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Texas protesters dump beer keg on street to demand bars be allowed to reopen


Texas protesters gathered at El Paso’s Cincinnati Entertainment District over the Fourth of July weekend to demand bars be allowed to reopen. Bars were ordered closed for a second time June 26 after the state experienced a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

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The entertainment center, which is made up of restaurants, bars and retail, pulled in citizens who wanted to show support for the local businesses – and maybe cash-in on some free beer, which was reportedly being handed out to the protesters by other protesters.

As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic, and the loss of profits.

As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic, and the loss of profits.
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One attendee, Raquel Mertz, told KTSM she was there in solidarity, “…when our neighbors are being affected it affects us all.”

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As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic and the loss of profits.

“Tax-free beer running down the street, just like in the old days when they did the tea party when they threw tax-free tea into the harbor,” said Frank Ricci Jr., the owner of Rockin’ Cigar Bar to KTSM.

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Currently, the state of Texas has seen spikes in positive coronavirus cases.

A record 8,181 Texans with the coronavirus were hospitalized Sunday, a new daily high as overall cases slipped during the coronavirus pandemic.

State health officials also reported 29 additional deaths, bringing the totals to 2,637 deaths and 195,239 confirmed cases.

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Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report.



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As South Korea Eases Limits, Virus Cluster Prompts Seoul to Close Bars


Go out, socialize and have fun, South Korea’s government told its people, declaring the start of “a new daily life with Covid-19” — while keeping a vigilant eye out for any sign of backsliding, any need for restrictions to snap back into place.

It didn’t take long.

On Saturday, just the fourth day of the new phase, the mayor of Seoul ordered all the capital’s bars and nightclubs shut down indefinitely after the discovery of a cluster of dozens of coronavirus infections.

Government officials, health workers and much of the public know full well that until there is a vaccine, relaxing restrictions will lead to more infections, and possibly more deaths. The trick will be to do it without allowing the contagion to come roaring back.

Other nations, eager to reopen but fearful of the consequences, will be watching closely to see what happens in South Korea.

“A second wave is inevitable,” said Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the government’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters. “But we are running a constant monitoring and screening system throughout our society so that we can prevent it from exploding rapidly into hundreds or thousands of cases like the one we had in the past.”

“We hope to slow the spread and keep the size down to small, sporadic outbreaks, hopefully of 20 to 30 cases, that come and go,” he said, “so that we can handle them while the people go on with their daily lives.”

The country adopted a massive, multipronged approach, including aggressive testing and contact-tracing, near-universal use of masks, social distancing, and localized clampdowns on hot spots. It was aided by a high degree of public cooperation.

Now it is counting on the same tools to prevent a resurgence, creating a new strategy on the fly.

“We can’t sustain our society with our daily life and economic activities standing still​,” said Health Minister Park Neung-hoo.​ “But unfortunately, we could not find a precedent for what we are trying to do​. More likely, our experience, with its trials and errors, will serve as a reference for other nations​ down the road.”

After a 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, epidemiologists quickly learned that he had visited three nightclubs in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul, on May 2. By Saturday evening, they said they were tracking down 7,200 people who had visited five Itaewon nightclubs where the virus might have ben spread.

So far, 27 cases have been found among the club-goers and people who had close contact with them, Kwon Jun-wok, a senior disease-control official, said during a news briefing on Saturday.

The mayor, Park Won-soon, cited a higher figure, saying that at least 40 infections had been linked to the nightclubs. As he closed the clubs, he scolded patrons who had failed to practice safeguards like wearing masks, accusing them of putting the entire nation’s health at risk.

“Just because of a few people’s carelessness, all our efforts so far can go to waste,” he said.

Under the newly eased policy that went into effect on Wednesday, the government is urging people to reclaim pieces of their daily lives, and gathering places like schools, museums, libraries, stadiums and concert halls are expected to reopen in the coming weeks.

If it weren’t for the ubiquitous masks, South Korean cities these days would look almost as they did before the virus. Subways have filled up with commuters. Long lines have started forming on sidewalks in Seoul, not to buy masks but to get seats in favored restaurants.

​The government estimates that the medical system can ​comfortably ​control Covid-19 if there are fewer than 50 new cases per day, and epidemiologists can trace the source of infection at least 95 percent of the time — milestones the country passed last month.

But things are far from normal. Nightclubs and bathhouses take the temperatures of everyone who enters. Students wear masks in class and are not allowed to play contact sports. At Suwon Hi-Tech High School in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, every student’s temperature is checked four times a day.

“Complacency is the biggest risk,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

​South Korea still finds occasional patients whose origin of infection ​cannot be established. Ms. Jung said, “this means that the virus that has infected these people is still out there in the community.”

A government task force of ​economists and sociologists, as well as infectious-disease experts, drafted a 68-page “guidebook for distancing in daily life.” It outlined measures like installing partitions at cafeteria and dining-hall tables, keeping masks on in church and having visitors to weddings, funerals, karaoke bars, nightclubs and internet-game parlors write down their names and telephone numbers so they can be traced later.

It calls for workers with even minor potential symptoms of Covid-19 to call in sick for a few days — a tall order in a culture where reporting for work even when sick is considered a virtue.

The draft was posted online in mid-April ​for public feedback. One change made with citizens’ suggestion: keeping every other seat empty in movie theaters.​

“There is no going back to the life we had before Covid-19,” said Kim Gang-lip, a senior policy coordinator at Central Disaster Management Headquarters. “Instead, we ​are creating a new set of social norms and culture.”



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Prisons And Jails Change Policies To Address Coronavirus Threat Behind Bars : NPR


A picture of a cell at the state prison in Florence, Ariz., where attorneys for the Prison Law Office and ACLU found what they called “squalid” and “filthy” conditions on a recent tour.

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As the Coronavirus spreads across the nation, it has exposed potentially dire health care conditions in some prisons and jails. That’s forced many to change the way they operate.

Arizona and Minnesota prison officials waived copays charged to inmates for medical visits and waived fees for personal hygiene supplies. Some are changing visitation policies. At county jails, there are calls to release inmates early so they can reduce overcrowding.

Health and prison officials have been sounding the alarm about the risks posed behind bars. With so many people bunched together in the small spaces, jails and prisons are considered perfect incubators for the coronavirus to potentially take hold.

“There are over 42,000 people incarcerated in Arizona and the environment of prisons are fertile for an outbreak – closed quarters, lack of resources, and a significant population who have a higher risk of contraction,” said Becca Fealk, from the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona. The group advocates for prison reform.

County jails are also taking steps to minimize the risk. Alameda County plans to release nearly 250 inmates from its county jail after sentencing modifications, according to the county’s sheriff’s office. Additionally, 67 people were released by courts on their own recognizance. In Los Angeles, the county has also begun releasing inmates early and is encouraging fewer arrests, using citations when possible.

At least one U.S. senator is advocating for a nationwide plan to release inmates early who meet certain criteria.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tweeted that she is pushing the Bureau of Prisons to release “all low-risk inmates, including those who are in pretrial detention because they can’t afford to make bail.” She noted that people “in detention are especially vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.”

State prisons share that vulnerability, but some administrators have been slow to respond to the threat.

Arizona prisons, like many others around the country, limit access to some hygiene products out of safety concerns. Prison officials say hand sanitizer, for example, could be misused because of its high alcohol content.

There also is the question of fees. Arizona prisons force men and women to pay for their own personal hygiene supplies like soap and toothpaste. If they need medical attention, such as being seen by a nurse, it’s a $4 copay.

But some people can’t always afford to pay, leaving them vulnerable. Attorneys from the Prison Law Office and the ACLU asked a federal judge to intervene, alleging unsafe conditions given the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

An Arizona federal judge pressured the Arizona Department of Corrections to change state prison health and hygiene policies. The department announced it is now waiving copays for inmates with cold and flu symptoms, and making soap available for free.

“The health and safety of our staff and inmates at the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry is our paramount concern,” David Shinn, director of ADCRR, said in a statement. “In managing this situation, our two top priorities are safety and public health as we work to mitigate the potential spread of COVID‐19 within our prisons.”

Copays and soap

Prison Law Office attorney Corene Kendrick said Arizona is one of 40 state prison systems in the U.S. that charges incarcerated people a copay every time they seek health care.

“The state’s decision to temporarily suspend the $4 copay — the equivalent of a week’s worth of work at the prisoner minimum wage of 10 cents an hour — for people reporting cold and flu-like symptoms is a step in the right direction,” Kendrick said, “but it exposes how counterproductive it is to have such a barrier to seeking care.”

Kendrick and her team interviewed more than 500 inmates at the state prison in Florence, Ariz., and she says many expressed concern over lack of basic necessities.

“Unfortunately, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, we regularly heard from incarcerated people that there were shortages of hygiene supplies such as toilet paper and menstrual products,” Kendrick said.

She said most Arizona prison bathrooms are not equipped with soap or hand sanitizer.

According to a 2019 department policy, even the poorest inmates have to pay for personal hygiene products: “All indigent inmates shall be charged for indigent supplies. Charges shall remain as a debt on the inmates’ (sic) account until the balance is paid in full or partially paid. After one calendar year, the debt balance will be retired.”

Nishi Kumar, a staff attorney for The Promise of Justice Initiative, said a similar system for indigent inmates is in place at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

“There is a ‘prison soap’ that people can get if they are indigent,” Kumar said. “If you have debt on your books from being indigent, half of any future money that you get goes to paying off your debt.”

So far, the prison has not waived the fee.

Burden falls on families

The burden of paying for hygiene products often falls on the families of incarcerated families. One woman, whose daughter is incarcerated at the Perryville women’s prison in Arizona, estimated she spends about $500 each month on commissary items just to keep her daughter fed and healthy.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said her daughter was worried that the virus was already in the women’s prison, noting that many inmates were displaying symptoms. “She was up all night listening to the entire bay cough,” the woman said.

As of Wednesday, Arizona prison officials say there are no confirmed cases.

Carmen Hreniuc, whose son is incarcerated at the state prison in Eyman, Ariz., said the costs of supporting her son are steep.

“We learned that we are all being sentenced as the financial impact on the family is outrageous,” Hreiuc said. “Weekly purchase of additional food, hygiene, and personal items cost around $350 monthly.”

Hreniuc said while they may get relief with the recent temporary fee waiver, she is worried about the families that are not able to afford this additional expense.

“It’s a weekly struggle to manage the food and other expenses,” she said. “What’s going to happen now with everyone’s work schedule being cut or nonexistent? Indirectly, this will create more hardship on the inmates, resulting in less food, less communication, and less personal hygiene items.”

Calls for more action

The Vera Institute of Justice has issued guidance for better hygiene in prisons and jails, recommending facilities “provide free hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap to all people in custody and replenish several times a week.”

Becca Fealk, program coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona, said it is unfortunate that it took a viral pandemic to force the Department of Corrections to provide basic hygiene and medical care.

“Here in Arizona and across the U.S. we have built a system of punishment that is traumatic, and this is only increased with the coronavirus,” Fealk said. “ADC must do more than just provide soap to reduce the chance of an outbreak. They need to release people, including older/aging adults who can be cared for by their loved ones.”

Fealk said her group is recommending the Department of Corrections stop admissions “until this situation is under control.”

While temporary fee waivers and other changes are a positive step, “it’s really just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” says David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project.

Prisons are extremely high risk environments, he says, because there are large numbers of older and medically fragile people living in close quarters.

“The only effective response is to reduce the population density by releasing people,” Fathi says, “starting with those who are most at risk of severe injury or death if they were to contract the virus.”



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#Kazakhstan bars entry to South Korean nationals due to #Coronavirus


Kazakhstan will bar entry to nationals of South Korea from March 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, deputy industry minister Berik Kamaliyev said on Thursday (5 March), writes Tamara Vaal.

Health Care Minister Yelzhan Birtanov told the same briefing that the Central Asian nation stood ready to deport foreigners who arrived from South Korea and other countries such as China from where it has banned nationals from entering Kazakhstan due to the virus.

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