(MIAMI) -- At least three people are dead as many as 99 are unaccounted after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in Miami-Dade County, Florida, early Thursday, a county official told ABC News.
The collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach, was reported around 1:30 a.m. A massive search and rescue operation was launched before dawn and crews are still carefully combing through the wreckage and remaining structure in hopes of finding survivors.
So far, crews have rescued 35 people who were trapped in the building and two others from beneath the rubble, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah. Officials said 102 people have been accounted for.
Teams of firefighters have been cutting through the rubble and placing sonar devices as part of the search efforts. Responders have not heard any voices coming from the pile, though have picked up "a possibility of a banging," according to Jadallah.
"This process is slow and methodical," Jadallah told reporters during a late afternoon press briefing. "Every time there's a shift in the rubble, we have additional rubble that shifts on us."
It's unclear exactly how many residents are missing.
A "substantial number" of the building's residents are foreigners, according to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Foreign Ministry of Paraguay said six Paraguayan nationals were in the building and still missing: Sophia López-Moreira, the sister of the country's first lady; her husband, Luis Pettengill; their three children; and their nanny, Lady Luna Villalba. President Mario Abdo Benítez canceled his events due to the incident.
Argentina's Miami consulate said nine Argentine nationals are missing; Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S. confirmed four Venezuelan nationals are missing; and Uruguay's Foreign Ministry said three Uruguayan nationals have been affected, though their status is unclear. Colombia's Foreign Ministry also reported that six Colombian nationals resided in the building and officials are still trying to determine whether they were there at the time of the collapse.
Soriya Cohen's husband, Brad Cohen, a 51-year-old orthopedic surgeon, and her brother-in-law, Gary Cohen, a doctor visiting from Alabama, both are missing. Soriya Cohen said they haven't been answering their phones and she's in shock.
Gabe Nir, who lives in Champlain Tower South with his mother and sister, told ABC News that they ran from the building when they heard the collapse.
Nir said he felt a second, more intense collapse, and said they ran for their lives as a thick cloud of white dust enveloped them, making it hard to breathe. Nir, who compared the collapse to an earthquake, said he's grateful to be alive.
One witness told ABC News that his wife cares for an elderly woman who lives in the condominium and frantically called him around 1:15 a.m. local time, after the units next door came crashing down. He said his wife and the elderly woman both were rescued.
A Miami-Dade county official said it's been difficult determining how many people were in that section of the complex partly because there isn't an on-scene management company that keeps track. The condominium is a mix of full-time residents, seasonal residents, renters and short-term visitors, so authorities have been relying largely on neighbors and word of mouth.
The oceanfront condominium has 136 units, and approximately 55 of them collapsed along the northeast corridor, according to Jadallah.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett called the collapse a "catastrophe."
Footage from the scene showed firefighters pulling a boy from the rubble alive and rescuing others from still-standing balconies.
Jadallah told reporters that at least 45 people, including those who were rescued, were medically assessed and treated on site. Aventura Hospital and Medical Center said it's received three patients -- two with critical injuries, one in fair condition -- and Jackson Health System said it has two patients.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the site, telling reporters it was "traumatic to see."
"It's a tragic day," DeSantis said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. "We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors."
Burkett, the Surfside mayor, told reporters that the condominium was built in the 1980s and was believed to be substantially full at the time of the partial collapse. The building was undergoing roof work, he said.
Surfside Commissioner Nelly Velasquez told ABC News the building was up for its 40-year recertification.
Some 15 families escaped the building on their own and were put up in a local hotel, according to Burkett. Search dogs did an initial pass around the wreckage when it was still dark and the site was considered dangerous, but there were no signs of survivors at that time, the mayor said.
Miami-Dade has an urban search and rescue team that has been dispatched to earthquakes and other disasters all around the world, but this is the first time the team has been deployed on home turf, a county official said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava thanked the "brave" rescuers.
"We need to allow them to do their work because every minute in this search can make a huge difference," she said at a news conference.
There's real concern about the structural integrity of the remaining building, particularly from dangling wires and portions of concrete, a county official said. Fires have flared up throughout the day, adding to the danger for the search and rescue teams, the official said.
The unaffected section of the complex was cleared as of 8 a.m., the official said. Because of the lingering dangers, several blocks will be closed for the next week.
The cause of the collapse is unknown, and the Miami-Dade Police Department is leading an investigation.
"Our goal is to provide a thorough investigation and closure for our families," Freddy Ramirez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told reporters Thursday morning.
President Joe Biden said he spoke with the mayor of Miami-Dade, as well as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the district. Biden said he was waiting on the governor to ask for an emergency declaration, but he is "ready to move from the federal resources immediately, immediately, if in fact we're asked for it."
Authorities have opened a family assistance center at the Surfside recreational center for individuals unable to locate loved ones who live in the Champlain Towers South. Anyone with family members from the condominium who are either safe or still missing is urged to call 305-614-1819 to account for them.
A family reunification center has been set up for anyone looking for unaccounted or missing relatives at 9302 Collins Avenue. If you have family members that are unaccounted for or are safe, please call 305-614-1819 to account for them. pic.twitter.com/ksQ9LubG8V
(WASHINGTON) -- The Transportation Security Administration will resume crew member self-defense training in early July.
The program was previously paused due to the pandemic and its restart comes amid an increase in unruly passenger incidents on flights.
"Through this training program, TSA's Federal Air Marshals are able to impart their specialized expertise in defending against and deescalating an attack while in an aircraft environment," Darby LaJoye, senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator, said in a press release.
The voluntary training provides flight crew members with techniques "for responding against an attacker in a commercial passenger or cargo aircraft," including self-defense measures and ways to identify and deter potential threats.
"While it is our hope that flight crew members never have need for these tactics, it is critical to everyone's safety that they be well-prepared to handle situations as they arise," LaJoye said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 3,100 reports of unruly behavior by passengers this year, including about 2,350 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate.
While many of these incidents are occurring on flights, they are also happening at security checkpoints. The agency is reminding travelers to "be patient."
"Passengers do not arrive at an airport or board a plane with the intent of becoming unruly or violent; however, what is an exciting return to travel for some may be a more difficult experience for others, which can lead to unexpected, and unacceptable, behaviors," LaJoye said.
TSA pointed to two recent incidents where passengers assaulted Transportation Security Officers, or TSOs, during the screening process. Both passengers face a potential civil penalty of up to $13,910 for each violation of TSA security requirements, the agency said.
"I'm asking people, the American public, to do is be patient with these TSOs as they're trying to ensure your safety as you go those flights, and as you come off," Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents TSOs, said in an interview with ABC News.
(ATLANTA) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday announced it has approved a 30-day extension to the eviction moratorium, prohibiting the eviction of renters who are unable to make payments more than one year after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the country.
The CDC said Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has signed an extension to the eviction moratorium, which was set to expire on June 30, 2021, through July 31, 2021.
It's intended to be the final extension of the moratorium, according to a release from the CDC.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation's public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19," the release said.
The extension comes after several leading progressive Democrats on Capitol Hill urged the White House and CDC to extend and strengthen the federal eviction moratorium. In a letter sent late Monday, 44 House Democrats including Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Cori Bush, D-Mo., Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. called on President Joe Biden and the CDC to take action against the looming deadline.
"Allowing the moratorium to expire before vaccination rates increase in marginalized communities could lead to increased spread of, and deaths from, COVID-19," their letter read.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition, a non-profit focused on affordable housing, applauded the decision and what it called activation of a "whole-of-government approach" the administration is implementing.
"These actions from the White House extend an essential lifeline to millions of renters who remain behind on rent and would be at heightened risk of eviction when the moratorium expires," the organization said in a statement.
In addition to extending the eviction moratorium, the White House confirmed in a fact sheet it is convening a summit of local teams to develop eviction-prevention action plans, issuing new guidance from Treasury for the Emergency Rental Assistance, or ERA, instructing the Department of Justice to send guidance on anti-eviction diversion practices, and raise awareness across agencies about emergency rental assistance, among other measures.
According to the Census Bureau more than 7 million American households are behind on their rent, including nearly 4 million with children. Black and Latino households are more likely than white households to be behind and currently struggling, according to the Census Bureau.
To be eligible for the protection, renters can earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for the calendar year of 2020-2021 or $198,000 in annual income for couples who filing jointly, among other declarations of hardship to the governemnt.
The moratorium has been repeatedly challenged in court by local governments and landlord associations, which have argued the CDC overstepped its authority and does not have a mechanism for enforcing the rule. Still, more than 20 state attorneys general urged the Supreme Court earlier this month to keep the moratorium in place while those cases make their way through the courts. Local property owners and a group of real estate agents in Alabama have said the halt will "prolong the severe financial burdens" on those collecting rent payments.
(NEW YORK) -- Stargazers are in for a treat over the next few nights with the arrival of the 'Strawberry Moon' -- the last supermoon of the year.
The moon, which occurs as the full moon in June, does not appear in a pinkish hue despite its name.
The strawberry moon was named by the Algonquins and refers to the relatively short season for harvesting the fruit, according to the Farmer's Almanac. When the moon appeared, the tribes used it as a signal that the fruit likely was ripe and ready for picking.
It's also less commonly known as the Hot Moon, the Mead Moon, the Honey Moon and the Rose Moon.
Thursday night's moon is also a supermoon, a full moon or new moon that coincides with the moon's closest position to Earth, making the celestial body appear larger and brighter, according to NASA.
The strawberry moon rose Thursday morning and will last into early Sunday morning, according to NASA. It will reach peak illumination Thursday around 2:40 p.m. ET, according to the Farmer's Almanac.
The supermoon will be close enough to the opposite the sun that it will pass through part of the partial shadow. The dimming of the moon during partial penumbral lunar eclipse that results is not noticeable without instrumentation and will not be visible for most of the Americas, according to NASA.
The next supermoon is not expected until June 14, 2022.
(WASHINGTON) -- Five people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after a pedestrian bridge that was in "poor condition" collapsed onto a busy Washington, D.C., highway, officials said.
The incident occurred just before noon Wednesday on DC-295 near Polk Street. The collapse appears to have been caused by a collision, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Chris Geldart said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
Based on the preliminary investigation, a truck carrying diesel fuel may have collided with the bridge, causing it to separate from its mooring, he said. Multiple cars were then involved in the crash, with five people in those cars transported to local hospitals, he said.
"Everything we see on the accident scene right now leads to this being a collision pulling the bridge off its mooring," said Geldart, who noted they were "very lucky" there weren't any serious injuries.
Images following the collapse showed a truck crushed under the bridge, which appeared to have completely detached from a staircase and platform at one end. Metal fencing and other debris covered DC-295, which is one of the main highways in the city.
The crash investigation and bridge removal could continue through Thursday, with traffic on the highway halted in both directions, Geldart said. Fire department responders were able to stop a diesel fuel leak.
Officials initially said there were no structural concerns with the bridge when it was last inspected in February. But Geldart later issued a statement obtained by ABC News that they had "misstated the condition" of the bridge. A May 25 inspection report gave the bridge a rating of "poor condition," prompting a plan to replace the bridge, he said.
The bridge still had "good structural integrity," and the rating was due to the decking, the part of the bridge which people walk over, Geldart said during a press briefing Wednesday night. The bridge is now believed to have collapsed due to a collision with the truck's boom, which had not been lowered after the driver left a nearby construction yard, he said.
Officials did not yet have an estimate on when the highway could reopen, or how long it would take to rebuild the bridge.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged commuters to follow traffic updates, especially as rush hour was approaching.
"We're going to ask DC residents and all commuters to pay close attention to our [DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency] alerts as well as all the local broadcasts, to be mindful of how you can avoid this area," Bowser said during Wednesday afternoon's briefing. "Please pay close attention to avoid this area."
(MIAMI) -- Two girls mysteriously found dead along the same Florida canal have been identified by police as sisters.
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, police received a 911 call reporting a body floating in the water, close to a neighborhood, Lauderhill police Lt. Michael Santiago told ABC News Wednesday morning.
Police later learned she may have been associated with another girl, Santiago said. Around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, another 911 call came in reporting that a second girl, about the same age, was found dead in the canal, further northwest, he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, police revealed that the two girls were sisters.
Destiny Hogan, 9, was discovered first, authorities said. She was pulled from the water wearing blue jean shorts and a gray shirt with the word "Dance" on it.
Her sister, Daysha Hogan, 7, was pulled from the water nearby later that day, wearing a tan shirt and flower pajama pants, police said.
There were no apparent signs of trauma, and neither girl was reported missing, police said.
Police are treating their deaths as "suspicious," Lauderhill Lt. Mike Bigwood said during a press briefing.
"We are definitely treating it as if it was a criminal investigation," Bigwood said, adding that police are "looking at all possible angles," including family.
The medical examiner's office has not yet released a final ruling on the manner and cause of death, Bigwood said.
The sisters were last seen alive with their mother on Monday around 5 p.m., Bigwood said. It is unclear when they first went into the water, he said. The three lived together in the neighborhood where the sisters were found, police said.
Their mother is a person of interest in the case and has not been questioned yet, Bigwood said. Her current whereabouts were not revealed by police.
Police are investigating reports that the mother was recently offering to baptize people in the canal, Bigwood said, and asked anyone with information on the family to contact the police.
"We're making a plea to the public, and specifically the community of central Lauderhill, to please, if you know the family, if you know the children, if you're familiar with the relationship, if you're familiar with any churches, organizations that the family may be part of, please call us," he said. "We desperately need to know what these relationships are and put some context to how this may have happened."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Lauderhill Police Department at 954-497-4700 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.
(LOS ANGELES) -- There were at least 50 large wildfires burning more than half a million acres across 11 states on Wednesday -- mostly in the West.
In Colorado, the Oil Spring and Sylvan fires in White River National Forest are the two biggest fires in the state. Firefighters are battling hot, dry and windy conditions.
Since the fire broke out on Monday, the Sylvan Fire has destroyed more than 3,000 acres in Eagle County, Colorado. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued in Eagle County on Tuesday evening.
In central California, a fast-moving brush fire, known as the Inyo Creek Fire, broke out on June 18 due to lightning from passing thunderstorms with mandatory evacuation orders issued in the area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Rafael Fire near Sedona, Arizona, has burned across 24,000 acres. As a result, the state has closed four of its national forests due to the extreme fire danger, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
In Spokane, Washington, a brush fire reportedly damaged homes and a restaurant on Tuesday afternoon. Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said this year's fire season should not be taken lightly.
This is an indication of how the summer’s going to go,” Schaeffer told Spokane ABC affiliate KXLY.
He said that the fire was wind-driven and no one was injured.
The erratic fire behavior and elevated fire danger will continue across the West this week. Several states remain under red flag warnings due to gusty winds and dry lightning.
(NORMAN, Okla.) -- A Black Oklahoma man said he was scared for his life after police detained him at gunpoint and handcuffed him when they responded to a purported false 911 call alleging he brandished a gun in a road rage incident.
The Norman, Oklahoma, Police Department released body-camera footage this week of officers detaining Steven Bomar at gunpoint at a gas station in Norman in what one apologetic officer later told Bomar was a "misunderstanding."
Bomar told ABC affiliate station KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City that he wants the caller to face charges and suffer the consequences for putting his life in danger. He said he suspects the caller is the same man who cut him off in traffic, yelled racial slurs at him and followed him for several miles.
Lt. Cary Bryant, a police spokesperson, told ABC News on Wednesday that investigators have yet to locate the motorist who made the false complaint.
"It's still under investigation," Bryant said.
Bryant said the incident underscores how "extremely dangerous" it can be to make a false 911 complaint.
“We take every one of those calls just as seriously because you never know in today's climate," Bryant said. “For the officers, they hate being in that position, too."
The incident unfolded on June 15 when the caller told a 911 dispatcher that a "Black guy ... in a red Chevy Suburban" pulled a gun on him during a road-rage confrontation.
"So, I sped away because I don't trust dumb people because he cut me off. And then, I sped up to get back over, and then he pulled the gun," the male caller told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the 911 call obtained by KOCO.
Body-camera video showed officers confronting Bomar, who was driving his brother's red Suburban, at a gas station.
"Let me see your hands," an officer pointing a gun at Bomar is heard yelling, according to the footage.
Bomar, who was still seated in the vehicle, is seen putting his hands up and asking officers why he was being detained.
"I'm so f------ scared right now," Bomar said as he stepped out of the vehicle and complied with orders to put his hands behind his back.
Another officer told Bomar, "You're being detained, not arrested."
As Bomar was being handcuffed, he asked again, "What did I do?"
An officer replied, "Someone called in on you."
Bomar told the officers that he suspected the 911 caller was the white driver of a Nissan who cut him off earlier at a fast-food restaurant.
"They rolled their window down, called me a (racial slur)," Bomar told the officers, according to the body-camera footage. "I didn't say anything to them. Didn't give them a reaction. I just kind of chuckled at them, and they followed me for like 3 or 4 miles. And now, you guys are pulling me over."
Bomar gave the officers permission to search the Suburban, telling them from the back of a squad car that he didn't have a firearm.
The footage shows an officer thoroughly searching the vehicle Bomar was driving and finding no weapons.
In the video, a dispatcher said she was unable to locate the driver who made the 911 call, saying the person was not answering their phone.
"It seems like this is a 'Let's get the police to mess with him' thing because now they're not even answering their phone," an officer said in the video.
The officers then removed the handcuffs from Bomar and let him go.
"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding," one of the officers told Bomar, shaking the man's hand. "I hope your day gets better. I apologize."
Bryant said the officers involved in the incident appeared to followed department protocols and that their response was appropriate.
"In the absence of any gun or anything actionable, they realized that they may have gotten some inaccurate information from the original 911 caller. He was released and everything was amicable at the scene between the officers and Mr. Bomar," Bryant said.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- The Portland Police Bureau has changed its policy on traffic stops to address racial disparity and public safety, officials announced.
Officers have been directed to no longer engage in traffic stops for low-level violations and to instead focus on poor drivers -- those who speed and drive under the influence, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a press conference Monday.
Minor infractions including expired license plates and broken headlights will no longer be pursued by police unless there is an immediate threat to safety, Wheeler said.
Another change to the policy involves obtaining consent to search a vehicle that has been stopped. Police must receive recorded consent and inform the driver that he or she has the right to refuse before a search of the vehicle is permitted, Wheeler said.
Officers will still use their judgement for violations that appear to be an immediate threat, such as a car driving at night without lights on, said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
Black drivers account for 18% of traffic stops in Portland despite only making up 6% of the population, Wheeler said, adding that Black drivers are disproportionately impacted by traffic stops.
"As the mayor and police commissioner, I’m committed to making the kinds of improvements to the police bureau that provide greater fairness and ensure equitable policing," Wheeler said.
Limited staffing within the police bureau is another reason why the changes to the traffic stop policies were made, Wheeler said. In 2019, officers made about 33,000 stops, a quarter of which were for non-moving violations, ABC Portland affiliate KATU reported.
Last week, the bureau's entire crowd control unit resigned after one officer was indicted on a protest assault charge.
Portland Police bureau officer Corey Budworth was charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault for what prosecutors described as an "excessive and unlawful use of force" when he struck a woman in the head with a baton during a in August 2020.
The crowd control unit team, which consisted of about 50 officers primarily responsible for providing public safety at crowd events, is a voluntary assignment, and all of the officers will remain on the force and continue their regular assignments, according to the bureau.
"They were concerned that they weren’t getting the kind of support that they’d like to see either from elected leaders or the community of large," Wheeler said of the resignations on Monday.
Budworth has been placed on administrative leave.
ABC News' Jeffrey Cook and Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.
(NEW YORK) -- The COVID-19 delta variant is spreading rapidly through Missouri and state officials are turning to wastewater for answers.
The delta variant, which first emerged in India last fall, now accounts for about 10% of new virus cases in the U.S., according to estimates from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, and is hitting small, rural Missouri towns particularly hard.
Officials in Missouri have tracked COVID-19 and its variants since February by testing samples of wastewater from more than 50 communities across the state through the Sewershed Surveillance Project.
The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri.
The delta variant first appeared in wastewater samples in the town of Branson on May 10. By the next week it appeared in a wastewater treatment plant across town and in the communities of Brookfield, located about 230 miles away, and Licking.
Linn County, which includes Brookfield, was not prepared for the spike and COVID-19 cases in the city "skyrocketed," according to Marc Johnson, a University of Missouri professor of molecular microbiology and immunology working on the project.
“At the end of April, [Linn County] stopped giving COVID updates because the cases were so low. They were getting like two or three cases a week, so they just quit reporting it. Since we detected this, they've had about 400 confirmed infections,” Johnson told ABC News, based on data from the Linn County Health Department.
"This is a county of 12,000. So that's about 5% of the population within the last six weeks," he added.
Wastewater testing showed the alpha COVID variant had a hold in big cities in the early spring. By May, the delta variant had taken over.
"It was faster than alpha. It really took delta only three weeks. We saw it and two samplings later it was present in the majority of the samples we collected," Johnson said.
And the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater is spreading. Viral load increased by 40% or more from last week, according to Sewershed Surveillance Project data.
Missouri had the highest percentage of the delta variant nationally as of June 5, with 21.9% of reported cases, according to the CDC.
Many of the cities seeing increased viral load include rural areas like Brookfield, St. Joseph, Warrensburg and Joplin -- regions already grappling from low vaccination rates.
In Missouri, 43.7% of the population has gotten at least one shot and 38% has completed the series, state department data show.
So, just how does this wastewater testing process work?
Chung-Ho Lin, a research associate professor at the Center for Agroforestry, Bioremediation Program at University of Missouri, told ABC News that his lab, which monitors human pathogens in wastewater, worked with Johnson's lab to analyze wastewater samples and quantify the viral load of COVID-19. Scientists distinguish variants using a process called quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.
Lin said that viral load appears in wastewater "like seven days before any outbreaks."
“Since May last year, we have processed almost 9,000 samples across the state," Lin said. "We cover almost 125 facilities, including municipal wastewater treatment plants, also, wastewater treatment for mental health facilities, the university, nursing homes, training camps, you name it. So we basically cover almost 70% of Missourian population."
Researchers alert state health professionals so they can direct resources and curb outbreaks.
"I think we have successfully prevented several major outbreaks in correction facilities," Lin said. "From the data we generate, I’m confident somebody can benefit from that number the next day."
ABC News contributor John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, said wastewater surveillance has many benefits, including offering early warning signs of COVID-19 without violating privacy concerns. It's growing in popularity among state health departments.
"With wastewater surveillance you could target it at a very high resolution. And you can actually have more refined targeting and public health efforts. Prisons, nursing home, schools are great examples," he said.
The delta variant is a growing concern in the U.S. and was upgraded by the CDC last week from a "variant of interest" to a "variant of concern."
Officials in the state are now urging the public to get vaccinated.
"You're always better having the vaccine than not. The vaccine has at least some efficacy against all of the variants. If anything, that should be a reason to go get the vaccine," Johnson said.
(FLORENCE, S.C.) -- A "resilient" centenarian who survived COVID-19 enjoyed a birthday celebration with a visit from the president of her alma mater.
Catherine Miller Morgan Harris said she turned 104 years old on June 8, though the Census lists Harris as having turned 103.
Harris, who lives at a senior care center in her hometown of Florence, South Carolina, tested positive for COVID-19 on April 28, 2020, her niece Elizabeth Coleman said.
Her symptoms weren't severe -- she had a dry cough, low temperature and her oxygen was steady -- and she avoided hospitalization, Coleman told ABC News. The staff kept a close eye on her, and she recovered, Coleman said.
Harris received her COVID-19 vaccine in January.
"She's doing wonderful," said Crystal Evans, the activities director at Carlyle Senior Care, where Harris lives. "She's alert and oriented."
"She loves the Lord," and attributes her long life to her faith, Coleman said.
Harris' life may have slowed down now, but back in the day she was a "go-getter" who pursued multiple careers, said James Clark, president of South Carolina State University.
Harris graduated from South Carolina State, an HBCU, in 1940 with a degree in education, Clark told ABC News.
Harris first worked as a teacher in North Carolina and South Carolina, Coleman said. She then returned home to Florence where she opened a public relations office and worked there as an accountant, Coleman said.
She also spent time as a writer for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore, Coleman said.
"It was hard back then for people of color to obtain any position of status, so I thought it was really fantastic that she was able to accomplish all that," her niece said. "She enjoyed what she did. It was from her heart, and she enjoyed giving and doing."
On Saturday, Clark -- joined by university officials and Harris' family, including Coleman -- visited Harris at the nursing home to wish her a happy birthday. Clark presented Harris with a framed certificate and some university merchandise.
"She was very happy. You could see it on her face. She was smiling and laughing," Coleman said.
"She's a part of the family," Clark said. "I just congratulated her, told her that we all loved her."
(NEW YORK) -- The number of Black people killed in traffic crashes rose 23% in 2020 compared to the year prior, according to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Out of the 38,680 people that were killed in traffic crashes last year, 7,494 of them were Black -- the highest percentage increase out of any race. White people had the largest number of traffic deaths last year at 29,092, but the number increased by just 4% from the year prior.
The pandemic made the problem worse -- Black traffic fatalities, as a proportion of all fatalities, increased the most during lockdown, from March to December, according to NHTSA's data.
Destiny Thomas, an urban planner and founder and CEO of the California-based Thrivance Group, believes there are two main contributing factors.
"These are the communities that were our essential workers across the country," Thomas said. "Black folks in particular were more likely to suffer the negative impacts of compounding the location of disparity. Being a city worker means that you're at greater risk because you're on the road more than everyone, but it's also high-stakes driving. These are people who are getting paid hourly rates. If you're late three minutes, you're more likely to lose your job, and of course during a time of economic downturn and insecurity that pressure makes you make different types of decisions on the road."
The second factor, she explained, is lack of infrastructure.
"We live in communities that for generations, for decades, have been under invested," Thomas said. "Everyone during the pandemic was driving faster because the roads were not as congested. So the implications for that in a community that has no functioning signal, less crossing opportunities, uneven pavement or unexpected community-wide construction [are worse]. There are still entire communities that don't have sidewalks. These things make sort of a perfect storm for increased fatality rates in Black families."
In a separate study published Tuesday, the Governors Highway Safety Association analyzed data from 2015 through 2019 and found that traffic crash fatalities "disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color."
The report is the first national analysis of this topic in more than a decade, according to the association.
"We conducted this analysis with the aim that it will help to inform decisions about highway safety planning, traffic enforcement and safety education so that we can have a baseline of what we need to do to better serve some of these communities and reduce crashes," Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations at GHSA, said in an interview with ABC News.
The data showed American Indian and Alaskan Natives were most likely to die in a traffic crash. Black people had the second-highest rate of traffic deaths.
The GHSA said to address the inequality in traffic safety, states and communities should prioritize infrastructure investments in underserved communities and ensure diverse representation in transportation leadership.
"I think we also need to better engage these communities in the planning as well. We want to have people from communities involved in the highway safety planning process," Martin said. "We want to hear these diverse voices."
(LOS ANGELES) -- A herd of at least 34 cows ended up stampeding through a neighborhood in Los Angeles after somehow managing to escape from a slaughterhouse in the area.
The incident occurred at approximately 8:35 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22, in Pico Rivera, California, when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to calls that several cows were in the area and reportedly running down streets, cutting through neighborhood yards and trampling bushes, according to ABC News’ Los Angeles station KABC-TV.
One person was injured in the city stamped and one cow was shot and killed by a deputy during the incident when Pico Rivera City Manager Steve Carmona said it appeared the cow was making a move to run over a baby, according to reports from KABC.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to the scene to help corral the wandering animals and warned people to “steer” clear of the area while the incident was ongoing.
It took authorities about two hours to move the herd into trailers and by 10:20 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that most of the cows had been detained, though one wily cow was reportedly on the loose until after 11 p.m.
Most of them were eventually caught at the end of a cul-de-sac in Pico Rivera and, at one point, KABC managed to get aerial footage of at least 20 cows standing on one driveway in the area.
"All I know is that they were running for their lives and they are probably free for the very first time and anybody would want to escape," witness Ginger Gaxiola told KABC in an interview regarding the incident.
It is believed the cows somehow managed to escape from a local slaughterhouse in the area but the investigation into how they managed to all escape at the same time is currently ongoing.
(STAFFORD, Va.) -- A man has been arrested after allegedly breaking into a bank and stealing some loose change and a soda before leaving the scene of the crime.
The incident occurred at approximately 9:06 a.m. on Monday, June 23, when Sergeant Zotos from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office in Stafford, Virginia was called to the Carter Bank & Trust to a report of a burglary after bank tellers reported that they suspected the business had been burglarized overnight.
Once he arrived at the bank, Sergeant Zotos began to review surveillance footage from the day before and found that on Sunday, June 20, a male suspect -- later identified as 48-year-old James Rupe of Roadsville, Virginia -- had utilized construction scaffolding that was outside the bank in order to gain access to the building’s roof before falling through the drop ceiling and climbing down some scaffolding inside the establishment, according to the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office.
“The suspect is seen rummaging through cash drawers and stealing change. He then retrieves a soda from the employee breakroom and drinks it before exiting the bank the same way he entered,” the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted on social media. “Once outside the bank, the suspect removes the change from his pocket and puts it in his backpack before leaving the area on his bicycle.”
Upon reviewing the bank’s security footage, Zotos noticed that the suspect had easily identifiable tattoos on his arm and subsequently sent photos of the footage to fellow deputies to keep a look out for him.
It was only a few hours later, at approximately 2:20 p.m., when Deputy A. W. Sypolt responded to the Red Roof Inn to reports of a disturbance when employees at the hotel said a man was trespassing on the property.
“Upon arrival, Deputy Sypolt recognized the arm tattoos on the suspect, James Rupe, 48, of Rhoadesville, from the photos sent by Sergeant Zotos,” said Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. “Sergeant Zotos arrived on scene and confirmed Rupe was the suspect seen on the bank’s security footage.”
Rupe was then taken into custody and a warrant was obtained for breaking and entering. He is now being held without bond at the Rappahannock County Jail.