 18 years old have died from gun violence so far in 2021, with 174 of them under 12, GVA data shows.

Some of those incidents have been mass shootings, defined as involving four people or more who were injured or killed -- not including the suspect. So far, there have been 18 mass shootings in 12 cities across the U.S. this week, according to the GVA's data, with 19 dead and 74 wounded.

The epidemic of gun violence also includes suicides, which are the cause of about 60% of adult firearm deaths, according to the Department of Justice. In 2019, an average of 66 people each day died by suicide with a gun, according to the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence. This year alone there have been more than 13,500 suicides by gun, GVA data shows.

There are also gun violence incidents that erupt from alleged domestic disputes.

In Wichita, Kansas, on Monday, Kamden Campos, 21, allegedly kidnapped his girlfriend and her two children and brought them to a nearby lake. The woman jumped into the car and sped away as he fired shots towards the vehicle, wounding her 2-year-old daughter, the Reno County Sheriff's Office said.

After a manhunt, Campos was booked into jail on attempted murder in the first degree, aggravated kidnapping and possession of stolen property charges, the sheriff's office announced on Facebook. Officials said the child underwent surgery and is in stable but critical condition.

Officer-involved shootings also play a role in the violence, which includes instances where cops are the victim as well as the perpetrator.

In Clark County, Washington, a sheriff's deputy was shot and killed Friday night and police are looking for suspects who may be armed and dangerous.

"This is a difficult time for the Clark County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement agencies in Clark County and the surrounding Clark County, Portland metro area," the sheriff's office said in a press conference after the shooting.

ABC News and the GVA's assessment of this past week's gun violence found that in all, two people had been killed and five people had been wounded every hour.

The assessment found that practically every state in the nation had been affected over the last week, with at least one gun-related incident in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Of all the states, Illinois had the highest number of gun violence incidents, with 109 incidents tracked. Texas followed with 63 incidents, and then Pennsylvania, California and New York, where there were 59, 52 and 48 incidents, respectively, over the last week.

When it came to gun-related incidents that led to death, Texas had the highest rates with 35 fatalities. Illinois, meanwhile, topped the list for most people wounded from firearms at 124.

Over the last week, the worst day for gun violence was July 18 and the most violent time on any given day was between midnight and 3 a.m. -- a time period when about 22% of all incidents occurred.

"This week is indicative of a big longer-term systemic issue where people are becoming afraid to go out to parks and afraid to go to malls because they know when they go to a baseball game, there is going to be a drive by [shooting]," Mark Bryant, the executive director of GVA, said. "It's been a very average week and we should be horrified."

Disparities in gun violence

While no part of the country is immune to gun violence, as ABC News dug into the data, it found that the violence occurs disproportionately in poorer, urban areas -- from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York City.

More than two-thirds of all the gun violence incidents reviewed unfolded in census tracts across the nation, where more than 50% of residents are nonwhite.

Over half of the incidents occurred in the nation's poorest census tracts, where the median household income is $40,000 a year or less. About 17% of shootings occurred in census tracts where people make more than $60,000.

In New York City, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told ABC News that the city saw a 73% increase in shootings in May 2021 when compared to the same time last year. When asked if people are brazen with carrying weapons, he said, "I don't think there's any doubt. ... The data here in New York City is [there are] more guns on the scene of shootings, more rounds being fired."

He said that factors contributing to the surge in gun violence include gang violence, police budget cuts and COVID-19 shutdowns in the court system, which have caused a backlog of more 5,000 gun cases.

"Taking the gun off the street is great, but really, what we need is we need the individual carrying the gun off the street," he said.

Shea said there had been a drop in the rate of gun-related cases in June 2021 after the department increased gun-related arrests and police targeted repeat offenders, but he says the drop still isn't enough.

"When you look at who's getting shot in this city right now, it's about 97% of people of color," he said. "It's way off the charts."

ABC News spent time at the Oakland, California, headquarters of ShotSpotter, a company that works with law enforcement across the country to record and track gunshots in the area and alert authorities.

"We published 240,000 gunshot alerts, real verified confirmed gunfire alerts in 2020," ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clarke said. "On a year-to-date basis, 2020 to 2021 is over 20% [in gunshot activity]. And we haven't reached the peak part of the summer yet."

In Philadelphia on Wednesday, where the gun-related death toll has already surpassed 300 this year, three teens were shot -- two of them died from their wounds. As ABC News embedded with Philadelphia police, they repeatedly pointed out streets where shootings had once occurred.

Later that night, a person was shot dead in front of what some might consider Philadelphia's most famous cheesesteak restaurants, Pat's and Geno's. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told ABC News the shooting was due to a parking dispute.

During a time in which policing has received extra scrutiny after the death of George Floyd, Outlaw, a Black woman, sees the struggle from both sides.

"Because I have all of these lived experiences and these different perspectives, I understand why the police do what we do," she said. "But I also understand the hurt and torment in our communities."

Like so many other communities across the nation, in Suitland, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., one community is mourning the death of Taya Ashton. The 20-year-old transgender woman was killed last Saturday night in her apartment.

DeAllen Price, 27, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in connection to Ashton's killing. He was arrested a day after her death on unrelated charges in Virginia and is pending extradition to Prince George's County, authorities said. Police say the suspect and victim knew each other.

Prince George's County Police said they don't believe it was a random crime, but also said that they have "uncovered no evidence suggesting Taya's murder was due to her gender identity."

Taya's grandfather, Stuart Anderson, held a vigil in her honor on Wednesday where around 100 friends and family members hugged one another, sang and released purple balloons in her honor.

Anderson denounced the gun violence that has wracked the community.

"I'm tired of doing vigils," Anderson told ABC News. "If whoever it is that shot my grandchild hadn't had the gun, my grandchild would be right here. We got to get these guns off the streets."

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also reach the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741741.

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Utah's Great Salt Lake drops to lowest level ever recorded

Utah Department of Natural Resources

(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The southern portion of the Great Salt Lake in Utah has dropped to its lowest level ever, the U.S Geological Survey said Saturday. Lake levels have been declining for some time, but the record-breaking drought hitting the West has accelerated its fall in recent months.

Average daily water levels dropped about an inch below the previous record of 4,194 feet, set in 1963, with records dating back to 1847.

A series of images released by Utah's Division of Water Resources showed the clear contrast between what the Great Salt Lake -- the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere -- looked like at its highest and average levels versus the new record low.

The drought numbers in Utah this year illustrate how dire the situation is there. The latest U.S Drought Monitor report released on Thursday shows nearly 100% of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions -- level 3 out of 4.

To make matters worse, more than two-thirds of the state is now in an exceptional drought -- the highest drought level. Just one year ago, there were no exceptional drought conditions reported in Utah.

The impacts of the relentless drought are far from over.

"Based on current trends and historical data, the USGS anticipates water levels may decline an additional foot over the next several months," Ryan Rowland, data chief for the USGS Utah Water Science Center, said in a statement.

The USGS and Utah officials said they continue to closely monitor lake levels and the drought situation in the state as potential impacts could cascade through not only the state's natural resources, but also through the economy.

"We must find ways to balance Utah's growth with maintaining a healthy lake," Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement.

"Ecological, environmental and economical balance can be found by working together as elected leaders, agencies, industry, stakeholders and citizens working together," he added.

The Great Salt Lake is a major tourist destination, with over 1.14 million people visiting the lake's three biggest state parks -- Willard Bay, Antelope Island and Great Salt Lake -- in 2018, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

Drought conditions are only expected to get worse in the coming weeks with limited chances for widespread, significant rainfall.

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'Dating Game' serial killer Rodney Alcala dies on death row

Michael Goulding/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- Rodney Alcala, a convicted serial killer who was on California's death row, has died, authorities said Saturday.

Alcala, 77, died of natural causes at 1:43 a.m. Saturday at a hospital in the community near Corcoran State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

Alcala was known as "The Dating Game" killer for his appearance as a winning contestant on the television game show in 1978.

After representing himself in Orange County court, he was sentenced to death in 2010 for the 1979 murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe and the murders of four other women -- 18-year-old Jill Barcomb and 27-year-old Georgia Wixted, both in 1977; 32-year-old Charlotte Lamb in 1978; and 21-year-old Jill Parenteau in 1979.

He was previously sentenced to death twice for the murder of Samsoe -- in 1980 and then again in 1986 -- though those sentences were later overturned in appeals and he was granted new trials.

Alcala also pleaded guilty to the murders of two other women in New York -- Cornelia Crilley in 1971 and Ellen Jane Hover in 1977. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2013.

He has been linked to or suspected of murders in other states. In 2016, he was charged by Wyoming prosecutors with the murder of 28-year-old Christine Ruth Thornton, who disappeared in 1978 when she was six months pregnant and whose body was found four years later, though authorities ultimately decided not to extradite him to Wyoming for trial due to his failing health.

Alcala's execution in California had been postponed indefinitely due to a moratorium on the death penalty instituted by the state in 2019.

A successful photographer, Alcala often would lure women and girls by approaching them on the street and offering to take their picture before attacking them, investigators said. While investigating the murder of Samsoe in 1979, investigators found hundreds of photographs in a Seattle storage locker belonging to Alcala of unidentified women, girls and boys, as well as jewelry believed to be trophies of some of his victims.

In 2010, the Huntington Beach Police Department released the photos taken by Alcala confiscated decades earlier to determine whether they may have been victimized by him. Prior to his death, he had not disclosed whether there were other victims.

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One dead, six injured after boats collide on Georgia lake

Emily Swecker/WGXA

(MACON, Ga.) -- One person is dead and six others injured, including one critically, after two boats collided on a Georgia lake early Saturday, officials said.

The incident occurred before 3:40 a.m. on Lake Tobesofkee in Macon, Mark McKinnon, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' law enforcement division, said in a statement to ABC News.

All seven victims were aboard a pontoon boat when it collided with a "cigarette boat" occupied by two people, McKinnon said.

William Childs, 22, suffered an open head injury and was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Bibb County coroner Leon Jones told ABC News.

"I knew he was going to die," Jones, who was in the hospital responding to a separate incident, said of the moment he saw Childs brought into the emergency department.

A woman in her early 20s was in critical condition in the intensive care unit with a head injury, Jones said.

The other five people on the pontoon boat sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

The two people aboard the cigarette boat were not injured in the crash, officials said. They allegedly abandoned the boat and were found at a nearby residence, McKinnon said.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Critical Incident Reconstruction Team is investigating.

Authorities suspect alcohol may have been involved but are awaiting results of the investigation for confirmation, according to McKinnon.

Any charges will be determined when the investigation is completed in two to three months.

Lake Tobesofkee, a recreational lake located just outside Macon's city limits, has 35 miles of shoreline and is a popular spot for boating and fishing.

Editor's note: Authorities initially reported the operator of the cigarette boat was arrested for boating under the influence, though that information was later determined to be incorrect. The story has been updated to remove references to the arrest.

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Washington state deputy shot and killed in the line of duty

KATU

(VANCOUVER, Wash.) -- A Washington state sheriff's deputy was shot and killed in the line of duty Friday night as police launch a search for suspects.

The deputy involved in the shooting that unfolded around 7 p.m. has not been named.

Clark County Sheriff Sgt. Brent Waddell said in an initial press conference the deputy was hospitalized after being "seriously injured," but by 11:30 p.m. the department announced the officer died.

Waddell said there were "multiple suspects" involved in the shooting and they may be "armed and dangerous."

Two persons of interest have been detained and a search is ongoing for a third person of interest, Vancouver Police, which is handling the investigation said Saturday, according to The Columbian.

Officials did not offer details about the circumstances under which the deputy was shot.

Police were involved in a standoff with someone at a Vancouver apartment complex late into the night, local ABC affiliate KATU reported.

Several police departments searched for suspects in the area of Interstate 205 near Northeast Padden Parkway well into the night.

"This is a difficult time for the Clark County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement agencies in Clark County and the surrounding Clark County, Portland metro area. Clark County law enforcement appreciates the support and understanding of the community in these tough times," the department said in a news release. The investigation remains ongoing.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Missouri county's order reinstating mask mandate amid delta surge met with challenges

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(ST.LOUIS) -- Hours after health officials in St. Louis announced they would reinstate a mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state's attorney general said he planned to challenge it.

On Friday, officials for the city and county of St. Louis said residents ages 5 and up will be required to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation starting Monday, regardless of vaccination status. Wearing masks outdoors in groups will be strongly encouraged under the new order, which includes exceptions while eating and drinking in restaurants and bars, and for people with disabilities.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said on Twitter late Friday night that he planned to file a lawsuit Monday to halt the mask mandate.

"The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects -- they are free people," he said. "As their Attorney General I'll be filing suit Monday to stop this insanity."

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch has also said he plans to challenge the mask mandate. Last month, Missouri enacted a new law allowing local governing bodies to halt public health orders at any time through a majority vote.

St. Louis County rescinded its health order requiring masks and social distancing in mid-May, a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance allowing fully vaccinated Americans to stop wearing masks indoors in most settings. Local officials recommended wearing masks "whenever you're close to people who may not be vaccinated."

"We have arrived at a point in the pandemic where we have to lean more heavily on personal responsibility to prevent further spread of the virus," Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis, said in a statement at the time.

In the weeks since, COVID-19 cases have surged in Missouri, as the highly transmissible delta variant has rapidly spread. The rate of new cases in St. Louis County has increased to 20.9 cases per 100,000 per day -- as high as the rate seen in early February "when we were still coming out of the enormous winter surge," according to a report published Thursday by the county's public health department. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased by 45% between July 6 and July 19.

"We've lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn't work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems," Echols said in a statement Friday announcing the renewed mask mandate. "The city and county health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year."

"Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance when possible, and most importantly, get vaccinated," he added. "Vaccines remain one of the best methods to prevent severe complications and death from the virus."

The increase in COVID-19 cases has been driven by infection in unvaccinated residents, the county has said, including fueling multiple outbreaks in daycares and camps this summer. About 44.8% of St. Louis County residents are fully vaccinated, according to state health department data.

"Vaccinations are the best way to stop the fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19, but so far, not enough people have been vaccinated," Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said in a statement Friday. "We are relentlessly committed to making vaccinations more accessible and convenient. In the meantime, we need everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks in crowded indoor settings."

"We must protect our most vulnerable residents as well as children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations," he added.

Last weekend, Los Angeles County officials reinstated an indoor mask mandate in response to surging COVID-19 cases. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it would not enforce the health order.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York City eyes French 'health pass' vaccination policy

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(NEW YORK) -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared on Friday to entertain the possibility of implementing vaccination passports in the nation's largest city.

The mayor, who had previously said vaccine passports could be an important tool if balanced with privacy concerns, encouraged businesses "to move immediately to some form of mandate," adding that he would "seriously consider" a mandatory COVID pass for most social activities.

De Blasio compared New York to France, which announced this month that so-called "health passes" would be required for events or places that include 50 or more people, starting July 21, and for restaurants, cafes and stores starting in August. Patrons also can show a proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the previous 48 hours to gain entry.

"We have to look at making it more appealing to get vaccinated, because there are only things you can do when you're vaccinated," de Blasio said during an interview with WNYC Friday.

So far in France, the newly announced health passes appear to have spurred an uptick in both vaccinations and anti-vaccine demonstrations. 

Health workers in France, where at least 111,778 people have died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, will be required to get vaccinated by Sept. 15, according to Macron.

As of Thursday, 58% of French residents had received at least one dose, and 44% were fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. By comparison, 56% of Americans had gotten at least one shot, and 49% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, thousands of people in France took to the streets over the weekend to protest the health passes on the grounds that the rule was an overreach of Macron's power and an infringement of personal freedom, adding to longstanding tension. Even prior to the pandemic, the country had a strong thread of vaccine skepticism running through it.

Researchers on vaccine confidence surveyed more than 65,000 people across 67 countries in 2015 on their attitudes about vaccines. Based on those results, researchers deemed France, where 41% of respondents said they disagreed that vaccines were safe, the world's most vaccine-hesitant country. By comparison, the global average was 13%.

Some neighboring European countries seem similarly willing to take a hard line on compulsory vaccination. Italy announced that it would introduce its own mandatory health pass system starting Aug. 6.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lack of diversity in higher learning can be a problem for diverse student bodies

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(NEW YORK) -- Some of the best colleges and universities in the U.S. are facing backlash over the extent of their commitment to classroom diversity.

Several high-profile Black academics have been denied tenure at esteemed higher-learning institutions, sparking a new debate about racism and privilege in academia. This comes as data has shown that as student demographics changed to have more people of color, while the racial makeup of professors and instructors remains the same at these institutions: predominately white.

After decades of teaching at schools including Yale and Princeton, activist and scholar Dr. Cornel West's name made headlines this year in a very public conflict with Harvard Divinity School. West resigned from his position at the school in June.

In his resignation letter, he attributed his decision to "spiritual rot" after he was denied tenure.

"I've been a Black man in America for over 60-something years. ... I know what's going on. It has nothing to do with academics," West said in his letter.

West has said he believes race was a factor in his not getting tenure. He had previously held tenure during his last stint at Harvard and has also held a tenured position at Princeton University. He said his teaching has been significantly limited by Havard's failure to grant him that protection.

Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, spoke with ABC News about tenure standards and policies for higher education.

"[Tenure] provides job security, but it's really about academic freedom," Mulvey said. "[With tenure], you're not worried about your job security for teaching the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing, or because somebody doesn't like what you're researching."

Harvard administrators offered West a five-year contract with consideration of a future tenure bid following public outcry from student protestors, but West declined.

"Harvard offered me more money. It offered me a big chair ... and I said it's not about that. You can't even undergo a tenure process. You can't negotiate respect in that regard," West said in an interview with ABC News' Deborah Roberts.

The Harvard Divinity School issued a statement thanking West for his "enormous contribution to ... issues of racial justice" adding: "We had hoped to retain him on our faculty for many years to come."

During the three-month dispute over West's tenure debate with Harvard, New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones publicly announced her withdrawal from tenure negotiations with her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

UNC recruited her to be the Knight Chair in race and investigative journalism, a position which is endowed at schools by the Knight Foundation to lead journalism in the digital age.

However, the board of trustees at the school initially refused to vote on her tenure. It would have made her the first person to hold the position without tenure in the Knight Chair's history at the school.

"I think it showed that there was not a respect for what Black faculty go through on campus," she told ABC News in a recent interview. "If they were able to do this to me -- I work at the New York Times. I have a huge megaphone, I have a huge platform -- what do they think they could get away with when it came to lesser-known scholars?"

Though the school's board of trustees did eventually vote in her favor for tenure, she declined the offer, instead announcing her decision to accept the first Knight Chair position at Howard University, a historically Black college.

UNC said it is "disappointed" that Hannah-Jones won't be joining the faculty" and that the school is working "toward a more inclusive and equitable campus," in a statement released on July 6.

ABC News' data team analyzed U.S. Department of Education reports on more than 4,000 schools and found that there has been a dramatic change in the demographic makeup of students, while instructors' demographics remained stagnant.

Overall, they found the student population on the nation's college campuses have become majority non-white, while faculty has remained about 70% white.

"Nikole Hannah-Jones' situation is particularly egregious because what you can see is a Black woman not getting what was given automatically to everyone that came before her," Mulvey said.

Research shows non-white professors are less likely to receive tenure. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System shows professors of color make up 30% of the overall faculty, but only 10% of tenured professors are people of color. Of that 10%, 3.7% are Black and 4.8% are Hispanic/Latino.

Overall about 41% of all faculty are tenured, but among Black and Hispanic faculty, the percentage of those who are tenured is lower.

Hannah-Jones will join faculty members at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University, alongside author and Howard alumnus Ta-Nehisi Coates.

West says there are "barriers" that non-white professors face on the path to tenure.

He noted the "invisible" responsibilities that professors of color take on that typically fall outside of their job description on paper. In large part, he said, this stems from their relationship with students of color. These professors fulfill the role of a mentor and encourage professional development.

"When you have students coming in who are hungry and thirsty for a quest for truth and they themselves feel disrespected, many Black professors feel that we want to spend some time with them. Some of us spend a lot of time with them to empower them. Why? Because we had Black professors who empowered us. So that takes extra time. It takes extra effort. It takes extra energy," West said.

According to Mulvey, the glass ceiling for nonwhite professors in higher education is nothing new.

"Higher education is not immune to systemic and institutional racism," Mulvey said. "Faculty of color will talk to you about the Black tax, which is well-known in that faculty of color are always asked to serve on diversity, inclusion and equity task forces. And as a result, when a faculty of color comes up for tenure, they may have found they didn't have the same amount of time for research as their white colleagues."

The racial disparities within higher education reach beyond the realm of faculty, influencing students' experiences in the classroom.

ABC News' data analysis has found that non-white students at universities with more diverse faculty have higher graduation rates.

It's a correlation not lost on Georgetown University senior Yaritza Aguilar. She is the first in her family to go to college and says professors of color have been crucial throughout her education.

"When I have a Latino professor, I feel more confident. Latin professors have been in my shoes, being the first to kind of lift your family out of a difficult situation and there's a lot of trauma that comes with that," said Aguilar.

ABC News' data team found racial disparity is present across schools, which can cause students to feel isolated and discouraged to continue their education, affecting graduation and retention rates.

"For a student to come on a campus and not see anyone else that looks like them, the message is you're an outsider. If they see faculty that looks like them, the message they get is that, I can succeed here, I can succeed in this field," Aguilar said.

Early last year, Aguilar was involved with a group of student volunteers who pushed an initiative to help the school hire two more Latino professors in the history and American studies department. She is also starting a petition to help create a Latino studies minor.

"After the murder of George Floyd, I think Georgetown has been more responsive and critical of the way they've dealt with diversity. They created a racial justice initiative and hired another professor of color. But we want that rhetoric to be turned into action," Aguilar said.

Though progress has been made among universities and colleges, many academics say there is still more to be done for faculty and students.

"Racism is still operating in these institutions," West said. "The racism is still at work at each and every one of these institutions. Yet there's decent people of all colors willing to fight against it. That's the good news. That's the good news."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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