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Teen Mom OG : Amber Portwood Splits from Belgian Boyfriend Dimitri — Hes Very Possessive and Jealous – Yahoo Entertainment

https://people.com/tv/teen-mom-og-amber-portwood-splits-from-boyfriend-dimitri/

Teen Mom OG : Amber Portwood Splits from Belgian Boyfriend Dimitri — Hes Very Possessive and Jealous - Yahoo Entertainment

Teen Mom OG: Amber Portwood Splits from Boyfriend Dimitri After | PEOPLE.com

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George Floyds brutal death sparked a racial justice reckoning. One officer involved goes on trial this month. What you should know. – USA TODAY

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/03/04/derek-chauvin-trial-george-floyd-death-how-watch-what-know/6889289002/

George Floyds brutal death sparked a racial justice reckoning. One officer involved goes on trial this month. What you should know. - USA TODAY

Minneapolis is gearing up for this month’s trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, which led to nationwide protests and calls for an end to police brutality last summer.

On May 25, Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd, who was accused of using a a counterfeit $20 bill, was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by three officers during the arrest. Chauvin continued to press his knee into Floyd’s neck minutes after he became nonresponsive as bystanders repeatedly asked officers to check for a pulse. 

Chauvin and three other officers were fired a day after Floyd’s death and were charged the following week.

Floyd’s name became a rallying cry as protests spread to more than 1,700 cities and towns in all 50 states and around the world. 

In Minneapolis, thousands of protesters demanded the officers be held accountable and called for police reform. Though many demonstrations were peaceful, businesses were looted on several nights, and a police station was burned.

Last month, city officials began solidifying security plans and establishing a security perimeter around City Hall, nearby buildings and the courthouse where jury selection will begin Monday. Streets will be closed, businesses will be boarded up and National Guard troops and hundreds of law enforcement officers will be in place in anticipation of potential unrest during the trial, set to begin March 29.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the trial will probably increase trauma for many, especially as the verdict draws near, and safety will be a top priority. 

“We believe it is on us to honor the magnitude of this moment and ensure that our families in this city feel safe,” Frey said.

Here’s everything you need to know about the trial of Derek Chauvin:

When does Derek Chauvin’s trial start?

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday. The prosecution and defense are set to start opening statements March 29.

What is Chauvin charged with? 

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday, May 29, in the death of George Floyd.

In May, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, but he may face additional charges.

An appeals court is considering a request by prosecutors to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin. That count was dismissed in October by Judge Peter Cahill, who said that charge would apply only if a defendant put multiple people in danger and someone died. (According to Minnesota law, third-degree murder involves “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”)

The three other former officers involved – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They are scheduled for trial together in August.

Chauvin posted a $1 million bond in October and was released from state prison.

Chauvin also faces a federal investigation and civil suit

This is not the only time Chauvin may face legal repercussions related to Floyd’s death.

The Department of Justice launched an investigation in May into whether Chauvin and the other officers violated Floyd’s civil rights. Last week, new witnesses were called and a new grand jury was empaneled in that investigation, according to the Star Tribune and The New York Times.

Attorneys representing Floyd’s family filed a civil lawsuit in July in federal court against Chauvin, the other officers and the city of Minneapolis. The lawsuit claims that the officers used excessive force and violated Floyd’s constitutional rights and that the city is liable because it failed to properly train the officers.

George Floyd is not alone:‘I can’t breathe’ uttered by dozens in fatal police holds across US

‘He’ll never see her grow up’:George Floyd mourned by children, family, friends and strangers

How can people watch the trial?

Chauvin’s trial will be livestreamed on Court TV, which will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom.

Visual and audio recordings are not typically allowed in Minnesota courtrooms without authorization from a judge. Cahill upheld his decision to livestream the trial in December because of immense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space.

Two members of the media will be allowed in the courtroom. The USA TODAY Network is sending a team of journalists who you can follow on Twitter for updates as the trial begins: Tami AbdollahEric FerkenhoffTrevor HughesClarissa Baker and N’dea Yancey-Bragg.

Where is the trial?

The trial will be held in the Hennepin County Government Center Courts Tower in downtown Minneapolis. The building, which has been the site of multiple demonstrations, is surrounded with barbed wire and concrete barriers.

Chauvin will be tried separately to adhere to physical social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an order from Cahill.

Only those with approved credentials will be allowed inside the courtroom, including one member of the Floyd and Chauvin families, according to an order Cahill issued Monday

“This has been a deeply painful and emotional year for every member of the Floyd family, many of whom intended to be in the courtroom to witness this trial,” family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement Tuesday. “While they understand the judge’s reasons to limit attendance in the courtroom, the family is understandably disappointed by this ruling.”

Layers of barbed wire fence and razor wire were built in front of Hennepin County Government Headquarters in Minneapolis. The security measures were being increased before jury selection begins at the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death. March 3, 2021

What protests are planned?

More than a dozen activist groups, including Black Lives Matter Minnesota and Communities United Against Police Brutality, plan a demonstration outside the courthouse Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m. CST, KARE 11 reported.

“The people demand justice for all stolen lives. Convict all killer cops,” the coalition said in a statement. “Derek Chauvin represents what is wrong with police in Minneapolis and in this country, and now is the time to demand due justice for George Floyd and set the precedent in seeking justice for every stolen life.”

The George Floyd Global Memorial will hold a gathering with faith leaders at George Floyd Square at 8 a.m. CST, ending in a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m., some of which will be livestreamed, according to the group’s website.

How did we get here? A timeline of events leading up to nationwide outcry after George Floyd’s death

Are police being tried in any other high-profile killings of Black Americans?

Floyd’s death was one of several high-profile incidents of violence against African Americans – almost all involving police, all but one fatal.

Amid nationwide protests, other police officers and chiefs have been fired, resigned or charged; states and cities announced they were cutting funding for police departments and criminalizing the use of deadly restraints; and federal lawmakers introduced a sweeping police overhaul bill bearing Floyd’s name.

Several grand juries declined to bring charges against officers accused of killing unarmed Black people.

Protests kicked off in Kentucky after no Louisville police officers were charged with killing Breonna Taylor when they fired their weapons into her apartment last year.  In New York, grand jurors declined to bring an indictment against officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude, 41, who died in Rochester.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

George Floyds brutal death sparked a racial justice reckoning. One officer involved goes on trial this month. What you should know. - USA TODAY

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Republicans rip Pentagon policy pick over past tweets, Middle East policies – Politico

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/04/republicans-kahl-tweets-middle-east-policies-473656

Republicans rip Pentagon policy pick over past tweets, Middle East policies - Politico

Kahl apologized early in Thursday’s hearing for what he called “disrespectful” language on social media, and argued that he would approach the top policy job from a nonpartisan perspective and with a lens of bipartisanship in his dealings with Congress.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who plans to vote against Kahl, confronted the nominee early in the hearing by noting past tweets that were critical of Republicans and the policies of former President Donald Trump. In one tweet, Kahl said Republicans “debase themselves at the alter of Trump” and said the GOP is “the party of ethnic cleansing,” sharing a news story about senior GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas defending Trump’s decision to move troops out of northern Syria ahead of Turkey’s incursion there.

“The real tense moments are going to happen when you’re in the Pentagon and Iran hijacks another American ship or China shoots down an aircraft,” Cotton told Kahl. “And if this is the way you respond to mere policy disagreements when you’re sitting at home reading the news, I do not think that you’re fit to sit in the Pentagon and make decisions about life and death.”

Kahl said he was “swept up” in the polarizing environment online during the Trump years.

“To state the obvious, the last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I’m sure there are times that I got swept up in that,” Kahl told Cotton. “There were a number of positions that president Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful, and for that I apologize.”

He emphasized his “long track record” of putting aside partisan politics at the Pentagon, starting in the George W. Bush administration.

“I understand that the position of the undersecretary of defense for policy, while it’s a political appointment, is not a political job. It’s a policy job. One that requires me to be nonpartisan,” he added. “I know that I can comport myself in that way because I did it the last time I was at the Pentagon.”

The panel’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also questioned Kahl’s comments and policy positions — including whether sanctions should be lifted against Iran. And he criticized the details of a call last week between himself and Kahl were reported by POLITICO.

“National security is too important for partisan politics,” Inhofe said. “Unfortunately, in the past, in many cases, your public policy positions have been couched in partisan politics rather than fact-based analysis.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) likened GOP concerns with Kahl’s tweets to the opposition of Anthony Tata, a Trump nominee for the top Pentagon policy job who was withdrawn last year amid scrutiny for making inflammatory remarks about Muslims and Democratic officials and amplifying conspiracy theories on Twitter. Tata was later appointed as acting policy chief.

“Your tweets have been tough, and in many cases incendiary, something for which many members had issues with the previous administration’s nominee for this very same position,” Rounds said.

One Democrat, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, noted the irony of Republicans raking a nominee for harsh tweets after many GOP lawmakers avoided commenting on Trump’s incendiary posts by saying they hadn’t seen them.

“I note that this nominee has been criticized regarding some tweets that he put out on the Iran deal, which I consider to be one of the most critical agreements that this country has entered into,” Hirono said. “That kind of criticism regarding tweets from folks who didn’t say anything about the kind of lying, racist tweets out of the former president I think is pretty rich.”

In addition to Cotton, Iowa Republican Joni Ernst announced during the hearing she’ll oppose Kahl’s nomination.

Another Republican Armed Services member, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, vowed to oppose Kahl ahead of Thursday’s hearing. The GOP senator argued Kahl “has been consistently wrong about almost every foreign policy issue in recent memory” and “has zero meaningful experience” on China.

Democrats appeared largely supportive of Kahl. Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) praised Kahl’s experience, which includes serving as the Pentagon’s Middle East policy chief from 2009 to 2011 and as then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser from 2014 to 2017.

And Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Republican opposition to Kahl is rooted more in their opinions on the Iran nuclear deal, which Kahl supported, than objections to him.

“I think your nomination is sort of a proxy for a sharp difference of opinion in this committee and in Congress about the wisdom of the JCPOA,” Kaine told Kahl. “That is the core of many of the questions today.”

If Senate Republicans unify in opposition to Kahl, one Democrat could sink the nomination in the 50-50 Senate. The same situation imperiled Tanden’s nomination when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin opposed her bid.

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Alabama mask mandate extended until April 9 – WVTM13

https://www.wvtm13.com/article/alabama-mask-mandate-gov-kay-ivey-to-announce-fate-of-health-order/35726751

Alabama mask mandate extended until April 9 - WVTM13

ALABAMA’S MASK ORDER OR FOLLOW SUIT WITH SEVERAL OTHER STATES REPEALING COVID-19 SAFETY GUIDELINES. LET’S LISTEN IN. GOVERNOR IVEY: DR. HARRIS AND I ARE HERE TODAY TO PROVIDE THE PEOPLE OF ALABAMA WITH AN UPDATE OF THE PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE REDUCING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 AS WELL AS TO DISCUSS VACCINE DISTRIBUTION IN OUR STATE. AS OF TUESDAY, ALABAMA’S SEVEN DAY AVERAGE FOR NEW COVID-19 CASES WAS 778 PER DAY, AND 82% DROP FROM THE HIGH ON JANUARY 10, AND THE LOWEST AVERAGE FOR DAILY NEW CASES SINCE LATE JUNE. ALSO, THE SEVEN-DAY AVERAGE NUMBER OF COVID-19 PATIENTS IN ALABAMA HOSPITALS WAS 686, A 77% DROP FROM THE HIGH REACHED ON JANUARY 11, AND THE LOWEST AVERAGE NUMBER OF COVID PEOPLE IN HOSPITALS SINCE JANUARY 29 OF LAST YEAR. WE ARE DEFINITELY SEEING INDICATIONS WE ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, AND I WANT TO THANK THE PEOPLE OF ALABAMA ONCE AGAIN FOR THEIR TREMENDOUS HELP AND SUPPORT TO GET US WHERE WE ARE. EVEN WITH THIS POSITIVE NEWS, HOWEVER, DR. HARRIS AND I ARE BOTH CONVINCED THAT WE NEED TO GET PAST EASTER AND HOPEFULLY ALLOW MORE ALABAMIANS TO GET THEIR FIRST SHOT BEFORE WE TAKE A STEP AS OTHER STATES HAVE TAKEN TO REMOVE THE MASK ORDER ALTOGETHER AMID OTHER RESTRICTIONS. FOLKS, WE ARE NOT THERE YET, BUT GOODNESS KNOWS YOU’RE GETTING CLOSE. OUR NEW MODIFIED QUARTER WILL INCLUDE SEVERAL CHANGES THAT WILL HE’S UP SEVERAL RESTRICTIONS WHILE KEEPING THE MASK ORDER IN PLACE FOR ANOTHER FIVE WEEKS THROUGH APRIL 9. BUT LET ME BE ABUNDANTLY CLEAR. AFTER APRIL 9, I WILL NOT KEEP THE MASK ORDER IN EFFECT. THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT WEARING A MASK HAS BEEN ONE OF MY GREATEST TOOLS IN COMBATING THE SPREAD OF THE FIRE. THAT WITH PRACTICING GOOD HYGIENE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING IS KEEPING MORE PEOPL FROM GETTING SICK OR WORSE DYING. AND WHEN WE LIFT THE MASK ORDER, I WILL CONTINUE TO WEAR MY MASK WHILE I AM AROUND OTHERS AND STRONGLY URGE MY FELLOW CITIZENS TO USE COMMON SENSE AND DO THE SAME THING. BY THAT TIME IT WILL BECOME A MATTER OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND NOT A GOVERNMENT MANDATE. IF BUSINESSES BELIEVE WEARING MASKS ARE IMPORTANT TO KEEPING THEIR DOORS OPEN AND THEIR EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS SAFE, AND MANY DO, THEN THEY WILL HAVE FIVE WEEKS FROM TODAY TO GET READY TO IMPOSE THEIR OWN POLICIES. AS I SAID, I KNOW OTHER STATES HAVE STARTED TO LIFT SOME OF THEIR RESTRICTIONS. WE HAVE BEEN RELAXING OUR RESTRICTIONS THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE ORDEAL EVERY CHANCE WE COULD. WHILE I AM CONVINCED A MASK MANDATE HAS BEEN THE RIGHT THING TO DO, I ALSO RESPECT THOSE WHO OBJECT AND BELIEVE THIS WAS A STEP TOO FAR IN GOVERNMENT OVERREACH. THROUGHOUT THIS TIME DR. HARRIS AND TIME HAVE WORKED OUR HEARTS OUT TO BRING A SENSE OF BALANCE ALL OF THIS. WE HAVE ALSO ADMITTED WHEN WE MADE MISTAKES, AND WE HAVE DONE THAT A FEW TIMES AS WELL. THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE HAVE KEPT THE MASK MANDATE IN PLACE FOR MORE THAN A GENEROUS TIME BECAUSE IT HELPS, AND AS RESULT, THE PEOPLE IN THEIR S

Alabama mask mandate extended until April 9

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that the statewide mask mandate has been extended until April 9, bucking the recent Republican trend to lift COVID-19 restrictions. Ivey revealed her decision at anews conference in Montgomery. Watch her announcement in the video above.”As of Tuesday, Alabama has seen the lowest average for daily new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since June. Y’all, this is definitely an indication we’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “I want to thank Alabamians for their tremendous help and support to get us where we are.””Even with this positive news, Dr. Harris and I believe more Alabamians need to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift all restrictions,” Ivey continued. “Folks, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting close.”With cases and hospitalizations on the decline, Ivey said the order will end next month.”Our new, modified order will include several changes that’ll ease up on some of our current restrictions, while keeping our mask order in place for another five weeks, until April 9. After April 9th, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said.The previous health order was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday.Prior to the announcement, Alabama doctors and health officials urged the governor to extend the order, arguing that easing restrictions before more people are vaccinated could reverse the recent improvements. But some state Republicans have urged Ivey to drop the mask order as Texas and Mississippi have done.—SAFER AT HOME ORDERExtended Order (Spanish Version)Safer at Home Info Sheet 1Safer at Home Info Sheet 2Safer at Home Info Sheet 3 —COVID CASE NUMBERSHere is a breakdown of the number of COVID-19 cases and administered vaccines in the state via the Alabama Department of Public Health as of March 4, 2021:498,076 confirmed + probable cases10,094 deaths (including 2,174 probable)14,095 cases in last 14 days45,723 hospitalizations2,311,207 diagnostic tests, 118,631 antibody tests295,690 recoveries—VACCINE DISTRIBUTION1,475,925 doses delivered1,003,396 doses administeredGet the WVTM 13 app for the latest COVID-19 news and updates.—VACCINE DATADon’t see the data? Tap here.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that the statewide mask mandate has been extended until April 9, bucking the recent Republican trend to lift COVID-19 restrictions. Ivey revealed her decision at anews conference in Montgomery. Watch her announcement in the video above.

“As of Tuesday, Alabama has seen the lowest average for daily new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since June. Y’all, this is definitely an indication we’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “I want to thank Alabamians for their tremendous help and support to get us where we are.”

“Even with this positive news, Dr. Harris and I believe more Alabamians need to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift all restrictions,” Ivey continued. “Folks, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting close.”

With cases and hospitalizations on the decline, Ivey said the order will end next month.

“Our new, modified order will include several changes that’ll ease up on some of our current restrictions, while keeping our mask order in place for another five weeks, until April 9. After April 9th, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said.

The previous health order was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday.

Prior to the announcement, Alabama doctors and health officials urged the governor to extend the order, arguing that easing restrictions before more people are vaccinated could reverse the recent improvements. But some state Republicans have urged Ivey to drop the mask order as Texas and Mississippi have done.

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SAFER AT HOME ORDER

COVID CASE NUMBERS

Here is a breakdown of the number of COVID-19 cases and administered vaccines in the state via the Alabama Department of Public Health as of March 4, 2021:

  • 498,076 confirmed + probable cases
  • 10,094 deaths (including 2,174 probable)
  • 14,095 cases in last 14 days
  • 45,723 hospitalizations
  • 2,311,207 diagnostic tests, 118,631 antibody tests
  • 295,690 recoveries

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION

  • 1,475,925 doses delivered
  • 1,003,396 doses administered

Get the WVTM 13 app for the latest COVID-19 news and updates.

VACCINE DATA

Don’t see the data? Tap here.

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Politics

Five states are rolling back mask mandates. More could be on the way. Heres what it could mean for all of us. – USA TODAY

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/03/03/covid-19-texas-mississippi-join-states-rolling-back-mask-mandates/6905305002/

Five states are rolling back mask mandates. More could be on the way. Heres what it could mean for all of us. - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Five states have announced rolling back mask mandates in major recalls of COVID-19 safety measures over the past month – leaving many to wonder whether other states will join the tide and alter how the country is dealing with COVID-19 at a crucial moment in the fight against the disease. 

But like so much with the pandemic, the path ahead is unclear. Cities, businesses and families are often making their own choices of whether to wear masks or go to restaurants, despite governors in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Montana and Iowa declaring that state mandates would no longer be needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Major American retail chains across the country such as Kroger, Best Buy Co., Kohl’s and Ulta are sticking to their policies to require masks in stores. Some local mayors are telling residents to ignore the words of their state governors. 

The mixed messaging has become another unfortunate reality of COVID-19’s impact. Several states that never enacted mask mandates still had communities and businesses that required them, creating a dizzying environment for residents navigating different rules. The confusion has even led to violent confrontations over the months. 

More:Joe Biden calls it ‘a big mistake’ for states to lift mask mandates; North Dakota has nation’s worst virus rate: Latest COVID-19 updates

More:US coronavirus map: Tracking the outbreak

Clearing businesses to reopen 

Governors in Texas and Mississippi announced Tuesday that they would halt mask mandates and reopen their states, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. They were followed Thursday by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who announced she would extend the state’s mask mandate until April 9 – but allow it to expire after that date and instead make mask wearing optional. 

Ivey said the decision to extend the order until next month would allow businesses to make appropriate decisions and preparations after the mandate expires. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he was moving to “open Texas 100%” and would issue an executive order that would take effect March 10 rescinding most of his earlier orders, including restrictions on business occupancy and the July 2 statewide mask order. 

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted Tuesday that starting Wednesday, all county mask mandates would be lifted and businesses allowed to operate fully. Hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed, he said: “We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do.”

Earlier this month, governors in Iowa and Montana announced they, too, were rescinding mandates on wearing masks. The five states join 12 others that either never had mask mandates or have since rescinded such policies. 

Five states are rolling back mask mandates. More could be on the way. Heres what it could mean for all of us. - USA TODAY

More:Texas isn’t alone. These 15 states also do not currently have a statewide mask mandate.

More:Gov. Kim Reynolds lifting Iowa’s mask requirements, gathering limits Sunday

More:Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey makes final extension of mask order; some COVID restrictions loosened

Nationally, the number of COVID-19 cases has steadily declined over the months, but experts say the decline appears to have plateaued, which only heightens concerns of relaxing mitigation efforts. Some have also pointed to widespread snowstorms, notably in Texas, where residents weathered through intense freezing temperatures and lost access to power and water, as a possible factor in the dip in reported cases. 

In Mississippi, as Reeves made the announcement, about 300 new COVID-19 cases were reported and 44 deaths from the disease. The state saw its highest numbers in January, where in a single month 1,240 deaths were reported. On Jan. 7, the state reported a single-day record of 3,255 new cases of the coronavirus.

It’s a similar picture in Texas, which also saw its highest numbers in winter.  

On Tuesday, 275 new coronavirus deaths were reported and more than 7,200 people tested positive for the virus. That is far less than the 22,000 people a day who were testing positive in January. 

Ripple effects on the country

Public health experts widely condemned the moves by Texas, Mississippi and other states, warning of the effect such policies could have on the rest of the country. 

Eric Rubin, an infectious diseases specialist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “What they do in Texas matters to everybody else in the country.” He noted that the state is the second-most-populated in the country and  has the second-most coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. 

Rubin said he understood the daunting task for states examining whether to reopen their economies, though he noted the partial reopenings in various parts of the country over the months have largely been “counterproductive” to ridding the country of the virus. 

More:President Biden on states lifting mask mandates: ‘The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking’

But, he argued, reopening businesses, schools and other entities has nothing to do with wearing a mask. 

“The part that doesn’t make any sense at all is the masking part,” Rubin said. “There’s no economic reason to not wear masks ever.”

Joseph Fauver, an associate research scientist in epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health who has been studying variants of the virus, said relaxing such restrictions could be “encouraging more risky behavior at a time when transmission risk is still very, very, very high.” 

Fauver noted this is a crucial moment for the country: Vaccinations are ramping up while variants continue to spread across the country. He said that includes Texas, where the CDC has tracked the spread of two mutated variants of the virus, one of which Fauver said is “circulating at a really high level.” 

“Pulling back now is premature,” he said. “It’s dangerous and will result in more deaths.” 

The message was echoed at the White House on Wednesday by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “I do think that the next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes,” she said. “As we scale up vaccination, we really do need to decrease the amount of virus that is circulating.”

Rubin agreed, adding that the mix of vaccinations and more variants emerging is a fearful combination, especially if states are easing restrictions on precautions such as masks. As more people are vaccinated, the virus is likely to continue mutating so it can continue spreading, he said. 

“The virus is changing a little bit all the time,” he said. “And when it starts encountering people who have immunity, then, one worries that it’s going to accumulate mutations that let it get around immunity.”

More:What we know about face masks has changed. Here’s what experts say and which states mandate masks

More:Biden wants mask mandates nationwide, but he can’t actually enforce them. Here’s what he could do instead.

The notion of easing precautions “just feels like so the wrong time,” he said, and puts the rest of the country at risk for continued spread, though he noted many are feeling ready to ease restrictions after seeing cases drop and vaccinations continue. 

Rubin acknowledged some might support the idea of getting back to normal after seeing cases drop and vaccinations continuing, but the better way of looking at it, he said, is: “Hey, we’re about to get there. We’re so close. Let’s not screw it up now.” 

But even as President Joe Biden has promised the U.S. will have vaccinations for every adult by May, the path to going back to normal is anything but certain. Rubin noted some of the public health measures that have changed Americans’ everyday lives, such as social distancing and masks, probably will continue even after more Americans are vaccinated.

Experts say easing restrictions will be guided by several factors: vaccinations in any particular area, rate of transmission and the spread of variants. 

Can cities, businesses still enforce masks? 

It wasn’t long after governors in Texas and Mississippi announced rescinding their mask mandates that local community leaders and businesses said they would continue to enforce their own mask rules. 

In Mississippi, a number of cities pledged to continue requiring masks despite the governor’s announcement. The city of Jackson’s mask mandate will continue, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Tuesday afternoon.

“When health experts are telling us to still mask up and increase protective measures, it doesn’t stand to reason to be going in the other direction,” he said.

Five states are rolling back mask mandates. More could be on the way. Heres what it could mean for all of us. - USA TODAY

More:Despite Gov. Reeves’ order, Jackson mayor says mask mandate still in effect

In Hattiesburg, about 90 miles southeast of Jackson, Mayor Toby Barker announced that the city would also remain under a mask mandate “for the foreseeable future.” 

“Even if you’re tired of masks, do the right thing,” Barker said. “Do right by your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, people in your life that need to be protected.”

A number of businesses in Texas and Mississippi did the same, including some of the nation’s largest retailers, insisting they would continue their mask policies regardless of state policies.  

Austin-based grocer Fresh Plus, which has three stores, said it would keep enforcing its mask policy.

“We will continue to require all shoppers and employees to wear masks when inside the store,” said Averey Robertson, manager of the chain’s Anderson Lane store. “The sign on our door says ‘Masks required to enter,’ and that will stay the same.”

More:Kroger, Starbucks and Target among retailers that will still require masks in Texas despite end of state mandate

More:Uncertainty, anger, joy: Texas Businesses react to Abbott dropping mask mandate

Kroger, which also owns supermarket chains including Ralphs and Dillons, said in a statement to USA TODAY that it would “continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our front-line grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Best Buy Co., Kohl’s and Ulta told Bloomberg News that they’re sticking with their mask requirements. CNN added CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, and auto manufacturers Toyota and General Motors to the list.

But not all. Some retailers including Albertsons plan to stop requiring patrons to wear face coverings.

“For associates and vendors, we will continue to follow the CDC guidance and will require face coverings. For customers, we will encourage face coverings to be worn while in the store,” Albertsons told USA TODAY.

And that has largely been how businesses and communities have handled COVID-19 policies in other states without mask mandates. The hodgepodge of mandates vary from state to state, city to city and store to store, confusing customers and escalating tensions.

Skirmishes between unmasked customers and retail staff and security guards in Texas surfaced online this week. Last year a security guard was shot and killed in a dispute at a Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan.

But the changes in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama aren’t likely to lead to a new array of lawsuits. Businesses largely have rights to institute rules, such as wearing shoes when entering. 

The only real hiccups could arise over blanket policies that don’t include provisions for those with disabilities or medical conditions or policies that aren’t being required uniformly of everyone, said Tina Bullock, an attorney in Mississippi for the Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman law firm and a former nurse. 

“Businesses have rights, too,” Bullock said, noting it’s a balancing act of weighing protections for patrons and the rights of others. 

Contributing: Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY;  Lori Hawkins and Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman; and Sarah Haselhorst and Gabriela Szymanowska, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

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Steelers sign new contract with Roethlisberger for 2021 season – Steelers.com

https://www.steelers.com/news/steelers-sign-new-contract-with-ben-roethlisberger-for-2021-season

Steelers sign new contract with Roethlisberger for 2021 season - Steelers.com

He completed 399 of 608 passes in 2020, tied for the second-most pass attempts in his career, for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns, second-most in his career, 10 interceptions and a career-low 13 sacks (not counting 2019 when he played in only two games).

For his career, Roethlisberger has completed 5,050 of 7,838 passes (64.4%) for 60,348 yards (seventh most in NFL history), 396 touchdowns and a 94.0 quarterback rating. In 14 of his 17 seasons he has thrown for at least 3,000 yards, including doing it 13 straight seasons from 2006-18, interrupted only by his injury in 2019 that forced him to miss the majority of the season. He also threw for at least 3,500 yards in six consecutive seasons, the longest streak in team history.

The Steelers records he holds are numerous and include the following career records: passing TDs (396), passing TDs of at least 60 yards (22), passing yards (60,348), passer rating (94.0), completions (5,050), pass attempts (7,838), completion percentage (64.4), yards per attempt (7.7), 300-yard passing games (66) and 3,000-yard passing seasons (14). 

With Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers have 11 postseason berths, won eight AFC North Championships, appeared in five AFC Championship games and three Super Bowls, winning two of them. Roethlisberger, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, became the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl when the team won Super Bowl XL, when he was 23, and the second-youngest quarterback to ever win a second Super Bowl when the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII.

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