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COVID-19 live updates: US deaths increasing to highest point in nearly 1 year

Go Nakamura/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.6 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 872,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63.5% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 26, 6:36 pm
1st participant dosed in Moderna's omicron-specific vaccine

Moderna announced Wednesday that the first participant has been dosed in the phase 2 study of its omicron-specific booster candidate, in case it becomes necessary.

Moderna's trials will include people who received two doses of the original Moderna vaccine and people who received two doses of the original Moderna vaccine and a Moderna booster shot.

Pfizer announced Tuesday that it's initiated clinical studies to evaluate an omicron-based vaccine for adults.

Jan 26, 5:00 pm
NIH trial finds mixing and matching boosters is safe and effective

A study from the National Institutes of Health published in the New England Journal of Medicine found mixing and matching boosters are safe and create a similar immune response to sticking with your initial vaccine.

An earlier version of this study, with more preliminary findings, helped guide the CDC's decision to allow mix-and-match.

The study authors make no claims about specific combinations being more or less effective. The study did find that people who got an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) and then received the Johnson & Johnson booster had a significant increase in T-cell response, a part of immunity.

The trial looked at 458 participants who received a vaccine with no prior COVID-19 infection. This data is only for the first 29 days after receiving the booster; researchers plan to follow the participants for one year, allowing for more data.

-ABC News' Vanya Jain, Sony Salzman, Eric Strauss, Dr. Alexis Carrington

Jan 26, 4:47 pm
Unvaccinated child dies in Mississippi

An unvaccinated child has died in Mississippi from COVID-19, according to the state's health department.

The department confirmed to ABC News that the child was between the ages of 11 and 17, an age bracket that is eligible to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

This marked the 10th child -- including an infant -- to die in Mississippi from COVID-19. None of the 10 children were vaccinated, according to the health department.

-ABC News' Josh Hoyos

Jan 26, 10:40 am
US hospital admissions projected to fall for 1st time in months

COVID-19-related hospital admissions in the U.S. are expected to fall in the weeks to come, the first time the nation would see a decline in months, according to forecast models used by the CDC.

Estimates suggest between 4,900 and 27,800 Americans could be admitted to the hospital each day by Feb. 18.

Deaths from COVID-19 are expected to remain stable or have an uncertain trend. Estimates suggest about 33,000 more Americans could die from COVID-19 over the next two weeks.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 25, 6:06 pm
All Super Bowl attendees to get KN95 mask

Every attendee of next month's Super Bowl in Los Angeles will receive a KN95 mask, health officials said Tuesday.

Additionally, "safety team members" will remind fans to keep their masks on unless they are eating or drinking, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a county Board of Supervisors meeting.

Attendees at the Super Bowl Experience will also receive a free at-home rapid test kit, Ferrer said, with messaging to test before the big game on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium.

The county expects to distribute over 60,000 take-home kits during the Super Bowl Experience, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from Feb. 5 to Feb. 12.

-ABC News' Jennifer Watts

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

100 bags of fentanyl found in bedroom of 13-year-old who died from overdose


(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Investigators say they discovered over 100 bags of fentanyl in the bedroom of a Connecticut teen who overdosed and died earlier this month and are seeking any information on the person who provided the drugs.

The Hartford Police Department said Wednesday that the bags recovered from the room matched 60 bags found at the Sports and Medical Science Academy, a magnet school in Hartford where the unidentified 13-year-old overdosed on Jan. 13. He died the following Saturday, police said.

"This fentanyl was packaged in the same manner as the bags located at the school, had the same identifying stamp, and tested at an even higher purity level (60% purity)," the Hartford police said in a statement.

Fentanyl is a Schedule II prescription drug used to treat patients suffering from severe pain after surgery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the institute.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl, increased 56%, from 11.4 per 100,000 in 2019 to 17.8 per 100,000 in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two other students at the public school were sickened after apparently being exposed to the drug, but both recovered, investigators said.

The police said there is no evidence that anyone other than the 13-year-old brought the drugs to the school, police said.

An "individual who has history at the residence" and narcotics history is a person of interest but hasn't been labeled a suspect, according to the police. Investigators have also interviewed the teen's mother, who they say has been cooperating.

"At this time, we have no evidence to support her having any prior knowledge of her son's possession of the fentanyl," the police said in a statement.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man arrested for allegedly selling gun used in hostage incident at Texas synagogue

Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

(COLLEYVILLE, Texas) -- A man faces a federal charge for allegedly selling the gun used in the Texas synagogue hostage situation earlier this month, authorities said.

Henry Williams, 32, faces one charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in the Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville on Jan. 15.

The armed suspect, identified by authorities as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, died in the incident when an FBI hostage rescue team breached the synagogue after an 11-hour standoff.

Investigators allege Williams sold Akram a Taurus G2C pistol on Jan. 13, two days before the hostage incident.

The FBI said it discovered Williams' alleged ties to Akram through an analysis of Akram's phone records after his death.

Agents first interviewed Williams on Jan. 16, during which he allegedly said he recalled meeting "a man with a British accent," the Department of Justice said.

Agents interviewed Williams again after his arrest on an outstanding state warrant on Monday, during which he allegedly confirmed he sold Akram the handgun at an intersection in South Dallas after viewing a photo of the suspect, according to the Justice Department.

"Williams allegedly admitted to officers that Mr. Akram told him the gun was going to be used for 'intimidation' to get money from someone with an outstanding debt," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Cellphone records for both men also show their phones were in close proximity on Jan. 13, according to prosecutors.

Williams was arrested Tuesday on the firearm charge and made his first appearance before a magistrate judge Wednesday afternoon. According to the Department of Justice, Williams was previously convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance.

"Federal firearm laws are designed to keep guns from falling into dangerous hands. As a convicted felon, Mr. Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring, or selling firearms," U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad Meacham said in a statement. "Whether or not he knew of his buyer's nefarious intent is largely irrelevant -- felons cannot have guns, period, and the Justice Department is committed to prosecuting those who do."

A detention hearing has been scheduled for Monday. ABC News has reached out to Williams' attorney for comment.

A rabbi and three members of the synagogue were taken hostage during the incident. All four managed to escape unharmed.

FBI agents said the suspect was demanding the release of a convicted terrorist and believe the location was intentionally targeted because it was the closest synagogue to Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, where the prisoner is being held.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News the suspect was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of assault and attempted murder of a U.S. soldier in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison.

In the weeks since the incident, investigators have been digging into the suspect's social media and personal devices to try and find out more about his travel and associates.

Four men have also been arrested in England within the past week as part of the probe, British authorities said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

$110,000 reward offered for information on death of 16-year-old girl

California Highway Patrol

(LOS ANGELES) -- The Los Angeles County district attorney called for the community's help to identify the people responsible for the death of 16-year-old Tioni Theus and announced a $110,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Tioni was last seen Jan. 7, when she reportedly told her father that she was meeting a friend to go to a party, District Attorney George Gascón said at a press conference Wednesday.

On the morning of Jan. 8, she was found dead on the southbound side of the 110 Freeway. According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, she died from a gunshot wound to her neck.

Tioni lived in Compton, California, and was a student at Centennial High School, according to a motion to offer a reward for information about her death. She was living with her father as her mother recovered from a serious hit-and-run, the motion said.

Her family said Tioni was a straight-A student and enjoyed dance and golf.

"She was thrown on the side of the freeway like trash, and she's a child. She meant something to her family," her cousin Lakesia Barrett told ABC Los Angeles station KABC at a vigil held for Tioni on Jan. 19. "She meant something to her mother that can't be here. She meant something to her cousins that are here."

The Major Crimes Unit of the California Highway Patrol is taking the lead on the investigation.

"This incident occurred on a Saturday morning," California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Jesus Holguin said at the press conference. "So there has to be -- there's people that were driving by. There has to be individuals out there that eyewitnessed at least a portion, if not the entirety of this case, and we need your support."

Gascón said his office had received evidence that Tioni may have been a victim of human trafficking.

Tiffiny Blacknell, an attorney from the district attorney's office, said court documents indicate that she was a child victim of sexual exploitation.

"Being a victim of human trafficking is not a moral failure," Blacknell said. "Children cannot consent to sex work. Any characterization of Tioni as a prostitute or a sex worker is disgusting. She was a child. Her life mattered."

Tioni's cousin Rashida Kincy told KABC that Tioni was a "young, vibrant young lady who was just cut from so much that was ahead of her."

She added, "This has been a tragedy to my family, to the community, to anyone that has a child, that's a cousin, that's a friend."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who helped to secure $10,000 from the county for the reward, said at the press conference that the reward was an "incentive to those in the community and beyond to speak up and provide information about what occurred."

The city of Los Angeles is providing $50,000 for the reward, and the state of California is providing an additional $50,000.

People who believe they have information can anonymously call the tipline at 888-412-7463 or reach the Major Crimes unit directly at 323-644-9550.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Man suspected of killing Texas deputy arrested in Mexico

Ted Heap, Harris County Constable Precinct 5 via Facebook

(HOUSTON) -- A fugitive suspected of ambushing and gunning down a Texas deputy constable during a traffic stop over the weekend in Houston has been taken into custody in Mexico, authorities said Wednesday.

Oscar Rosales, 51, has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of Cpl. Charles Galloway of Harris County Constable Precinct 5.

His arrest comes amid a string of shootings of law enforcement officers across the country in the past few days, including two New York City police officers who were killed while answering a domestic violence call Friday and a sheriff's deputy in Milwaukee who was shot multiple times following a traffic stop early Wednesday morning.

Rosales was the subject of a nationwide manhunt until he was taken into custody at a hotel in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, a border city about 575 miles west of Houston, U.S. Marshal Deputy Cameron Welch told ABC station KTRK in Houston.

His capture was coordinated by the U.S. Marshals' Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force and its Fugitive Task Force in conjunction with Mexican authorities, officials said. U.S. Marshals are working to extradite him back to Harris County.

On Monday, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner identified Rosales as the suspect who allegedly gunned down Galloway early Sunday when the deputy pulled over a white Toyota Avalon in a residential neighborhood of southwest Houston.

Finner said investigators obtained video of Rosales getting out of the car with an "assault-type weapon" and opening fire on Galloway without warning as the deputy was still seated in his patrol vehicle. He said Galloway, who was shot multiple times, did not have an opportunity to defend himself.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Rosales' wife, Reina Marquez, and her brother, Henri Mauricio Pereira Marquez, have both been arrested on charges of tampering with evidence.

Finner said Reina Marquez and her brother are alleged to have tampered with the Toyota Avalon, which has since been recovered by police.

Galloway's death comes about three months after Harris County Constable Precinct 4 Deputy Kareem Atkins, 30, was shot to death in an ambush outside a Houston sports bar that also left Atkins' partner wounded. A 19-year-old suspect was arrested in December and charged with capital murder.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin police are searching for a suspect who shot a 26-year-old Milwaukee County Sheriff's deputy around 2 a.m on Wednesday when the deputy pulled a car over for a registration violation, Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said at a news conference.

Lucas said one of the vehicle's occupants got out and ran, and the deputy was shot multiple times while chasing the man. A second occupant of the car was arrested, officials said.

The deputy, a member of the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office for 18 months, was shot in both arms and his torso, Lucas said. He said the deputy was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

On Friday night, 22-year-old rookie New York City police officer Jason Rivera and his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, were shot when they responded to a domestic incident in Harlem. Rivera died at a hospital shortly after the incident, and Mora died on Tuesday. The suspect was fatally shot in the episode.

On Dec. 29, Bradley, Illinois, Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic, 49, was fatally shot and her partner was wounded when they responded to a barking dog complaint at a hotel. Two people were arrested in the case, including one who allegedly shot Rittmanic with her own gun, and are facing the death penalty if convicted.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

SpaceX rocket segment on course to hit the moon

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A segment of a SpaceX rocket that launched seven years ago is currently on course to crash into the moon.

The booster was part of the Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from SpaceX's Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in February 2015 as part of a mission to send a space-weather satellite more than a million miles from Earth.

However, after a long burn to release the satellite at a specific position in space, the booster didn't have enough fuel to return to Earth's atmosphere, meteorologist Eric Berger explained in Ars Technica.

Additionally, its orbit was not high enough to escape the gravity pull between Earth and the moon, leaving the booster in a "chaotic orbit."

Bill Gray, creator of Project Pluto, which supplies astronomical software that tracks objects near Earth to amateur and professional astronomers, wrote in a blog post that he's calculated the impact likely will occur on the far side of the moon on March 4 around 7:25 a.m. ET.

"It's been up there -- just an inert piece of space junk -- for the past seven years," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told ABC News. "Because of its orbit, it keeps coming somewhat close to the moon and that changes its orbit unpredictably, and so the moon keeps tugging on it and changes it orbit."

He explained that the "last tug" the booster got from the moon in January set it on a path that it will come back near the Earth in early February, go beyond the moon in late February and then start falling back toward it in early March, causing the crash.

It's not clear exactly where the booster will hit because sunlight can "push" it to slightly change course, but the four-ton segment is going to crash at 5,600 mph, likely creating a crater with a diameter several feet wide.

However, McDowell, who publishes a regularspace report, said the collision is nothing to worry about.

"This is not the the first time that we've smashed rocket stages into the moon," he said. "We used to do it deliberately back in the days of Project Apollo to actually do scientific experiments to basically ring the moon like a bell and look for the interior structure with seismometers -- sort of an artificial earthquake if you like -- and that didn't do any damage to the moon."

Additionally, in 2009, NASA's LCROSS spacecraft purposely slammed into the moon to collect data about the impact.

The impending crash also should have positive implications for science -- it will offer researchers a rare opportunity to study and observe how craters are formed on the moon.

"The advantage you have of smashing a rocket into the moon and creating an artificial crater, instead of letting nature throw a rock at the moon and making an actual one, is that you know exactly what you're throwing at the moon, you know what it's made of and how heavy it is," McDowell said. "If you know a four-ton aluminum rocket stage makes this big a crater, then that gives you a sense of how big a rock must have made this other crater."

He added that the new crater created by the booster may uncover material and give a better idea of the composition of that part of the moon.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'It is dire': 1 body found as search goes on for 38 others on capsized boat off Florida coast

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

(MIAMI) -- One body has been recovered as a search continued Wednesday morning for 38 other passengers believed to have been on a human-smuggling boat that capsized in the northern Straits of Florida, officials said.

During a news conference Wednesday morning, a U.S. Coast Guard official said search and rescue crews are in a race against time to find any survivors.

"It is dire. The longer they remain in the water without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, the sea conditions, every moment that passes it becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions," said Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian, commander of the Sector Miami Coast Guard.

The 25-foot capsized boat was discovered around 8 a.m. on Tuesday roughly 40 miles east of Florida's Fort Pierce Inlet when a commercial tug-in barge operator radioed in that one survivor was found clinging to the hull of the overturned vessel.

"We often rely on sometimes heroic acts of good Samaritans operating in the marine environment and this case is no exception," Burdian said. "We’re deeply grateful that the mariner located the survivor in this case and saved his life and called us so that we could continue to search for survivors."

Burdian said the survivor was in a hospital in stable condition on Wednesday and was being interviewed by federal Homeland Security investigators. The survivor said a total of 40 people were aboard the boat when it flipped over in treacherous sea conditions after launching from Bimini Island in the Bahamas on Saturday evening, Burdian said.

"The survivor was not wearing a life jacket and reported that no one else on board was wearing a life jacket," Burdian said.

Joshua Nelson, operations manager for the tug-in barge dubbed the "Signet Intruder" that rescued the man, said the survivor told the crew that his sister was on the boat and among those unaccounted for. Nelson, who was not on the barge owned by Signet Maritime Corp. when the rescue was made, told ABC News that his crew reported that the man was dehydrated and "was very malnourished and very distraught."

"We’ve had other vessels and other crew members in some of our other divisions that have encountered this before," Nelson said. "Nothing really prepares (you) in regards to this, but they felt relieved that they were able to get him on board."

Burdian said the Coast Guard along with federal, state and local partners immediately initiated a search involving multiple Coast Guard cutters and Navy aircraft.

"We did recover a deceased body, who will be transferred to shore today in Fort Pierce and we continue to search for other survivors," Burdian said.

She said crews have already searched an area of about 7,500 nautical miles or about the size of New Jersey.

Burdian said aircraft crews have reported seeing some debris fields with items consistent with the number of people believed to have been on board the vessel.

"We do suspect that this is a case of human smuggling," Burdian said. "This event occurred in a normal route for human smuggling from the Bahamas into the southeast U.S."

She said the waters in the Florida straits can be quite treacherous.

"In cases like this, small vessels, overloaded, inexperienced operators at night in bad weather is incredibly dangerous," Burdian said.

Burdian would not comment on the origins or nationalities of the people believed to have been on the vessel.

"My focus remains on search and rescue," Burdian said.

She said the search will continue throughout Wednesday, but cautioned, "the search can't go on forever" and that the rescue operation will be re-evaluated on a daily basis.

"Without life jackets, anyone is disadvantaged to survive in the water," Burdian said. "Life jackets save lives."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Deep freeze slams Midwest before taking aim on Northeast: Latest forecast

Scott Olson/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Dangerously cold temperatures have taken over the Midwest Wednesday before heading to the Northeast on Thursday.

Wednesday is the coldest morning so far this winter in places like Chicago, where parts of Lake Michigan are filled with ice.

The wind chill -- what temperature it feels like -- plunged Wednesday morning to about minus 19 in Chicago, minus 30 degrees in Minneapolis, minus 23 in Green Bay and minus 7 in Indianapolis.

The deep freeze then turns to the Northeast.

Thursday morning the wind chill is forecast to fall to minus 4 degrees in Boston, 6 degrees in New York and minus 10 degrees in Watertown, New York.

Even the South will feel the freeze. The wind chill is forecast to drop to 14 degrees in Raleigh, 23 in Atlanta and 21 in Nashville.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Navy to salvage stealth F-35 that crashed on carrier landing in South China Sea

U.S. Navy, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Navy has begun to make plans to recover the F-35C fighter jet that crashed Monday after striking the deck of an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. The jet is the most advanced stealth fighter jet in the world and would have made an enticing target for China if it had attempted to recover it from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

"The U.S. Navy is making recovery operations arrangements for the F-35C aircraft involved in the mishap aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the South China Sea Jan. 24," said Brenda Way, a spokesperson for the Navy's Pacific Fleet.

An earlier Navy statement had said that as the F-35 was attempting to land on the aircraft carrier Monday, "It impacted the flight deck and subsequently fell to the water during routine flight operations."

Seven sailors, including the pilot who was able to eject safely, were injured in Monday's crash according to the Navy.

The damage to the carrier's deck was "superficial and all equipment for flight operations is operational," which enabled the resumption of flight operations, said Lt. Mark Langford, a Seventh Fleet spokesman.

The crash of one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world into international waters had fueled speculation that the U.S. Navy might quickly launch a salvage operation to prevent other foreign powers, especially China, from trying to do the same.

"The race is on now to get the appropriate kind of recovery gear, the deep diving submersibles that actually pull the wreckage up off the bottom of the ocean," said Steve Ganyard, a retired Marine aviator and ABC News contributor.

Ganyard believes China probably has a general idea of where the jet entered the waters of the South China Sea, making its advanced stealth technology an enticing target for China to launch its own salvage operation.

"The Chinese have it the U.S. Navy has it," said Ganyard. "Both those countries are going to want to get a hold of this wreckage."

It is unclear how deep the waters are where the F-35 fell into the Pacific, but the Navy has considerable experience in salvaging wreckage in deep waters. A salvage operation in 2019 in the Philippine Sea was able to recover a C-2A Greyhound aircraft that was three miles under the ocean.

While Monday's crash marked the Navy's first F-35C crash at sea, it will not be its first operation to salvage an F-35 aircraft.

Late last year, the U.S. Navy helped the British Royal Navy recover an F-35B fighter from the waters of the Mediterranean after it had crashed on takeoff from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Monday's crash occurred while the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson Strike Group was involved in a high-profile naval exercise with the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the USS America Amphibious Ready Group and a Japanese Maritime Self Defense helicopter carrier.

The participation of so many air capable and amphibious U.S. Navy ships operating together in the South China Sea highlights the U.S. Navy's capabilities in a region where China continues to make maritime territorial claims.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Crime concerns behind neighborhood's idea to secede from Atlanta

Franz Marc Frei/Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- Some residents in Atlanta's wealthiest neighborhood say they want to leave the city and start a new one, saying they are concerned with crime. But the idea comes with an increasing number of economic and social concerns as it gains steam.

Buckhead is located on the north end of town and accounts for about 20% of Atlanta's half a million residents. The neighborhood is known for having the city's most expensive hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. It is also home to CEOs, movie stars and their mansions.

Concerns that crime is going unchecked have inspired a group of neighbors to form the Buckhead City Committee. They want the community to vote this November on removing themselves from the city of Atlanta, and starting their own city, with their own police force.

However, Atlanta police officials have pushed back against this, saying not only that violent crime is markedly higher in other neighborhoods but that they are working hard to address concerns in the Buckhead community, including opening a new police station. In fact, overall crime is down in the area, police say.

Bill White is leading the charge to separate the community. He's the chief executive officer of the Buckhead City Committee and has helped raise over $2 million in donations from as far away as Bangladesh and Australia. He's a wealthy political fundraiser who only moved to the neighborhood about three years ago, and says one day thieves showed up to his home.

"We had somebody come up our driveway -- a pair of criminals who had just harassed a 10-year-old girl," he said.

White's critics say his intentions are political, that this is part of a far-right conservative effort to weaken cities run by Democrats. He denies this is the reason.

White said he believes the Atlanta Police Department doesn't have the resources or the community support to effectively protect residents in his neighborhood. By creating their own city, White said Buckhead's taxes will be better spent on public safety.

He said a rash of high-profile crimes in Buckhead has sounded alarms. In December, a man was shot at a high-end movie theater in Buckhead. In November, and again in June, people jogging on Buckhead sidewalks were shot in random attacks. At Buckhead's Lenox Mall, there were several shootings at the property in 2021, and at least two of those people were killed.

"People say enough is enough, and I think this has been brewing for some time," White said.

"If you look at the policies of the city of Atlanta, this is a criminal's paradise. There is no adjudication of justice here," White said. "If you let the criminals know that they can carjack you and they won't be chased, they can shoplift you and they won't be prosecuted, people feel like they're living in a war zone."

Police say it's true that they're not sending police officers to most shoplifting calls, saying that by the time those officers arrive, the thieves are gone, and that their time could be better used. But Atlanta police said their current policies do allow for high-speed chases. Some of their policies changed after lawsuits were filed by innocent drivers who were hurt in car wrecks caused by these chases. Even so, Atlanta police will still chase a driver wanted for murder, for example.

If the effort is successful, White said that a new Buckhead City would form its own police department with more than 250 officers.

Eliana Kovitch, a health care worker and Buckhead resident, said she is in favor of separation if it means more police on the streets.

"I've lived in Buckhead [for a] long time, and for the past year and a half, I've been terrified everywhere I go," she said.

Kovitch said she started feeling unsafe after an incident in June 2020, when she was attacked by a man with a knife while waiting for a Lyft ride with her boyfriend. The suspect, according to the police, was a repeat offender who was arrested days earlier in a different county.

"I don't side with ... the politics of any of it. I wanna be a voice ... for victims," Kovitch said. "Yes, there are more severe crimes, if you wanna put it that way. But everyone has their own experience and ... is affected in their own way."

Across Atlanta's Police Zone 2, which covers Buckhead, West Midtown, Lenox Park and Piedmont Heights, murders were up 63%, from eight cases to 13 between 2020 and 2021.

While murder rates were up, the city reports that overall crime in this same area (including robberies, burglaries and car break-ins) actually decreased by 6% last year, compared to 2020, according to the Atlanta Police Department.

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said that even Buckhead's total number of violent crimes are still a fraction of the violent crimes seen in other neighborhoods. Most other Atlanta neighborhoods had at least 30 murders in 2021, compared to 13 for Buckhead, the fewest in the city.

Bryant said he still doesn't want to minimize the crime residents are seeing.

"One of the hard things that I have to do is address the perception and what people feel as it relates to crime," said Bryant. "We recognize that we have to do a better job of that as well. And so that's something that we will be working with at the mayor's office -- what is it that we can do to really show people the truth? And make them feel what we are seeing in the numbers."

On the southwest end of the city, Glenda Mack lives in Atlanta's Zone 4, where 32 people were murdered last year. Her 12-year-old grandson was one of them.

She doesn't agree with all the focus on Buckhead.

"To me, it's just a bunch of entitled people that think they can do that because they're entitled," she said.

"I don't understand. They want to leave the city of Atlanta and be their own. Well, you know. I realize the city of Atlanta depends on y'all money. They depend on that too. I pay taxes, too," Mack said.

David Mack was killed near her home, not far from a police precinct. His family found his body the next morning, and the autopsy later revealed he was shot nine times. Police still haven't made an arrest in the case.

When it comes to crime, Mack believes the focus should be citywide.

"You can't just focus on one place, and that's what I want everyone to know," she said.

If Buckhead leaves Atlanta, it would underline a racial divide.

The vast majority of Buckhead's residents -- 77.5% of its total population -- are white, while 11% are Black and 6% are Asian. Regardless of race, 7% of the neighborhood's population is Hispanic.

In contrast, Atlanta is nearly 50% African American.

If Buckhead leaves, the neighborhood will also take with it a great deal of tax dollars.

While residents in the neighborhood make up about 20% of the city's population, their tax bills (through property and commercial taxes) cover about 40% of the city's expenses.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said it would leave a significant hole in the city's tax base if Buckhead goes it alone.

"This divorce of Buckhead from Atlanta would be an unnecessarily expensive one for both spouses in this divorce," Dickens said. "We have a lot of parks and things that ... it's going to cost them. It's going to be alimony if this happens."

Dickens took office this month, and has been working with business leaders and other local influencers to keep his city together.

This month, he opened a new police precinct in the heart of Buckhead. He's also working to establish a better relationship between Atlanta City Hall and the Georgia Statehouse, where the decision to allow residents to vote will be made.

"In Atlanta, across Georgia and across the nation, if the wealthier parts of a community decide they want to form another city, they will continue to make lines and draw division between those that are affluent and those who aren't," Dickens said. "What does that say about our society?"

The issue now awaits the vote of two bills, one introduced by state Rep. Todd Jones in the Georgia House of Representatives as well as another sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Beach in the Georgia Senate. Both bills will be voted on during the 2022 legislative session in April.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also believes Buckhead's move to leave the city would hurt the region.

"I think businesses would look negatively upon the separation of those two areas and I think actually it will make the crime issue worse," he said.

His opinion matters more than many, because as lieutenant governor, he's able to slow down or speed up legislation in the state Senate. Duncan has assigned the legislation to a committee of Democrats, which is likely to sit on the bill.

And in the Georgia House, Republican House Speaker David Ralston has signaled that he's not sure Buckhead leaving is in the best interests of the state.

If lawmakers do say yes to a vote, only residents who live in the boundaries of the new city would get to decide. The vote would take place in November.

Atlanta's mayor said he's working overtime to convince Buckhead residents to work with him on the issues.

"When individuals choose to divide and choose separation as that answer, they're not going to get the result that they were seeking. They're not going to have a better community. They are not going to have a safer community," Dickens said.

"When we come out of this pandemic, and as we're in it, we have to lock arms and work together to solve these issues," he added. "Separation has rarely been the answer for community-based issues. We do things together in Atlanta and across America, and the benefits would be seen broadly."

Editor's note: The headline has been clarified to more accurately reflect the data in the story.

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Idaho activates crisis standards of care in 3 districts

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(BOISE, Idaho) -- Faced with a severe medical staffing shortage due to a surge in the COVID-19 cases and dwindling blood supply, Idaho health officials have activated crisis standards of care guidelines for the second time in less than a year.

The Idaho Department of Public Health and Welfare enacted the crisis protocols on Monday for three public health districts in the southern part of the state reeling from a rise in coronavirus cases because of the rampant spread of the omicron variant, officials said.

"The highly contagious omicron variant has thrown us a curveball," Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Public Health and Welfare, said in a statement. "Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients."

COVID cases skyrocketed in September 2021, which led the state to enact the crisis protocol.

More than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, the majority caused by the omicron variant, were reported in the state on Monday, according to the state's coronavirus online dashboard data. The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has doubled in the last month from 8.6% in December to 17.1% in January, according to the data.

“Please get vaccinated and boosted if you can and wear a high-quality protective mask in public places," Jeppesen said in a statement. "Omicron is so much more contagious than previous variants, and even though a lower percentage of cases are ending up in the hospital, the record number of cases is still putting strain on our health care system"

A high number of both clinical and non-clinical medical staff members have been unable to work because of being infected by the virus, health officials said.

The state department reported that on Jan. 21, one of the largest healthcare providers, Saint Alphonsus, requested crisis standards of care due to the extreme staff shortage and the low blood supply available. Despite canceling non-urgent surgical appointments, conserving blood supply, and hiring more nurses, the COVID-19 surge has stretched health care facilities like Saint Alphonsus extremely thin.

Saint Alphonsus' request also highlighted the need to implement blood conservation strategies due to the nationwide blood shortages.

To continue providing the usual standard of care to those who most need it, the crisis standard care protocols will call for things like postponement of elective surgery, etc.

The goal of activating the protocol is to provide and care for as many patients as needed, Jeppesen said in his statement.

The crisis standards of care has been activated in the southwest, central and south central health districts in Idaho. The state will monitor COVID numbers and staffing shortages in other regions and hospitals to see if the protocols need to be further expanded.

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2nd NYPD officer dies from Harlem shooting

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(NEW YORK) -- A second NYPD officer has died after being shot at a domestic violence call in Harlem this weekend.

Officer Wilbert Mora, 27, who died Tuesday, is "3 times a hero," Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell tweeted. "For choosing a life of service. For sacrificing his life to protect others. For giving life even in death through organ donation."

Mora was shot while responding to a 911 call Friday night from a woman who was in a dispute with her son. She said her son was in a back bedroom, and when the officers approached the bedroom, the door swung open and the suspect fired, police said.

Mora's partner, officer Jason Rivera, 22, was struck first at the scene and died from his injuries.

A third officer, 27-year-old Sumit Sulan, opened fire on the suspect, LaShawn McNeil.

McNeil, 47, later died from his injuries.

Mora and Rivera are among five NYPD officers who have been shot this month, the commissioner said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, on Monday unveiled a new strategy to combat violent crime.

"New Yorkers feel as if a sea of violence is engulfing our city," Adams said. "But as your mayor, I promise you I will not let this happen. We will not surrender our city to the violent feud. We won't go back to the bad old days."

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Coast Guard searching for 39 people after boat capsizes near Florida


(FORT PIERCE INLET, Fla.) -- The Coast Guard was combing the waters off eastern Florida Tuesday afternoon, looking for 39 people on a boat that capsized.

The vessel may have been part of a "human smuggling venture," the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said it had received a report from a good Samaritan who rescued a man clinging to the vessel, roughly 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet, around 8 a.m.

The survivor said he left Bimini, Bahamas, on Saturday night, and that their boat encountered turbulent weather. No one was wearing a life jacket, according to the survivor.

Coast Guard boats and aircraft were searching throughout the morning, and as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, no other survivors had been discovered.

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Black correction officer mistaken for shoplifter sues Walmart for 'racial profiling'

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(FAYETTEVILLE, Ga.) -- A Black law enforcement officer is alleging that he was racially profiled in a Georgia Walmart store after he was handcuffed and wrongfully accused of shoplifting -- and now he's suing.

David Conners, a Clayton County corrections officer, said he was shopping for home decor when a Fayetteville Police Department officer stopped him in his tracks, saying employees believed he was a man with the last name "Wright" who had repeatedly stolen electronics from the store.

"He's just in the store, minding his own business, when he's approached by the police, and everything went downhill from there," Terance Madden, an attorney for Conners, told ABC News in an interview.

According to the lawsuit, officers handcuffed him while investigating claims by Walmart employees that he was the serial shoplifter. Madden said a warrant already had been issued for that individual.

Conners gave the arresting officers two pieces of identification -- one of which showed he was a local correction officer -- but he was still taken to another room and held while officers investigated, the lawsuit said.

Officers showed Conners footage of the shoplifter that employees thought was him. Conners pointed out that he has visible tattoos, while the alleged shoplifter didn't. But it wasn't until officers called someone familiar with the case who confirmed Conners wasn't the shoplifter that he was released, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement to ABC News, Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said: "We don't tolerate discrimination of any kind and take allegations like this seriously. We are not going to comment further on this pending litigation."

Conners said he's since sought professional counseling to cope with the mental and psychological trauma that he says was brought about as a result of this incident. He said neither Walmart nor the employee who called the police has apologized for the incident.

Conners also said the incident has given him a new perspective on the prevalence and impact of racial profiling, as a law enforcement officer himself.

"You see it all the time, but you never believe it's going to happen to you until it happens to you," Madden added. "It becomes personal, and a violation is something you can't help to think about over and over and over again when it happens to you."

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Judge allows Michael Avenatti to represent himself in case involving Stormy Daniels

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(NEW YORK) -- On the second day of his trial in Manhattan federal court, Michael Avenatti has asked to represent himself.

Avenatti had been appointed taxpayer-funded counsel from the Federal Defenders of New York as he fights charges he stole $300,000 from adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti unexpectedly asked Judge Jesse Furman Tuesday to continue pro se after what Avenatti described as a “breakdown” with his attorneys.

The move would put witnesses who used to work for him in the unusual position of being cross-examined by their former boss.

The judge granted Avenatti’s wish, despite expressing concern Avenatti is effectively trying to testify without formally taking the witness stand as his lawyers had signaled there was a “strong possibility” he would.

This also means Avenatti will cross-examine Daniels when she testifies, as she is expected to do later this week.

Daniels was supposed to be paid $800,000 in four installments for writing her autobiography, including details of her long-denied affair with former President Donald Trump. The prosecution said Avenatti stole two of those payments because he was having personal financial problems and his law firm was having trouble making payroll and paying for office space.

Avenatti has pleaded not guilty and his attorney said there was no theft.

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