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National News
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(FORT BLISS, N.M.) — The FBI is investigating after a female U.S. service member reported she was assaulted by a group of male Afghan evacuees at Fort Bliss in New Mexico.

The woman, who was helping to support the evacuees brought from Afghanistan to the United States in the wake of the Taliban reclaiming the country, reported she was assaulted by a small group at the Doña Ana Complex on Sept. 19, according to Lt. Col. Allie M. Payne, the director of public affairs for Fort Bliss.

"We take the allegation seriously and appropriately referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Payne said in a statement. "The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as all of those on our installations, is paramount. We immediately provided appropriate care, counseling and support to the service member."

The base also said it is adding security measures, like increased lighting, safety patrols and enforcing a buddy system.

"We received the referral from Fort Bliss and our office is investigating the allegation," FBI El Paso said in a statement.

There were no further details about the incident.

The Doña Ana Complex, which is about a half hour north of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, across the New Mexico border, is used as a firing range, but was converted into a sprawling, air conditioned tent city for incoming evacuees.

The Biden administration chose Fort Bliss two weeks ago when it granted access to the media to one of the facilities housing the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees who were flown out of Kabul in a frenzied, chaotic process prompted by the Taliban reasserting control of the country much sooner than anticipated.

About 10,000 evacuees are staying at the facility until they can be processed and resettled, according to U.S. officials. All of the evacuees were subject to a thorough vetting process before they were flown to the U.S., according to U.S. officials.

News of the investigation of the assault on a female service member follows the arrests of two Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin this week.

Mohammad Haroon Imaad, 32, was charged with strangling and suffocating his wife in an incident that took place Sept. 7, according to the indictment, and Bahrullah Noori, 20, was charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor.

Court documents say 13,000 people related to the resettlement are being housed at Fort McCoy.

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(NEW YORK) -- The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

More than 682,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 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. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by The Financial Times. Just 64.3% 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:

Sep 24, 8:28 pm
Andrew Wiggins denied vaccine exemption, won't be able to play home games

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins was denied Friday in his quest for a religious exemption by the NBA to San Francisco's vaccine requirement. It's not clear under what religious explanation Wiggins had appealed the mandate.

Wiggins has steadfastly refused to get the vaccine, according to a report this week from the San Francisco Chronicle. Since the city requires vaccination for everyone at large, indoor gatherings -- such as basketball games -- the veteran forward will not be able to play in any home games if he remains resistant to getting the shot. It's possible he won't be able to play at a number of road arenas that also require vaccination.

"The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events," the NBA said in a statement Friday evening. "Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements."

In March, Wiggins told reporters of the vaccine, "I don't really see myself getting it any time soon, unless I'm forced to somehow. Other than that, I'm good."

Earlier this month, ESPN reported that the NBA will not require players to get vaccinated in order to play in the 2021-22 season. However, the league recently said about 85% of players had been fully vaccinated.

Wiggins, 26, is a big piece of the Warriors' team, scoring 18.6 points per game in his first full season in the Bay Area last year. He has two years remaining on a $147 million contract.

He was the No. 1 overall pick out of Kansas in 2014 by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sep 24, 6:12 pm
VA begins offering booster shots to veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is already doling out booster shots to veterans at its medical centers and clinics on Friday, just hours after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky approved the third shots.

"These booster doses are an important step forward in the fight against COVID-19," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. "With the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for eligible individuals, VA can provide Veterans an opportunity to maximize their protection, continuing our work to keep people safe and save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The boosters, so far only authorized for the Pfizer vaccine, are to be administered six months after an individual receives their initial vaccines.

It also said in a statement that it continues to reach out to veterans who have not been vaccinated at all.

Sep 24, 4:37 pm
US reaches vaccine milestone

Seventy-five percent of those eligible (12 years and older) have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, the White House's COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar posted on Twitter Friday.

Calling the statistic a "milestone," Shahpur also tweeted, "Let's add more!"

Sep 24, 3:51 pm
Millions of federal contractors must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8

The White House said Friday millions of federal contractors must get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Dec. 8.

The announcement came in a document issued Friday by the White House’s budget office, the Office of Management and Budget, following up on an executive order President Joe Biden signed Sept. 9 that mandated vaccinations for federal contractors, Reuters reported.

The formal guidance also says that after Dec. 8 “all covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded covered contract.”

An OMB spokesperson told ABC News that “millions” of people would be covered but didn’t share more exact numbers.

Earlier this month, the White House said that federal government employees and contractors will now be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will create a rule for private businesses with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson, Molly Nagle, Sarah Kolinovsky, and Justin Gomez

Sep 24, 3:34 pm
Nurses laud CDC decision to include front-line workers as eligible booster shot group

National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, is lauding CDC director Rochelle Walensky’s inclusion of front-line and health care workers in her recommendations for who may now get a third Pfizer booster dose -- a decision which overruled the agency’s independent panel conclusion.

The CDC’s advisory group had rejected the idea of third Pfizer doses for “high risk” workers like nurses and teachers, saying that without further data it wasn’t comfortable with automatically adding younger, healthier people simply by occupation.

The nurses' union urged Walensky to bypass what her advisory panel had said -- which is what she ultimately did.

“Nurses across the country are beyond relieved today to wake up to the news that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky prioritized the health and safety of health care and other essential workers most at risk of contracting Covid-19,” NNU president Deborah Burger told ABC in a statement Friday.

“It takes courage to do the right thing, especially when it involves going against the CDC’s own advisory panel," Burger added. "We applaud this bold decision-making that prioritizes the health and safety of workers on the front lines of this ongoing crisis, and we know that her decision will absolutely save lives.”

Walensky however, insisted that she did not overrule the CDC’s advisory panel’s decision on booster shots for at-risk, front-line workers. She defended the decision as a “scientific close call” saying that she would advocate for the boosters if she was in the room.

"I want to be very clear that I did not overrule … the advisory committee," she said. “I listened to the votes. I listened to the comments on the vote and this was a scientific close call ... It was my call to make. If I had been in the room, I would have voted 'yes.'"

She also said that boosters were not a solution for ending the pandemic.

"I want to be clear we will not boost our way out of this pandemic. Infections among the unvaccinated continue to fuel this pandemic rise, resulting in a rising number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths where people are in vaccinated," Walensky said.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik and Matthew Vann

Sep 24, 2:28 pm
CVS says it will make Pfizer booster available today

On the heels of pharmacy retail chain Walgreens' announcement that it is now ready to give third booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to newly eligible groups, CVS announced it too will be ready "later today."

"We are reviewing the CDC guidance and will be ready to provide the booster dose at CVS Pharmacy and select MinuteClinic locations that offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine later today. We strongly encourage customers to schedule an appointment in advance at to ensure they are able to access the correct vaccine at a convenient time and location," the drugstore chain said in a statement Friday.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Sep 24, 1:08 pm
COVID-19 outbreaks increase in school districts without masking policies: CDC study

School districts without a universal masking policy in place at the start of the school year saw a significant increase in COVID-19 outbreaks, according to three new studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, school districts in those counties saw more than double the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases during this same period, the studies, released Friday, also found.

The studies further emphasize that school mask requirements, along with other prevention strategies, are critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

Other key findings from the studies include:

- Schools in Arizona that opened without a school mask requirement had a 3.5 higher likelihood of having a COVID-19 outbreak than schools that opened with a school mask requirement.

-During the early part of the 2021-2022 academic school year, almost 2,000 schools have been closed and more than 900,000 students in more than 40 states have been impacted.

- Pediatric cases during the start of the 2021-2022 school year were about half in U.S. counties with school mask requirements than in counties without school mask requirements.

To prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, the CDC recommends a multi-layered strategy including vaccination, universal indoor masking, testing and physical distancing.

-ABC News' Eric Strauss

Sep 24, 12:18 pm
Walgreens announces its doors are open for new Pfizer booster group

Walgreens announced Friday morning that its participating stores are ready to start giving third booster doses of Pfizer's vaccine to newly eligible groups.

The CDC green-lit Pfizer booster shots on Thursday.

As of Friday morning, those newly eligible groups can walk into any Walgreens location offering the Pfizer shot, the company said.

Also, as of Friday, people can begin scheduling appointments online or over the phone.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Sep 24, 12:11 pm
Pfizer booster shot available 'literally right now' in NYC: Mayor

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a third Pfizer booster shot is available to eligible New Yorkers, "literally right now."

"As of now, as of this exact moment, New Yorkers in a number of categories are eligible for the 3rd booster shot, Pfizer only, for the COVID vaccine," the mayor told radio station WNYC Friday.

Eligible New Yorkers include anyone who got their second shot six months ago and are 65 or older; in a long-term care facility or nursing home; are between 18 and 64 years old with an underlying medical condition; or are between 18 and 64 years old and a front-line or health care worker doing direct work with the public, the mayor said.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  an independent advisory panel's recommendation for seniors and other medically vulnerable Americans to get a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine six months after their second dose.

"Literally now you can go online, vax4nyc, either make an appointment right now for the coming days or you can get a list of all the city-run sites and you can walk in today if you are in those categories," de Blasio said.

-ABC News' Aaron Katersky

Sep 24, 6:23 am
CDC endorses Pfizer boosters for older and high-risk Americans

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed an independent advisory panel's recommendation for seniors and other medically vulnerable Americans to get a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, six months after their second dose.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, also partially overruled her agency's advisory panel in a notable departure by adding a recommendation for a third dose for people who are considered high risk due to where they work, such as nurses and teachers -- a group which the panel rejected in its recommendation. Some panelists said that without further data, they weren't comfortable with automatically including younger people because of their jobs.

In a statement announcing her decision late Thursday, Walensky pointed to the benefit versus risk analysis she had weighed, and data rapidly evolving.

"In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good," Walensky said. "While today’s action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract from our most important focus of primary vaccination in the United States and around the world."

With Walensky's final sign-off, booster shots will now quickly become available for millions more Americans at pharmacies, doctors' offices and other sites that offer the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Friday.

Sep 23, 8:40 pm
Leaving nurses out of booster recommendation 'unconscionable,' union charges

The nation’s largest union of registered nurses pushed back against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel's vote on COVID-19 booster shots, calling not including front-line workers like nurses in its recommendations "unconscionable."

National Nurses United is urging CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to bypass what the advisory panel, ACIP, recommended and add nurses and other health care workers to the list of eligible booster recipients.  

"Nurses and other health care workers were among the first to be vaccinated because of their high risk of exposure to the virus," Deborah Burger, the union's president, said in a statement. "Why leave them out of booster shots?"

“It is unconscionable that ACIP would not vote to keep us safer from death, severe Covid, and long Covid,” Burger continued. “We must do everything possible to ensure that the health of our nurses and other health care workers will not be put even more at risk."

ACIP voted Thursday to recommend a third Pfizer dose for people aged 65 and older, as well as those as young as 18 if they have an underlying medical condition.

In its authorization Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration did agree to make the shots available to front-line workers. But ACIP said there was not yet enough data to support providing booster shots automatically to young people because of their jobs.

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(NORTH PORT, Fla.) -- A massive search is continuing in southern Florida for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who went missing on a cross-country trip and who authorities confirmed Tuesday as the body discovered on Sunday in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

The search for the 23-year-old Laundrie is centered around North Port, Florida, where investigators said Laundrie returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but driving her 2012 Ford Transit.

Laundrie has been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance. Laundrie has refused to speak to the police and has not been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, according to law enforcement officials.

The search for Laundrie is the latest twist in the case that has grabbed national attention as he and Petito had been traveling across the country since June, documenting the trip on social media.

Petito's parents, who live in Long Island, New York, reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Sep 24, 7:53 pm
Florida search ends for the night, police say they don't know cost of effort

The search for Brian Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve, near North Port, Florida, ended Friday night due to darkness. After seven days of searching, police have yet to turn up any evidence of the missing 23-year-old who now has a warrant out for his arrest in Wyoming.

The North Port Police Department said it has been asked about the cost of the search as it continues into the second weekend.

"The question about costs have come up a lot today. We do not have that tallied up," the department said in a statement. "We are not paying other agencies, it's mutual aid. From our personnel standpoint, I would say we are working this case instead of other things. That has an impact of course. There will be some overtime mixed in there. Cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance too."

Late Friday, the police were also forced to dispel a rumor that there was a shooting outside the Laundrie house. The department said it was called for a report of gunshots, but there was no evidence any had been fired.

Sep 24, 2:26 pm
Nothing found so far in Friday search

North Port officials said nothing has been found so far in Friday’s search of Carlton Reserve. Details for a Saturday search are yet to be announced.

Police shared video from the search showing swamp buggies riding through dirt roads and around vast swamps.

North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell said Friday that the warrant issued Thursday for Laundrie’s arrest “doesn’t change anything for us.”

“We’re working as hard to find him now as we did on day one,” Fussell said. “We’re not wasting our time out here. We are doing our due diligence to find Brian in an area that intelligence has led us that he could possibly be in.”

Sep 24, 9:42 am
Search for Brian Laundrie continues at Carlton Reserve

The search for Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve near North Port, Florida, is back on after a search Thursday yielded no leads.

Various agencies have been scanning the area throughout the week for signs of Laundrie. Authorities said he was last seen on Sept. 14.

Sep 23, 6:59 pm
Florida police halt search for Laundrie for the day, back Friday

Police in North Port, Florida, have halted their ground search for Brian Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve after another fruitless day.

"Nothing found. We will be back at it Friday," North Port Police said on Twitter.

Authorities have been combing the massive preserve for any sign of Laundrie since Saturday.

Sep 23, 6:07 pm
Arrest warrant issued for Laundrie in Wyoming

An arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Laundrie in Wyoming following a federal grand jury indictment, authorities announced Thursday.

The U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued the warrant Wednesday "related to Mr. Laundrie's activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito," FBI Denver said.

The indictment alleges Laundrie "knowingly and with intent to defraud" used an unauthorized debit card and "obtained things of value aggregating to $1,000 or more" between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

The investigation into Petito's death is ongoing, authorities said. The FBI in particular is seeking information from anyone who was at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30 and may have been in contact with the couple or saw their car.

"We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI," FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement Thursday.

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(DEL RIO, Texas) -- After more than a week of growing controversy, immigration authorities in Del Rio, Texas, on Friday finished clearing out an encampment of mostly Haitian migrants that at one point expanded to about 15,000 people.

"As of this morning, there are no longer any migrants in the camp, underneath the Del Rio International Bridge," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a White House briefing Friday afternoon.

Five flights departed Del Rio for Haiti on Thursday carrying 548 Haitians, officials said.

So far, more than a dozen flights have taken about 2,000 people back to Haiti, according to the Department of Homeland Security. About 3,900 have been moved from the camp for processing or expulsion.

The U.S. government has not accounted for all the migrants in the camp, but officials on Thursday said "several thousand" had returned to Mexico. Other government officials who spoke directly to ABC News but were not authorized to officially provide the information said "thousands" more have been placed in "removal proceedings" and released in the U.S.

Those proceedings can take time, officials said, in part because migrants in removal proceedings are legally allowed to make a claim of asylum. Asylum cases can take anywhere from six months and several years with the massive case backlog at immigration courts across the country.

The administration is also employing a controversial process of rapid removal or “expulsion" known as Title 42 -- a reference to a section of U.S. public health code that the government says requires them to immediately expel unauthorized migrants at the border.

Immigrant advocates have raised concerns about Title 42 cutting off access to legal means of obtaining asylum.

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(NEW YORK) -- A new study analyzing more than 12 million home appraisals between 2015 and 2020 found racial and ethnic disparities across the United States.

The research shows that Black and Latino homeowners are nearly twice as likely as white homeowners to have their homes undervalued.

Some experts, like Andre Perry, a senior fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, say this is a sign that racism in the real estate industry is a major factor in keeping Black and Latino families from accumulating wealth.

"When most people talk about structural racism and racism in general, they generally think of Klansmen in robes carrying torches … but where we still see pervasive discrimination that takes money out of people's pockets are in these everyday behaviors or practices that strip wealth," Perry told ABC News.

The report by mortgage giant Freddie Mac shows that 15.4% of appraisals in Latino neighborhoods and 12.5% in Black neighborhoods are valued less than the property's contract price. That number drops to 7.4% in majority-white neighborhoods.

As Black or Latino populations grow, the total of undervalued appraisals also rose, the study said.

Researchers accounted for many of the potential factors that could lead to a low home appraisal -- the home's structure, the neighborhood's features. Still, Black and Latino areas were disproportionately given lower appraisals.

Nationwide, 85% of appraisers at the end of 2018 were white, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“An appraisal falling below the contracted sale price may allow a buyer to renegotiate with a seller, but it could also mean families might miss out on the full wealth-building benefits of homeownership or may be unable to get the financing needed to achieve the American Dream in the first place," said Michael Bradley, senior vice president of modeling, econometrics, data science and analytics in Freddie Mac's Single-Family division.

Generational wealth represents the assets passed from one generation to the next. This can include things like stocks, investments, businesses and real estate.

Homeownership, Perry said, is one of the primary means of building wealth. Families lose money when their homes are valued lower, which can have a cumulative effect on their family for generations to come.

"If you have less equity in your home, you have less means to uplift yourself," Perry said. "The equity in people's homes determines so much. It's the money people use to send their kids to college, to start a business. Most people start the businesses using the equity in the home, to move to a better neighborhood. It's used when someone dies or gets married. It's significant."

The net worth of an average white family is nearly 10 times greater than an average Black family and eight times greater than an average Latino family. In 2016, those totals were $171,000, $17,150, and $20,600 respectively, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

A Brooking Institute report also found that homes in predominately Black neighborhoods nationwide are valued $48,000 less than predominately white neighborhoods, which results in a cumulative loss of approximately $156 billion in equity.

These gaps in net worth highlight some of the ways housing discrimination and other forms of systemic racism impede the ability of Latino and Black to accumulate assets and invest in the future of their families.

Solving these gaps, Perry said, can help bridge the racial and ethnic disparities in other aspects of society.

"We don't want to lay the complete blame on the loss of home values on appraisers," said Perry. "They are certainly an important trigger but the same attitudes that appraisers have, so do [some] lenders, real estate agents and other people in various markets. So, this is a great first step in identifying the causes for the loss of value in homes and it is a key to understanding how we can restore value to people who've been robbed by racism over time."

Freddie Mac's Bradley says these problems are "pervasive" and hopes the survey is the latest step toward addressing equity in housing.

“Our research marks the beginning of a comprehensive effort to better understand the key drivers contributing to the appraisal gap," Bradley said in a statement. "Our goal is to develop solutions to this persistent problem, including appraisal best practices, uniform standards for automated valuation models, enhanced consumer disclosures, improved value processes, and revised fair lending exam procedures and risk assessments.”

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(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed an independent advisory panel's recommendation for seniors and other medically vulnerable Americans to get a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, six months after their second dose.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, also partially overruled her agency's advisory panel in a notable departure by adding a recommendation for a third dose for people who are considered high risk due to where they work, such as nurses and teachers -- a group which the panel rejected in its recommendation. Some panelists said that without further data, they weren't comfortable with automatically including younger people because of their jobs.

In a statement announcing her decision late Thursday, Walensky pointed to the benefit versus risk analysis she had weighed, and data rapidly evolving.

"In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good," Walensky said. "While today’s action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract from our most important focus of primary vaccination in the United States and around the world."

With Walensky's final sign-off, booster shots will now quickly become available for millions more Americans at pharmacies, doctors' offices and other sites that offer the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Friday.

The CDC's independent advisory panel voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend Pfizer boosters for people aged 65 and older, along with long-term care facility residents and people as young as 18, if they have an underlying medical condition.

People younger than 49, however, should only get that third dose if the benefits outweigh the risks, the panel said -- a personal consideration to discuss with their doctor.

Walensky's endorsement at least in part buttons up what has become a seething scientific debate after the Biden administration announced "boosters-for-all" ahead of any reviews from the regulatory bodies, or their independent groups. While the White House's political appointees had endorsed Biden's timeline, some of their career scientists and advisers vehemently objected to the incomplete data they were being asked to assess.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, Walensky addressed the panelists and thanked them for "leaning in" to the complex issue at hand and "trying to put the pieces together."

"You're tasked with difficult decisions, weighing the risks and benefits extrapolating from sometimes a wealth and sometimes a paucity of data available," Walensky said, but reminded them that despite the complex and contentious debate they share the goal of pulling the nation out of the pandemic.

"We all recognize that the science and data of COVID-19 are moving faster than any data we've ever seen before. And while I recognize a tremendously heavy lift of the past year, we all know that the pace is unlikely to let up anytime soon," she added. "We will continue this dialogue, you will have more data to review and more recommendations to make and I will be here with you."

Not every panelist was excited about the idea of boosters, insisting the vaccines still provide remarkable protection and that it was unvaccinated Americans who remained most at risk.

"I feel like we're putting lipstick on hogs. This is not going to solve the pandemic," said Dr. Keipp Talbot, a voting panel member and infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The panel's vote narrowed Wednesday's authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which did agree to make the shots available to frontline workers.

The vote also followed weeks of a contentious back and forth among top health experts over who should get a booster dose and when -- and whether it's still premature to be asking the question.

Scientists agreed that while vaccine protection is waning slightly, on the whole, vaccines are still working to dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization. And many feared endorsing booster doses for most would imply vaccines are no longer working.

"I feel that we're getting too much ahead of ourselves and that we have too much hope on the line with these boosters," said voting member Dr. James Loehr of Cayuga Family Medicine in Ithaca, New York. "Having said that, you shouldn't let the perfect be in the way of the good."

Panelists initially pushed back on the proposals that American adults, 18 to 64, who are at risk for severe COVID-19 infection due to underlying medical conditions, or due to their occupation and setting receive a Pfizer booster dose. Many members stressed that in order to truly "move the dial" on the pandemic, more people need to complete the initial vaccination series.

"I think two and three are fraught with peril," said member Dr. Oliver Brooks, chief medical officer of Watts HealthCare Corporation in Los Angeles, California. "They'll be superfluous and they'll create great inequities and problems within the implementation, so I'm really concerned about the data for boosters in general."

One repeated sticking point for the CDC's panelists during deliberations on Thursday: the still-open question over whether boosting with mixed vaccines might be permitted -- since for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, there is no third dose protection currently available.

The FDA's vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, addressed the CDC's panelists ahead of Thursday's vote and acknowledged their frustrations.

"I think we understand at FDA the relative urgency here of trying to have a solution for anyone who has been vaccinated with any of the authorized or approved vaccines," Marks said. "Unfortunately, we're not in a place right now which I can give you an exact timeline, but I can tell you that we will proceed with all due urgency to try to get there as rapidly as possible."

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(WASHINGTON) -- Flight attendants testify on Capitol Hill on rise of in-flight confrontations
Members of Congress heard from flight attendants about the recent spike in air rage incidents.

A man attempted to storm the cockpit of a JetBlue flight on Wednesday evening and then proceeded to kick and choke members of the flight crew, according to an FBI affidavit.

With a little more than an hour left in the flight from Boston to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the man attempted to make a phone call and "became angry about the call's unsuccess," a flight attendant told the FBI. Thirty minutes later he allegedly rushed toward the cockpit, shouting in Spanish and Arabic to be shot.

A flight attendant was able to get the man "corralled" back into the passenger seating area until a pilot decided to open the flight deck door.

In the incident, first reported by The Daily Beast, the unruly passenger grabbed the flight attendant by their collar and tie with one hand, and placed his other hand on the overhead compartment in an attempt to gain leverage before kicking the flight attendant in the chest, according to the affidavit.

As he was allegedly attacking the crew, he shouted again for the pilot to shoot him.

"While he was yelling, he was still holding the JetBlue flight attendant by their tie," the affidavit said. "This resulted in the tie tightening and ultimately prevented the JetBlue flight attendant from breathing."

Eventually six or seven crew members were able to gain control of the man using flex cuffs. However, the man broke out of the first pair of flex cuffs and the crew needed to use four seat-belt extenders, a new pair of flex cuffs and a uniform neck tie to restrain him to a seat.

The plane landed safely in San Juan where the man was taken into custody. He now faces felony charges of interfering with a flight crew.

This year alone, more than 4,300 unruly passenger incidents have been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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

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(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- Local lawmakers in San Jose, California, are expected to vote on a resolution next week that would apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for the role the city played in "systemic and institutional racism" more than a hundred years after one of the city's thriving Chinatowns was burned by arsonists.

San Jose was once home to five Chinatowns built up by immigrants arriving to the U.S. in the late 1800s, according to a memorandum posted to the city's website that acknowledges the pain and unequal treatment suffered by these early Asian American communities.

"These early Chinese immigrants were met with virulent, systematic racism, xenophobia and the violence of anti-Chinese forces from early on and were regularly denied equal protection before the law," the memo states. "In addition to federal legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, City policies, resolutions, and other actions of the City of San José and the City Council directly contributed to the xenophobic discrimination and racial violence faced by Chinese immigrants."

The public apology would come as biases related to the COVID-19 pandemic's suspected origins in Wuhan, China, have led to a new surge in anti-Asian hate incidents throughout the country.

The memo notes how one of the most well-known of San Jose's Chinatowns succumbed to arson in 1887 after the city council at the time declared the site a public nuisance and ordered it removed to make way for the construction of a new city hall. The blaze displaced some 1,400 people and destroyed homes and businesses.

A plaque erected in 1987 on the Fairmont Hotel -- which sits on the site of the former Chinatown -- acknowledges the atrocities, but the memo notes that there "has been no formal accountability" for the city's policies that led to the arson. The resolution seeks to change this.

A draft of the resolution chronicles the contributions Chinese immigrants made to the local economy, as well as the violence and racism they faced -- noting how the first church in 1869 to teach Sunday school to Chinese immigrants was burned to the ground and the minister at the time received death threats.

The resolution also acknowledges the still-persisting impacts of centuries of racist policy, stating, "the recent rise in anti-Asian violence and racial discrimination demonstrates that xenophobia remains deeply rooted in our society" and that "Asian-Americans are still considered perpetual foreigners."

It calls for the story of Chinese immigrants "and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them in the 19th and early 20th century" to not be purged from the city's history.

"The City must acknowledge and take responsibility for the legacy of discrimination against early Chinese immigrants as part of our collective consciousness that helps contribute to the current surge in anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate," it states.

The resolution seeks to apologize to all Chinese immigrants and their descendants, acknowledge the injustices and brutality, as well as recognize the contributions and resilience of the Chinese community.

Connie Young Yu, the author of "Chinatown, San Jose, USA," told ABC News in a statement the apology would have "great personal significance" since her grandfather was a teenage refugee from the 1887 fire and her father was born in the new San Jose Chinatown.

"The apology by the City of San Jose for anti-Chinese policies comes very late, but it is deeply meaningful for the Chinese American community and symbolically offers peace and reconciliation," she said. "The apology recognizes the hardships and struggles of our ancestors by the Chinese Exclusion Act which deprived Chinese naturalization to U.S. citizenship, inciting cities to drive out the Chinese by outlaw violence or legal methods."

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told San Francisco ABC station KGO, "It's appropriate that every generation, we do this."

"That we remember this," Liccardo added, "because tragically, these lessons are lost from one generation to another. And even more tragically, history does repeat itself."

Local members of the Asian American community have welcomed the news. The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project of Santa Clara County in California, a nonprofit advocacy and historical preservation group, has a ceremony planned for next Wednesday to celebrate the adoption of the resolution, which is expected to take place on Tuesday.

Evan Low, who became the youngest Asian American legislator ever elected to the California State Assembly in 2014, told KGO that it's "critical we learn and know about our history and help further the education for our community."

"We need to also recognize that accountability helps to heal these wounds," Low added.

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(OKLAHOMA) -- Julius Jones, who has spent the past 20 years on death row, has never been closer to freedom, despite the fact that last week, his execution date was set for Nov. 18.

The Oklahoma Parole Board voted 3-1 to commute Jones' sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and now, the final decision on his fate remains in the hands of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Jones' mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, told "Nightline" the news is "magical."

"I'm still in shock, because it's not over, you know? We still have so much ground [to] cover," Jones' sister, Antoinette Jones, said. "I don't know. I can't explain it, but it was a good feeling."

Antoinette Jones said her brother was calm when he heard the parole board's recommendation, as he knows work still has to be done to secure his freedom.

"He said, 'I'm good. I'll be even better when I get out and I can hug y'all and we can start helping change the world,'" Antoinette Jones said. "It was a relief. I could breathe a little bit easier."

Jones' sister remains hopeful that he will be freed, and said she can picture justice for her brother.

"Julius being able to feel the sun on his skin, the natural sun on his skin. It looks like him having no chains [on] when he gets to go outside," she said. "It looks like freedom."

Julius Jones was 19 years old when he was arrested for the 1999 murder of Oklahoma businessman Paul Howell, and sentenced to death in 2002. What followed were decades of public scrutiny and relentless work from his legal team.

"We think Julius was wrongfully convicted and that Oklahoma is at risk of executing an innocent man," Jones' attorney, Amanda Bass, said.

Now 41 years old, Jones has spent most of his life behind bars. Even after so many years, his sister and mother have yet to give up hope.

Before he was in prison, friends and teachers knew Jones as a champion high school basketball player who attended the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship.

That all changed in 1999 when Howell, 45, was shot in his family's driveway after a car-jacking in the wealthy suburb of Edmond, Oklahoma.

Howell's GMC Suburban went missing and his sister, Megan Tobey, was the only eye-witness.

"Megan Tobey described the shooter as a young black man wearing a red bandana, a white shirt, and a stocking cap or skullcap. She was not able to identify the shooter's face because it was covered," Bass told ABC News in 2018.

Two days after Howell was killed, police found his Suburban parked in a grocery store parking lot. They learned later that a man named Ladell King had been offering to sell the car.

King named Chris Jordan and Julius Jones to investigators and said the two men had asked him to help them sell the stolen Suburban.

"Ladell was interviewed by the lead detectives in this case. He told the police that on the night of the crime, a guy named Chris Jordan comes to his apartment. A few minutes later, according to Ladell King, Julius Jones drives up," attorney Dale Baich told ABC News in 2018.

King accused Jordan of being the driver and claimed that he and Jones were looking for Suburbans to steal, but it was Jones who shot Howell.

"Both Ladell King and Christopher Jordan were directing police's attention to the home of Julius Jones' parents as a place that would have incriminating items of evidence," Bass said.

Investigators found a gun wrapped in a red bandana in the crawl space of Jones' family home. The next day, Jones was arrested for capital murder.

Jones' attorneys say the evidence police found could have been planned by Jordan. They say Jordan had stayed at Jones' house the night after the murder, but Jordan denied those claims during the trial.

In the years since, Jones' defense team has argued that racial bias and missteps from his then public-defense team played a role.

Jones' team has submitted files to the parole board that they said proved his innocence, including affidavits and taped video interviews with inmates who had served time in prison with Jordan. They said they allegedly heard Jordan confess to Howell's murder.

In a statement to ABC News, Jordan's attorney, Billy Bock, said that "Chris Jordan maintains his position that his role in the death of Paul Howell was as an accomplice to Julius Jones. Mr. Jordan testified truthfully in the jury trial of Mr. Jones and denies 'confessing' to anyone."

Jordan served 15 years in prison before he was released.

In 2020, Jones' story was thrown back into the spotlight when unlikely legal ally Kim Kardashian drew public attention to his case. Kardashian, who is studying to take California's bar exam, has been vocal on the issue of the death penalty and prison reform and has campaigned to free a number of men and women who were incarcerated.

"Kim Kardashian, I felt like maybe one of my sorority sisters … she was down to earth," Davis-Jones said.

Antoinette Jones said Kardashian put in the effort to help her brother.

"She sat down and she broke down my brother's case. That means that she actually did the work," Jones said. "She did the work to go back and check certain things, to point out certain things."

"The fact that she told me that she was able to go see my brother, it was almost like she took a piece of him and brought it to us and then we could feel like he was there with us," Jones added.

But despite all the efforts, Julius Jones' execution date is still in place.

His family said they have to just wait to see if Stitt will agree with the parole board's recommendation and commute Jones' November death sentence. Three members of the Pardon and Parole board were appointed by the governor, a fact that gives Davis-Jones some hope.

"I'd like for [Stitt] to do the right thing, because the truth will set you free," Davis-Jones said. "But most of all, being in leadership, I know sometimes it's hard … to make decisions, [but] you have to try to make the right decisions."

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(NEW YORK) -- The national spotlight on Gabby Petito's disappearance has given families of other missing persons hope that they too can amplify their stories and find loves ones.

Petito made headlines after she went missing on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend earlier this month. A body found over the weekend near Grand Teton National Park was confirmed to be hers on Tuesday. The coroner said she died by homicide, but the cause of death is pending final autopsy results.

Petito is just one of thousands reported missing each year -- the FBI had over 89,000 active missing persons at the end of 2020.

Her case also highlighted racial disparities in coverage of such cases as 45% of missing persons last year were people of color, according to the FBI's National Crime Information Center.

The Petito case also has become a point of heartbreak for other families, including the sister of Maya Millete, a California mother missing since January.

"I know the circumstances of Gabby's case are different but it just brought back a lot of pain," Maricris Droualillet told ABC San Diego affiliate KGTV.

Michael Alcazar, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former New York Police Department detective, told ABC News the Petito case became a national frenzy because she seemed familiar to them.

"I think people see her as someone in their family, perhaps their child or they might see themselves as Gabby, a girlfriend or daughter," Alcazar said. "I think it's like a 'damsel in distress' syndrome. That's just the culture in America -- we want to protect the females."

Her case, Alcazar added, showed the "value of social media posts and how it propelled this case nationally," and how other people may jump on the trend to "put pressure on law enforcement to utilize their manpower to solve these cases that have been going on for months."

The pressure could prompt police to reprioritize cases or recruit more help, as in Petito's case, which got FBI assistance.

He pointed to the cracking of the case of a 4-year-old girl who was murdered in 1991. Dubbed Baby Hope for 22 years, she finally was identified as Anjelica Castillo. The case went cold but was reopened in 2013, finally solved through a tip.

"On his 20th anniversary, our Chief Joseph Reznick put up more posters regarding the Baby Hope case," Alcazar explained. "I think we might have posted it in our Crime Stoppers kit. That's how we finally were able to identify Baby Hope -- somebody 20 years later called in a tip. That was through social media."

Here's a snapshot of families pushing forward with their own missing cases, hoping to find a break:

Jelani Day

In Illinois, a search was launched for Jelani Day, a 25-year-old graduate student at Illinois State University last seen on Aug. 24, according to the Bloomington Police Department. A body found near the Illinois River was identified as Day on Thursday after this story was initially published, Bloomington Police announced.

"Currently the cause of death is unknown, pending further investigation, and toxicology testing," the police said in a statement.

He was reported missing Aug. 25 by his family and an ISU faculty member. He had not shown up to class the past several days before he disappeared, police said in a statement.

A missing persons post seeks Julian Day, a Illinois State University grad student.

Day was captured on surveillance footage entering a retail store called "Beyond/Hello" in Bloomington around 9 a.m. on Aug. 24, wearing a blue Detroit Lions baseball hat, a black T-shirt with a Jimi Hendrix graphic, white and silver shorts, and black shoes with white soles.

Police found his vehicle, a white 2010 Chrysler 300, two days later in a wooded area concealed by trees. Inside, cops found the clothing he was seen wearing in the video footage but no other sign of him.

Bloomington Police said in a Sept. 5 statement that a search team found an unidentified body off the south bank of the Illinois River. The LaSalle County Coroner's Office initially said the identification process could take a few weeks.

Day's heartbroken mother, Carmen Bolden Day, pleaded for him to be found.

"I shouldn't have to beg, I shouldn't have to plead, I shouldn't have to feel that there is a racial disparity ... I want these people that have their resources to realize this could happen to them," she said on "Good Morning America."

Anyone with information about Jelani Day is asked to contact BPD Detective Paul Jones at 309-434-2548 or at Pjones@cityblm.org

Daniel Robinson

A 24-year-old geologist, Daniel Robinson, went missing outside Buckeye, Arizona, three months ago. The Buckeye Police Department said in an update last week that the search is ongoing.

Robinson was last seen June 23 after leaving a job site near Sun Valley Parkway and Cactus Road, and he didn't tell anyone where he was going, police said.

His jeep was found turned over in a ravine on July 19, 4 miles from where he was last seen, officials said. The airbags in the car had deployed and initial evidence indicated Daniel was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Officials found clothes, his cell phone, wallet and keys.

A missing persons post seeks Daniel Robinson, a 24-year-old geologist who disappeared near Buckeye, AZ on June 23.

Later in July, a human skull was found south of where the Jeep was recovered, but it was determined that it didn't belong to Daniel, police said. No other remains were found.

Investigators have used ATVs, cadaver dogs and a drone and a helicopter to search for Robinson. His family has organized their own searches in the scorching desert.

Robinson's father, David Robinson, traveled 2,000 miles from South Carolina to Arizona to help search for his son.

"I'm not leaving," he told ABC Phoenix affiliate KNX. "I'm not leaving until I find my son."

Anyone with information that can help solve this case is urged to call the Buckeye Police Department non-emergency number at 623-349-6400.

Lauren Cho

Lauren Cho, a 30-year-old from New Jersey also known as "El", was last seen leaving a residence around 5 p.m. on June 28 in Yucca Valley in California, police said in a statement. She hasn't been seen or heard from since then.

She had moved to California from New Jersey eight months earlier.


A missing persons poster seeks Lauren Cho who went missing June 28 in Yucca Valley, Calif.

On Tuesday, the Morongo Basic Sheriff's Station announced that investigators from the Specialized Investigations Division, experts in homicides and suspicious deaths, are assisting in the search effort, investigating leads and working with Cho's family and friends.

Detectives with the Morongo Basin Station have executed a search warrant in the 8600 block of Benmar Trail, where she was last seen reportedly walking away from the residence, and conducted aerial searches of a remote mountain terrain nearby.

Anyone with information regarding the search for Ms. Cho is urged to contact Detective Edward Hernandez or Sergeant Justin Giles, Specialized Investigations Division, at (909) 387-3589. You may remain anonymous by contacting the We-Tip hotline at 800-78-CRIME (27463) or www.wetip.com.

Maya Millete

Meanwhile in California, family members of Maya Millete, a married Chula Vista mother of three, are still searching for her after more than eight months after she was last seen.

Millete, 39, disappeared on Jan. 7 without a trace.

Droualillet, Millete's sister, said the attention of the Petito case has become a painful reminder of Maya's unknown whereabouts.

"I know Chula Vista police are working very hard, but the urgency we see in this case is heartbreaking," Droualillet told KGTV.

A missing persons poster seeks Maya Millete, a mother-of-three who disappeared from Chula Vista California in January.

The Chula Vista Police Department is working with the San Diego County District Attorney's office, the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

On July 22, Larry Millete, Maya's husband, was named a person of interest in the case.

The Chula Vista Police Department said its interviewed 79 individuals and written 64 search warrants for residences, vehicles, cell and electric devices, and social media data in the case in a statement published Sept. 9.

Anyone who may have any information regarding May's disappearance is asked to please contact San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477 or the CVPD at 619-691-5151.

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(UTAH) -- The city of Moab, Utah, will launch an investigation into the Moab City Police Department’s handling of an incident involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12.

The city said in a statement that the department’s police officers “have been both praised and criticized for their response and their resolution of the incident involving Ms. Petito and Mr. Laundrie.”

Cops had responded to a call to Grand County Dispatch about a possible domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie. Body camera footage of that incident was later shared showing Petito visibly distraught.

“At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident. However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate," the city said in a statement to ABC News.

Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge said, “The police department will identify an unaffiliated law enforcement agency to conduct the formal investigation on our behalf."

Moab city officials said, "we recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about actions taken during the incident in Moab."

The city said that the police department "has clear standards for officer conduct during a possible domestic dispute and our officers are trained to follow those standards and protocol."

An outside party filed a request with the police department asking for a formal investigation into the Aug. 12 incident, Edge said in a statement.

Edge said the department welcomes the investigation and if the probe identifies areas for improvement, "we will take that information to heart, learn from it, and make changes if needed to ensure we are providing the best response and service to our community."

Body camera images from the Aug. 12 incident show Petito and Laundrie talking to an officer after her 2012 Ford Transit was pulled over by Moab police. In one image, she appears to be crying while sitting in the back of a police vehicle.

The couple told police they were arguing and that Petito had slapped Laundrie, according to the police report. The couple also stated to police that Laundrie did not hit Petito.

In a statement earlier this week, Moab police said that “insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges" in that incident.

Petito told police she suffers from severe anxiety and other medical conditions, which were redacted from the police report, and that the couple's argument had been building for days. Police labeled the incident as a "mental/emotional break" rather than a domestic assault, according to the police report.

The incident took place about two weeks before she last spoke with her family.

Petito, 22, disappeared during a cross-country trip with Laundrie and was reported missing by her parents on Sept. 11 after they hadn’t heard from her in two weeks.

Authorities confirmed Tuesday that a body discovered Sunday in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming belonged to Petito.

Now a search is underway for Laundrie, 23, around North Port, Florida. Investigators said he returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but had her 2012 Ford Transit.

He has been named as a “person of interest” in the case. He hasn’t been seen since Tuesday, Sept. 14, police said.

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(TENNESSEE) -- One person was killed and 13 others were hurt in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tennessee, near Memphis, authorities said.

The suspected shooter is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Police said there were "very serious" injuries among those taken to the hospital. Twelve people were transported for injuries, while at least one person walked into the hospital.

Some hid in freezers and locked offices when the gunfire broke out at about 1:30 p.m. local time, police said.

A cashier told Memphis ABC affiliate WATN that she ran into a back room with customers. The cashier said the gunman came in shooting, striking an employee in the head, a customer in the stomach and an employee in the cheek. She said the gunman then left and continued to open fire.

The suspected shooter's car remains in the store parking lot, police said. Resources are being brought in to safely inspect the vehicle.

Collierville is about 30 miles from Memphis.

Memphis police said its officers are helping secure the scene. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also on the scene.

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(NEW YORK) -- The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

More than 681,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 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. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by The Financial Times. Just 64% 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:

Sep 23, 5:29 pm

CDC panel votes to recommend boosters for 65-plus and people with medical conditions

CDC's independent advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend Pfizer boosters for people 65 and older as well as long-term care facility residents at least six months after their second dose.

The panel also voted to allow people as young as 18 to get the booster if they have an underlying medical condition, though people younger than 49 should only get that third dose if the benefits outweigh the risks, the panel said.

The panel voted "no" for a booster for those in an occupational or institutional setting where "the burden of COVID-19 infection and risk of transmission are high."

Sep 23, 3:21 pm

More than 26 million Americans potentially eligible for booster next week

Pending the CDC panel's recommendations and the CDC director's sign-off, more than 26 million Americans could soon be eligible for a third Pfizer dose. This includes 13.6 million adults 65 and older and 12.8 million adults ages 18 to 64 who completed their primary series at least six months ago. Of those 18 to 64, anyone who is considered “high risk” could be eligible for an additional dose.

To date, more than 220 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the U.S.

Sep 23, 12:40 pm

CDC advisory panel expected to vote on Pfizer booster within hours

The CDC’s independent advisory panel is set to vote around 3 p.m. ET on which Americans are eligible now for a Pfizer booster.

After the vote, CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to weigh in with her official endorsement. The CDC is not bound by the panel's recommendations but usually follows it. State officials may also implement their own criteria.

The FDA granted authorization Wednesday to the following groups: Anyone 65 or older as well as people as young as 18 if they have a medical condition that puts them at risk of severe COVID-19 or if they work a frontline job that makes it more likely that they would get infected. After authorization Wednesday night, the FDA's acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said some of the groups that could be classified as front-line workers are health care employees, teachers and grocery store staffers, as well as people in prisons and homeless shelters.

Sep 23, 10:49 am

West Virginia, Montana case rates doubled in last month as Alaska sees record highs

Alaska currently has the country's highest case rate, followed by West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky, Montana and South Carolina, according to federal data.

West Virginia and Montana have seen their case rates double over the last month. In Alaska, case metrics are at record highs, according to federal data.

Hospital admissions are down by about 12.5% in the last week, with improvements in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to federal data.

Seven states, however, have less than 10% ICU availability: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas.

Even highly vaccinated states are experiencing shortages. One central Massachusetts health system, UMass Memorial Health, is running low on critical care beds following the admission of an influx of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks.

Sep 23, 8:21 am
Team USA to require COVID-19 vaccination at future Olympic and Paralympic Games

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it will require every member of its delegation to be vaccinated against COVID-19, starting this year.

According to a new policy posted on Team USA's website, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate will take effect on Nov. 1 for "all employees, athletes, contractors and others," unless they obtain a medical or religious exemption prior to accessing U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee facilities.

On Dec. 1, that mandate will "extend to all Team USA delegation members or hopefuls for future Games." Individuals on the long list for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing must submit proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by this date or have received an exemption in order to participate in the upcoming Games, according to the policy, which was dated Sept. 21.

"The health and well-being of our Olympic and Paralympic community continues to be a top priority," Team USA says on a webpage detailing the new requirement. "This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and optimal service to athletes."

Sep 23, 6:38 am
COVID-19 hospitalizations reach another all-time high in Iowa for 2021

More people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Iowa than at any other point
this year so far, according to weekly data released by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Wednesday.

The data shows that there are now 638 people hospitalized with the disease statewide, up from 578 last week. Although the figure is nowhere near Iowa's peak of more than 1,500 in mid-November last year, it's the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations that the Hawkeye State has recorded since December.

Sep 22, 7:48 pm
FDA authorizes Pfizer booster dose for those who are 65 and up, high-risk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for people who are 65 and older or at high risk of severe COVID-19, the agency announced Wednesday.

The dose is authorized to be administered at least six months after the second shot. High-risk recipients must be at least 18 years old.

The announcement comes days after a similar recommendation from FDA advisers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory board is scheduled to vote on booster recommendations Thursday.

Sep 22, 6:04 pm
Florida letting parents choose whether to quarantine asymptomatic, close-contact children

The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule Wednesday that lets parents choose whether to quarantine their children if they are deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

In such cases, parents can let their children "attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property, without restrictions or disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic," the emergency rule stated.

The move is the state's latest to empower parents when it comes to coronavirus measures in schools. In July, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order giving parents the choice of whether to send their kids to school with masks, setting off an intense back-and-forth between the state and districts that mandated masks in the weeks since.

DeSantis touted the new "symptoms-based approach" during a press briefing Wednesday.

"Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging to their educational advancement," he said. "It's also incredibly disruptive for families all throughout the state of Florida."

At least one superintendent in Florida has spoken out against the new quarantine rule.

"I find it ironic that the new state rule begins with the phrase 'Because of an increase in COVID-19 infections, largely due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant,'" Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday.

"In fact, this rule is likely to promote the spread of COVID-19 by preventing schools from implementing the common-sense masking and quarantine policies recommended by the vast majority of health care professionals, including those here in Alachua County," she added.

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(NEW YORK) -- It's not easy to do schoolwork on an old laptop with a poor internet connection.

Just ask Sabina Rodriguez, who went through her junior and senior year in online learning classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Her parents were both unemployed and couldn't afford new devices.

"I was literally on the world's oldest computer," Rodriguez said. Her mother is Colombian immigrant who previously worked as a house cleaner. Her father grew up in a low-income household, and chauffeured for a living.

"As a minority, especially in a financial situation, school was like our only way to success," she said. "Our parents came here so we could go to school."

That's when she discovered First Tech Fund, a new nonprofit dedicated to "closing the digital divide" among underserved high school students in New York City.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the burgeoning digital divide among students of different economic backgrounds. About 25% of all school-aged children across the U.S. live without the sufficient technology or access to Wi-Fi at home, according to the National Education Association.

It's a situation First Tech Fund co-founder Josue De Paz knew well, and when the pandemic forced kids out of school and back into their homes, it was a need he was determined to help solve.

The organization offers high school students a year-long fellowship in which they are supplied with a laptop and a Wi-Fi hotspot, with unlimited internet access. They're also paired with a mentor and are given weekly virtual workshops on digital skills, career growth and other professional development opportunities.

"I can never repay them for the situation I'm in right now," Rodriguez said. She said she's spent hours on Zoom calls with mentors and professionals who've helped edit her resume, college essays and more.

In New York City, 14% of students didn't have a computer or computing device, and 13% didn't have adequate internet access, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union and New York State Education Department.

The NYSE report showed how students in Black and Latino school districts suffered disproportionately during the pandemic: Compared with students in largely white districts, they were about four times as likely to lack internet access and three times as likely to lack a device that allowed them to complete schoolwork.

De Paz said some students were doing homework from phones or sharing devices with siblings, making it much harder to complete assignments, let alone excel among peers. First Tech Fund targets these marginalized communities.

Rodriguez said students felt more encouraged and supported throughout the school year, especially those on their way to college. One of 52 students chosen from 743 applicants in the first cohort of fellowship winners, Rodriguez is now a freshman at Fordham University, pursuing a career in psychology and medicine.

Some 23 of the 24 college-eligible students in that 2020-2021 cohort are now enrolled at a two- or four-year institution.

In this upcoming school year, outreach was expanded to 86 students out of about 200 applicants. De Paz credited donors, partner organizations and elected officials for helping him help so many.

"There's more power in the community than we often give ourselves credit for," De Paz said. "We should be leveraging it -- now more than ever -- when people need that support."

De Paz, a DACA recipient, moved to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 5 years old. He thanks his mother for working long hours at several jobs to provide him with a personal laptop and dial-up internet.

"I saw my mom work two to three jobs in order for me to get that access, and then I really saw how that impacted my entire educational career," De Paz said. "Even before I had a bed, my mom was like, 'You're going to have a desk, and you're gonna have a computer,' so I was sleeping on the floor, but I still had what I needed for school."

De Paz is paying forward that gratitude to help students like Rodriguez.

"I've always struggled financially, growing up," she said, "so the fact that Josue, another Hispanic who grew up in the same situation, that he actually has the courage to like be like, 'I'm going to help, I'm going to give back' ... it really comes from, like, his heart."

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(CA) -- Nanette Packard, who was convicted of directing her ex-NFL lover to kill her millionaire fiance, told ABC News in an exclusive interview that she still carries “a lot of guilt over what happened.”

“Had I not been having an affair ... Bill would be alive still,” Packard said. “I feel that way.”

She and former NFL linebacker Eric Naposki have spent nearly a decade behind bars as convicted killers serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murder of Bill McLaughlin. Both deny having any involvement in his death.

“I don't know for sure [who killed McLaughlin],” Packard said. “I never said that Eric did it because I couldn't say that Eric did it for sure. I don't know that. He never said that to me.”

Packard met Naposki in the early ‘90s at a gym. Naposki, who had once played for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, had left professional sports by then, and was living in California, where he worked as a security guard for a nightclub and worked as a bodyguard on the side.

The two eventually started seeing each other romantically even though Packard, who was then a mother of two in her 20s, was already in a relationship with McLaughlin. He was an entrepreneur 30 years her senior who had made millions off of a medical device invention.

Packard was living with McLaughlin in Newport Beach, California, in a luxurious home located in a wealthy, gated community. However, she told Naposki that she and McLaughlin were just business partners.

“Eric knew about Bill and Bill knew that Eric was my friend. [Bill] didn't know we were having an affair,” Packard said.

She said she met McLaughlin, a father of three, through a personal ad he had posted in the Pennysaver.

“Maybe it wasn't the most intense [relationship] romantically but I did love him,” Packard said of McLaughlin. “He was a good man and he was good to my children, and I would never have killed him and probably would still be with him today if he were alive, because I had no reason.”

McLaughlin was 55 years old when he was shot six times in the chest by an intruder while he sat at his kitchen table on Dec. 15, 1994.

Authorities did not make any arrests in connection to his death until 15 years later, when investigators re-examined the case.

Packard and Naposki were arrested separately during a bicoastal sting operation in May 2009 on murder charges.

By the time of their arrests, Packard and Naposki had gone their separate ways. Packard had gone on to marry twice more and was still living in California. Naposki, meanwhile, had briefly gone back to playing professional American football overseas before returning to the U.S., where he had a fiancée and was living in Connecticut.

The prosecutor alleged Packard was the suspected mastermind behind McLaughlin’s death and that she convinced Naposki to kill him so they could collect a substantial sum of money.

Prosecutors argued that Packard stood to benefit from McLaughlin’s million-dollar life insurance policy, $150,000 from his will and access to his beach house.

There was reason to suspect Packard. In 1996, she had pleaded guilty to forgery and grand theft after she was accused of forging McLaughlin’s name on checks and stealing from his accounts. She served 180 days behind bars.

Packard denied the murder charges against her, saying she needed McLaughlin to continue her lifestyle.

“I only gained money if Bill was alive,” she said.

According to prosecutors, Naposki’s story evolved during questioning. He initially lied about owning a .9 mm handgun, which was the same kind of weapon used to kill McLaughlin.

“The single most important piece of evidence that we had against Eric Naposki was … the way he lied to the police,” said ABC News consultant and former Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy, who tried the case.

When asked why he lied to police, Naposki told ABC News, “I just didn't want to talk about it because, if I wasn't at the scene, and I wasn't in Newport, then I couldn't have killed the guy even if I had a bazooka.”

Naposki went to trial first and was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2011. Afterward, he met with prosecutors and told them Packard had orchestrated a murder-for-hire plot against McLaughlin, and the killer had used his gun.

“[Naposki said] he was there, in the room, when they talked about [the plot],’” said author Caitlin Rother, who wrote a book about the case titled, “I’ll Take Care of You.” “But then he says, ‘But apparently, [the killer] went behind my back and made arrangements with Nanette. So the two of them planned this. It wasn't me.’”

“The way he describes it, he is a co-conspirator in a murder case,” Murphy added. “Even if it was true, the way he describes that, he is still 100% guilty for exactly what he was convicted of.”

Packard was found guilty in January 2012 of first-degree murder and guilty of the special circumstance of committing murder for financial gain.

Naposki is serving time at Avenal State Prison in Avenal, California. He said he hasn’t spoken to Packard since everything “went down.”

“I didn't kill anybody. I'm not a killer,” he said.

Packard is serving her sentence at the Central California Women’s Facility, training service dogs through a program called Little Angels.

“These dogs, they just bring so much healing,” she said. “It also helps to make a difference for me, for me to be able to live with the fact that I'm away from my kids.”

McLaughlin’s children, who at one point thought their father’s murder would never be solved, have tried to move forward. They believe justice was served.

“[Packard and Naposki’s lives] have been taken away from them ... and hopefully they're thinking about what they did,” Kim McLaughlin told ABC News. “What I miss most about my father is just having him as a friend … and I know he'd be very proud of us and the choices we're making. And so, it's hard not to have him be able to share that here on earth with him… We miss him dearly.”

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