Alabama doctor describes how sick COVID patients ‘beg’ for the vaccine but she can only hold their hand and tell them it is too late

texas vaccine covid
Medical staff member Gabriel Cervera Rodriguez raises his fist to celebrate after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 21, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

  • Amid rising cases of COVID-19, doctors are begging people to get their vaccines.
  • One doctor said, “it’s a choice between the jab or death.”
  • But anti-vaxx trolls are attacking these people online, making them nervous to speak out.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Whilst COVID-19 deaths soar in the USA amongst unvaccinated people, doctors have been pleading with people to get their vaccines.

Dr Brytney Cobia, a doctor based in Alabama, made a heartfelt Facebook post this week – sharing the potentially life-saving importance of getting the COVID-19 jab when offered.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.

“A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax.”

Read more: The anti-vax movement is killing people, and the right-wing media is egging it on

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, who for much of the coronavirus pandemic resisted public-health measures, criticized her state’s unvaccinated population.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” she said when asked what it would take to get more people vaccinated. “Folks supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Alabama has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate nationwide, according to a New York Times tracker.

Dr Cobia’s post attracted a lot of attention, with many praising her candid approach to sharing the lessons she’s learnt working as a doctor in the pandemic. However, others trolled her with insults and death theats – meaning she is now uncomfortable with giving any interviews to the media – reported an NBC reporter who tried to get in touch with Dr Cobia.

Hateful messaging were even posted on the reviews section of Dr Cobia’s Web MD page.

A screenshot of recent sham reviews of Dr Brytney Cobia, who is being trolled for begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19
A screenshot of recent sham reviews of Dr Brytney Cobia, who is being trolled for begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Dr Catherine O’Neal – a doctor in Louisiana – echoed Dr Cobia’s message in a news conference on 16 July: “I want to be clear after seeing what I’ve seen the past two weeks. We only have two choices: we are either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic. Or we are going to accept death.”

A number of people on Twitter replied to the video of Dr O’Neal’s pleas, slamming it as “propaganda,” and that the Delta variant was “released” in order to re-up fear of COVID-19.

Currently, 40% of COVID-19 cases in the USA are in just three states – Texas, Florida and Missouri – with low rates of vaccinations, with1 in 5 cases in Florida alone.

Now, as the cases of COVID rise at an alarming rate – with 63,818 new cases recorded in the USA on July 22 – previously vaccine-hesitant Republican senators are urging people to get their jabs.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Vaccine regret went mainstream this week. Fear of getting sick could finally be encouraging some Americans to get their shots.

coronavirus hospital texas
Dr. Joseph Varon (right) speaks to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas on December 29, 2020.

  • Several hospitalized coronavirus patients expressed regret this week for not getting vaccinated.
  • Their stories may be resonating with other unvaccinated Americans.
  • Vaccination rates are increasing in states with recent COVID-19 surges like Arkansas and Louisiana.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US health authorities are calling it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” In the last two weeks, average COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen more than 50%, with unvaccinated people now representing the vast majority – around 97% – of hospitalized cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For many of these patients, their illness was a wake-up call.

“I’m admitting young, healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

Several other hospitalized patients publicly expressed regret this week for not getting vaccinated.

Amanda Spencer, a 37-year-old woman from Ohio, told her local news site WBNS-10TV that she was initially worried about side effects from the shot. She spent 11 days in a medically-induced coma after getting COVID-19 in June.

“After what I went through, I would’ve much rather been sick for a couple of days and have the mild symptoms that maybe the shot causes than to go through what I went through,” Spencer said on Thursday.

Abderrahmane Fadi, a 60-year-old science teacher in the UK, told the BBC that spending nine days in the hospital with COVID-19 was “the punishment I deserve” for not getting vaccinated.

“It’s like a hammer in my head all the time: ‘Why didn’t you have the vaccine? You had all the chances, the opportunities, the appointments, the letters – everything,'” Fadi said.

These stories may be resonating with unvaccinated Americans lately.

Over the last week, the five states with the highest COVID-19 case rates – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada – had higher vaccination rates than the national average, the CDC said. In Louisiana, the number of first doses administered daily has risen 50% in the last two weeks, from roughly 3,600 to 5,400 per day. Arkansas’s daily first doses also rose 85% during that time, from around 2,800 to 5,300 per day.

“Whether it’s seeing loved ones sick or something else, it’s having an impact,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, wrote of COVID-19 surges in states with rising vaccination rates.

Rising cases and hospitalizations could change the minds of vaccine skeptics

covid vaccine
Maryland National Guard Specialist James Truong (right) administers a Moderna vaccine at CASA de Maryland’s Wheaton Welcome Center in Wheaton, Maryland on May 21, 2021.

It’s hard to know exactly why vaccinations have risen in some states and not others. At the national level, average daily vaccinations have actually declined 15% in the last week, even though no state has vaccinated more than 75% of its residents so far, and 16 states haven’t crossed the 50% threshold.

“We can’t really say with any certainty why we’re seeing an uptick in vaccinations,” Mindy Faciane, a public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Health, told Insider. But rising hospitalizations may be having some effect, she added.

“We think some Louisianans are also seeing the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated, seeing the more contagious Delta variant in circulation and how it’s affecting their communities, and understanding that it is really urgent,” Faciane said. “They’re working through whatever questions they may have had about the vaccine and are now extra motivated to protect themselves and their loved ones in a way they hadn’t before.”

Indeed, data collected by The Economist and polling site YouGov indicates that the escalating severity of the pandemic can successfully change the minds of vaccine skeptics. In Taiwan, for instance, people reported that they were more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine following a spike in cases in May, which forced the country back into a partial lockdown.

“Anecdotally, we are hearing from pharmacists and healthcare providers administering shots that more Arkansans are seeing the urgency in the need to get vaccinated as cases increase in the state,” Arkansas’s state health director, Dr. José Romero, told Insider.

Romero said earlier this month that his department’s vaccination strategy includes highlighting stories of unvaccinated people who became severely ill from COVID-19 – like a couple whose baby was delivered while the mother was still on a ventilator.

“Those people are becoming ambassadors and getting these public service messages out,” Romero said, adding, “This couple in particular exemplifies the view that many, many people have in the state – that is, ‘This is nothing, it’s an insignificant viral infection’ – and really shows the consequences of that type of belief.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

25 GOP-led states and one Democratic state are cutting $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits. Here are the 26 states making the cut this summer.

GettyImages 1231114054
President Joe Biden.

  • Some Republican governors have decided Americans make too much from expanded unemployment benefits.
  • After a surprisingly dismal April jobs report, they moved to end federal jobless aid early.
  • That also includes eliminating programs benefiting gig workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Alabama

kay ivey
Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Monday that the state was halting its participation in federal unemployment benefits starting June 19. 

Those include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program for gig workers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long-term unemployed.

“We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions. Vaccinations are available for all adults. Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it’s time to get back to work,” Ivey said in a press release.

Alabama is also resuming its work-search requirements for recipients, which had been paused throughout the pandemic.

The average weekly benefit in Alabama amounted to $283 in March. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.8%, higher than the 2.8% it had in February 2020.

Alabama is among the seven states that have not raised the hourly minimum wage for workers since the hike to $7.25 in 2009

Experts say other factors are keeping workers from jumping back into the labor force, such as a lack of childcare access and fear of COVID-19 infection.

Alaska

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Alaska will end its participation in the extra $300 in weekly benefits effective June 12. 

“As Alaska’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide range of job opportunities and workers are needed,” labor and workforce development commissioner, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, said in a statement.

Extensions for the state benefit will continue through September 6. 

Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.6% in March 2021, a 0.8% increase from the rate of 5.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $298.

Arizona

Doug Ducey Arizona governor
Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gov. Doug Ducey said the state will terminate all federal jobless benefit programs on July 10, per a news release from his office.

Arizona, however, is setting aside some federal funds to provide a one-time $2,000 bonus for people who return to work by Sept. 6. There are some strings attached.

People qualify for the measure if they are already receiving jobless aid — and they must earn less than $25 hourly at their next job. That amounts to a yearly salary of $52,000. Individuals must also work 10 weeks with a new employer to get the cash.

The state last recorded an unemployment rate of 6.7%, higher than the 4.9% it had immediately before the pandemic in February 2020.

Arizona’s average jobless payout is $238.

Arkansas

Asa Hutchinson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on May 7 that the state would no longer participate in federal unemployment after June 26. 

“The $300 federal supplement helped thousands of Arkansans make it through this tough time, so it served a good purpose. Now we need Arkansans back on the job so that we can get our economy back to full speed,” Hutchinson said in a press release, which cited South Carolina’s and Montana’s separate decisions to opt out of the federal assistance program.

Its unemployment rate is 4.4%, slightly higher than the 3.8% level of February 2020. The average weekly benefit in the state is $248.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 74.7% of the UI Arkansas disbursed came from federal funds, according to a report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. On January 1 of this year, Arkansas’s minimum wage increased to $11 — several dollars above the federal rate of $7.25.

Florida

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida will end its participation in the $300 in additional weekly benefits effective June 26. However, other federal programs, including PUA, “will continue for the time being as DEO [Department of Economic Opportunity] continues to carefully monitor job posting and industry hiring trends.”

In a press release, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said “transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.” Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in March 2021, 1.9% higher than 2.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $235.22.

Georgia

brian kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 26.

“Even in the middle of a global pandemic, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong — including an unemployment rate below the national average,” Kemp said in a statement. “To build on our momentum, accelerate a full economic recovery, and get more Georgians back to work in good-paying jobs, our state will end its participation in the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs, effective June 26th.”

The Georgia unemployment rate was 4.5% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 3.5%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $278.95.

Idaho

Gov. Brad Little
Gov. Brad Little.

Gov. Brad Little said Idaho would no longer draw federal money to fund enhanced unemployment insurance, and the state will cancel its program on June 19.

It’s time to get back to work,” Little said in a Tuesday statement. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle — we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working.”

The state was among those that recently reimposed a job-seeking requirement for people receiving jobless aid.

Idaho’s unemployment rate stands at 3.2%, a higher level compared to 2.6% in February 2020. The average weekly unemployment benefit in the state is $355, per the Labor Department.

Indiana

GettyImages eric holcomb
Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is terminating all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now,” Holcomb said in the news release. “I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow.”

The state is also among those now requiring people to actively seek work while on unemployment.

Indiana’s unemployment rate is 3.9%, higher than the 3.2% it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit is $254.

Iowa

kim reynolds iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state would cancel federal jobless benefits on June 12.

“Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs initially provided displaced Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” Reynolds said in a statement. “But now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work.”

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 3.7%, still slightly higher than the 2.9% it recorded in February 2020. Iowa’s average weekly jobless benefit is $430.

Louisiana

john bel edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Louisiana is the first Democrat-led state to prematurely cut off its participation in $300 weekly benefits. Those benefits will end July 31.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that would increase the state’s regular weekly benefits by $28. One of the bill’s stipulations was that supplemental unemployment benefits had to end on July 31.

Local news outlet WWLTV reported that, prior to the bill’s passage, the governor had already said he planned on ending benefits in early August, when school begins.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 7.1% in May 2021, nearly two points higher than 5.2% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $175.57.

Maryland

larry hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective July 3.

Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that the state has vaccinated 70% of its adults, hitting the goal set by President Joe Biden, and that Maryland’s “health and economic recovery continues to outpace the nation.”

“While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” Hogan said. “And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages.”

Maryland’s unemployment rate was 6.2% in April 2021, nearly three points higher than 3.3% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $318.16.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves
Gov. Tate Reeves.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Monday that he was pulling out the state from the federal pandemic-aid programs starting June 12.

“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $195, according to the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor.

The state’s unemployment rate is 6.3%, a figure still elevated from its pre-pandemic rate of 5.8% in February 2020.

Mississippi is among the seven states that have not lifted hourly pay for workers since the last increase to the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

Missouri

missouri gov mike parson
Gov. Mike Parson.

Gov. Mike Parson announced on Tuesday that Missouri would be ending its participation in federal unemployment on June 12. 

“While these benefits provided supplementary financial assistance during the height of COVID-19, they were intended to be temporary, and their continuation has instead worsened the workforce issues we are facing,” Parson said in a statement. “It’s time that we end these programs that have ultimately incentivized people to stay out of the workforce.” 

The average weekly benefit in Missouri amounted to $258.57 in March. Its unemployment rate stood at 4.2% in March, a drop from 4.3% in February. That’s still 0.5% higher than the March 2020 unemployment rate.

Missouri raised its minimum wage to $10.30 on January 1, 2021.

Montana

greg gianforte
Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the state was ending federal benefits on June 27.

“Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” Gianforte said in a statement. “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”

Taking its place will be a $1,200 return-to-work bonus, an amount equivalent to four weeks of receiving federal jobless aid. Workers will be eligible for the cash after a month on the job. The measure enjoys support among some congressional Republicans.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $468 without the federal supplement. The state’s unemployment rate has reached pre-pandemic levels, at 3.8% in April.

Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers the annual State of the State Address to lawmakers in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Nebraska will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the benefits are a “disincentive for some people” in returning to work. The curtailing of benefits come as part of the state’s initiative to reopen and “return to normalcy.”

Nebraska’s unemployment rate was 2.8% in April 2021, lower than 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $343.25.

New Hampshire

chris sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu.

Gov. Chris Sununu said on Thursday that he was planning on ending the additional $300 weekly benefit before it’s due to expire, NECN reports. However, the date that benefits will be discontinued in the state remains unclear.

The state will also begin work search requirements for those on UI beginning May 23.

The New Hampshire unemployment rate was 3.0% in March 2021, above the February 2020 rate of 2.6%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $277.26.

North Dakota

doug burgum north dakota trans school sports bill
Gov. Doug Burgum.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the state would pull out of federal unemployment benefit programs on June 19.

“Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire,” Burgum said in a news release, noting the state had its highest number of online job postings since July 2015.

The state’s unemployment rate is 4.4%, still almost double its level of 2.3% in February 2020. North Dakota’s average weekly unemployment payment is $480.

Ohio

Mike-DeWine-2019
Gov. Mike DeWine.

Gov. Mike Dewine said the state will scrap the federal unemployment benefit programs on June 26.

“This assistance was always intended to be temporary,” DeWine said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, the same level it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Ohio is $383.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Gov. Kevin Stitt is dropping all federal unemployment programs starting on June 26.

“That gives people six weeks to get off the sidelines and get back into the game,” he said in a news release.

Stitt also announced that the first 20,000 laid-off workers now receiving benefits that are rehired will get a $1,200 “incentive using funds from the American Rescue Plan.”

People are eligible if they receive some form of federal unemployment aid between May 2 through 15, and keep their new job for at least six weeks. Individuals must also have a 32-hour workweek.

The Oklahoma unemployment rate stands at 5.2%, higher than the 3.1% it had before the pandemic broke out in February last year. The average weekly benefit is $310.

South Carolina

henry mcmaster
Gov. Henry McMaster.

Even before the jobs report hit, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said the state would stop its participation in federal unemployment effective June 30.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce.

McMaster spoke with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the expanded unemployment program, saying he believed it’s a “counterproductive policy.”

The average weekly benefit in the state stands at $228. South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 5.1%, still nearly double its pre-pandemic rate of 2.8% in February 2020.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 76.7% of the unemployment insurance that South Carolina disbursed came from federal funds, according to the report from the Economic Policy Institute. The minimum wage in South Carolina was last raised in 2009, when the federal minimum wage as a whole was increased to $7.25.

South Dakota

Kristi Noem
Gov. Kristi Noem.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Wednesday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective the week of June 26. In a related statement, the state’s Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman noted that “help wanted signs line our streets.”

“South Dakota is, and has been, ‘Open for Business.’ Ending these programs is a necessary step towards recovery, growth, and getting people back to work,” Hultman added.

The South Dakota unemployment rate was 2.9% in March 2021, unchanged from 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $369.

Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
Gov. Bill Lee.

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that federal unemployment benefits would end in the state effective July 3.

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

The state’s unemployment rate in March 2021 was 5%, a 0.1% increase from the month before and 1% higher than the March 2020 rate. Tennessee’s average weekly unemployment payment is $219.45. Tennessee is one of seven states where the minimum wage remains at the federal level of $7.25.

Texas

greg abbott texas
Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he was scrapping all federal unemployment programs on June 26.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said in a statement.

Nearly 1.3 million people in the state will experience a sharp cut in their unemployment aid, per an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation. It’s the largest state yet to eliminate the programs, with the eliminated aid coming to an estimated $8.8 billion.

The average weekly benefit in Texas is $405. The state’s current 6.9% unemployment rate is still nearly double what it used to be in February 2020.

Utah

AP spencer cox
Gov. Spencer Cox.

Utah is withdrawing from federal unemployment aid programs effective June 26.

“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “The market should not be competing with the government for workers.”

The state has a 2.9% unemployment rate, slightly higher than the 2.5% pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Utah is $428.

West Virginia

WV Gov Jim Justice
Gov. Jim Justice.

West Virginia will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 19 at midnight.

“We need everyone back to work,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “Our small businesses and West Virginia’s economy depend on it.”

West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.9% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 4.9%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $276.15.

Wyoming

mark gordon
Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gov. Mark Gordon said the state was scrapping the federal unemployment benefit, along with programs aiding gig workers and those who exhausted traditional state payouts.

“Wyoming needs workers, our businesses are raring to go,” Gordon said in a statement. “People want to work, and work is available. Incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.”

The Wyoming unemployment rate is 5.3%, slightly higher than the 4.8% it once had in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $430.

Are you unemployed and have a story you want to share? Contact these reporters at jkaplan@insider.com and jzeballos@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Louisiana state lawmaker suggests that schools should teach the ‘good’ of slavery

Louisiana State Capitol
The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

  • La. state Rep. Ray Garofalo said that public schools should teach the “good” and “bad” of slavery.
  • His suggestion was immediately dismissed by fellow GOP state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty.
  • Garofalo backs legislation that would prevent teaching that the US or Louisiana is “systematically racist or sexist.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo of Louisiana on Tuesday said that public schools and colleges should teach the “good” of slavery during discussions about race, as part of a bill that he proposed that would bar “divisive concepts” from classrooms.

Garofalo, who chairs the House Education Committee, said during a hearing on the bill, also known as HB 564, that his legislation sought to remove “politics out of the classroom” and cultivate “a learning environment free of discrimination.”

When Garofalo began to explain how slavery could be taught in the classroom, his comments elicited derision.

“If you’re having a discussion on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery, the good, the bad, the ugly,” he said.

His suggestion was immediately dismissed by fellow GOP state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty.

“There’s no good to slavery, though,” she said.

Read more: This millennial GOP congressman voted to impeach Trump. Now he’s trying to save his party from going off a cliff.

Garofalo’s bill would have barred teaching that the US or Louisiana is “systematically racist or sexist,” among other requirements for exploring such issues in classroom discussions.

The bill would also ban the instruction of information that “teaches, advocates, acts upon or promotes divisive concepts.”

On Tuesday, the proposal stalled, but Garofalo was optimistic about rewriting some of the language in order to gain the support of some skeptical Republicans.

However, a bipartisan group of committee members asked Garofalo not to bring back the bill during the current legislative session, according to the Associated Press.

“I’m not sure that we can get this bill in the correct posture this session,” said GOP state Rep. Barbara Freiberg.

Democratic state Rep. Gary Carter slammed the legislation as “a bad bill.”

The Louisiana Democratic Party, which shared a video of Garofalo on their Twitter account, rebuked his statements on slavery.

“The low point of session undoubtedly came today when Rep. Ray Garofalo said Louisiana schools need to teach the good of slavery,” the party wrote.

The legislation comes as Republicans across the country have pushed back against critical race theory, which seeks to explore how generations of inequality and racism still reverberate in American society.

Garofalo argued that critical race theory “furthers racism and fuels hate.”

When asked what specific problems have arisen in Louisiana regarding such teachings, Garofalo said that he’s heard “concerns” from various teachers and parents, but declined to provide any names, according to the Associated Press.

Read the original article on Business Insider

RESULTS: Louisianians voted to fill 2 US House vacancies in Saturday special elections

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans voted in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Julia Letlow won the race for the 5th District, while two candidates advanced to a runoff in the 2nd.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana held special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls closed at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as Director fo the Office of Public Engagement and a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

State Senators Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter advanced to a runoff for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, Insider and Decision Desk HQ.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, will win the race to replace him outright with enough votes to avoid a runoff, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Saturday night.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

Since neither candidate earned over 50% of the vote in the 2nd District, Carter and Peterson will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winner seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

LIVE RESULTS: Voters go to the polls in 2 special US House elections in Louisiana

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans are voting in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Follow along for live results from Insider and Decision Desk HQ.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana is holding special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls closed at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

The leading contenders for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, are State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Sen. Troy Carter, and Gary Chambers.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, will win the race to replace him outright with enough votes to avoid a runoff, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Saturday night.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

If neither candidate earns over 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winners seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

LIVE UPDATES: Voters go to the polls in 2 special US House elections in Louisiana

Karen Carter Peterson
In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, speaks in Baton Rouge, La., about her campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat after signing up for the race.

  • Louisianans are voting in two special US House elections on Saturday.
  • The elections will fill vacancies in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.
  • Follow along for live results from Insider and Decision Desk HQ when polls close at 8 p.m. CT.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Louisiana is holding special elections for two vacant US House seats on Saturday, March 20. Polls close at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The 2nd District, which is based in southern Louisiana and includes part of the Baton Rouge area and all of New Orleans, was vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left Congress to serve in the White House as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.

The leading contenders for the safely-Democratic seat, which gave Biden over 75% of the vote in 2020, are State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Sen. Troy Carter, and Gary Chambers.

Richmond has endorsed Carter as his replacement, while Peterson has received the backing of EMILY’s List and Stacey Abrams, according to Ballotpedia.

In the 5th District, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, who was elected to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, died of COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he was able to assume office.

The GOP frontrunner for the 5th District seat is Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, who works as an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The 5th District, which contains a large portion of eastern Louisiana, is safely Republican, backing former President Donald Trump by a margin of over 30 percentage points in 2020, according to Daily Kos.

Louisiana uses a “jungle” election system where all the candidates from all parties run in the same primary, instead of separate primaries for each party.

If neither candidate earns over 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a general runoff on April 24, with the winners seated in Congress shortly after.

There are currently five total vacancies in the House, creating a precarious situation for Democratic leaders presiding over a narrow eight-seat majority of 219-211 with some seats set to be vacant for months.

The special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Ron Wright of Texas’s 6th District, who died of COVID-19 on February 7, will take place on May 1.

And two representatives from safely Democratic seats, former Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and former Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, were tapped to serve in Biden’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, respectively.

The special election to replace Haaland will take place on June 1, with the nominees selected by party committees. The primary to replace Fudge in Ohio’s 11th District will be on August 3 and the general election on November 2.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Texas isn’t the only state lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s how 11 other states and cities are easing lockdowns, despite the CDC insisting that ‘now is not the time.’

greg abbot coronavirus vaccine texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • Texas on Tuesday became the largest US state to ease its lockdown restrictions.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would end all COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask mandate, on March 10.
  • Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan also made announcements to ease restrictions.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Texas on Tuesday became the largest state in the US to lift its mask mandate.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order set to end all COVID-19 restrictions on March 10. He tweeted that “Texas is OPEN 100%,” and said “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday of a potential resurgence of coronavirus infections in the US, despite a dip in numbers of new cases nationally.

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, said. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Texas isn’t the only place in the US easing restrictions. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan, as well as Chicago and San Francisco, all made announcements to ease restrictions on Tuesday, though the details varied.

Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, and Mississippi have already waived mask-wearing restrictions, and Michigan has eased other lockdown restrictions. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have not enforced state-wide mask mandates throughout the pandemic.

In Florida and South Dakota, schools and businesses have been widely open for months.

More than 35 US states have kept their mask-wearing rules in place, albeit with variable enforcement.

Here is how some other states, as well as some cities, are easing their restrictions.

Chicago

Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot arrives at a University of Chicago initiative event for the science in Chicago, Illinois, on July 23, 2020.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago announced Tuesday that hospitality, sports, and performance venues could increase to 50% capacity, up from 40%. The maximum number of people is 50, or 20 people for indoor fitness classes. Curfews were also extended. The changes were effective as of Tuesday.

San Francisco

Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Tuesday that indoor dining, indoor fitness, museums, and movie theaters would be allowed to reopen Wednesday at limited capacity.

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Tuesday that starting Wednesday, businesses could operate at 75% capacity, except in indoor event halls, which were limited to 50% capacity at a maximum of 250 people.

Live music could also resume indoors. He said that the state’s mask mandate would continue, and the new rules would remain in place for at least 28 days, until March 31.

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced easing of restrictions on Tuesday, set to take effect on Friday.

Restaurants would be able to operate at 50% capacity – increased from 25% – and retail, entertainment, and sports facilities could open at increased capacity, she said. People can also visit a nursing home after a negative COVID-19 test.

Michigan has a state-wide mask-mandate, and Whitmer said mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing hands was “more important than ever.”

Mississippi

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

Mississippi rescinded a state-wide mask order in September, but Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said Tuesday that county-specific mandates would be lifted too. He also said that the only COVID-19 restrictions that would remain were a 50% cap on the number of people in indoor arenas, and that certain restrictions would remain in schools.

North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina eased restrictions starting February 26, lifting a curfew and allowing indoor venues to operate at limited capacity. There is still a mask mandate.

Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on February 26 lifted capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms, and large venues. He said that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place until March, provided the number of cases and hospitalizations were low.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said February 25 that restaurants could open at full capacity – albeit with social distancing and table size and time restrictions – starting Monday.

Other venues could open at 50% capacity, with no more than 500 people allowed inside. A state-wide mask mandate is still in place.

Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee lifted restrictions for five counties in the state on February 14, and allowed restaurants to open up at 25% capacity.

Montana

Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana terminated the state’s mask mandate February 12.

Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa lifted restrictions February 5. Iowans no longer have to wear face coverings in public. Businesses can have as many people as they want inside and don’t have to abide social-distance guidelines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow who died of COVID-19 was an incoming champion for rural America and ‘destined for big things,’ friends say

Luke Letlow
Luke Letlow leaves behind his wife, Julia, and their two small children.

  • Luke Letlow, Congressman-elect from Louisiana, died Tuesday from COVID-19 complications.
  • The 41-year-old Republican was otherwise healthy and set to be inaugurated next month.
  • Friends say Letlow was beyond partisan politics and instead was a champion for rural America, like the community where he grew up.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Luke Letlow, a Republican from one of the poorest districts in the US, launched his campaign for congress on the day the first COVID-19 case was reported in Louisiana.

He ran to replace Congressman Ralph Abraham – his former boss and good friend – in the middle of a pandemic when fundraising events and meet-and-greets were a challenge.

He also had to campaign without access to high-speed internet at his rural Richland Parish home.

Letlow still won in a landslide and was to be inaugurated next month.

“He was very uncommon when you compare him to modern-day politicians, especially the younger politicians. He was very rural rooted and he loved being from a rural community,” Letlow’s best friend and campaign chairman Scott Franklin told Insider. “He fully understood the struggle that rural America is going through.” 

Letlow, 41, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19. He had tested positive for the coronavirus on Dec. 18. and suffered a heart attack following surgery at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, the Monroe News-Star first reported.

He had no preexisting conditions. 

By Tuesday, more than 247,000 Louisiana residents had been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Franklin told Insider that Letlow was a history buff who loved to learn as much as he could about their agrarian community and share it with the world. He started the blog Richlandroots.com and filled it with facts about his community. 

“He did that all himself. He would go to estate sales all over the state to find information about people who were from our home,” Franklin said. “What was going to make him great is that he didn’t care about the credit. I know when people die, they make people out to be saints when they weren’t, but I’m telling you, he didn’t care about accolades.” 

Letlow worked briefly in the private sector in Colorado and came back to Louisiana to help Abraham, a local doctor turned politician, run for Congress. When Abraham was elected, Letlow worked as his chief of staff. He had also worked for former Governor Bobby Jindal. 

While they grew up in the same community and knew each other by name, Letlow and Franklin didn’t become friends until about seven years ago. That was when Letlow joined Franklin’s local effort to create the first-ever chamber of commerce for Richland parish – an all-volunteer organization. 

“Here’s a guy who’s destined for big things and I was the chairman. You’d think he’d not be used to playing follower. You’d think a politician would be like ‘who are you to tell me?'” Franklin, a rice farmer, said. “He said ‘I believe in it. I believe the causes. He was one of the founders, and we became best friends because we shared an interest in doing better for Richland.” 

Chamber of commerce, Luke Letlow
Congressman-elect Luke Letlow went hunting community organizers from Richland parish.

‘A rural champion’

Louisiana’s fifth congressional district, for which Letlow was elected to serve, runs up the center of the state to the Arkansas border. 

Letlow looked forward to fighting for policies that would help serve the poorest in his district, including those in Richland, Franklin said.

One of his highest priorities was securing widespread access to broadband internet, which is still inaccessible to many rural residents. 

“He didn’t have high speed internet at his house. Luke just notices, with the pandemic kids are having to learn remotely, how are you going to do that if you don’t have high speed internet?” Franklin said. 

Broadband infrastructure isn’t necessarily a partisan issue, Franklin said, but it was expensive, and because it serves primarily those who live in communities with few voters it tends to be overlooked.

Letlow was somewhat unusual in modern day politics as he occasionally strayed from the party line, Franklin said.

He cared deeply about protecting the Mississippi River from flooding. 

“Luke saw the Mississippi River as a gift from God. It can give to us and it can take away from us,” Franklin said.

He was also a proponent of leaning into growth opportunities in the agriculture sector.

“What Luke really harped on is that there are opportunities in agriculture,” Franklin said. “Not everyone is a farmer, but everyone eats. We’re so good at growing food, we have a diverse crop make-up, why not capitalize on the things we know best?” 

Letlow could have made a good salary working in the private sector, Franklin said, but was propelled into state politics because he was sick of watching his community get left out. 

“Over the last 20 years, politicians don’t really care about places with only one stoplight because that’s not where voters are. We matter,” Franklin said. “We work hard, we pay our taxes, we have a great community, but unfortunately politicians on both sides of the aisle have ignored rural people of all backgrounds and races. That’s what really disgusted Luke.” 

Even when working in state office, Letlow had the phone nearly “glued to his ear” fielding calls from residents who had issues with their roads, taxes, or other inconveniences, Franklin said. Letlow would do what he could to help from behind the scenes. 

“Luke was going to be the rural champion,” he said. 

Letlow surrounded himself with people who he felt were also community-minded. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who he would be elected to replace, and Rep. Garret Graves, of the state’s sixth congressional district, were among people he respected, even when their thoughts on policy differed. 

“There is a divide in politics: there are real people and then the people who are in show business,” Franklin said. “Garrett and Dr. Ralph Abraham, they’re real. They’re not looking for a spot on the news station. They’re not looking to tweet out gibberish to get attention. They’re there to go to work.” 

Abraham released a statement on Facebook which read in part, “There was no one like Luke Letlow, and there was no one who loved this state and its people more. Luke was a part of our family, and we are so incredibly proud of the man he was.”

Franklin said he is reeling from the loss of his friend and heartbroken for Letlow’s wife Julia and their two young children, 3-year-old Jeremiah,  and 11-month-old Jacqueline. 

Since Tuesday, politicians across the state have been sharing their reactions to Letlow’s death online. But Franklin said not all of the comments have felt authentic because some have come from people who didn’t even reach out when Letlow was sick. 

“The political world is just encapsulating themselves in the story, even if they didn’t know Luke,” Franklin said. “Julia and their two children are going through an extremely difficult time. When the smoke clears and the story isn’t warm anymore, are people just going to forget about them?”

Letlow’s wife, Julia Barnhill, is declining media requests for the time being, Franklin said. 

Through a spokesperson, the family told the News-Star that memorial plans will be released in the future.

“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” spokesman Andrew Bautsch said in the statement to the local paper. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”

luke letlow
In this July 22, 2020 file photo, Luke Letlow, R-Start, chief of staff to exiting U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, speaks after signing up to run for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District in Baton Rouge, La. Louisiana’s newest member of Congress is in intensive care with COVID-19.

In rural America, learning to be socially distant is an adjustment

Getting to know your constituents is important no matter where you’re campaigning, but in rural Louisiana, it is the only way to succeed, Franklin said.

For the first few months of Letlow’s campaign, he didn’t host any fundraising events and avoided in-person meet and greets as much as possible, Franklin said. 

After a while, they started to host events, but at a limited capacity, Franklin said. 

“I know people are sifting through social media to find photos of him not wearing a mask, but I am telling you, he made an effort to do the best he could while still reaching the people,” Franklin said. “Despite coronavirus, these people needed a hero. And in this district, to do that you have to meet people. They have to look you in the eye and understand they can trust you.” 

“It wasn’t perfect, but I think he did the best he could,” he added.

Franklin said that Letlow’s last days alive were difficult, as he was quarantined alone without visitors. 

 

“When we talked on the phone, he was bored to tears. He was pretty depressed,” he said.

Franklin said he tried to explain to Letlow that if he had fallen ill or had been injured during normal times, there would be a line around the block of visitors wishing him well.

“That’s the sad part of the coronavirus, it just takes all the love out of the world,” Franklin said, adding that social distancing proved difficult for small, tight-knit communities. 

“It’s hard in small-town Louisiana because we’re just not used to that. We’re a very friendly community. The community is all we have. And we just had a really hard time adjusting to that, especially around the holidays,” he said. “It’s not because we’re stupid or we don’t know there is a virus in our world. It’s just because it’s just not in our nature to be socially distant.” 

Letlow’s death came as a shock to the state, and to those who loved him. Being only 41 and otherwise healthy, he was not at an elevated risk of complications from the deadly virus.

“Their son and my son are the same age,” Franklin said. “I just thought there would be so much time for us to enjoy raising children in the same community. That’s gone now.” 

LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali said Wednesday that Letlow’s death was devastating to the entire medical team, the News-Star reported.

“He had no underlying conditions,” Ghali said. “It was just COVID.”

While the fifth district might have lost their incoming hero, Franklin doesn’t think that his legacy will end here. 

“I think Letlow is going to be the benchmark for anyone who comes in in the future. The story is so sad it’s going to linger in this community for a long time.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider