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COVID Deaths and Cases in Nursing Homes Climbing Again

Yesenia Harris



(AP) — COVID-19 infections are soaring again at U.S. nursing homes because of the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing, too, leading to new restrictions on family visits and a renewed push to get more residents and staff members vaccinated and boosted.

Nursing homes were the lethal epicenter of the pandemic early on, before the vaccine allowed many of them to reopen to visitors last year. But the wildly contagious variant has dealt them a setback.

Nursing homes reported a near-record of about 32,000 COVID-19 cases among residents in the week ending Jan. 9, an almost sevenfold increase from a month earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A total of 645 COVID-19-related deaths among residents were recorded during the same week, a 47% increase from the earlier period. And there are fears that deaths could go much higher before omicron is through.

Despite the rising numbers, the situation is not as dire as it was in December 2020, when nursing home deaths per week topped out at about 6,200. Experts credit the high vaccination rates now among nursing home residents: About 87% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

COVID-19 shots and boosters provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death, but the sick and elderly are uniquely vulnerable to the virus.

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Nursing home officials say they are responding to the outbreak by limiting visitors to common areas instead of allowing them into residents’ rooms, and by reinstituting social distancing.

Some states, including New York, have put their own measures in place, such as requiring proof of a negative test for visitors and providing all with surgical masks.

Nursing homes are also working to drive up vaccination numbers, especially for boosters. About 63 percent of nursing home residents nationally have received an extra dose.

Booster numbers are much worse for staff members. About 83% are fully vaccinated, but only 29% have gotten an extra dose.

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Nursing homes have been holding vaccine clinics and town hall meetings to stress the importance of the shots.

They also got another tool to increase vaccinations Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Biden administration vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.

About 57,200 nursing home workers — by far the highest number on record during the pandemic — had the virus in the week ending Jan. 9, a more than tenfold increase from a month earlier, according to the CDC.

Sharon Wheeler was shocked to learn that her 88-year-old, dementia-stricken father recently contracted COVID-19 at a Naperville, Illinois, nursing home. She hopes the fact that he is fully vaccinated and boosted will help him pull through.

She said she suspects visitors and residents coming and going around the holidays brought COVID-19 inside. Wheeler hasn’t been allowed to see her father, but the staff told her he had mild symptoms.

“I worked so hard to make sure he never got (COVID-19), because I was so terrified,” she said. “He’s such an older man, and I don’t want to lose him this way.”

Vaccines are just one of the many tools that should be used to defend the elderly against omicron, said Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. He also recommended testing of visitors, mandatory boosters and the use of medical-grade masks such as N95s and high-efficiency air filters.

“We need to build a Fort Knox around protecting nursing homes, but we’re not doing that right now, and that’s why cases are surging,” Feigl-Ding said Thursday. “We’re going to have exponential numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.”

The virus dealt a devastating blow in late November to the New Hampshire nursing home Todd Fernald runs, called Webster at Rye, where 100% of residents and staff were vaccinated — but not boosted.

“COVID ripped through this building in 10 seconds,” Fernald said, recalling how, on the day that extra shots were scheduled to be administered, an outbreak occurred that would ultimately kill six residents, infect dozens of others and sicken 20 employees.

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Since then, nearly all residents have been boosted, and employees are getting their third shots.

“I only lost one employee who didn’t want to be vaccinated and chose to resign their job,” Fernald said. “I’m having more and more people each and every week that I see are getting boosted and bringing me their booster cards.”

Making sure that facilities have supplies including test kits is crucial, too, said Lisa Sanders of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services, including nursing homes.

“Older adults and the people they care for should be prioritized for support and supplies as they become available,” Sanders said.

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Pulaski County Fair Comes to North Little Rock Riverfront Park

Yesenia Harris



NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If you are looking for a fun time going into the weekend, the Pulaski County Fair is back in the Little Rock metro this week.

North Little Rock is hosting its 2nd annual fair at the Riverfront Park in North Little Rock. The fair hours Wednesday through Friday will be 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it will open at noon and close at 11 p.m.

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Fair-goers will be able to enjoy Hip Hop Night Thursday and participate in a pie contest the following Sunday. Other activities include rides, games and talent contests.

Adult admission is $5 and children 12 and under will have free admission.

For more information on ticket purchase and activities, visit

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Court Recesses in Josh Duggar Child Pornography Sentencing

Yesenia Harris



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On May 25, Judge Timothy L. Brooks called a recess in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court shortly after 11:30 a.m.

Nearly the entire morning session of Joshua Duggar’s sentencing hearing was spent addressing a list of objections the defense made to a pre-sentencing report submitted to the court. The prosecution had one objection, which was addressed before today’s hearing.

The defense had 21 objections, and the morning proceed with the judge addressing many of them. Several objections about sentencing enhancements were overruled, others were sustained, and a handful of them were tabled until later in the day.

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Some of the judge’s rulings on certain objections also rendered others moot, seeing some of the 22 items withdrawn. The judge also vacated one of Duggar’s convictions as a lesser charge, which he had previously noted he would do when Duggar was found guilty in December, 2021.

The judge sided with the defense on the matter of whether Duggar “did knowingly engage in distribution” of illegal child sexual assault materials. At issue was the peer-to-peer file sharing software Duggar used, which is how his activity was first discovered by an undercover Little Rock police officer.

Ultimately, the judge found the passive nature of the software, which cannot turn file sharing ability on or off, to be enough to sustain the defense’s objection.

Another matter that has been disputed by both sides in sentencing memorandums pertains to the total number of images Duggar downloaded. The defense has maintained that the number is “127 at most,” while the prosecution has stated that there were over 600.

Today, the judge clarified the importance of this difference, noting that the defense’s total would result in a two-level sentencing enhancement, while the prosecution’s higher number would increase that to a five level enhancement.

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A good deal of time was spent trying to calculate an exact total, with the judge ultimately deciding that it was impossible, partially due to the presence of some files being located in unallocated space on Duggar’s computer. Judge Brooks added that each video counted as 75 images in this total.

“The Court gets to 525 images very easily,” he stated, before settling on an unconfirmed total of 590. He acknowledged that there may be more than 600, but for sentencing purposes he limited the enhancement to four levels.

Two defense objections pertained to what the court called Duggar’s “Ashley Madison scandal,” and the judge ruled that his confessions about infidelity before the trial and his own words about having a pornography addiction were “relevant in several respects.”

Judge Brooks will rule on the remaining objections and subsequently begin addressing the final sentencing guidelines this afternoon, beginning at 12:10 p.m.

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Norwich Man Charged With Home Invasion, Assault With “hatchet-style” Weapon

Yesenia Harris



Norwich police on Wednesday, with the aid of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, arrested the suspect in a Feb. 8 home invasion.

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