(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 545,000 people worldwide.

Over 11.8 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3 million diagnosed cases and at least 131,666 deaths.

Here is how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

6:30 p.m.: Texas reports record COVID-19 fatalities, hospitalizations

Texas reported its deadliest day during the pandemic on Wednesday, with 98 new deaths from COVID-19.

That number breaks the previous single-day record of 60 fatalities, set the day before. The statewide death toll is now 2,813, based on data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The state also reported record hospitalizations Wednesday, with 9,610 total.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas are now up to 220,564, with 9,979 new cases reported Wednesday. The seven-day average of the daily testing positivity rate was 15.03% as of Tuesday.

5:58 p.m.: Ivy League calls off fall sports

The Ivy League will not be competing in any sports for the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ivy League Council of Presidents announced the decision on Wednesday. It affects the eight Ivies: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

Practice and other athletic training for enrolled student-athletes will be based on the institution and state regulations, the council said in a statement.

It will decide on winter and spring sports competition, as well as the possibility of holding fall sports in the spring, "at a later date," it said.

The Ivy League is the first conference to make a decision on fall sports, and it's unclear how larger college conferences will adjust.

Jim Harbaugh, head coach for Big Ten powerhouse Michigan, said in a press conference this afternoon he expects the conference will make a decision "in the coming weeks."

"If it comes to a point in time where you say that we can't play, it's obvious, it's clear -- then everybody would be reasonable and know that that was the right thing to do," he said.

4:55 p.m.: Site cancels Texas GOP's in-person state convention

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that Houston First, which operates the George R. Brown Convention Center where the Texas Republican Party planned to hold its in-person state convention next week, sent a letter to the party's executive committee announcing it was canceling the event.

"Houston is a hotspot right now in a global pandemic, and we cannot have thousands of people gathering inside the George R. Brown," Turner said at a news conference. "Houston looks forward to hosting conventions in the future, when it is safe and we are not endangering people by exposing them to this virus."

"The people in the city of Houston, their public health concerns, are first and foremost paramount," the mayor said. "Those first responders, police, fire, municipal workers, all of the individuals who will be in contact or in close proximity to this indoor gathering, simply the public health concerns outweighed anything else."

4:20 p.m.: Rate of infection increasing in LA

Los Angeles County is experiencing a "sharp increase in community transmission," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, warned Wednesday.

"Our cases are rising, the rate of infection is increasing and the number of hospitalizations are up," Ferrer said.

Ferrer announced 65 new fatalities, bringing LA County's death toll to 3,642.

"We are worried given the higher rates of hospitalizations that deaths may go back up," Ferrer said.

Ferrer also commended residents for "embracing responsible actions" over the Fourth of July weekend.

Inspectors visited 82 bars over the holiday weekend and all were closed, as ordered, she said.

Inspectors went to 1,101 restaurants, where 99% complied with only providing outdoor dining, takeout and delivery, she said. Ninety-nine percent of customers wore face coverings and 98% complied with physical distancing, she said.

3:35 p.m.: Hospitalizations, ICU admissions on the rise in California

In California, hospitalizations are up 44% over the last two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

Admissions to ICUs are also on the rise, he said.

The governor attributed the growth to a number of factors: not enough people wearing face coverings and social distancing; increased mixing outside of households; outbreaks in prisons and jails; and outbreaks within essential workplaces.

California hospitals are only at 8% capacity, he added.

Newsom reported 11,694 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, but stressed that this number includes a backlog of data from Los Angeles County labs.

Twenty-six counties are now on California's "monitor list," up from 23 counties. Among those on the list are Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento.

3 p.m.: 91% of Arizona's ICU beds are in use

In hard-hit Arizona, the number of coronavirus cases increased by 165% in the last week, while tests increased by just 75%, according to the state's Department of Health.

In Arizona hospitals, 91% of ICU beds are in use.

A record 2,008 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients visited emergency rooms in the state on Tuesday.

12:50 p.m.: NJ now requiring masks in outdoor public spaces

In New Jersey, face coverings are now required in outdoor public spaces when social distancing isn't practicable, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday.

"Requiring masks outdoors is a step I had hoped we would not have to take," Murphy tweeted, adding, "unfortunately, we've been seeing a backslide in compliance."

Face coverings are not required while eating or drinking at an outdoor restaurant, he clarified.

Those under 2 years old are exempt.

At least 13,476 people in New Jersey have died from COVID-19.

11 a.m.: Florida has 41 hospitals with no available beds

As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, the state had 41 hospitals with no available beds as of Wednesday morning, according to the state's Agency for Healthcare Administration.

Only 15.36% of Florida's adult ICU beds remain available, the agency said.

This comes as Florida reports 9,989 more cases since Tuesday, bringing the state to a total of 223,793 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus.

In Miami-Dade County, which includes the city of Miami, the positivity rate has jumped to 21.9%.

Osceola County is reporting a positivity rate of 19.5%, while in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, the positivity rate stands at 16.4%.

Hillsborough County students and staff will be required to wear face masks when they return to school, the superintendent announced Tuesday evening.

10:25 a.m.: NYC schools to mix in-person, remote learning

When New York City restarts school for its 1.1 million public school students, classes will be a mix of in-person and remote learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

Students will learn five days a week and most children will be in school two or three days each week, he said.

Schools will be deep-cleaned each night and face coverings will be required, said Richard Carranza, chancellor of the city's Department of Education.

Fewer students will be in each class and teachers can use large spaces, like gyms and cafeterias, to teach, Carranza said.

Families can also choose remote learning full-time for their children, the mayor added.

"We have to look at this as a challenge, but one that we can also find good in," de Blasio said.

Of those tested for the coronavirus in New York City, 1% are now testing positive, the mayor said Wednesday.

9:05 a.m.: Coronavirus crisis expanding in South and Southwest

The coronavirus crisis is expanding in the South and the Southeast, according to an internal FEMA memo obtained by ABC News.

Arizona reported 354 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, compared to a national average of 100 per 100,000.

In California, the highest number of new cases in last three weeks were in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties, representing 51.8% of new cases in the state.

Southern California and the Central Valley show high community transmission and the Bay Area is also seeing rising cases.

Florida is reporting 261 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week.

The highest number of new cases in last three weeks were in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Broward Counties. But those counties represented only 37.9% of new cases in the state; increases are occurring broadly across multiple counties, including Orange.

In South Carolina, positivity rates are increasing in coastal counties and urban areas.

The highest number of new cases over the last three weeks were in Charleston, Horry and Greenville Counties, representing 41.1% of new cases in the state.

In Texas, Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that 80% of those in the hospital are essential workers, including health workers, first responders and food service workers.

7:21 a.m.: Russia surpasses 700,000 cases of COVID-19

Russia confirmed 6,562 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 700,792.

Over the past 24 hours, 173 people have died in the country bringing the total toll to 10,667.

A total of 8,631 people recovered over the last 24 hours as well which brings the overall number of recoveries to 472,511.

Russia has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases by country in the world behind only the United States, Brazil and India, respectively. Russia has more than double the amount of cases to Peru which currently sits as the fifth worst-affected country in the world.

6:33 a.m.: Orlando Magic player tests positive for coronavirus, team official says

On the same day the Orlando Magic arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to prepare for the upcoming NBA season restart, officials said one of their players will be temporally benched by the coronavirus.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman made the announcement during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday. The unidentified player had previously tested positive during the NBA's last round of testing that began on June 23.

"That player is following protocol and and we're hoping that he can join us shortly," Weltman said.

The Magic did not say which player had a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The league told players that it will not suspend play in the event of several positive cases, but would look into stoppage if an outbreak did occur.

5:04 a.m.: Over a dozen contract coronavirus after high school graduation

More than a dozen people who attended a high school graduation in North Carolina have reportedly contracted the novel coronavirus.

Officials have identified at least 16 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after attending Marvin Ridge High School's graduation ceremony on June 24 in Waxhaw, North Carolina, according to a report by Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC-TV. While some of those people may have been together at other events, officials said, the only common link they all share is the graduation.

Officials said anyone who attended the ceremony "needs to take additional precautions when interacting with individuals from our vulnerable population," and to get tested if they or someone in their home develops symptoms.

Board members of the Union County Public Schools had voted in late May to hold in-person graduation ceremonies while practicing social distancing, despite an order from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper that prohibits them. The Union County Sheriff's Office said they wouldn't interfere with the plans to carry out traditional graduations.

"As Union County Public Schools held graduations, the district provided clear health and safety guidance for graduates and their guests," Union County Public Schools told WSOC in a statement Tuesday. "Ceremonies included social distancing protocols, and staff encouraged all attendees to wear face coverings. In addition, hand sanitizer or hand washing stations were available at each stadium."

3:30 a.m.: US sets another record with over 60,000 new cases in a day

More than 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

It's the first time the United States has reached or crossed the 60,000 threshold of newly diagnosed cases in a 24-hour reporting period.

Tuesday's caseload shattered the country's previous record set on July 2, when more than 54,000 new cases were identified.

The national total currently stands at 2,996,098 diagnosed cases with at least 131,480 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.

By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 50,000 for the first time last week.

Many states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some -- including Arizona, California and Florida -- reporting daily records.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Georgijevic/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC NEWS

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- It soon may be even more costly in San Francisco for so-called Karens to dial 911 and make baseless accusations against persons of color.

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton on Tuesday introduced an ordinance called The Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, or CAREN, Act, which would amend the city's police code and allow anyone harmed by such calls to sue the callers.

The bill is named after the slang term "Karen," which has been used to denote white people calling police with outrageous and demonstrably false allegations against persons of color.

"Racist 911 calls are unacceptable," Walton tweeted, in part, on Tuesday.

Phony 911 calls in California already are illegal, but current laws, Walton said, don't punish people for making fraudulent calls "based on the perception of another individual to be a threat due to their race, religion, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or outward appearance."

The supervisor cited several recent examples, including a case where a white man called the cops on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood. A white couple allegedly called the police on a Filipino man who wrote “Black Lives Matter” in chalk outside his home, according to Walton.

Walton also cited the Memorial Day incident in New York City's Central Park where a white woman, Amy Cooper, was filmed calling police to report a Black bird watcher who'd merely asked her to leash her dog. The Manhattan district attorney charged Cooper with a misdemeanor this week.

Under the CAREN Act, a draft of which will be reviewed by the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee at the Board of Supervisors, a violator would be liable for damages of no less than $1,000.

The measure is being introduced in tandem with a California state bill that would classify false and discriminatory 911 calls as a hate crime. The bill, AB 1550, would allow the person harmed to sue the caller for up to $10,000 in damages.

"If you are afraid of a Black family barbecuing in the community park, a man dancing and doing his normal exercise routine in the bike lane, or someone who asks you to comply with dog leash laws in a park, and your immediate response is to call the police, the real problem is with your own personal prejudice,” California State Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement.

Similar bills have passed in Oregon, Washington and New York.

A couple in California caught on video appearing to deface a Black Lives Matter mural in a California street were charged with a hate crime on the success of postlockdown control strategies," they said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Two weeks of protests and unrest in New York City after the death of George Floyd only intensified the overwhelming distrust many feel toward the New York City Police Department, the state's attorney general, Letitia James, concluded in a preliminary report.

Released on Wednesday, the document, "New York City Police Department's Response to Demonstrations Following the Death of George Floyd," doesn't render a specific judgment on the performance of officers, but it does state: "It is clear that too many New Yorkers no longer trust the police to do their jobs effectively and fairly."

James also said at a press conference that after three days of public hearings, in which she heard from protesters and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, the commissioner's testimony on the events was "at odds with the vast majority of the protesters who came before us."

"The police should not police themselves, period, and it requires change and it requires reform," James said. "Why is this one agency treated so differently than all of the others?"

According to the report, from May 28 to June 7 there were 2,087 protest-related arrests, about 190 per day. The vast majority, nearly 1,500, were in Manhattan, and among all arrested 44% were white, 39% were Black and 13% were Latino. But the data also shows that only 3% of white individuals and 8% of Latinos were charged with felonies, while for Black individuals that figure was 16%.

The majority of the arrests came on May 31, when James said businesses were looted, and between June 2 and June 6, the days of the 8 p.m. curfew, which, according to the report, "was a significant driver of arrests."

The report also noted that on the evening of June 3, there was an increase in the number of peaceful protesters out after 8 p.m., along with an increase in stricter police enforcement.

James heard testimony from protesters who said that NYPD officers used pepper spray, indiscriminately and excessively, numerous times. In one instance, a person testified being struck on her lip with a baton and having her face mask fill with blood.

She went on to say that she heard a white NYPD officer say to a white protester, "Well, you wanted to be in the hood -- welcome to it."

Fewer than 10 officers were disciplined for behavior during that span of protests, according to data Shea provided James for her report.

Zellnor Myrie, a state senator who attended the May 29 protest, testified that he intentionally wore a neon shirt with his name and his title so he would be easily identifiable. However, he said, despite the peaceful nature of the protest and clearly identifying himself, officers "pepper-sprayed him without justification and temporarily detained him without providing prompt medical attention to address his injuries."

Shea testified that he disagreed with protestors' allegations that officers misused pepper spray, insisting instead that officers exercised "incredible restraint."

Shea said that a video showing two police cars driving into protesters, some of whom had been throwing objects at the vehicle, did not violate the department's use-of-force policy because the officers' vehicles were "penned in by protesters" and "set upon and attacked."

A spokesman for the New York City Police Department said James' report was "of course a political and not an investigate document."

"Rather than rehash rhetoric we should come together -- state and local law enforcement and elected officials -- and confront and solve the crisis at hand," Richard Esposito, deputy commissioner for public information, told ABC News.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement to ABC News, in part: "The report tells only one side of the story and delivers reheated proposals that have been part of the anti-police agenda for decades." Healing the rift between officers and citizens requires "giving meaningful consideration to the perspective of police officers on the street."

The report made several recommendations, including that the NYPD must be overseen by a commission that has the authority to hire and fire NYPD leadership, including the commissioner, has unfettered access to records and approves NYPD's budget.

The commissioner currently has "full power" over whether to fire an officer, James said.

The report also recommended that all police officers in New York be certified through a process that allows for "decertifying" officers engaged in misconduct, which would prevent them from being rehired by another police department elsewhere in the state.

A final recommendation was that police officers must be held to uniform standards on the use of non-lethal and deadly force and face meaningful consequences for violations.

"One report and one set of recommendations will not solve this problem," James said, "but it does offer concrete steps towards progress."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Confusion over a Florida university's memo to employees about caring for children while working remotely has put a spotlight on the pain working parents are feeling during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly working moms.

Several professors at Florida State University took to Twitter last week after receiving a memo from the university that stated it would "return to normal policy" on Aug. 7 and "no longer allow employees to care for children while working remotely."

"I can't even process that -- the pandemic is not over and will not be over then," Dr. Jenny Root, an associate professor of special education at FSU, wrote on Twitter about the policy.

My uni (in FLORIDA) just announced that effective August 7th the University will no longer allow employees to care for children while working remotely. I can’t even process that- the pandemic is not over and will not be over then.

— Dr. Jenny Root (@Dr_Jenny_Root) June 27, 2020

New email today walking back that terrible working from home HR policy announcement last week, and apologizing.

— Dr. Sara A. Hart (@saraannhart) July 2, 2020

Katherine Musacchio Schafer, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at FSU, said the email from university officials caught her off guard. Since March, Schafer has been caring for her 2-year-old daughter at home without child care while also completing her doctoral research.

"I laughed out loud and then I called my older sister and her husband, who are lawyers in [Washington], D.C., and asked them, 'Is this legal?,'" Schafer told "Good Morning America." "It just seemed like an outrageous demand."

"It would be the exact same thing as if someone also sent you an email and was like, 'Hey, we've decided to not allow people to eat during the day,'" she said. "That's a ridiculous claim if you can't enforce it and also, what am I going to do with my 2-year-old?"

The university sent out a second email two days later to faculty and staff, apologizing that the first message "caused confusion and anxiety for many employees" and clarifying that its policy does still "allow employees to work from home while caring for children."

Dennis Schnittker, an FSU spokesman, told "GMA" Wednesday that university "employees working remotely can continue to care for their children at home, as has been allowed since the beginning of the pandemic in March."

The Aug. 7 date was considered a time when schools and day care centers would be open in the Tallahassee area, where FSU is based, but now that timeline is in flux due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, according to Schnittker. The policy update outlined in the original email also applied only to staff employees who did not work remotely before the pandemic and was an update on the university's telecommuting agreement for staff employees that was put on hold during the pandemic, he said.

"Those staff employees should work with their supervisors on a schedule that allows them to meet their parental responsibilities in addition to their work obligations," said Schnittker. "Again, all our employees are being allowed to care for children while working from home."

Women will be the ones 'to sacrifice'

The discussions between employers and employees unfolding at FSU, a public university, are just one example of the dilemma that working parents across the country are facing as their places of business reopen, but their child care situation remains in flux.

There is currently a national debate underway about how and whether schools will reopen in the fall, with President Donald Trump putting pressure on schools to open and some parents, teachers, administrators and health officials remaining worried about the safety of sending kids back full time.

Some schools are planning for a situation in which students are in-person a few days a week and learning remotely the other days, a child care logistical nightmare for parents. In the case of day care centers, there are still questions about safety and experts are warning that the coronavirus pandemic is pushing the industry to the brink of collapse.

The lack of child care options caused by the coronavirus pandemic could have a damaging effect on women in the workplace, according to Lisa Levenstein, director of women's, gender and sexuality studies and associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

"What we're going to see is increasing numbers of middle class women are just not going to be able to go back to work if their work changes from being able to be remote to being on site or they may decide they can't do it remotely, that it's too much with the kids," she said. "They may just decide to drop out of the labor force and we know that will have lasting impacts because it's very difficult to get back into the labor force when you leave."

"The reason that women will be the ones to do this is because they tend to be in those lines of employment that pay less, not that their work is any less important, but just as a culture we value it less and thus it's paid less and so they'll be the ones who tend to sacrifice," added Levenstein, the author of "They Didn't See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties."

Women are already facing the brunt of unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, data shows, leading experts to label this economic downturn a "she-cession." Just over 11% of women were unemployed in June, compared to just over 10% of men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Just a few months ago, in December, women had marked a historic achievement when, for the first time in a decade, they surpassed men with the number of U.S. jobs held, according to the Department of Labor.

"If you take the unemployment rate, the people who have just lost their jobs, and add that to those who are not going to be able to go back if they can't figure out what to do with their kids, if they have no option for child care, it's really going to be a significant change," said Levenstein, pointing out that lower-income women will be even more affected. "It's a really big deal."

In addition, whether a woman is employed or not, the heavy domestic burden that women carry has been laid bare during this pandemic, with women taking on increased tasks at home and reporting even more stress, data shows.

"Women right now are basically performing the invisible labor that is holding things together," said Levenstein." "They are keeping our economy and our society at large functioning and keeping children alive, often while simultaneously trying to perform full responsibilities for their jobs in the midst of a pandemic that is incredibly stressful for everyone, even people without any dependents."

Schafer, the FSU doctoral candidate, said she has made it through the pandemic without child care by working on her research during her daughter's nap time and at night, often sending emails into the wee hours of the morning.

"I think sometimes there's this notion that to be supportive of parents you need to make the load lighter for them. I don't think that's the truth," she said. "I think the support that I've been given by my major professor and by my colleagues has been to work as efficiently as possible with the understanding that during the day it's busy."

"I do think very easily that we could cross over into, 'Let's not even ask moms if they want to be involved in this project because we know they're busy,' and that's not OK," Schafer said. "Instead, people around me are moving full-steam ahead with me and just realizing that now I work in the nighttime."

Levenstein said she is hopeful that this moment can be a time for real change in the U.S., both at the cultural and policy levels, the kind of big effort she says is needed instead of relying on individual organizations to adequately support working moms.

"The amount of change that can happen will be severely limited if it's just done in individual workplaces," she said. "There are public policies that can be passed to require employers to recognize this kind of labor and also to improve women's situation in the labor force."

Among those policies are things like raising the minimum wage, mandating family leave policies and providing adequate health care and internet access for all to help erase disparities, according to Levenstein.

"I think this is a critical moment and it could be a pivotal moment in terms of how we as a nation recognize the essential labor that happens in the household and is done in terms of caring for other people," she said. "We need to talk more about this kind of labor [done most often by women] that is often invisible and not valued."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Javier_Art_Photography(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- BY: MARIYA MOSELEY and CRISTINA CORUJO, ABC News

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Puerto Rico is not only enduring a health crisis but also a worsening drought, forcing tens of thousands to go without running water every 24 hours.

For nearly a week now, more than 140,000 residents, including some in the island’s capital of San Juan, have been experiencing an intermittent water supply. On Monday, Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency in the wake of the drought.

The drought warning is especially dire during the coronavirus pandemic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging everyone to wash their hands frequently to stop the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to surge across the United States.

Jessica A. González Sampayo, a 26-year-old resident of Hato Rey, in San Juan, told ABC News that she believes the outages pose an additional threat in the wake of a health crisis and makes it even more difficult to follow safety guidelines. She said that her ability to clean her home and shower are extremely limited considering the lack of water.

“It’s been really hard and frustrating .. because we’re in a pandemic. I understand we’re in a drought, but damn,” Sampayo told ABC News.

Considering Puerto Rico’s utilities company has urged residents not to stockpile water, Sampayo said that purchasing water at the store is also limited.

Sampayo works full time at a nonprofit organization and said that she has to adjust her bustling work schedule to align with her running water. When the water does come back on, it's inconsistent and often returns hours after the designated time frame, she said.

“The day that you’re supposed to have the 24 hours, you really don’t have the 24 hours, which is stupid. I really don’t understand,” Sampayo said.

Sampayo, who has one roommate, said that although she’s grateful that her family -- who lives nearby -- is still healthy in wake of the pandemic, she is still concerned about her 93-year-old grandmother, who is at high-risk of infection and her mother, who has diabetes.

“You can’t wash your hands as much as you want ... it’s crazy, and it’s horrible,” Sampayo said.

Puerto Rico has over 2,100 coronavirus confirmed cases, 6,500 possible infections and at least 159 deaths, according to the island’s health department. And while Gov. Vázquez, who was one the first governors across the country to issue a stay-at-home order and has been praised by experts for her potentially life-saving decisions, Puerto Rico has still become one of the hardest hit regions economically across the nation.

Adding to the devastation: The island has been rocked by over 9,000 tremors within the last six months, according to a meteorologist's summary. This includes two strong earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last Friday. The quakes -- including a series in January that left several buildings damaged and thousands homeless -- all come as the island continues to reel from the impact of deadly Hurricane Maria that hit in 2017.

Additionally, the Puerto Rican government has been plagued with numerous scandals, including Gov. Vázquez recently facing scrutiny following allegations she fired a government minister after the official called for an independent investigation into how aid was distributed after January's earthquakes.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement took form first as a hashtag and then as protests across the country in response to Trayvon Martin's death. Now, that same cry for justice reverberates once again following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Americans have taken to the streets demanding justice for a system many believe is broken.

Some activists say that since the first protests in 2013, Black Lives Matter has blossomed into a multicultural awakening with an increasing number of white activists taking part.

Kenidra Woods is among those fighting for racial equity, leading protests in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Woods began her activism seven years ago at the age of 13 after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown's death hit close to home she said, and told ABC News that she was so traumatized that all she could think about was her older brother.

"It put everything into perspective for me," Woods said. "Do they really care about us? That's what I thought at 13. Do I matter? Why am I hated for the color of my skin? So I just knew, 'Kenidra, you got to stand up.'"

Woods has remained vocal amid the pandemic, making Zoom calls, engaging in conversations with celebrities such as "Riverdale" star Lili Reinhardt, and racking up views on TikTok schooling the younger generation about racism.

One aspect of these protests that Woods said is not the same as previous Black Lives Matter movements is the surge of white people involved she has seen.

"Starting off at 13, I saw mostly just black people on the front lines. And you know, there were a few white people out there but now I'm seeing way more white people who are standing up saying no more to the racism and injustice that black people face in this country," Woods added.

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, race is a continuous conversation for lifelong activist Felicia Simmons who is a chapter president in Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

"None of this is new. None of it is new. But this is the first time everybody's seeing it," Simmons said.

Simmons initially organized a protest in her hometown of Asbury Park after Maurice Gordon was fatally shot on the New Jersey Turnpike by a state trooper, just two days before Floyd's death. With no permit, Simmons held the protest on public government grounds on the post office steps, expecting only a couple hundred people to show up.

Simmons said she was joined by nearly 10,000 people instead. Asbury Park, a New Jersey beach town, has deep-rooted racial divides. White people have historically lived on the east side of the town's railroad tracks and their maids and housekeepers, mostly people of color, lived on the west side. It's a racial divide that persists today.

"It reflects the world," Simmons said. "The disparity is on one side of the town, which is posh and pretty. You get the bar scene, the nice time when a police officer walks and shakes your hand. And on the other side of town, it's like the young man, Raequan [Bowers], who got beat for not having a street light on his bicycle."

Yet, Simmons said the town came together in solidarity for the protest. Lana Leonard was among the attendees who decided to take action by creating their own rally.

"We're talking about the intersections of being black and being queer, and in particular being black and being trans and the work within the LGBTQ community that we need to do to ensure that our black sisters brothers and siblings are kept safe and alive," Leonard said.

As a white, transgendered person, Leonard said they use their privilege to stand up for black trans counterparts.

"We need to understand what it is that the privileges that I have with this skin and instead of feeling guilty, it's a matter of what can you do? What are solutions?," Leonard said.

Zack Sims, an Atlanta native, said he was moved by the video of Ahmaud Arbery being fatally shot.

As a former track and field athlete at the University of Georgia, Sims said "it's one thing to know racism and how it exists in America, the prevalence of it, but then it's another to watch a video and watch a person basically be executed running down the street."

Sims didn't feel like there was enough backlash from that video from his community so he aired his frustrations on Facebook and began holding uncomfortable conversations with his family and friends. Sims, who is white, said one conversation that stuck with him was with a longtime black friend who said it's not Sims' fault he has privilege, but the way he uses it is.

AWARE-LA, (The Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere) is a Los Angeles-based organization which confronts its members' white privilege. Their goal is to reach out to other white people and educate themselves on the racial injustices in the country to shift the burden from people of color from needing to educate well-meaning white people.

Shelly Tochluk, professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary's University-Los Angeles, has been a member for 16 years. She runs the organization's Saturday and Sunday discussions over issues of identity, community, privilege and racism.

"We look inside ourselves ... what does it mean for us to be a white person?" said Tochluk "How are we affected by what we've just heard, or what we've just experienced?

Some members spoke about the feelings the discussions evoked.

"Being honest, the last few weeks have been a bit of an overwhelm and, you know, at the same time I'm saying that I realized that's privileged to be overwhelmed," confessed Ellen, one of the organization's members who took part in the Sunday discussion.

"I had been doing racial justice work for several years and had pretty much left white people. I was in a really dark place. And I didn't want anything to do with us. So a lot of shame. A lot of self-hatred," said David, another member.

"It's hard to just feel that pain and know that I'm part of what caused it and whiteness is part of what caused it," said Monique, who was part of the group's Sunday discussion.

One of the issues, according to Tolchuk, who is white, is that white people have not been taught "the full history of whiteness," or "the history of racism against people of color," she said.

"When we start to realize that our parents were uneducated about this, our teachers were uneducated about this, and therefore we are uneducated and therefore we are absolutely complicit in all of what's going on around us, that can be really big," Tolchuk said.

AWARE's activist arm is White People for Black Lives which works in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles, the Movement 4 Black Lives and other black-led organizations. Due to the pandemic moving life to the virtual side, the organization has seen a surge in new members. In June alone, they virtually oriented 3,500 new members, according to Hannah Jurs-Allen, who leads new member orientation

"I think the combination of people really having access to the information of how unjust our system is and frankly having the time on their hands that the pandemic has created was kind of like a whirlwind of creating this moment that we're in now and people are in pain," said Jurs-Allen.

However, allies should be prepared for consequences, anti-racism educator Jane Elliott told ABC News.

"Prepare to have your relatives stop speaking to you," Elliott cautioned. "Get ready to be spit on, get ready to be rejected. Get ready to learn about how unsafe it is to say, 'I don't have to be white to be right.'"

Elliott is best known for the "Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes" exercise she performed with her third graders in rural Iowa the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. A lesson in prejudice, Elliott grouped her students by eye color and gave preferential treatment to those with brown eyes one day and then those with blue eyes the next day.

Five decades later, her lesson remains relevant as the fight for equality continues. However, she said she's encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement "because young people are saying, enough is enough. This isn't just enough, this is too much. But they're out there in groups of people of different colors together, knowing that their lives are in danger because of the way the police have been trained to behave. Knowing that their lives, their health could go to hell because of COVID-19."

As a former teacher, Elliott also urges the reeducation of teachers. "You can't teach what you don't know,' she said. "And educators learn the same thing in school that I did which was the rightness of whiteness."

In Missouri, protests have renewed Kenidra Woods' hope for change. However, "we cannot move forward with hate on our backs," she said. "We cannot move forward, divided. If we want to fight for something ... collectively ... we have to be together."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Jessica Carmine(NEW YORK) -- BY: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

There was no blaze to put out nor an injured victim to treat, but Maryland firefighters responded to a forlorn woman's call to help her see, in person, her 83-year-old mother, literally giving her a lift to facilitate the emotional rescue.

Shirl Carmine said she and her mother, Shirley Taylor, have been separated since the beginning of March when precautions were put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic preventing her from visiting her mom's nursing home in Crisfield, Maryland.

"Me and my mother are extremely close. We've always been," Carmine told ABC News on Wednesday, adding that she was named after her mom. "Normally, I would go at least twice a week to do her hair, and other times I would go and just sit and we'd watch TV or we'd play cards."

While she and her mother have stayed in touch through the pandemic by texting, Carmine said it falls far short of the face-to-face contact they've missed. She said they initially tried Facetime and Zoom, "but with mom being not so savvy with electronics, she would get frustrated. I didn't want her to get frustrated because it was already a difficult time. So we just kind of put that aside."

Instead, Carmine said she has resorted to standing outside the Alice B. Tawes Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and holding signs telling her mother she loves her. Carmine said while her mother could see her, she couldn't see her mom because a screen over the second-floor widow obscured her view.

She admitted she thought of bringing a ladder tall enough to reach her mother's window.

Carmine said her daughter, Jessica, was driving her to a grocery store on Sunday when they passed a gas station and spotted ladder truck 205 from the Crisfield Volunteer Fire Department being filled up at the pump. Suddenly, Carmine got an idea.

"We got to the stop sign and I said, 'Jessica stop, turn in here.' She said, 'Why?' I said, 'I'm going to ask them to see if they'll take me up there.'"

Carmine said she tracked down Fire Assistant Chief Engineer Matt Tomlins inside the gas station mini-market.

Tomlins immediately got on his cellphone and relayed the unusual request to Fire Chief Frankie Pruitt, who called the nursing home and got permission to fulfill Carmine's request, she said.

"He [Tomlins] asked me, 'So, when do you want to do that? And I said, 'That's up to you,'" Carmine recalled. "He said, 'Well, we can do it today if you want.' I said, 'Uh, yeah. Absolutely.' I didn't want to let the chance go by."

She said she walked out of the convenience store "super excited."

"Within a half-hour, I was in the bucket being lifted up to my mom's window," Carmine said, adding that she had never been in a fire engine ladder bucket before.

In the bucket with her was Tomlins and Fire Lt. Doug Curtis Jr., who had front row seats to the reunion, Carmine said.

"I don't think we've ever put someone in a bucket to take them up to see their loved one before, but I guess that's the sign of the times," Tomlins told ABC News, adding that Firefighter Robert Hunt assisted in the special call. "I'm glad we could assist."

Carmine said the moment was indeed special.

"Just being able to look at her, you know, face to face was awesome," she said.

The mother and daughter both put their hands up to the window and pressed against the glass, Carmine said.

"I got a little upset, and she put her finger to her eye. She says, 'No crying,'" Carmine said. "After we got our 'love yous' out of the way, one of the first things she said was, 'There are so many others in here who miss their families.'"

The reunion lasted about 15 minutes, Carmine said.

"I didn't want to hold them up, but I would have stayed there forever," Carmine said.

"It was just for that little bit of time, in that little bit of corner of a little bitty town that everything was all right," she added. "There was no fighting, there was no political back and forth, no coronavirus. It was just a very peaceful, joyful moment."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Rena-Marie(NEW YORK) -- BY: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

Words of hate and bias won't appear on any Scrabble board in official tournaments going forward.

Hasbro, which owns the rights to the board game, and North American Scrabble Players Association announced that it will ban slurs and other offensive epitaphs from official North American tournaments.

The NASPA's permitted word list is different from the official Scrabble Merriam-Webster dictionary, which has removed offensive words throughout the years, according to John Chew, the association's CEO, and in recent weeks, he received calls from players to remove words such as the n-word and c-word from official play.

"I thought to myself, 'Why haven’t we done this already?'" Chew told ABC News.

Chew, who joined the association in 2009, said the topic has come up in the past, as the association uses different dictionaries than the official Scrabble dictionary for play. The association decided not to remove some slurs from adult competition because there was a debate about removing words such as poo and fart, which could be offensive to certain players.

Chew, however, said some words should never be used in the game.

"The key difference is a word like fart and poo are just words that people say to make others feel slightly uncomfortable ... but then there are words like the n-word that are used to specifically demean people," he said.

Chew said players for the most part don't use slurs in competitive play, but nonetheless, those words should be reviewed and stricken from official play. The association is looking at 236 “offensive words” to remove from official play and it will consult Merriam-Webster throughout the process. Chew assured that the n-word and c-word will be removed from the permitted list when it is finalized in the coming weeks.

Julie Duffy, a Hasbro spokeswoman, said in a statement that in addition to working with NASPA on tournament rules, the company will update Scrabble's official rules "to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game."

"Hasbro Gaming is rooted in community and bringing people together, and we are committed to providing an experience that is inclusive and enjoyable for all," she said in a statement.

Chew said most of NASPA's players have approved the plan to remove the slurs. Generally, he said, they are all open to making the competitions as fair, and open to players of all backgrounds.

"Although people say this is a tiny step to be taking ... I figure changing our lexicon changes the core of who we are as word game players," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/TNTbomb_dot_com(RICHMOND, Virginia) -- BY: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

The state of Virginia has eliminated its backlog of rape kits, some of which went untested for decades, according to its attorney general.

Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday that the state's $3.4 million project to eliminate its backlog of 2,665 untested kits has been completed. Virginia becomes the seventh state to clear its rape kit backlog, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that runs the End the Backlog campaign.

"Eliminating this backlog has been a long time coming, and it has taken a lot of work, but it means a wrong has been righted, that justice is closer for more survivors, and that Virginia is a safer place," Herring said in a statement.

Several states across the country have had thousands of rape kits, also known as physical evidence recovery kits (PERKS), sit on shelves in police offices due to a lack of funding and long wait times at labs. The PERKS are crucial for the investigation of rape cases and the arrest of perpetrators, say advocates.

Herring said some of the PERKS in Virginia were left untested for decades.

"For many survivors, the fact that their kit was never tested denied them a sense of security and justice or even closure that is critical for healing from such a traumatic experience," he said in a statement.

Herring's office said it worked with local law enforcement and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to test the kits. As a result, 851 DNA profiles were uploaded into CODIS, the national Combined DNA Index System; 354 results were sent to investigators for further examination; and one kit led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with a 2012 rape case.

In addition to testing the backlogged PERKS, Virginia has taken several steps to ensure the kits are analyzed faster and more efficiently. The state has created a PERK tracking system that helps labs, law enforcement agencies and other involved parties see the status of a kit in real time.

As of July 1, 2020, all agencies handling kits are required to update the status of each kit, according to Herring's office.

"This work has helped to ensure that our responses are as trauma-informed as possible -- increasing the likelihood that survivors will report violence and making it easier for survivors to make informed decisions regarding pathways towards their healing and justice," Kristi VanAudenhove, the executive director of the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance said in a statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FooTToo/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC News

(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas is set to move forward with the execution of an inmate Wednesday, its first since a five-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Billy Wardlow, 45, was convicted of capital murder after he fatally shot an 82-year-old man, Carl Cole, in 1993 during a robbery at Cole's home.

Wardlow was 18 at the time. The minimum age a person can receive the death penalty in Texas is 17 years old.

Wardlow's attorney, Richard Burr, told ABC News Wednesday that there are three pending petitions in the Supreme Court that could possibly result in a stay of execution.

He called those petitions "the most serious and hopeful."

One petition, which has been pending since June 10, has to do with the question of predicting future dangers, according to Burr.

In Texas, in order to be sentenced to death, a person has to be deemed someone who is likely to be dangerous in the future.

"You can scientifically know now it was impossible to predict future dangers of an 18-year-old because their brains are still not fully formed," Burr said.

The two other petitions involve what Burr described as ineffective counsel and an incorrect waiving of another appeal in state and federal court.

Burr said he has also requested with the Texas Supreme Court to withdraw the execution order because of the risk amid the pandemic and the "huge rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas."

A judge moved Wardlow’s execution date from April 29 to July 8 because of the pandemic.

Texas is among the states that have seen an increase in coronavirus cases, the daily rate of positivity, hospitalizations and deaths, according to an ABC News analysis.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a request to delay Wardlow’s execution or commute his sentence to life in prison on Monday, Burr said.

Wardlow's execution time is set for 6 p.m. CST, but can occur any time after that until midnight, according to Robert C. Hurst, a spokesman at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Jason Clark, chief of staff at the state's Department of Criminal Justice, told ABC News the agency can "carry out the process safely for those participating and witnessing the execution."

Witnesses will have their temperature taken, will be provided with a mask and be spaced out, Clark said. No more than five witnesses are allowed for the inmate and victim each, a limit that predates the pandemic.

If carried out, it will be Texas' third execution of the year. The two others took place in Jan. 15 and Feb. 6.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel states across the country, South Carolina is dealing with a brewing crisis of its own with daily case records akin to those in more notable hot spots across the south and west, prompting some local health officials to ready surge plans should hospitals become overwhelmed.

"It's not much better here than it is in Florida or Texas," Dr. Helmut Albrecht, the Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Prisma Health, the largest nonprofit health organization in the state, told ABC News. "It has still not plateaued -- every week is worse than the last. I don't think we can set new records anymore.”

A Harvard Global Health Institute tool used to track the severity of the outbreak recently ranked the state as the third highest in the country in terms of risk level -- behind only Florida and Arizona -- and the data indicates the virus is showing no signs of slowing down. An ABC News analysis of the data found the state is seeing increases three major categories: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

An internal state report obtained by ABC News warned of hot spots and rising cases across the entire state, but with a particularly troubling focus on coastal counties to the south -- a trend reflected in the Harvard tracker.

In Charleston County, for example, the report warned that there is “no sign of cases slowing down.” In Horry County, home to the popular tourist destination Myrtle Beach, “cases continue to sharply rise … widespread travel to the area contributing to cases," says the report, dated July 4.

"New hot spots continue to develop. Consecutive hot spots week after week becoming the norm," it says.

Dr. Rick Foster, a former head of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, a coalition of public health leaders, echoed that sentiment and suggested that an influx of both in-state and out-of-state tourists likely aggravated the bump in cases along the state’s coast.

Experts in South Carolina say basic but critical issues with testing and contact tracing are making it difficult for state officials and health care providers to keep up with the rapid spread of the virus.

"I think we need to massively increase testing capability,” Albrecht said. “Right now, our delays from commercial and public health labs has gone up."

Albrecht lamented slow turnaround times for viral tests -- one week, on average, he said -- as being “not useable.”

"By that time you have not only the patient to deal with but three to five others," Albrecht continued. "We haven't been able to surge the testing supplies as much as nature has been able to surge cases. The more cases you have, the more you have to test. We don't have that surge capability with testing."

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control did not respond to ABC News' request for comment for this report Tuesday.

South Carolina was one of the first states to reopen on April 24, though Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, never fully shut the state down and reopened it without meeting the White House's recommended guidelines. The state also does not have a mask mandate, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to slow the spread of the virus. McMaster's office did not provide comment for this report when reached late Tuesday.

McMaster has previously defended his approach to combating the pandemic. “There are going to be ups and downs," McMaster said during a press briefing on May 28, according to a local news report. "But the effort that we are undergoing in South Carolina is strong, it is thorough, it is well thought out. It has been acknowledged as such and we expect to have success.”

But now the internal state report warned the state is "starting to see hospital strain." On Tuesday, 1,324 were hospitalized in the state, a new record.

Dr. Christine Carr, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, called the influx of hospitalizations -- which she attributed in part to carelessness in the community -- “concerning.” She said beaches have been overflowing and citizens have gone mask-less for weeks.

"There's a ton of community spread right now,” Carr said. “It’s people that don't know what they don't know -- they have no idea how many people they are infecting.”

Statewide hospital capacity is steady for now at 69%, according to Melanie Matney, the chief operating officer at the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA), and ICU capacity is at 72%. Matney said that while those figures are sufficient for the time being, health care officials and providers are watching those numbers “very carefully.” Some individual hospitals are reporting higher capacity rates on their own, Matney added.

With cases on the rise, Matney said the SCHA may soon implement a so-called surge plan, which was developed back in April in case of emergency. She said health officials are “expecting” cases to rise following the Fourth of July weekend, much like they did after Labor Day.

Matney said the surge plan, which could be implemented in a matter of days, would activate sites across the states as health care overflow facilities. They include several hotels and the volleyball center at the University of South Carolina, which would be used for less sick patients to free up room for critical ones in the hospitals.

As hospitalizations continue to climb, Matney said the "main worry" remains staffing concerns. According to the state’s health department, nearly 2,300 health care workers have already tested positive for COVID-19. Matney said the SCHA surge plan would possibly activate nursing students or out-of-state nurses to help in their hospitals.

“They're ill or quarantined for exposure, so it’s very complicated,” Matney said.

At Tidelands Health, a small health care system with locations in communities near the coast, staffing struggles are top of mind. According to Bruce Bailey, the president and CEO of Tidelands Health, at least 42 staff members have tested positive for the virus – a situation that has exacerbated challenges in treating the influx of patients.

"Our [emergency rooms] are at capacity, and a lot of this is staffing -- just having the nurses and the doctors to manage the surge of patients," Bailey said. "We have bed availability, we have ventilators, we have [personal protective equipment], but the real challenge is finding enough nurses and doctors and the specialists to meet the surge in demand."

Last week, Tidelands Health reached out to the National Guard for support and assistance with staffing. No plan has been made, Bailey said, but talks are scheduled to continue this week.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


SteveChristensen/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC News

(CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif.) -- A white California couple has been charged with a hate crime after they were seen on video defacing a Black Lives Matter mural, according to a statement from the Contra Costa District Attorney's office.

Two people, identified by the district attorney as Nicole Anderson, 42, and David Nelson, 53, were seen on July 4 painting over the B and L in the word "Black," which had been painted in yellow, with black paint.

In the video, the man identified as Nelson can be heard saying, "There is no racism. It's a leftist lie," and, "No one wants Black Lives Matter here."

When a woman could be heard asking, "What's wrong with you?" the man replied, "We're sick of this narrative, that's what's wrong. The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism. It's a lie."

He was wearing Trump 2020 garb and yelled "Make America Great Again."

Anderson was the one seen painting over the letters, while Nelson stood alongside her and at one point fetched another can of paint from a car.

Calls to Anderson and Nelson seeking comment were not immediately returned. It's unclear whether they've obtained legal representation.

The mural, in downtown Martinez in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse, was approved through a permit on July 1, according to the district attorney's statement issued Tuesday. It was completed on July 4.

Other murals like it have been seen in cities across the U.S. in the wake of protests against police brutality.

The Martinez police said in a statement Sunday that the couple appeared to have come to the mural "with cans of paint and a roller with the specific purpose of vandalizing over the mural."

"The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner," police said.

Police included a link to the video with the statement in the hopes of identifying the suspects, who, three days later, were charged.

In addition to the hate crime, Anderson and Nelson also face charges of vandalism and possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti.

If convicted, each could receive up to a year in county jail.

"We must address the root and byproduct of systemic racism in our country. The Black Lives Matter movement is an important civil rights cause that deserves all of our attention," Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said. "The mural completed last weekend was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Andrei Vasilev/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- During the first half of the year, 44 states and the District of Columbia introduced nearly 550 bills that protect reproductive health access, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health's annual "Gaining Ground" report assesses state efforts to advance reproductive health, rights and justice during the first six months of the year.

This year's report comes at an unprecedented moment. For one, the pandemic has temporarily shuttered legislatures, impacting the amount of legislation that can move forward. Last year's "Gaining Ground" report noted that, among proactive legislation on reproductive health, 831 bills were introduced and 94 bills were fully enacted as of June 15. This year, 546 bills have been introduced and 47 have been fully enacted in the same time frame.

The health crisis has also "exacerbated and heightened the existing barriers to access to reproductive health care" for vulnerable communities, Andrea Miller, president of the advocacy group, told ABC News. That includes communities of color, young people, those living in rural settings and low-wage earners, she said.

As states responded to COVID-19 with lockdown measures, there was a "flurry of activity" during the first few weeks of the pandemic to increase access to reproductive health care, Miller said.

According to the report, eight states -- California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Virginia and Washington -- designated reproductive health care, family planning services or pregnancy-related care as essential services in their executive orders. Another three -- Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York -- explicitly included abortion care in their lists of essential procedures. The attorneys general of Hawaii and Oregon both stated that their states' orders intended to classify abortion as "essential," the report notes.

These actions came as several state lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to restrict abortion access during the pandemic, the report adds.

Several states responded to concerns raised around birthing during COVID-19, Miller said. When some hospitals started prohibiting a support person or partner present during birth due to COVID-19 concerns, New York and New Jersey mandated that hospitals allow at least one support person.

The organization has also seen "creative thinking" during the pandemic that impacts reproductive health access, Miller said, especially in the areas of telemedicine.

As states waived regulations or enacted new laws to expand telemedicine, patients could consult with their doctors via phone call or video and have prescriptions mailed to them or sent to their pharmacy. In late March, the attorneys general of 21 states asked the Food and Drug Administration to lift restrictions on the medication abortion prescription drug Mifepristone via telemedicine, the report notes.

"We're certainly hopeful that the greater reliance upon and greater understanding of the utility and usefulness and capacity to use telemedicine, that that trend will hopefully continue," Miller said.

Beyond states' COVID-19 responses, major legislation enacted so far this year included Virginia's Reproductive Health Protection Act, which repealed major barriers to abortion care. Virginia lawmakers have also enacted laws to provide menstrual products in schools and expand access to doulas, as well as bills to prohibit pregnancy discrimination and the shacking of pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women, the report notes.

NIRH's latest survey arrived in the wake of a major Supreme Court ruling last week that reaffirmed abortion rights in Louisiana. Despite that victory, Miller expects to see more attempts to restrict access to reproductive care, especially in the South, going into next year.

In 2019, more than 350 pieces of legislation restricting abortions were introduced in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute.

As state legislatures reconvene, Miller hopes lawmakers continue to address the disparity in reproductive health access, "which this pandemic has highlighted so intensely," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Flash flooding and severe weather moved through a large part of the country Tuesday, with up to 160 damaging storm reports from Montana to Pennsylvania.

Winds gusted from 70 mph to almost 90 mph from the Dakotas to Montana, where tennis ball size hail fell in some areas.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, up to 5 inches of rain fell in a matter of hours, producing flash flooding on the streets and submerging cars.

In New Philadelphia, Ohio, more than 4 inches of rain fell in a few hours as well, also producing flash flooding.

Watch for severe storms from the Great Lakes to the central Plains Wednesday, where damaging winds, large hail and a few tornadoes are possible.

The expected warm front that will lift through the Northeast Wednesday could produce strong storms with damaging winds and very heavy rain.

In the West, gusty winds, dry and hot conditions continue to fuel and spread the fires.

The Crews Fire in Santa Clara County, California, is about 5,400 acres and is 50% contained. At least 30 structures are threatened and evacuations are still in place.

The Number Fire in Douglas County, Nevada, is 18,000 acres and is 0% contained.

Looking ahead, red flag warnings and wind advisories continue from California to Wyoming, where winds could gust near 40 mph.

High heat is also a threat in the West from California, to Nevada and Arizona, where an excessive heat watch has been issued for some areas.

Meanwhile, a tropical or subtropical system is trying to develop along the East Coast in the next few days. If it becomes a storm, it would be called Fay.

Regardless of its development, heavy rain and gusty winds are expected from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic by the end of the week. Rainfall totals could reach 3 to 5 inches, with some flash flooding possible.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Bloomington, Indiana, police are looking to question this man and this woman in a red car suspected of driving into protesters, injuring one, on July 6, 2020. (Blomington Police Department)By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Protesters were injured in New York and Indiana by drivers who authorities say appeared to deliberately target demonstrations just days after a Black Lives Matter march on a Seattle freeway turned deadly.

A demonstrator in Bloomington, Indiana, and two others in Huntington Station, on New York's Long Island, were hurt Monday evening during peaceful protests, police said. The driver who allegedly ran over two people in New York was arrested, while police were still searching Tuesday afternoon for the operator of a red car who fled following the Indiana incident.

"This only fuels our fire even more. I promise you I'll be right back out here [Tuesday]," Patrick Ford, one of the organizers of the Bloomington civil unrest, told ABC affiliate station WRTV in Indianapolis.

Ford said several hundred protesters had gathered in downtown Bloomington to demonstrate and show support for Vauhxx Booker, a Black civil rights activist and a member of the Monroe County, Indiana, Human Rights Commission, who said he was attacked on the Fourth of July by a group of white people who shouted racial slurs and called for someone to "get a noose." The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement is investigating the attack that was caught on cellphone video and has gone viral since being posted on social media.

Booker was let go after a group of people intervened and filmed part of the attack.

Ford said Monday night's incident unfolded as the protest in front of the Monroe County Courthouse was ending.

Bloomington police said that about 9:26 p.m., officers were called to the area after getting a report of a personal injury crash, and upon arriving learned a vehicle that injured protesters had fled the scene.

Protester Geoff Stewart, 35, told WRTV that the suspect was driving a red four-door Toyota. He said he asked her to wait to drive in the area until demonstrators cleared the street.

"A woman driving in the vehicle had come up to the stop and had started revving her engine towards us and we tried to stop her and let her know that crowd is clearing up [and] just wait a second," Stewart said. "But she and her passenger both wanted to go right away."

He said the car began to nudge into him and another protester who was in front of the vehicle with her hands on the hood of the car. He said he and the other protester jumped on the car as the driver accelerated around a vehicle blocking the street in support of the demonstration.

Stewart said he grabbed onto the driver's side door, while the other protester jumped on the front of the hood.

"I was trying to block her vision so she would slow down," Stewart said. "I tried to pull myself as far into her way to kind of obstruct her view, but she drove through red lights and made her turn up here that threw both of us off the car."

Stewart said he was not injured.

The Bloomington Police Department said the other protester, described as a 29-year-old woman, suffered lacerations to her head and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she was treated and released.

Police said witnesses provided them with a license plate number for the car and several videos of the incident.

Ryan Pedigo, a Bloomington police captain, told ABC News Tuesday afternoon that police are still searching for the vehicle and attempting to identify the driver and her male passenger.

The Long Island incident happened around 6:45 p.m. Monday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Huntington Station.

Suffolk County Police said they arrested the driver who allegedly hit two people taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest.

Police said Anthony Cambareri, 36, of Coram, New York, drove into the protesters hurting them as they and others participated in a demonstration on the street. The two victims were taken to Huntington Hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver sped away, but police caught him a short time later.

Cambareri was arrested on charges of third degree assault. He was issued a desk appearance ticket and will be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip at a date yet to be determined.

The incidents in New York and Indiana came just three days after a protester was killed and another was injured when a car barreled into a Black Lives Matter protest on a closed freeway in Seattle.

Protester Summer Taylor, 24, was killed early Saturday on Interstate 5 in Seattle. Demonstrator Diaz Love, 32, was seriously injured in the episode that occurred about 1:40 a.m., according to police.

The driver, Dawit Kelete, 27, who is Black, allegedly got onto the freeway by going the wrong way on and off ramp, police said. Surveillance video showed the white Jaguar Kelete speeding and swerving around a vehicle blocking the roadway in support of the protest before striking Taylor and Love, police said.

State police said the suspect continued to drive south on the freeway and was chased by a demonstrator in a car for about a mile before the protester managed to get in front of the Jaguar and force it to pull over.

Kelete was arrested on suspicion of vehicular assault. He appeared in court on Monday and a judge set his bail at $1.2 million.

He remained in custody on Tuesday at the King County Jail, according to online jail records.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is expected to file formal charges against Kelete by Wednesday afternoon.

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