(GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo.) -- The parents of a 6-year-old girl who died on a ride at a Colorado amusement park last month have filed a wrongful death suit against the operator after a state investigation found she wasn't strapped into her seat before the ride plunged 110 feet.
Wongel Estifanos was visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, located atop Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs, with her family on Sept. 5 when she went on the Haunted Mine Drop ride, a free-fall drop down a pitch-black shaft.
Her uncle took Wongel, two of his children, his wife and another relative onto the ride, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Denver County District Court.
"Wongel's uncle specifically observed the ride operators interacting with Wongel, and he trusted that they were properly securing Wongel on the ride," the complaint stated.
After they dropped 110 feet down the shaft, her uncle "checked to see whether Wongel had enjoyed the ride" and was "stricken with terror to see that Wongel was not in her seat" but at the bottom of the shaft, according to the complaint.
The family "screamed in horror" as they were pulled back to the top of the shaft, the complaint stated.
"Wongel had fallen to her death, suffering numerous fractures, brain injuries and internal and external lacerations," according to the complaint.
In a report released last month, the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety determined that the two ride operators failed to buckle her seatbelts, as required, even after a monitor alerted them to a seatbelt safety issue. "Multiple operator errors" and "inadequate training" contributed to the fatal accident, the report stated.
The complaint from Wongel's family extensively cited the findings of the report, charging that Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park "breached its duty by recklessly failing to properly supervise and train its operators on safety procedures of the Haunted Mine Drop ride."
The complaint also alleged that the amusement park was aware of at least two prior incidents in 2018 and 2019 in which " angry and terrified customers" on the Haunted Mine Drop weren't strapped into their seatbelts until repeatedly telling the ride operators.
The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as a jury trial and "post-trial finding that the acts causing the death of Wongel Estifanos constitute a felonious killing."
"Their mission is to protect other families by holding all who are responsible for the killing of their daughter fully accountable, and by sending a loud and clear message to the entire amusement park industry," attorney Dan Caplis said in a statement on behalf of the Estifanos family.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park declined to comment to ABC News on the lawsuit. "Our hearts go out to the Estifanos family and those impacted by their loss," it said in a statement.
Following the release of the state's investigation, the amusement park's founder, Steve Beckley, said in a statement, "Safety is, and always has been, our top priority."
"We have been working closely with the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety and independent safety experts to review this incident," he said, noting that the amusement park will review the report "carefully for recommendations."
"More than anything, we want the Estifanos family to know how deeply sorry we are for their loss and how committed we are to making sure it never happens again," he added.
(NEW YORK) -- Isiah Brown, who was shot eight times by police earlier this year in Virginia, is filing a lawsuit for $26.35 million against two officers involved in the shooting.
On April 21, Brown was on the street near his mother's home, speaking to a 911 dispatcher on the phone when Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Deputy David Turbyfill drove up, exited his car and shot Brown several times, according to the lawsuit.
Earlier that night, at the home, a disagreement ensued, 911 was called and Turbyfill was dispatched to address the dispute, the lawsuit states.
In a portion of the 911 call released by police, Turbyfill seems to have thought that Brown had a gun. The officer is heard yelling at Brown to drop a gun on the recording. Brown was unarmed, according to the Virginia State Police, which investigated the incident.
Brown's attorney states that his client was holding a phone at the time of the shooting and obeyed all police and dispatcher commands. In a statement, Sheriff Roger Harris said that he then ordered the deputy to begin providing first aid, and later contacted the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal to investigate the incident.
"Today we filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Isiah Brown against Spotsylvania County Police Chief Roger Harris and Deputy David Turbyfill for their roles in the totally unnecessary shooting incident involving Mr. Brown that occurred April 21," said Brown's attorney David Haynes of The Cochran Firm in a statement to ABC News.
The lawsuit states that Turbyfill was negligent, committed battery and used excessive force during the incident. Turbyfill's lawyer, Mark Bong, declined ABC News' request for comment on the lawsuit.
Turbyfill was also charged with felony reckless handling of a firearm, according to a special grand jury indictment in July. Turbyfill had been placed on administrative duties since the shooting, according to a past statement from the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s office.
The county sheriff is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, and is stated to have responsibility for the actions by directing and supervising Turbyfill's deputies.
Haynes said that the shooting caused life-altering injuries for Brown, which will "leave him with permanent damage for the rest of his life."
"Isiah Brown's life will never be the same after his tragic encounter with David Turbyfill," Haynes said. "Our hope is that this lawsuit will provide a measure of justice for Mr. Brown and force the Spotsylvania Police Department to enhance their training and update their policies and procedures so that this never happens to another person."
The Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.
The governor issued a new call for the state legislature to provide an additional $11.4 million investment to help expedite the replacement of lead pipes and service lines in the predominately Black community within the next 18 months.
The estimated cost to replace all of the lead service lines in Benton Harbor is $30 million, and the state has so far earmarked some $18.6 million, according to a statement from the governor's office. Whitmer called on the legislature to secure the additional $11.4 million by tapping into federal money made available to Michigan through the pandemic-era American Rescue Plan.
Her visit to the western Michigan community to meet with residents and local leaders on Tuesday came days after she signed an executive directive that aimed to coordinate all available state resources to deliver safe drinking water to residents.
"Every Michigander deserves safe drinking water," Whitmer said in a statement, saying she visited Benton Harbor "to hear from community leaders doing the work on the ground and residents living through water challenges every day."
"I cannot imagine the stress that moms and dads in Benton Harbor are under as they emerge from a pandemic, work hard to put food on the table, pay the bills, and face a threat to the health of their children," she added. "That's why we will not rest until every parent feels confident to give their kid a glass of water knowing that it is safe."
For some Benton Harbor residents, the government attention and action comes too late. Elevated levels of lead have been detected in the city's water system since at least 2018, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council petition filed last month to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of local advocacy groups and residents.
Residents continue to live with "significant and dangerous levels of lead contamination three years after the contamination was first discovered with no immediate solution in sight," the petition states, calling it an "environmental justice" issue.
Some 85% of Benton Harbor's approximately 9,700 resident are Black and 5% are Hispanic, according to the most-recent Census data. More than 45% of the population lives in poverty, the Census data states, and the median household income is $21,916.
Moreover, nearly 28% of the population is children under 18 years old. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns on its website that lead generally affects children more than it does adults, and children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels than adults.
Lead poisoning can bring a slew of detrimental health impacts, the CDC warns, including: abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet and weakness.
The petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council notes that Benton Harbor's residents "are not only subjected to a disproportionately high level of lead exposure from a variety of sources beyond their drinking water, but also often lack access to high quality health care and are exposed to a wide array of other threats that can exacerbate the negative health effects associated with lead exposure."
Earlier this month, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services announced it was increasing the availability of free bottled water for Benton Harbor residents. The agency said in a statement that residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.
The distribution of water bottles has faced hurdles, and the overall handling of the crisis has created mounting frustration among residents.
"Three years of this is ridiculous," Rev. Edward Pinkney, a local faith leader told the local news outlet MLive, after a water handout organized by the state's department of health ran out of water bottles 30 minutes after it was supposed to start.
Pinkney said he and his grassroots organization have been passing out 2,000 cases of water per month on their own dime since 2019.
Willie Mae Jones, a resident who said she and her four children have been drinking city water their entire lives, told the outlet they didn't even know about the issue.
"We didn't know we had lead in our water until probably a month ago," Jones told MLive earlier this month. "We still have to pay for that water, and we can't even use it. Now that's ridiculous."
The crisis in Benton Harbor also puts a harsh spotlight on real-world impacts of the nation's dilapidated infrastructure, at a time when lawmakers on Capitol Hill are mulling over President Joe Biden's massive infrastructure spending proposal.
(NEW YORK) -- Two attorneys pleaded guilty Wednesday to throwing a lit Molotov cocktail into an unoccupied vehicle belonging to the New York Police Department in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, during May 2020 demonstrations to protest the murder of George Floyd.
Colinford Mattis, an associate at Pryor Cashman, and Urooj Rahman, a public interest lawyer, exchanged text messages the night of May 30, 2020, that prosecutors quoted during the plea hearing.
"I hope they burn everything down. Need to burn all the police stations down," assistant U.S. Attorney Ian Richardson quoted one message saying.
"Set a police car on fire after a lot of fights and check my story to see the trajectory of burning," Richardson said in quoting another message from Rahman.
The reply text from Mattis said, "Go burn down 1PP," an apparent reference to NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza.
"What is your plea to count seven?" U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan asked.
"Guilty," Rahman replied.
"I plead guilty your honor," Mattis said.
"Are you aware you are all but certain to be disbarred as a result of this plea?" the judge asked.
"Yes, Your Honor," both attorneys said.
Rahman and Mattis will be sentenced on Feb. 8, 2022, and would each face up to 10 years in prison if the judge applies a terrorism enhancement, Richardson said.
"On May 30, 2020, I knowingly possessed a destructive device, a Molotov cocktail," Rahman said. "My actions occurred on a night of civil protest in Brooklyn following the murder of George Floyd. I deeply regret my actions."
Mattis expressed similar regret.
"On the night of May 30, 2020, I knowingly possessed a destructive device," Mattis told Judge Cogan. "I deeply regret my conduct and wish I had made better choices on that night."
(CINCINNATI) -- A settlement in the death of a teenager who died while trapped in his car after calling 911 has included recommendations to improve the call center that failed to help him.
Kyle Plush, 16, died in April 2018 of asphyxia due to chest compression after he became stuck while trying to retrieve his tennis equipment from the third-row bench of his 2004 Honda Odyssey. He had called 911 twice to plea for help but was not located by officers who arrived on the scene, in a parking lot across the street from Seven Hills School, minutes later.
"I'm trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van in the ... parking lot of Seven Hills," a distressed Plush told 911 in the second call. "This is not a joke."
A family member found Plush in the van hours later, and he was declared dead.
The two 911 dispatchers who took Plush's calls and the two officers who were sent to search for him were named in the 2019 wrongful lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit also alleged that the former city manager was aware that the call center struggled with inadequate staffing and training at the time of Plush's death.
As part of the settlement, the city of Cincinnati must pay Plush's family $6 million, and long-term recommendations were made for changes to the Cincinnati Emergency Communications Center, according to a 47-page report released by the family's attorney Tuesday.
Staffing, morale and improvements to technology were among the recommendations. The report found that employees continue to leave due to low morale, which it said results in problems the call center cannot "hire its way out of."
Overall, the report concluded that as a whole, the call center has "extremely passionate, dedicated employees."
(CHICAGO) -- A battle pitting the mayor of Chicago and the superintendent of the police department against some officers defying a vaccine mandate for all city employees heads to a courtroom on Wednesday where the police union is asking a judge for a temporary restraining order.
A court hearing over the union's request for a temporary restraining order was delayed Wednesday, but that did little to ease tensions over the city's attempt to get all police officers vaccinated.
Police Superintendent David Brown said compliance with the COVID-19 shot mandate by officers and civilian employees of his agency went up to 67% on Tuesday from 64% a day earlier.
"I will say and do anything to save an officer's life," Brown said during a news conference on Tuesday. "If it takes going through a counseling session, going to a no-pay status, going to internal affairs or a direct order, if that's what it takes, I'm willing to do it."
As of Tuesday, about 2,000 officers had yet to upload their vaccine or testing status on a city online portal and, so far, 21 officers have been stripped of their police powers and sent home without pay, Brown said.
Brown said "several hundred" hold-out officers were summoned to police headquarters this week and given a chance to change their minds and hear of the consequences they face for refusing.
"I don't know if we've changed their minds or if they've made the decision themselves to get in the portal," Brown said.
City officials released an update on the vaccine mandate on Monday showing that 79% of all city employees had complied and registered their vaccine status on the online portal. Officials said 84% are fully vaccinated.
The police department has the lowest level of compliance, officials said.
The mandate set a deadline of last Friday for employees to comply.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents officers, has asked Cook County Circuit Court Judge Cecilia Horan to issue a temporary restraining order against the mandate. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Wednesday.
At the same time, the union is asking Horan to recuse herself from the case after she granted the city a temporary restraining order on Friday barring FOP President John Catanzara from publicly telling union members to defy the mandate.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Catanzara's statements are allegedly putting the public in danger.
"By doing so, and by predicting that 50% or more officers will violate their oaths and not report for duty, Catanzara is encouraging an unlawful strike and work stoppage which carries the potential to undermine public safety and expose our residents to irreparable harm, particularly during an ongoing pandemic," Lightfoot wrote in a court filing.
Following the ruling, Catanzara posted a video on the union's YouTube channel informing members that he has been silenced.
"Everybody has to do what's in their hearts and minds, whatever that is," Catanzara said in the video. "But I will just leave you with this: policy starts at the top in this city and it has proven time and time again that the top of this city's policy needs to change."
Holding up a sign bearing a so-called "Thin Blue Line" flag with the words "John Catanzara for Mayor 2023," he said "enough is enough."
With Chicago in the midst of a surge in violent crime with shootings up 9% this year over 2020, some city leaders said they fear Lightfoot and Brown are playing with fire by taking officers who don't comply with the vaccine mandate off the streets.
"We are simply not in a position to fire 2,000 police officers right now," Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins told ABC station WLS in Chicago. "We can't do that. That is not in our best interest."
(NEW YORK) -- The Westchester, New York, district attorney's office has had an ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's Westchester golf course, sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell ABC News.
The probe, which is separate from a similar, and broader, investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office, has included records subpoenaed from Trump National Golf Club Westchester, as well as the town about 30 miles north of New York City where the course in located, sources said.
News of the Westchester DA's probe was first reported by the New York Times.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said the probe was the continuation of a "witch hunt" against former President Donald Trump.
"The Club's request for a review of its tax assessments was amicably resolved earlier this year and signed off by the Town Board, the Town Assessor, Special Counsel for the Town ... the Briarcliff Manor School District, the Office of the Westchester County Attorney and the Westchester County Supreme Court judge presiding over the matter," the spokesperson said. "Accordingly, the suggestion that anything was inappropriate is completely false and incredibly irresponsible. The witch hunt continues."
A spokesperson for Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah declined to comment.
The investigation marks the third probe by a prosecutorial office in Trump's home state of New York looking into the former president's business dealings.
In July, following a nearly two-year investigation, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance charged the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud. Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has been conducting a parallel probe into Trump's business dealings.
Among the issues being probed by investigators is how the Trump Organization has valued its holdings for tax purposes.
The Trump Organization owns or operates more than a dozen golf course worldwide. Earlier this year, following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S, Capitol, the PGA of America, the proprietors of one of golf's four major championship tournaments, announced it would move its 2022 PGA Championship away from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for killing 17 and injuring 17 others in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
Cruz replied "guilty" when Judge Elizabeth Scherer asked how he wanted to plea to the slaying or wounding of each victim. Parents of the slain students watched from the courtroom and wiped tears from their eyes.
Cruz said in court, "I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day. … It brings me nightmares and I can't live with myself sometimes."
Cruz said he believes the victims should be the ones to decide whether he gets the death penalty.
A jury will decide if Cruz, 23, will get the death penalty or life in prison.
A prosecutor gave a timeline of the massacre, including Cruz's Uber ride to the school, which classrooms he fired into and who was shot when.
Manuel Oliver, father of 17-year-old victim Joaquin Oliver, told ABC News Live on Wednesday, "No one told me with details -- how my son was shot first and then was reshot two more times, so maybe he was still alive. That means that he was suffering a lot."
(DALLAS) -- After two years of birthdays, holidays and chemotherapy treatments, Beckett Burge was able to celebrate the biggest milestone of all -- being officially cancer-free.
Beckett was only 4 years old when he was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia on April 25, 2018.
He began chemotherapy and was often sick following treatment. With his older sister Aubrey there to comfort him, their mother, Kaitlin Burge, snapped a photo that would go viral.
"One thing they don't tell you about childhood cancer is that it affects the entire family," Kaitlin Burge said in 2018. The family also keeps a Facebook page called "Beckett Strong," where they keep everyone updated on Beckett's recovery.
On Oct. 15, Beckett finished treatment at Children's Medical Center Plano in Texas.
"We are excited to say the least," said Kaitlin Burge. "It has been a long journey. Aubrey has been a great trooper."
Beckett said he couldn't have done it without his big sister by his side.
"She always stands up for me whenever I had cancer," said Beckett.
Now back in school and enjoying little league baseball, Beckett and his family shared a message of hope with "World News Tonight."
"We just want to say that we're super excited," said Kaitlin Burge. "Any other families that are out there going through cancer with their kids and their own family members, we just want to say, 'Keep up the fight.'"
"There's light at the end of the tunnel" she added. "Keep your head up. Take it one day at a time."
(NEW YORK) -- With wind chill already dragging temperatures down to the low 30s in Anchorage, Alaska, nurse manager Deyana Thayer has her insulated snow gear ready to go as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is finally available for younger children -- since her team will brave the elements to administer the shot in drive-thru clinics that make it easier for kids to get it in the warm comfort of their family’s’ car.
Though regulatory bodies are still weeks away from green-lighting a vaccine for children as young as five, meticulous planning and coordination between state and federal health officials has already been underway for weeks to stand up the complex nationwide launch.
“Quite a few parents are waiting on pins and needles,” Thayer said.
The White House on Wednesday announced its plan to distribute vaccine to cover the some 28 million children ages 5-11 if authorized, including a national public education campaign to "reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally-responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children."
The administration is "eagerly awaiting" federal regulators' review, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters, and have "a lot of reasons to be hopeful" about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.
"We need everyone on board for the work ahead of us, because every parent should have the information and tools that they need to help keep their kids safe and to help protect the kids under five who can't get vaccinated yet," Murthy said.
In a new operational planning guide sent to state health officials and obtained by ABC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises jurisdictions should be "ready to vaccinate" the newly eligible group, following Food and Drug Administration and CDC signoff.
CDC advises states to request their pediatric doses in advance -- even before the FDA advisory panel meets to debate whether to move ahead -- in hopes of smoothing the way for an eventual "manageable and equitable launch."
Those "pre-orders" are allowed to begin Wednesday.
"This is as much of a logistical puzzle as it is a communication or a scientific one," Dr. Nirav Shah, President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and director of the Maine CDC said. "Make no mistake, this is an all hands on deck situation."
To prioritize the "increased logistics needed" during initial rollout, the government is preparing to temporarily halt shipments of adult Pfizer doses during the first week of the pediatric launch, according to planning documents. While paused, adult doses' availability still should not be impacted.
An imminent vaccine for kids follows a summer where pediatric COVID infections soared -- upping the ante on protecting tender ages from the pandemic’s worst, and additionally stopping children from passing the virus to other vulnerable people.
“There will be a lot of pent up demand,” Shah said.
The FDA and CDC must sign off before shots to kids are given; key meetings with independent advisers are set for late October and the first week of November.
Once greenlighted, the pediatric doses will be sent to thousands of sites across the country, including more than 25,000 pediatricians’ offices, more than 100 children’s hospitals, tens of thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and community- based clinics, the White House announced Wednesday.
Though the White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses -- more than enough to fully vaccine all children ages 5-11 in America -- the first launch will dole doses out in waves based on states’ eligible population of kids. Shipments can recalibrate based on shifting demand.
Within days, more than 15 millions of doses are set to begin distribution across the country: roughly 10 million allocated to states, five million to pharmacies, and approximately 265,000 for other federal health agencies, three sources familiar with the rollout said, with a focus on sites already with the infrastructure in place.
“Parents want to get the vaccine in a place where they trust, and their child is comfortable,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.
But pediatricians cannot shoulder the rollout alone, Shah and Hannan said.
Combatting not only the pandemic, they're also giving seasonal flu shots and other vaccinations for the same age group -- like Measles Mumps and Rubella, Chickenpox and HPV, all are also typically given to kids within the five to 11 range, but which have different storage requirements from the COVID vaccine.
Vaccinators must now also juggle two different COVID vaccine formulas: a full dose for older adolescents and adults -- and one third of that dose one for younger children.
To troubleshoot any ensuing confusion, federal health officials are outlining a new color-coded cap system for each formulation of the vaccine, though still "preliminary." Purple-capped vials will contain doses for adult and older adolescents, a chart offered to states said; orange-capped vials will contain doses for kids aged 5-11.
In New York, the state’s largest healthcare provider Northwell Health is considering colored bracelets to help coordinate which dose goes to which child, division chief of general pediatrics at Cohen’s Medical Center Dr. Sophia Jan said.
Even with "sufficient" supply, as the administration has assured, distribution could pose a challenge in some rural areas, where the population of eligible kids may be more spread out across many miles, Hannan said.
"The logistical challenge will be matching everyone up, matching the vaccine with a vaccinator and then getting the word to parents to make all those pieces come together," Shah said.
Schools offer an attractive locus to meet kids where they’re at, and some jurisdictions plan to use them as a "mainstay" of the pediatric rollout, Shah said, including in Maine.
Columbus Ohio health officials are looking at holding after-school and weekend clinics in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and area schools, public health spokesperson Kelli Newman said.
New York’s Northwell plans to deploy staff specifically trained to work with young children and children with special needs, partnering with schools and places of worship for further community engagement, Jan said.
That outreach will be a crucial piece of the puzzle.
"Making sure that folks have the information, that it's accurate, that it's timely -- that's going to be challenge number one, two three," Shah said.
The CDC has already released promotional materials in English and Spanish offering guidance on how to talk with parents about the shot.
In Maine, health officials are hoping to run ads timed with authorization, focused on parents’ education about the shot’s safety and protection against the virus.
"We want to almost preserve the bandwidth of pediatricians to contend with and work with and educate parents who are extremely hesitant," Shah said.
State health officials expect "more questions" than ever before with the pediatric rollout, Shah said -- and they’re bent on being ready to answer them with good information.
"It's understandable because of what's at stake," he said.
(NEW YORK) -- The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.
More than 728,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 66.8% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.
Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Oct 20, 8:23 am
FDA could authorize Moderna, J&J booster shots Wednesday
The FDA could authorize Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots for some populations as soon as Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the CDC independent advisory committee is meeting Wednesday to discuss vaccines in general. The committee is expected to debate Moderna and Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, discussing who boosters should be recommended for and if mixing and matching vaccines should be permitted.
A non-binding vote is expected at the end of Thursday.
The CDC director is expected to make the final recommendations shortly after the vote, which could come as soon as Thursday night or Friday morning.
Oct 20, 8:08 am
NYC to mandate vaccine for municipal workers
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all municipal workers.
The mandate is expected to include all employees from sanitation workers to office workers and will require some 161,000 workers to have their first dose by Oct. 29.
Municipal employees who do not get vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave, and their future employment will be resolved in negotiations with individual labor unions.
Correction officers will face a later deadline of Dec. 1.
(NEW YORK) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday was set to announce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all municipal workers -- a move that is likely to escalate tensions with unions and employees that have been resistant, a source told ABC News.
Nearly 150,000 of the city's workers -- teachers and school staff -- had already been required to be vaccinated, but the new announcement took the push for vaccination one step further.
About 71% of employees have already have at least one shot of the vaccine. It’s up to 94% in the 11 city-run hospitals, and 96% in schools, where vaccinations are already mandatory.
But other sectors of the city's workforce, including the police and fire departments, lag behind.
About 69% of NYPD employees and 60% of FDNY workers are vaccinated and both the fire and police commissioners have endorsed the mandate. The Police Benevolent Association has previously said “vaccine is a medical decision that members must make in consultation with their own health care providers.”
The mandate is expected to include all employees from sanitation workers to office workers and will require some 161,000 workers to have their first dose by the end of the month.
The mayor, who is pondering a run for governor when his term ends at the end of the year, is set to appear on MSNBC to make the announcement.
Municipal employees who do not get vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave, and their future employment will be resolved in negotiations with individual labor unions.
Correction officers will face a later deadline of Dec. 1.
(NEW YORK) -- "Luma out" and "If I can't breathe, Luma shouldn't charge us," read some of the banners held by hundreds of Puerto Rico's residents as they marched on a main highway Friday in protest against Luma Energy, the island's power company.
Puerto Rico has had a long history of instability with its electric system, even prior to the devastation Hurricane Maria wreaked in 2017, which left millions on the island without power for nearly a year.
Still, blackout and brownouts are a part of daily life for Puerto Rico's citizens, with a recent power outage now affecting thousands.
The combination of Luma's late response to failures in the transmission and distribution that have left thousands without power in the last months, and the weak infrastructure of the power plants has made Puerto Rico's electric service the worst among the U.S.' states and territories, experts say.
"Most of these power plants should have been decommissioned many years ago. But when you decommission something, you need to have something new," Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority former executive director Ricardo Ramos told ABC News.
ABC News requested a comment from Luma Energy and has yet to receive a response.
PREPA's gas power plants are over 40 years old. The average lifespan of these power plants is about 20 years, according to one report by National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Ramos, who says he has worked in the energy industry all his life, told ABC News that the situation with Puerto Rico's power is the result of a "perfect storm" of failures that perpetuate the island's electricity woes.
PREPA's operational hurdles
Problems with electricity have been reported since PREPA was established in 1941, Ramos said.
In the1960's Puerto Rico began building power plants, but amid the island nation's industrial revolution plus a then-predicted business boom, those power plants were built larger than the country could manage.
"At that time, bunker type C oil was extremely cheap. So it was chosen to use that fuel in order to have a competitive, let's say, electricity tariff," Ramos told ABC News.
More businesses actually began leaving the island, and Puerto Rico ended up with a majority of its larger power plants located in the southern area of the island, while the most electric consumption has been in the north, Ramos said.
That has resulted in a complex geographical situation for the island's transmission and distribution, now managed by Luma, he said.
Prior to Luma's takeover on June 1, 2021, the government entity, PREPA, was in charge. Today, the government only owns the system that generates electricity while Luma oversees transmission and management.
The mix of an expensive system, mismanagement and lack of maintenance drove PREPA into a more dire situation, according to energy financial expert, Tom Sanzillo.
"You can look at it as unfunded maintenance over a long period of time," Sanzillo told ABC News.
Sanzillo is the director of financial analysis of the Institute of Energy and Economics and Financial Analysis, and is a former New York State comptroller.
"You can look at it as the misuse of the revenues that have come in from the ratepayers over a number of years," Sanzillo told ABC News.
Both Sanzillo and Ramos say that effective energy projects take time, can be complicated, and must include collaboration between key players from stakeholders to politicians.
"A power system is very hard to work on, decisions have to be made years prior," Sanzillo added.
In addition, financing energy projects involves a large amount of investment, he said, and that PREPA's investment came from the bond market and loans.
As the electric utility issued bonds to finance energy projects that typically take over six years to build, the island's politics got in the way.
"If you're changing the management every four years, and you already have, let's say, immediate bonds for a project, and the project doesn't exist, it can quickly become a mess," Ramos told ABC News.
"You have a combination of a system and disrepair and political mismanagement at the top of the agency, and you have a recipe for a real problem," Sanzillo from IEEFA said.
The island filed for bankruptcy in 2016 under Title 3 known as Puerto Rico's Oversight Management Economic Stability Act.
In 2017, the financial oversight board imposed by Congress filed Title 3 papers for the bankruptcy process of PREPA.
Bankruptcy proceedings are still underway, according to local media reports.
Amid Hurricane Maria's destruction, the Trump administration designated one of the biggest federal funds with nearly $10 billion for PREPA's reconstruction. As of today only $7.1 million has been disbursed, according to Puerto Rico's government.
Sanzillo says using funds for the expansion of a solar system on the island could help change the situation.
"You would have less stress on what is clearly a fragile system," he added.
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) -- A freshman at the University of Kentucky died from alcohol toxicity Monday night after he was found unresponsive at his fraternity house, officials said.
University police officers were called to FarmHouse Fraternity at about 6:22 p.m. Monday where Thomas Lofton Hazlewood, an 18-year-old fraternity member, was unresponsive, the university said.
The agricultural economics major was taken to a hospital where he died, the university said.
Hazlewood's cause of death was "presumed alcohol toxicity" pending investigation, and the manner of death was ruled an accident, the Fayette County Coroner's Office said.
"Foul play is not suspected, but police are investigating the circumstances of his death," the university said in a statement Tuesday.
University President Eli Capilouto and Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner in a statement Tuesday evening vowed to determine "what happened, how it happened and why."
The university has launched two investigations: one through the university police and another through the school's Office of Student Conduct, said Capilouto and Turner.
"Both of these investigations will be made public including any findings and recommendations, subject to necessary redactions to protect the privacy of students," they said. "But we will understand better what happened and we will communicate with Lofton’s family and our university family."
The university has also suspended all activities at the FarmHouse Fraternity while the investigations are ongoing.
FarmHouse Fraternity CEO Christian Wiggins said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Thomas 'Lofton' Hazelwood, a new member of the University of Kentucky chapter of FarmHouse Fraternity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and loved ones as well as the entire community. We have encouraged all members and new members to cooperate with any investigation prompted by Mr. Hazelwood’s death."
Counseling and other services will be offered, the university officials added.
(NEW YORK) -- More than 60,000 law enforcement officers were assaulted in the line of duty in 2020, including more than 40 who were killed, according to the FBI.
The total of 60,105 was an increase of 4,071 from 2019, with FBI drawing on reports from some 9,895 law enforcement agencies.
Among those assaulted, about 31% sustained injuries. In 2020, 46 officers were killed, down from 48 in 2019, FBI data showed.
Most of the assaults on officers happened after they responded to disturbance calls, including family quarrels and bar fights, according to the FBI.
"Police officers across the country are facing an increase in violent crime and violent acts committed against them," said Laura Cooper, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. "Facing these dangerous situations is another reason why it has been difficult for police agencies to find recruits who want to put on a uniform and put their lives on the line."
Vernon Stanforth, president of the National Sheriffs Association, said the staggering numbers weren't a surprise "after this troubling year for law enforcement."
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund President Jason Johnson said the increased assaults on officers come at a time when they're "seemingly under attack on all fronts."
In the first nine months of 2021, 54 officers were feloniously killed while on duty compared with 37 over that same time period in 2020, according to the latest FBI data. Among those deaths, 20 were unprovoked attacks.
A new LELDF report showed that from June 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021, in the wake of George Floyd's killing and the subsequent protests, the percentage of officers quitting or retiring had increased by double digits compared with 2019.
This year, high-profile police killings have already dominated headlines, including the case of Chicago officer Ella French, who was shot during a traffic stop in August.
French, 29, was the first Chicago police officer since 2018 killed in the line of duty and the city's first female officer killed in the line of duty since 1988.