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Saharan dust plume: Forecast models show it moving into the US today

“The Saharan dust will overtake entire states,” CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin says. “Even southern Illinois and Ohio may get into the mix. That’s how far north it could get pulled up.”

An area of higher pressure over the Southeast will allow the Saharan dust layer to move into much of the Gulf Coast region over the next couple of days.

Forecast models show a lighter amount of dust moving into the Gulf Coast states on Thursday morning. This week’s more dense concentration, seen in images across the Caribbean, won’t move fully into the southern US until later today and into the weekend.

Portions of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida could see milky-looking skies and an enhanced sunset this evening.

“The main impacts of the Saharan dust will be hazy skies during the day, locally reduced visibility and degraded air quality,” the Weather Prediction Center said. “However, this will also make for some very colorful sunrises and sunsets with deeper oranges and reds compared to normal.”

By Friday and into Saturday, the dense plume will move across all of the southern US.

Through the weekend, a thinner amount of dust will advance across much of the eastern US. At the same time, a denser concentration will hang around the Southeast, mainly Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

“Some of this dust will settle to ground level,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers says. “People should monitor their local air quality and possibly limit outdoor exposure.”

This Saharan dust plume is historic

“The ongoing Saharan dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is by far the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record — our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002,” tweeted Atmospheric Scientist Michael Lowry.

“It is definitely historic,” Olga Mayol-Bracero, a researcher at the University of Puerto Rico, told CNN Weather. “We knew we were going to be in an extraordinary situation.”

Many of her colleagues across the Caribbean said they have not seen air quality conditions this bad in their entire careers, she said.

Aerosols, measured in PM10, at Mayol-Bracero’s research station in northeastern Puerto Rico, have never reached the levels they have seen the past few days. Records at this station go back 15 years.

Saharan dust tints the sky Monday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The dust was so thick in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean, it darkened the skies and reduced visibility to only a few miles.

The Saharan dust plume is nothing new. It is called the Saharan Air Layer or SAL by scientists who study it and its effects on hurricane development.

But scientists say this one is historic because of the dense concentration of dust.

“While it’s normal for Saharan dust to reach the US every hurricane season, this event is unprecedented in thickness and coverage,” Mauldin says.

“Usually by the time dust from the Sahara has traveled this far, much of it has been dispersed and/or deposited to the ocean so that typically this long-range transport to the Americas would involve much lower concentrations,” Claire Ryder, NERC Independent Research Fellow at the University of Reading, told CNN Weather.

How the Saharan dust plume got its start

The initial dust outbreak was driven by a few smaller storm systems over central and west Africa. Several of these thunderstorms caused downdrafts and large-scale haboobs, or dust storms, to develop. This led to a large amount of dust being uplifted into the atmosphere from the Sahara, Ryder said.

At the same time these smaller dust storms were happening, the African Easterly Jet — strong winds higher in the atmosphere which usually transport dust westward — was anomalously weak this June.

That means a more significant amount of dust than usual was able to accumulate just off the west coast of Africa. It then could be transported west in a very dense plume when the jet picked up speed again.

A vast cloud of Saharan dust darkens the skies Monday over San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Saharan dust layer has paused hurricane season

To a hurricane, the Saharan dust is nothing more than extremely dry air. And hurricanes hate dry air; they need a hot, humid, and calm environment.

“The dust is the visible part of the reduced tropical development potential area,” explains Myers. “It is the dry air and additional vertical wind shear along with the dust that are the driving factors in limiting tropical storm development.”

Vertical wind shear is the change of wind speed and direction with height. For a hurricane to form, it needs little to no wind shear and a very moist atmosphere.

As long as the Saharan dust is around, the National Hurricane Center is likely to be watching fewer areas in the tropics.

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Rayshard Brooks: Third day Atlanta police officers don’t show up for work

The Atlanta Police Department denied officers weren’t showing up for their shifts, but a police union director backed the accounts by CNN sources. In some instances, officers were refusing to leave their precincts unless a fellow officer required backup.

This is the third straight day some officers have stayed out. As a result of the low staffing, the department is now putting officers normally assigned to major crime units on the street, in uniform, to answer 911 calls, the sources said.

Atlanta Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant told officers in an email obtained by CNN Friday that he understands their anger and frustration.

“I’m not here to try to convince you that your anger and fear are not real,” he wrote. “What I am here to tell is that that we — all of us who wear a badge – are in this together and we support you.”

Bryant wrote “these last three weeks have been some of the most difficult we’ve ever experienced in policing.”

“None of us like what we saw in Minneapolis. Those actions do not represent the best of us,” Bryant wrote. “Nonetheless, as it relates to what is happening here in Atlanta, with our own officers, all we can tell you is that these matters brought by the Fulton County District Attorney must now be allowed to play out in the justice system.”

District Attorney Paul Howard criticized

Defense attorney Noah H. Pines, who represents Rolfe, said Friday the law justified his client’s actions.

“When Mr. Brooks chose to attack two officers, to disarm one of them, and to point and fire a deadly weapon at Officer Rolfe, he took their lives, and his own, into his hands. He took the risk that their justified response might be a deadly one,” Pines said Friday referring to the scuffle prior to Rolfe shooting Brooks.

“Although we can all understand the grief of Mr. Brooks’ family, Officer Rolfe’s actions were justified by the law.”

Pines also said there is no legal basis in Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s decision to charge Rolfe.

Officers feel abandoned while protesters demand sweeping police reform

“Never in my career have I seen a District Attorney act so unethically without regard for his professional obligations in pursuit of reelection,” Pines said. “Twice in the past few weeks Paul Howard has put his own ambitions ahead of the good of his constituents as he seeks to capitalize on a series of national tragedies.”

US Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, a Republican, called for state Attorney General Chris Carr to appoint an independent district attorney in the case, he said in a statement Friday.

“Charging an Atlanta police officer with felony murder before the completion of the GBI’s investigation was a political decision, not a legal one,” Collins’ statement read, adding that Georgians need to be ensured “this case is devoid of any and all political influence.”

“If a special prosecutor was warranted in the Ahmaud Arbery case, then it certainly warrants the appointment of one here,” Collins said.

Similarly, the Georgia Sheriff’s Association was also not in favor of the district attorney’s actions.

“Howard has trampled on the rights of Officer Garrett Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan and has further allowed this tragic incident to be more about his re-election than justice for the officers involved, the Atlanta Police Department and the citizens of our state,” said Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, who is the GSA president.

“The Sheriffs, through the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, condemn these actions of District Attorney Paul Howard and urge the public to allow time for justice to be served through close examination of the facts of this tragic incident,” Jarrard’s statement read. “Only then can confidence in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and our system of justice be restored.”

CNN has tried to contact Howard for comment.

Officer moved from a jail over security concerns

Rolfe was moved from the Fulton County Jail to another facility in metro Atlanta for security reasons hours before he was scheduled to appear in court Friday, three law enforcement sources told CNN. He turned himself in Thursday and is being held without bond.
Police unions stand in the way of lasting reform

Rolfe waived his right to a first appearance in court Friday.

His attorneys did not appear in the courtroom, either.

One of them, Bill Thomas, told CNN in a statement, “The appearance has been waived and there will not be a need for any of his defense team to appear.”

Officer says he has faith in the justice system

Both officers had gone to the fast-food restaurant to respond to a complaint that Brooks, 27, was parked and asleep in the drive-through lane. He failed a sobriety test, and when they tried to arrest him, he scuffled with them and grabbed Brosnan’s Taser, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

A video of the incident shows Brooks running as he appears to point the Taser in the direction of Rolfe, who shoots him twice in the back.

Attorneys for both men issued forceful statements defending their clients’ actions that night. In an interview with MSNBC, Brosnan said he has “full faith” in the criminal justice system.

He watched Rayshard Brooks' shooting from his SUV. The officer's bullet hit his vehicle, DA says

“I think this is a tragic event and it’s … a total tragedy that a man had to lose his life that night,” he said. “My initial encounter with him, I felt he was friendly. He was respectful … He seemed like someone who potentially needed my help. I was really just there to see what I could do for him, make sure he was safe.”

Brosnan’s attorneys criticized the rush to charge their client, saying he briefly put his foot on Brooks’ arm to make sure he did not access a weapon. They said he also performed CPR, put anticoagulant in Brooks’ wounds and applied compression bandages.

He has cooperated with all investigators and plans to meet with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation next week. But his lawyer Don Samuel said Brosnan is not going to answer the district attorney’s questions while they bring false charges against him.

In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday night, the district attorney reiterated that he expects Brosnan to cooperate with prosecutors.

“I realize that this young man is … getting a lot of pressure from a lot of groups and some of his colleagues,” Howard, the district attorney, said. “My expectation is when we move to the next level, I would expect him to follow through with what he has already promised.”

Brosnan also faces two counts of violation of oath of office. He was released on a signature bond after turning himself in Thursday.
Former officer Devin Brosnan walks out of the Fulton County Jail on bail after his release Thursday.

Prosecutors will not seek death penalty

If convicted of felony murder, Rolfe could face death. But Howard said he will not seek capital punishment.

He also faces five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violating his oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property.

Prosecutors have said he kicked Brooks as he lay on the ground fighting for his life. But his attorneys have demanded to see a video of him doing that — not just the still photo released by Howard.

“If there was a video of my client kicking Mr. Brooks, you would have seen it,” attorney Lance LoRusso told Fox News. “(Howard) shows a still, and one leg is planted and the other one’s bent. He could be leaning down to try to give him first aid. It could have been when he was trying to evaluate whether he needed handcuffs.”

Rolfe reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” and feared for his safety and that of the civilians around him, his attorneys said.

Brooks’ family applauded the charges against the officers as a good first step, but said they don’t guarantee a conviction.

“This is not the finish line. This is the starting point. Yes, we appreciate and we commend the DA’s office for charging these officers appropriately, but that’s just step one,” attorney Justin Miller said. “As you know, that doesn’t always result in convictions.”

CNN’s Devon M. Sayers and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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Breaking New

New York City crime stats show spike in burglaries and murders so far this year

There have been 38 murders over the last 28 days, twice as much as the same period last year, according to NYPD stats as of up to June 14. So far this year, there have been 159 murders, which is 25% higher than last year, the stats show.

Shooting incidents in 2020 are also up, with 394 happening to date, a 24% increase from the 317 shooting incidents at this point last year.

“The uptick in violence, I haven’t seen anything this bad in a long time,” said a law enforcement official. “This is the worst I’ve seen it in six or seven years.”

The uptick in murders is tied to gang and drug activity, with drug dealers fighting over territory, another law enforcement official said.

This week’s crime stats were released as New York’s criminal justice system adjusts to three seismic changes: the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of the state’s bail reform law, and the mass protests opposed to police brutality and racism against black people spurred by the killing of George Floyd.
In addition, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced a “seismic shift” in its culture Monday by disbanding its plainclothes anti-crime team and reassigning those 600 officers to other roles.

“What we always struggle with, I believe, as police executives, is not keeping crime down. It’s keeping crime down and keeping the community with us, and I think those two things, at times, have been at odds,” Shea said.

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The coronavirus pandemic and its mass unemployment has hammered state and local tax revenue and is likely to lead to layoffs and spending cuts to New York City’s budget. Combined with protesters’ calls to “defund the police,” the NYPD could see significant decreases in its budget in the coming year.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he plans to move some funding from the NYPD to youth and social services.

A group of city council members has proposed to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s nearly $6 billion budget. The mayor’s press secretary says de Blasio “does not believe a $1 billion cut is the way to maintain safety.”

And on Tuesday, de Blasio announced a new policy requiring all body camera footage of incidents to be released in 30 days if a police firearm is discharged or if an officer’s Taser or use of force causes death or great bodily harm.

Burglaries are up and robberies are down

The pandemic and New York’s extended lockdown have left storefronts largely closed and caused many residents to flee the city, and the NYPD data shows a responding increase in burglaries and car thefts.

Over the last month, burglaries have sharply increased, with 1,691 incidents as compared to 759 the year before. Looting incidents that took place during demonstrations earlier in the month are included in the burglaries figure. For the year, burglaries are up 47% compared to this point last year, from 4,480 to 6,595.

While you're stuck at home, one group has been busy: Car thieves
Car thefts, known as grand larceny auto, have also increased over 60%, with 3,078 incidents happening this year, up from 1,893 at this point last year. The car theft numbers are part of a national trend as fewer Americans travel and more cars sit idle in driveways and parking garages.

At the same time, comparing this past month to the same period last year, criminal complaints of rape are down 33%, complaints of robbery are down 23%, and complaints of grand larceny are down 44%, according to NYPD.

Burglary is unlawful entering a building with intent to commit a crime, grand larceny is unlawful theft of higher value items, and robbery is unlawful theft by force or threat of force.

Overall, the number of arrests has gone down; there has been a 32% decrease in arrests so far this year as compared to last year.

CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

Pete Davidson Talks ‘Saturday Night Live’ Future After Slamming Show

Pete Davidson isn’t going anywhere just yet. The comedian has no plans on leaving Saturday Night Live at the moment despite slamming the variety show back in February.

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“I will be there as long as they allow me to be,” Davidson, 26, told Entertainment Tonight in a recent interview, which was published on Friday, June 5. “I think I’m very lucky to be on that show and I’m really lucky to have Lorne Michaels as, you know, not only a mentor and a boss, but a friend. I’ll be there as long as they allow it.”


Pete Davidson Talks Saturday Night Live Future After Slamming Show
Pete Davidson attends the premiere of Hulu’s “Big Time Adolescence” at Metrograph on March 5, 2020 in New York City. Shutterstock

Earlier this year, Davidson made headlines when he criticized the show during a chat with Charlamagne Tha God. “It’s a hard thing to do ‘cause you don’t want to ever pull the trigger too early. But everybody’s always been like, ‘You’ll know when you know and it’ll be all right.’ I personally think I should be done with that show because they make fun of me on it. … I don’t know whose team they’re playing for, really — if I’m the joke or I’m in on the joke,” he said on February 24.

Pete Davidson’s Complete Dating History 

“They think I’m f–king dumb. Like, I’m literally painted out to be like this big dumb idiot. Like, even all my sketches are just me being like, ‘OK, sure,’” he continued. “I think everybody outgrows it and I think for what I could do on the show — which is just barely anything and it’s just ‘Weekend Update’ and I feel like I’ve done, like, 30 of those and I just feel like, yeah, I’ve done as much as I can over there but happy to be there as long as Stephanie Webber Lorne [Michaels] likes me.”

Davidson would go on to skip the SNL cast party after the February 29 episode. “A lot of the cast members who were there noted that Pete’s absence at the party was due, in fact, to his comments last week and the tension with him and other cast members,” an insider exclusively told Us Weekly.

Stars Who Left Hit TV Shows

Despite his remarks, the actor went on to appear in the show’s two at-home episodes amid the coronavirus pandemic quarantine. He also is waiting to hear what his colleagues think of his new film, The King of Staten Island.

“I think we sent out the screeners this week, so I’m really looking forward to that,” he told ET.

Davidson has always been especially close to Michaels over the years. In 2019, he revealed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that he once went to Jamaica with the SNL creator when he just started on the NBC series at age 20 in 2014.

“He was just like, ‘I’m going to Jamaica, do you want to come?’ And I was like ‘F—k yeah, dude!’” he recalled at the time, noting that he stayed in a hotel 10 minutes down the road from him during the New Year’s holiday.

He later told Charlamagne Tha God that Michaels was like “a father figure” to him who treated him “with nothing but love.”

The King of Staten Island will be available on demand on June 12.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

Meghan Markle Would Be ‘Great’ on the Show

Ready for her close-up? Dancing With the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli thinks Meghan Markle‘s next move should be on the ballroom floor.

The choreographer and longtime DWTS judge, 64, dished on the show’s future during a virtual interview with Extra, days before the dance competition’s 15th anniversary. While the series continues to figure out how to move forward with live shows during the coronavirus pandemic, Tonioli revealed that the former Suits star, 38, would be the perfect addition to the cast.

“She’d be great!” the Italian ballroom expert said. “It’d make her look accessible and funny — it’d be brilliant. Meghan, if you’re watching this, please! We’d love you to do it.”

Tonioli explained that he was hopeful that DWTS would be able to begin production soon — and that he wasn’t worried about potentially filming without a live audience. “If you can recreate the sense of excitement, I’m sure it’s possible,” he said.

DWTS Bruno Tonioli Wants Meghan Markle on Show
Bruno Tonioli and Meghan Markle. Shutterstock; Frank Augstein/AP/Shutterstock

Us Weekly confirmed earlier this year that the former duchess and Prince Harry had settled down in Los Angeles with their 12-month-old son, Archie, after briefly staying in Vancouver, Canada. When the couple announced in January that they would be stepping back from their roles as senior royal family members, they stated that they intended to split time between North America and the U.K. as they worked to gain more independence from the royal family.

“Harry and Meghan were really excited to move to L.A.,” a source told Us after the family of three moved stateside. “The timing is tricky of course, but this is something they’ve been hoping for and seriously planning for several months now.”

Though the couple is safely hunkered down amid the coronavirus pandemic, they haven’t pressed pause on their commitment to giving back to those in need. The duo was spotted volunteering with a local organization to help deliver meals in the West Hollywood area shortly after they moved, and they’ve both been keeping in touch with members of their U.K. patronages via video chat.

While Meghan and Harry will have to make some notable changes to their lifestyle in L.A., Ladies of London alum Marissa Hermer thinks even the biggest changes will be for the best.

“Most of the adjustments are only positive. Blue skies, sunshine, space. All of those wonderful things, wonderful places,” Hermer, 38, told Us exclusively in May. “You can build a family with your friends wherever you go. … I think it’s just setting up your little community wherever you go, which is something that [my family and I have] done here.”

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Celebrity Entertaiment

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Boss on Eliminating ‘Shock Death’ From the Show

Keeping it positive. While simultaneously running season 3 of Station 19 and season 16 of Grey’s Anatomy, Krista Vernoff took on two completely different methods.

“On Grey’s Anatomy, I did the opposite of what we did on Station 19. There had been so many tragic deaths for so many years on Grey’s Anatomy that I felt like the most surprising thing I could do, repeatedly, was to not kill someone,” Vernoff, 48, told Us Weekly exclusively.

The writer served as showrunner on Grey’s from 2007 to 2011, then came back on board in 2017; she also took over Station 19 for creator Stacy McKee for season 3. Although the spinoff killed off multiple characters during the season, Grey’s did not.

Chris Carmack Caterina Scorsone Greys Anatomy
Chris Carmack and Caterina Scorsone on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ ABC

“Time after time, no matter how many times I’ve done it, everyone, every time expects that the person who’s in danger or threatened in some way is going to die,” she explained to Us. “On [Grey’s Anatomy] everyone was so used to the shock death that they were always looking for shock death! So I felt like the more surprising thing was to bring the joy and turn up the humor and the playfulness that had, a little bit, fallen out of the show in the wake of Derek’s death. That is how I feel like Grey’s has changed a little since I came back — a lot of characters who might have been dead by now are still alive!”

Derek, portrayed by Patrick Dempsey, was killed in season 11 after a car accident — and was only one of the many heartbreaking deaths on the series.

Ellen Pompeo and Giacomo Gianniotti on Grey’s Anatomy. ABC

During the interview, the Shameless writer also hinted at the future for DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although Vernoff hasn’t begun mapping out season 17, she has some ideas for the character’s arc.

“I think that people with mental health diagnoses participate as productive members of society all the time,” she told Us. “I don’t think that a mental health diagnosis prevents a person from being a surgeon as long as he’s willing to treat it. And that’s the big question mark.”

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Celebrity Entertaiment

Raven-Symone Still Hasn’t Spent Her ‘Cosby Show’ Paycheck

Raven-Symoné is one smart cookie! The former child star revealed that she has yet to spend the money she earned as a kid on The Cosby Show.

During a recent Instagram Live interview, social media personality Jerome Trammel asked Raven, 34, what she did with her Cosby Show paychecks. “You hinted at [the fact] that you still have your Cosby money,” he said at the time. “Is it true you haven’t touched your Cosby money? Or you mean, like, residuals as of lately?”

“I haven’t touched my Cosby money,” the That’s So Raven alum replied without hesitation, while the interviewer said in response, “Oooh, bitch. You rich! … That’s a flex. That’s a humble flex.”

Raven was 3-years-old when she first appeared as Olivia Kendall on The Cosby Show. She would continue to be on the hit sitcom for three seasons from 1989 to 1992.

Raven previously admitted that there were “definitely hard” moments she faced while appearing on the Cosby Show at a young age. “I remember not being able to have the bagel or anything at – we would call it crafty, where it’s just a table of food, ready for you to eat whatever you want,” she said on The View in 2015. “And I remember people would be like, ‘You can’t eat that. You’re getting fat!’ I’m like, ‘I’m 7! I’m hungry!’”

After her Cosby Show departure, the Atlanta-born star went on to find success on the Disney Channel. Raven helmed her own series, That’s So Raven, and lent her voice to Monique on Kim Possible. She then starred in popular Disney Channel film franchises The Cheetah Girls and Zenon.

The singer later released four studio albums and appeared in countless films, including College Road Trip and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

In 2013, Raven took a brief retirement from acting. She returned to the spotlight in 2015 as a cohost for The View, but she left the daytime show in 2016. The “Backflip” singer returned to her Disney roots in 2017 to reprise Raven in the Raven’s Home spinoff series, a series on which she also serves as an executive producer.

“Disney understood me,” Raven told The Los Angeles Times in 2018 of her return to the network. “They knew it’s not about my sexual orientation. It’s about having fun, it’s about family, it’s about comedy, it’s about good content. I love them forever for embracing me.”

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Breaking New

Covid-19 is ravaging nursing homes. Government records show why

Troubled facilities and highly rated nursing homes alike have been struggling, with overwhelmed workers trying to identify, isolate and treat patients with the disease on top of their already demanding jobs. Measures aimed at protecting residents from the spread of the disease, meanwhile, have left them even more vulnerable and closed off from the public.

As a result, government watchdogs say it is becoming easier for substandard care to go unchecked and for some facilities to keep dangerous secrets.

“There are no tests,” a nurse at a Michigan facility told a state health department employee at the end of March, according to a government report, recounting how they were expected to take care of a unit full of pneumonia patients known as the “Covid unit” and had brought their own medical supplies for residents. “I have one (resident) who is actively dying right now.”

After announcing its first positive case of coronavirus, town officials in Massachusetts publicly condemned a local nursing home when the fire chief noticed a spike in calls from the facility but couldn’t find out what was going on inside the walls.

Police reports obtained by CNN through a public records request show how there had been warning signs about trouble brewing within a massive New Jersey long-term care facility — including multiple calls to police and reports of alleged patient neglect — for days before police discovered more than a dozen bodies in a makeshift morgue.

Many of the country’s nursing homes were already understaffed and frequently cited for lax infection control before coronavirus began to spread. Now staff are risking their own health and often lacking access to the supplies and testing they need as they care for a population at high risk of dying from the disease.

State long-term care ombudsmen, who are tasked with protecting residents, told CNN there are not enough eyes on these facilities at a time when oversight is needed the most.

Routine health and safety inspections have been suspended by the federal government to protect against any additional exposure to workers and residents. A CNN review of more than 100 inspection reports documenting visits still taking place, and complaint information gathered from state ombudsmen, provides a snapshot of serious problems during this pandemic — including unacceptable care and failures to take steps to stem spreading infections.

Government employees: What public records should we request as we report on the coronavirus?

Families, who are often the ones keeping tabs on their loved ones’ care and in some cases even supplementing that care, have been restricted from visiting facilities in an attempt to slow the spread. CNN spoke with family members of nursing home residents in four different states who said they had struggled to get them tested for the virus or receive any updates about their conditions — and in some cases facility officials had kept vital information from them. One woman said she resorted to calling 911 herself to get her very sick father, who she said tested positive for coronavirus, admitted to the hospital — where she said he remained as of Thursday in critical condition.

On Sunday, the federal government announced a new rule requiring nursing homes to report Covid-19 cases to residents and their families and the CDC. Ombudsmen say it remains to be seen how — and how aggressively — this will be enforced by state inspectors. And even when facilities are cited for severe violations, critics have long argued that government penalties are too low to discourage the worst behavior.

“I’m concerned about neglect, poor care, rights being violated and abuse right now,” said Patricia Hunter, the long-term care ombudsman for Washington state, where the first nursing home outbreak publicly unfolded.

Repeated calls

More than a week before the Andover Subacute and Rehab Center II in New Jersey made headlines with the discovery of 17 bodies in the facility’s morgue on April 13, there were signs of a deepening crisis, according to police reports obtained by CNN.

Repeated calls to police were made. There were calls about patients with symptoms such as a high fever or respiratory distress. One resident was taken to the hospital, reports show; another call was cancelled even though the patient had been in “full code” — meaning they were in need of resuscitation. It’s unclear if a third ever made it to the hospital. Police also responded to a fire alarm there, but when they arrived, the report states, they were told it was a false alarm and that maintenance had it under control.

36 are dead from coronavirus at 'overwhelmed' New Jersey nursing home

And three days before the bodies were found, reports show county health officials told police they had been fielding complaints about understaffing, a lack of protective equipment and patient neglect — including allegations that some residents weren’t being fed.

Even after the police discovered the extent of deaths at the facility (which they said at the time weren’t necessarily all linked to Covid-19), frantic calls to police continued. A resident said he wasn’t being allowed to call his family, though staff claimed to police it was because it was after hours. Other callers said the facility was in desperate need of more protective gowns and body bags, and a state senator reported there was no staff at the facility. One resident was sent to the hospital with hypothermia when the facility’s heat reportedly stopped working, a report shows, though staff later told police the heat was working. As public scrutiny intensified, a nurse reported receiving threats.

An ambulance departs Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, New Jersey. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

The state has since said more than 30 of the facility’s residents have died of Covid-19 and there have been more than 100 confirmed cases.

The facility owner said in a statement that staff had notified state authorities when “there was a tragic surge in patient deaths,” with 15 patients dying in a matter of days. He said employees tried to work with funeral homes to transport the deceased residents but were “left to manage these fatalities as best they could.” He added that resident safety was paramount at the facility, which had faced challenges related to a lack of protective gear and staffing complications after workers also became ill.

In an earlier statement, a facility attorney said that nursing home officials were confident that any future review by the state of what had occurred “will confirm that the facility has been addressing the unprecedented challenges from this pandemic appropriately.”

Coroners worry Covid-19 test shortages could lead to uncounted deaths

New Jersey has become a Covid-19 hotspot, reporting more than 2,500 confirmed and suspected deaths and more than 13,000 cases in hundreds of state long-term care facilities.

Another New Jersey facility with a high number of coronavirus cases is the Lakeland Health Care Center, where Denise Jorgensen’s 78-year-old father had been rehabbing a broken hip. She said she and her brother were kept in the dark about her father’s fever for days. It was around then a doctor told them he suspected their father had Covid-19 but the facility had run out of tests, according to the family. They said they only learned there had already been deaths in the facility when a mayor wrote a letter to borough residents saying there was a “major Covid-19 outbreak” and that eight residents had died of Covid-19.

Denise Jorgensen said her father, George P Hanratty, died on March 31 after getting sick at the Lakeland Health Care Center.

Jorgensen said she couldn’t get through to anyone at the facility until 2 a.m. and was told not to be upset about the letter. She said around eight hours later, she learned that her dad had passed away. A facility official said he could not comment on specific individuals but that the facility has been “fully transparent in our reporting to state and local officials, accepting of their input and compliant with their recommendations.”

While state data shows there have been 19 Covid-19 deaths at the facility, borough documents tracking coronavirus at the Lakeland nursing home report 21 deaths specifically from the disease but say that 35 residents have died. On the day Jorgensen’s father passed away, there is a note in the borough’s records saying there were no test kits available.

“I don’t know what is going on in these nursing homes, but they are not being truthful with the families,” she told CNN. “And since we can’t visit or get in touch with anyone they are getting away with it.”

‘It feels horrible’

An analysis of the limited nursing home inspections that have occurred nationwide since last month shows failures in care may have caused Covid-19 to spread to both staff and employees. The reports detail supply shortages, failures to report Covid-19 infections and exposure to authorities, nurses not adequately monitoring potential symptoms of the disease and staff not properly wearing masks.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, instructed state officials in March to stop conducting routine health and safety inspections in order to protect residents. Instead, they have focused on inspecting facilities to check for infection control measures and investigate reports of “immediate jeopardy” situations — which CMS defines as meaning residents are at risk of serious injury or death.

In a review of recent inspection reports and enforcement letters obtained from the agency, CNN identified seven nursing homes that had been cited with the most serious violations related to Covid-19. Around 100 facilities had been cited for “deficiencies” specifically related to infection control since March 14, according to a separate spreadsheet provided by CMS.

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At the Advantage Living Center in Roseville, Michigan, for example, a federal inspection report from the end of March recounts a litany of missteps. In one case, a nurse working the night shift found a patient who was “gray, kinda pale” and rapidly declining, saying that no one had given the resident the fluids they were supposed to have received. “Their mouth was so dry, they couldn’t even talk,” the nurse said. They then transferred the patient to isolation.

When the inspector asked why this resident with Covid-19 symptoms wasn’t transferred to the hospital sooner, the assistant director of nursing replied that the staff was overwhelmed. “I mean, they are taking care of so many people.” One nurse said the patient’s deteriorating condition hadn’t been better documented because the facility had been short staffed and very busy and most likely forgot, the inspector wrote.

The resident later died at the hospital. Though they were still awaiting test results, doctors told the family they suspected it to be related to Covid-19, according to the report.

The inspection report documenting the patient’s care detailed other problems at the facility. Nurses reported bringing in their own medical supplies to treat residents, such as thermometers and blood pressure cuffs because the home didn’t have what they needed. The report also found inadequate monitoring of patient conditions, understaffing and failing to properly isolate residents with suspected Covid-19 — with a delay as long as nine days.

“It feels horrible,” a nursing assistant reportedly told the inspector when asked about whether staff were able to meet the needs of residents.

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The Advantage Living Center did not respond to a request for comment from CNN, but provided a plan of correction in the inspection report — without admitting to the allegations made. It said that medical records showed the resident received fluids at the time they had been ordered and that employees have been retrained on a number of practices such as proper PPE usage. The facility said it had utilized temporary staffing and that facility-provided medical equipment was being used. Employees were also being “re-educated on Covid-19 as information emerges and trends are identified, including the rapid change in condition and rapid deterioration that can occur for residents with symptoms.”

‘We can’t trust them’

Born during the 1918 flu pandemic, 101-year-old Jean O’Brien’s health had already begun to decline as she struggled with the social isolation of being stuck in her room at the Four Chaplains Nursing Care Center in Westland, Michigan.

Family members worried that the virus would be a death sentence if she caught it, but fortunately — as far as they knew as of early April — there hadn’t been any coronavirus cases in the facility yet.

101-year-old Jean O'Brien's family was devastated when they learned she had tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

Then her daughter, Megan O’Brien, said her family learned from nurses on April 11 that the nursing home would be opening its doors to Covid-19 patients. O’Brien, her eight siblings and many nieces and nephews rallied together to call employees at the facility and its corporate owner, as well as government officials — demanding more information about how residents would be kept safe.

At that time, her biggest concern was the virus entering — and then spreading throughout — the facility. But she soon learned it already had. After appearing on the local news, O’Brien received an alarming message from Trace Fryz, whose mother was also at the facility. Fryz’s mother had tested positive for Covid-19 and died from the disease at a hospital weeks earlier. Fryz told O’Brien that it appeared the facility had not been forthcoming about Covid-19 deaths.

Covid-19 is listed on Trace Fryz's mother's death certificate.

In an interview with CNN, Fryz said she first learned that her mother’s facility had multiple coronavirus cases from an ER doctor treating her mother when she was rushed there after falling unconscious at a dialysis appointment.

O’Brien said the facility continues to deny it has had any deaths related to the disease.

After finally getting her mother tested, with the help of separate hospice employees, O’Brien said the family learned on Tuesday that her mother had tested positive. They had been preparing to pull her from the home and care for her in a local Airbnb, and the family is now trying to figure out how to proceed, saying there have just been “too many lies from the facility.”

This photo of Fryz's mom with family was taken shortly before she fell ill with coronavirus.

“We can’t trust them,” she said, adding that she is angry at the facility’s corporate owners, not its workers who she believes are still trying to take good care of her mother. “We would have taken her out weeks ago.”

The administrator at Four Chaplains told CNN that all she could say was that the facility was not accepting new Covid-19 patients. She referred all questions to its corporate owner, NexCare Health Systems, which did not respond to repeated inquiries. The state department of health said it had only just begun to collect data on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and suggested contacting the local health department. A Wayne County spokesperson told CNN that the facility currently has four Covid-19 deaths and 32 cases entered in a state database but said he would be unaware of any deaths where a resident hadn’t been tested for the disease.

‘Ticking time bomb’

As the virus has spread across the country, government watchdogs have been logging complaints from families, residents and employees about issues similar to those detailed by federal inspection reports.

In addition to the many reports of understaffing, PPE shortages and a lack of transparency, state ombudsman offices told CNN they have received complaints about patients being unfairly evicted and concerns from nursing home employees who have reported being worried they will be punished for speaking out about problems.

“Our program has been inundated with calls,” said Salli Pung, the Michigan state long-term care ombudsman, adding that she received more than 200 calls related to Covid-19 in March alone. “We continue to be very concerned about the overall lack of oversight in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

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Several offices noted concerns that nursing homes were not being forthcoming with information about Covid-19 cases in their facilities.

Advocates for long-term care residents said there is a short-term financial incentive to downplay infections since a publicized outbreak could result in families removing their loved ones and hurt future business. An outbreak could also open the doors for inspectors to cite a facility for numerous other violations such as understaffing.

In Virginia, state ombudsman Joani Latimer said one family member recently told her office that a nursing home resident had worsening Covid-19 symptoms but was not being tested or sent to the hospital. So the family member pulled the resident from the facility and drove them there, and a test came back positive. The family is now attempting to provide care at their home, Latimer said.

Fryz's mother Loretta posed with a shamrock last month.

She said that the unraveling of nursing homes under the stress of a pandemic like this was a “ticking time bomb,” given the staffing crisis that already existed in long-term care facilities. “Until we fully examine and address that problem, we put our residents at risk.”

Hunter, the Washington state ombudsman, has had the opposite problem when it comes to complaints. During more normal times, the office’s phone rings around 50 to 80 times a week, with callers reporting dangerous situations within facilities or other problems that warrant further investigation, among other calls.

But now, as visits from family and local watchdogs that often lead to complaints have been mostly cut off, her office has only been getting around 25 calls a week.

“I have never witnessed the phone go silent and that is virtually what has happened,” said Hunter, who has been the state ombudsman for more than eight years.

‘Sudden rush of patients’

Scott Wodzinksi, the fire chief in the 10,000-person town of Littleton, Massachusetts, began noticing a sharp uptick in calls for service at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley at the end of March — reporting that his department had responded to the facility 18 times in a week.

Suspecting coronavirus could be the culprit, he and other town officials who were attempting to respond to the crisis and keep tabs on the situation say they were stonewalled when they tried to get answers from the nursing home. They wanted to know how many of its 100 or so residents were sick with the virus — information that was vital for the first responders.

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A public controversy ensued, with the town claiming the facility initially turned down the help of the National Guard — which had been summoned in early April to conduct testing and ended up being let into the facility a couple days later.

The town asked the state health department to intervene. And with the help of lawmakers, they then sent a letter to the corporate owners of the facility, Life Care Centers of America, the same company that owned the nursing home in Kirkland, Washington — the site of the nation’s first outbreak. The Kirkland facility faces a federal fine of more than $600,000 for alleged failures if it does not correct the problems found. The town’s letter criticized the company for its “apparent lack of readiness or responsiveness to the COVID-19 threat” and stated that in both cases, administrators “did not provide adequate notification to authorities.”

Tim Killian, a crisis management spokesman hired by Life Care, said the company is confident that both the Nashoba Valley and Kirkland facilities had been in complete compliance with state and federal regulations. He said the company had hoped the federal government would have recognized that what happened in the Kirkland facility was “a unique situation.” About the Nashoba facility, he said the company shared the town of Littleton’s concerns but had been in touch with local and state health officials as soon as a positive test was received — adding that Life Care had welcomed the help of the National Guard.

Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

“To us it’s this unfair environment where the public has somehow come to believe that nursing homes are to blame, that this was caused by us and not something that happened to us,” he told CNN, noting how facility workers had now been receiving death threats. “It was probably inevitable that Covid was entering our building as it has entered most nursing homes.”

CMS said an investigation at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley is ongoing and could not comment further. As of April 13, the most recent data provided by the facility, the majority of its residents tested positive for Covid-19 and there had been 14 deaths.

Do you have anything to share about Covid-19 in nursing homes? Is there something else you think we should investigate? Email us:

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Breaking New

Before and after images from space show tornado damage

New satellite images show the mass devastation caused by some of the deadly tornadoes that struck Sunday.

Across Southern Mississippi, two long-track tornadoes ran almost parallel tracks.

When compared to just days before, you can see the vegetation stripped bare, leaving two visible scars from space.

The longer track, the National Weather Service is giving a preliminary rating of EF-4 with estimated winds of 166 to 200 mph. The scale only goes to five. The shorter path has an initial evaluation of EF-3, (estimated winds of 136-165 mph).

When zooming into the longer track tornado, you can see some of the structures in Seminary, Mississippi, that were destroyed.

The NWS gives EF-4 damage ranking when they find that well-constructed homes are leveled.

In an even more zoomed-in view, you can see how these buildings, including the houses, were swept off their foundation.

As the storm system moved east, more tornadoes touched down across the region.

One tornado hit the more populous area of Chattanooga, TN.

These images out of Chattanooga give a clear indication of what a tornado can do to a neighborhood.

The damage here has been given a preliminary ranking of EF-3.

This ranking is given when entire stories of well-constructed homes are found destroyed and there is significant damage found to large buildings.

It’s like the damage found at the East Brainerd Elementry School, seen lower left in the image below.

Survey teams from the NWS were still out Wednesday. Once all the data is collected, they will release a full report on the outbreak.

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Breaking New

Covid-19 numbers show promise, but health experts warn each state is a different battleground

More than 22,800 people have died from Covid-19 since the virus arrived on American shores, according to Johns Hopkins University’s numbers, but the daily tally of deaths dropped Saturday and Sunday, which could be a sign for optimism.

The number of infections — which stood at more than 560,000 on Monday afternoon — were also down Saturday and Sunday. This comes as US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says cases in some of the country’s hotspots — New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans — appear to be “leveling off” or even declining. The situations in California and Washington, meanwhile, remain stable.

“In the midst of tragedy, there IS hope,” Adams tweeted Monday. “Social distancing and mitigation IS working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, so keep at it.”

Still, many states are in the throes of an intense effort to stem the illness’ spread. New York crossed the 10,000-death threshold Monday, as its cases topped 190,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New Jersey and Michigan also have frightening death tolls, with more than 2,300 and 1,400 respectively.

The upside to New York’s numbers is that the three-day average for hospitalization, new hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and intubations are all down, Cuomo said Monday morning.

Cuomo has been in touch with leaders in New Jersey Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode island, he said and he will appear with governors Monday afternoon to announce a “geographically coordinated” reopening plan.

No details were immediately available, but Cuomo said, “To the extent we can coordinate, we should and we will.”

Doctors in wait-and-see mode

All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in US history. There are more than 29,000 members of the National Guard deployed across the country to deal with the pandemic, according to the National Guard Bureau. Guardsmen have been called to serve a variety of roles, from staffing emergency operations centers to restocking grocery shelves.

Key to how optimistic Americans should be will depend on what comes next. The country’s testing trajectory will be hugely important, experts say.

While President Donald Trump says he wants to reopen the country next month — even telling state governments to “be ready” as he plans to announce a special council to reopen the country — health officials say they’re still in wait-and-see mode even if the numbers look promising.

“It’s important to look at the country as many different separate situations,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on NBC’s “Today” show.

“This pandemic has affected different parts of the country differently,” Redfield said. “We’re looking at the data very carefully, county by county by county, and we will be assessing that.”

Public health capabilities need to be improved to perform early case detection, isolation and contact tracing, he said, and officials need to “start working to rebuild confidence in the community, so the community has confidence to reopen.”

Testing and social distancing

The US is “nearing the peak right now,” Redfield told the morning show.

“You’ll know when you’re at the peak when the next day is less than the day before,” he said. “We are stabilizing across the country in terms of the state of this outbreak.”

As for getting the country back to normal, Redfield said it has to be done correctly and “it’s going to be a step-by-step, gradual process.”

The call for caution is being echoed on the world stage as World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked people to remember the virus accelerates faster than it decelerates, so “control measures can only be lifted if the right public health measures are in place.”

Redfield concurred with Adams that social distancing is working — and said the potential death toll “while sadly too high, was far less than we anticipated” — but said relaxing those guidelines would need to be done carefully.

Testing is still not widely available, and many states have still tested only small percentages of their populations.

The White House has worked to develop a more robust testing strategy, including shipping new rapid tests developed to states, and has worked to scale up serology testing, used to detect antibodies that would identify people who are likely immune to coronavirus and who could return to work or other aspects of normal life.

Antibody tests, which reveal past coronavirus infection — an especially important test for health care workers — will “give us a good idea from a surveillance point of view of how significant the outbreak was.”

Weather adds to social distancing stress

As millions of Americans worried about stay-at-home orders and social distancing Sunday, about 95 million people in nearly 20 states experienced severe weather and tens of millions more will see storms Monday.

A majority of the storms were across the South and East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, with at least 34 tornadoes reported in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia as of early Monday. At least 18 people died.

Emergency officials said Sunday people sheltering from tornadoes and protecting themselves from severe weather take priority over the social distancing guidelines Americans are adhering to during the coronavirus pandemic.

Forecast models show the worst of the weather sweeping up the eastern portions of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, but even as far north as New York, officials were urging caution.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents the best protection from the weather is to continue to practice social distancing.

“We have strong winds and heavy rain coming our way on Monday, New York City, so it’s really simple: if you do not need to be outside tomorrow then STAY HOME,” de Blasio tweeted.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Gisela Crespo, Amanda Watts and Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report.

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