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St. Louis on track to surpass 2019 homicide rate: Report

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If the current homicide rate in St. Louis maintains its pace, the Missouri city could be on track to surpass the 194 recorded homicides it observed in 2019.

Between January and May, the city had 77 recorded homicides, according to data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. When adding in the number of homicides from the unfinished June, the total number jumps up to 99, the police department’s 2020 UCR Homicide Analysis shows as of Monday.

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“We have a violence crisis because we’re not doing what’s necessary,” said James Clark, a vice president of public safety and community response for the St Louis Urban League, in an interview with FOX 2 St. Louis. “This is senseless violence, but now we’re looking at needless violence. We need not continue at the rate that is happening in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.”

Of the 99 St. Louis homicides this year, 29 were closed while 70 remain open. Additionally, there are eight homicides that are not included in the police department’s report were considered “justifiable.”

As a community leader, Clark believes the homicides are occurring to a lack of de-escalation techniques, a sentiment that is shared by Lewis Reed – the President of the Board of Alderman – despite the board he represents having approved $5 million for the public health program Cure Violence in October of last year.

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However, the sheer amount of homicides is a lot for the organization.

“We’re essentially are going to go another summer with no additional support, still operating on the old system that’s brought murders, after murder, after murders,” Reed told FOX 2.

The number of homicides in St. Louis has exceeded 185 in the last four years, according to police records. The highest being 205 homicides in 2017, which is also the year a Pew Research Center report dubbed a “murder capital.”

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St. Louis’ current rising homicide rate comes at a time when there is citywide unrest due to recent protests for the demilitarization and defunding of police, which is the latest demand after the death of George Floyd and other unarmed African Americans – some of whom died in police custody.

FOX 2 Derrion Henderson contributed to this report.

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Mississippi gov awaits coronavirus test results after ‘numerous members’ of state House contract virus

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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Monday that he is awaiting the results of a coronavirus test after “numerous” members of the state’s House of Representatives tested positive for COVID-19 over the holiday weekend.

Reeves, a Republican, announced on Twitter that he was taking the precautionary measure after being in contact with one of the House members who tested positive – although the governor said he had only “briefly” met with the state lawmaker.

“I’m waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test,” Reeves tweeted. “It appears numerous members of the Mississippi House are confirmed to have contracted the virus last week—only one of whom I was briefly in contact with.”

Reeves did not name the House member that he was in contact with, nor did he address which members of the state legislature had confirmed cases, but House Speaker Philip Gunn said Sunday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on the same day that state health officials reported more than 200 new infections and five deaths linked to the pandemic.

Gunn, a Republican from the Jackson suburb of Clinton, said in a video posted to Facebook that he got tested because he had been in close proximity to another member of the House who tested positive.

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Gunn said he called everyone that he had been in close proximity to recently to let them know of his diagnosis and he planned to self-quarantine. He also called on the state’s residents to do the same if they find out they’re infected: “We need to make sure that we do everything we can to get this past us as quickly as possible.”

Gunn is the state’s highest-ranking political figure to publicly disclose a positive test for the coronavirus. He did not identify the other House member.

The legislature is out of session now but had been meeting several days a week during the past month. While some legislators or others at the Capitol wore masks, many others did not while sitting in close proximity in the House and Senate floor and in committee rooms.

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The Mississippi Department of Health posted its latest coronavirus statistics Sunday. The state recorded 226 new cases through Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable infections to 30,900 across the state. Five more people also died from COVID-19. The deaths came in Harrison, Hinds, Lawrence, Lowndes and Walthall counties.

One other legislator has reported testing positive for the virus as well. Democratic Rep. Bo Brown of Jackson told the Clarion Ledger on Thursday that he had received a positive test result for COVID-19. Brown, 70, told the Ledger he took a test about a week earlier because he was feeling a little unsteady and weak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court Justices Rule States Can Bind Presidential Electors’ Votes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College.

The ruling, just under four months before the 2020 election, leaves in place laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia that bind electors to vote for the popular-vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway.

So-called faithless electors have not been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a race decided by just a few electoral votes. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that a state may instruct “electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution — as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule.”

The justices had scheduled arguments for the spring so they could resolve the issue before the election, rather than amid a potential political crisis after the country votes.

When the court heard arguments by telephone in May because of the coronavirus outbreak, justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos if electors could cast their ballots regardless of the popular vote outcome in their states.

The issue arose in lawsuits filed by three Hillary Clinton electors in Washington state and one in Colorado who refused to vote for her despite her popular vote win in both states. In so doing, they hoped to persuade enough electors in states won by Donald Trump to choose someone else and deny Trump the presidency.

The federal appeals court in Denver ruled that electors can vote as they please, rejecting arguments that they must choose the popular-vote winner. In Washington, the state Supreme Court upheld a $1,000 fine against the three electors and rejected their claims.

In all, there were 10 faithless electors in 2016, including a fourth in Washington, a Democratic elector in Hawaii and two Republican electors in Texas. In addition, Democratic electors who said they would not vote for Clinton were replaced in Maine and Minnesota.

The closest Electoral College margin in recent years was in 2000, when Republican George W. Bush received 271 votes to 266 for Democrat Al Gore. One elector from Washington, D.C., left her ballot blank.

The Supreme Court played a decisive role in that election, ending a recount in Florida, where Bush held a 537-vote margin out of 6 million ballots cast.

The justices scheduled separate arguments in the Washington and Colorado cases after Justice Sonia Sotomayor belatedly removed herself from the Colorado case because she knows one of the plaintiffs.

In asking the Supreme Court to rule that states can require electors to vote for the state winner, Colorado had urged the justices not to wait until “the heat of a close presidential election.”

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As the Virus Surged, Florida Partied. Tracking the Revelers Has Been Tough.

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“We failed to act,” she said.

The socializing that followed Florida’s rapid economic reopening has left the state reeling from the virus. The Department of Health reported more than 11,400 infections on Saturday, a record. Florida cases made up 20 percent of all U.S. cases on Thursday. Patients with Covid-19 have begun to fill up Florida hospital wards, forcing some hospitals to scrap elective surgeries, as they did early on in the pandemic. More than 3,600 people have died, including an 11-year-old boy.

Desperate local officials have adopted local mask requirements and closed the beaches over the long holiday weekend. Some communities were deploying teams to go door-to-door in the hardest hit neighborhoods, distributing masks, hand sanitizers and fliers with information on coronavirus symptoms and testing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, insisted there would be no new shutdown, but a piecemeal rollback is still underway: The state banned drinking at bars. Miami-Dade County ordered entertainment venues to close again and imposed a curfew

“If everyone is enjoying life but doing it responsibly, we’re going to be fine,” Mr. DeSantis said on Thursday in Tampa after a visit from Vice President Mike Pence.

The Florida Department of Health has about 1,600 students, epidemiologists and other staff doing contact tracing, and it has hired a contractor to bring on 600 more people, for a total of 2,200. That is about a third of the roughly 6,400 tracers that will be needed to meet the target of 30 tracers per 100,000 people recommended by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

With so much community spread, trying to trace the contacts of every positive case becomes unrealistic, several public health officials said.

“We may have to change the priorities on tracing as the numbers continue to increase, because at some point it is like drinking out of a fire hose,” said Dr. Raul Pino, the health department officer in Orlando.

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