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Tyra Banks replaces Tom Bergeron, Erin Andrews as host


Derek Hough talks to USA TODAY’s Bryan Alexander about how quarantine is going with he and his girlfriend, fellow professional dancer Hayley Erbert.


Supermodel and businesswoman Tyra Banks will be the new host of “Dancing With the Stars,” the ABC reality dance competition revealed Tuesday, one day after announcing it was parting ways with current hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews.

“I’ve been a fan of ‘DWTS’ since its beginning,” Banks 46, said in a statement released by ABC and production group BBC Studios. “The fun mixed with raw emotion, seeing celebrities push past their comfort zones, the sizzling dance performances. It’s always transported me to my days of turning it up 10 notches on the catwalk.”

Banks, who will serve as an executive producer of the show when it starts its 29th season in the fall, paid respect to the beloved veteran Bergeron, who has been with the show for all of its 28 seasons and has earned 11 Emmy nominations, winning one.

“Tom has set a powerful stage, and I’m excited to continue the legacy,” said Banks.

Hosts Tom Bergeron, Erin Andrews: Will be replaced on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Bergeron tweeted Monday that he had been informed the show would be “continuing without me.”

“It’s been an incredible 15 year run and the most unexpected gift of my career,” Bergeron wrote. “I’m grateful for that and for the lifelong friendships made. That said, now what am I supposed to do with all of these glitter masks?”

Andrews, the one-time contestant who has co-hosted since 2014, also tweeted a farewell Tuesday, saying, “I will always cherish my days on the set, even if I wasn’t the best at walking in heels.”

Show executives honored the passing of the host torch.

“Tom has been an integral part of the ABC family for nearly two decades,” said Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment in the statement. “We are grateful for all he and Erin have done to make ‘Dancing’ a success. As we gear up for the show’s 29th season, we can’t wait to welcome Tyra Banks to our ‘Dancing’ stage.” 


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Mary Trump says Donald Trump is ‘utterly incapable’ of being president


President Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, will release her tell-all-book on July 14. Here are some of the most notable excerpts.


In an interview on the day her much-anticipated book excoriating President Donald Trump was released, Mary Trump had one word of advice for her uncle: “Resign.”

Mary Trump, speaking about “Too Much and Never Enough” one day after a judge lifted a gag order, offered a simple message about President Trump, her uncle, in response to a question by ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“He is utterly incapable of leading this country. And it’s dangerous to allow him to do so,” she said during a clip broadcast Tuesday on ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir,” adding that her conclusion is based on what she’s seen of Donald Trump over “my entire adult life.” 

In an ABC News story highlighting other parts of the interview, Trump, whose book already is on best-seller lists, offered an assessment of how dangerous behaviors cultivated before her uncle became president have flowered during his time in the White House.

“I saw first-hand what focusing on the wrong things, elevating the wrong people, can do – the collateral damage that can be created by allowing somebody to live their lives without accountability,” Trump told Stephanopoulos. “And it is striking to see that continuing now on a much grander scale.”

Trump analysis: Mary L. Trump’s new book almost turns The Donald into a sympathetic figure

The highlights released on “World News Tonight,” in an ABC News clip and in the ABC News story largely reflect earlier discussion of the book, whose unflattering descriptions of the Trump family and the president have been the subject of many stories by journalists who received advance copies.

In the Stephanopoulos interview, which also will be featured Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trump described an Oval Office encounter with her uncle just months after the start of his presidential term.

“He already seemed very strained by the pressures. He’d never been in a situation before where he wasn’t entirely protected from criticism or accountability,” said Trump, whose father, Fred Trump Jr., died in 1981. “And I just remember thinking, ‘He seems tired. He seems like this is not what he signed up for, if he even knows what he signed up for.”

She also remembers President Trump saying, “They won’t get me,” during that April 2017 visit. “And, so far, it looks like he’s right,” she added.

The author relies on her memories, first-hand observations and various documents for the book, which survived a legal effort by Robert Trump, her uncle and President Trump’s younger brother, to keep it from being released.

In the interview, Trump, a psychologist, also discussed Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father and a huge influence, calling him “a sociopath.’

“He was incredibly driven in a way that turned other people, including his children (and) wife, into pawns to be used to his own ends,” Trump said. “It’s impossible to know who Donald might have been under different circumstances and with different parents. But clearly he learned the lesson.”

More: ‘Far beyond garden-variety narcissism.’ Book by Trump’s niece paints him as habitual liar, inept businessman

The White House on Tuesday referred ABC News to its previous statements about the book. The White House previously said: “Mary Trump and her book’s publisher may claim to be acting in the public interest, but this book is clearly in the author’s own financial self-interest.”

“President Trump has been in office for over three years working on behalf of the American people – why speak out now? The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child,” the statement continued.

As of Monday, publisher Simon & Schuster had shipped more than 600,000 copies of the book, subtitled “How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” to bookstores across the country.


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Moderna’s COVID vaccine candidate appears safe, effective data shows


Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A candidate vaccine against COVID-19 developed by the federal government and Moderna, Inc., appears to be safe and to trigger an immune response, according to data released Tuesday from an early phase trial.

But whether that immune response is enough to protect someone from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 remains unclear, according to several experts who reviewed the results.

Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks said although the protective effect of their vaccine can’t technically be known yet, all indications are that mRNA-1273 will be both safe and effective.

“It’s a good day for us,” Zaks said. 

Zaks said the levels of protective antibodies produced by the trial participants were similar to those found in patients who had recovered from COVID-19, suggesting that the candidate vaccine provides the same protection as an infection. Animal studies also show that mRNA-1273 can protect mice against infection, he said, and trials in primates and Syrian hamsters are underway.

Additionally, the mRNA-1273 candidate did not generate a kind of immune cell that with other diseases has made vaccinated people worse off, Zaks said. 

The clinical trial was led by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health. The experimental vaccine is being created at lightning speed. On March 16, just two months after Chinese scientists revealed the virus’s genetic sequence, a volunteer in Seattle was injected. That set a record for getting a new candidate vaccine into human trials.

In the trial, 45 participants were divided in three groups, with one receiving a high dose, one a medium dose and one a low dose. Each got two shots, a month apart.

All the reactions in the two lower dose groups were mild, with more than half suffering minor fatigue, chills, headache or muscle pain, as is typical with vaccines. Three of those who received the highest dose had a severe reaction after the second shot, according to the study, including one participant who spiked a fever of 103.

The highest dose, 250-micrograms, has been dropped from later stage trials, and only the 100-microgram dose will be proposed for use in people.

All the participants showed evidence of an immune reaction, which is the goal of immunization. But COVID-19 is so new it’s not clear how much of an immune reaction will be needed to protect against infection.

“It looks like their vaccine was able to induce virus neutralizing antibody, which is positive,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “But it’s hard to know if the level of virus neutralizing antibody will be sufficient to induce protective immunity, or if it compares favorably with other (vaccine) candidates.” 

“These are good results,” said Dr. Nadine Rouphael, who helped lead the trial at Emory University School of Medicine.

But she agreed with Hotez that it’s too early to know whether the vaccine will be protective. Neutralizing antibodies are known to be key for fighting other infections, she said, but there are still a lot of open questions about COVID-19. 

“How long will they stay, what’s the right level of protection remains to be determined,” she said on a Tuesday call with media.

Learning whether the vaccine is protective will require a much larger study. A so-called Phase 3 trial with 30,000 participants is slated to begin on July 27, Zak confirmed.

One challenge, Rouphael said, will be to find trial participants who naturally catch COVID-19. With trials for a Zika vaccine, for instance, the disease was brought under control and it was very difficult to determine if the vaccine was protective, because no one was catching it, she said.

Thousands of people volunteered for the small Phase 1 trial, Rouphael said, adding that she hopes people will continue to sign up for the research.

The novel coronavirus works by invading human cells and then forcing them to reproduce the virus in high volumes. One way to stop the disease could be to get the body to produce antibodies in advance that would prevent the virus from penetrating cells. While the results so far show people injected are producing antibodies, it’s still not known if that protects them from getting sick.

Moderna relies on a technology that the company has compared to digitizing vaccines. Rather than injecting someone with a weakened or dead virus, Moderna uses genetic material to trick the body into producing the critical antibodies before a person gets infected. Moderna was founded in 2011, but so far it has not successfully produced a vaccine.

The company, which went public in 2018, will join the NASDAQ-100, which includes the 100 largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market, based on market capitalization, the company announced Tuesday

Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said it isn’t easy to understand what’s going on in the immune system after vaccinations. Offit helped develop a vaccine against rotavirus, testing it in 35,000 infants and getting blood samples from all of them.

The vaccine ended up working in most babies, he said, but even with so many blood samples, researchers never could figure out what was different about the immune systems of those babies who didn’t get protection. “You’d think we’d be able to say here’s why they weren’t protected,” he said, but “we couldn’t find an immune correlate.”

The goal is to have a vaccine ready in limited batches by January, or at a minimum as late as next summer. There is no way to tell at this point whether either of those timetables are feasible. Historically, vaccines often take many years to develop.

Contact Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty as Jeffrey Epstein’s accomplice


Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested as part of the continuing federal inquiry into the child sex trafficking.


A federal judge ordered Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, held without bond Tuesday after the British socialite pleaded not guilty to charges that she helped procure young victims for the disgraced financier’s child sex trafficking operation that began more than 25 years ago.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said Maxwell posed “a substantial risk of flight” given her considerable wealth, international connections and the charges against her, noting that she faced a maximum of 35 years in prison, if convicted. 

Even electronic monitoring and the posting of private security guards would be “insufficient,” Nathan said. “The risk of flight is too great.”

Nathan set a trial date of July 12, 2021, meaning that Maxwell is likely to spend at least the next year in a New York federal detention center.  

Maxwell’s arraignment in a Manhattan federal court, staged by video conference amid the threat of the persistent coronavirus, marked her first formal response to the criminal charges lodged against her this month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe argued that at the time of her arrest Maxwell was “living in hiding” on a large estate in New Hampshire, posing “serious concerns that the defendant would flee if afforded the opportunity.”

“There are serious concerns here,” Moe told the judge.

Lawyers for the 58-year-old defendant had argued for her release on a $5 million bond, secured by properties in the U.S. and Great Britain. Attorney Mark Cohen suggested that his client had not sought to leave the country despite the government’s ongoing investigation. He also indicated that prosecutors had had exaggerated Maxwell’s wealth.

Cohen said Maxwell’s continued confinement would also restrict her ability to assist her lawyers in preparing a defense.

“The government has not made a required showing of an actual flight risk,” the attorney said.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, had cast Maxwell’s proposed bail proposal as “little more than an unsecured bond” because some of the the property Maxwell was pledging as collateral is outside American jurisdiction and “therefore is of no value.”

Maxwell was arrested and charged this month, nearly a year after Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial in a New York federal detention center.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted Maxwell on perjury and conspiracy charges that accuse her of helping Epstein “recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims” between 1994 and 1997. Both allegedly knew the victims were under age 18 and as young as 14.

Victim steps forward: Days after Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest, Epstein accuser demands investigation into sexual battery allegation

Since the arrest, investigators have talked to more witnesses who want to provide information about Maxwell. “The Government is in the process of receiving and reviewing this additional evidence, which has the potential to make the Government’s case even stronger,” prosecutors said.

In court filings ahead of Tuesday’s bail hearing, prosecutors reasserted their claim that Maxwell represented a serious flight risk, citing her vast financial resources and citizenship in multiple countries. They said Maxwell has a track record of living in hiding and has not been forthcoming about details of her wealth, which they said would reveal her financial means to escape.

Prosecutors also revealed new information about Maxwell’s arrest on July 2 at a remote New Hampshire property, which they said was guarded by former members of the British military hired by Maxwell’s brother.

More: Federal officials seek interview with Prince Andrew as part of Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case

“As the agents approached the front door of the main house, they announced themselves as FBI agents and directed the defendant to open the door. Through a window, the agents saw the defendant ignore the direction to open the door and, instead, try to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her,” prosecutors wrote.

Agents later found Maxwell in one of the rooms. They also found a cellphone wrapped in foil, “a seemingly misguided attempt to evade detection.”

More: After Jeffrey Epstein suicide, Bureau of Prisons tells guards: Stop surfing the web and watch inmates

Contributing: Kristine Phillips and Associated Press

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Reta Mays facing murder charges for Clarksburg deaths


George Nelson Shaw Sr. died at a VA hospital in West Virginia in 2018. His death was ruled a homicide by an Armed Forces medical examiner. It’s one of 10 deaths under investigation by authorities.


WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors say a former nursing assistant killed seven veterans in West Virginia by injecting them with lethal doses of insulin, causing their blood sugar levels to drop to dangerously low levels.

Reta Mays, a former employee at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in rural Clarksburg, is facing seven second-degree murder charges and one count of assault with intent to commit murder, according to charging documents unsealed Tuesday. 

Mays is scheduled for a plea hearing Tuesday afternoon. Her attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development comes about two years after a criminal investigation into suspicious deaths of 10 veterans at the hospital began. All patients were elderly veterans staying in in the hospital’s surgical unit, known as Ward 3A. All suffered unexplained drops in their blood sugar levels.

‘I trusted those people’: Red flags missed, limiting evidence in potential serial killer case at VA hospital

A string of suspicious deaths: What we know about veterans who died at the Clarksburg VA

Federal prosecutors tied Mays, who began working at the hospital five years ago and was assigned to work the night shift at Ward 3A, to seven deaths in 2017 and 2018. As a nursing assistant, Mays was responsible for, among other things, checking vital signs, testing patients’ blood sugar levels, but was not qualified to administer medication, including insulin. 

She was fired in July 2018.

USA TODAY reported in October that hospital staff missed opportunities to figure out what was happening, which may have risked veterans’ lives and limited evidence in the probe. The hospital didn’t adequately track insulin, and there were no surveillance cameras on the ward, according to employees. 

By the time a doctor alerted hospital supervisors of the deaths in June 2018, at least eight patients had died under suspicious circumstances. Several had been embalmed and buried, destroying potential evidence. Many of the bodies had to be exhumed for a medical examiner to perform autopsies. One veteran had been cremated.

The investigation drew the interest of Attorney General William Barr after it became public last year that two of the deaths had been ruled homicides. 

Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, and George Nelson Shaw, Sr., 81, died in April 2018. The Army Forces medical examiner ruled that both men died by homicide by insulin injection.

Other deaths have been ruled “undetermined.” Some were not diabetic, while others had Type 2 diabetes but were either not prescribed insulin or needed only a small dose. 

The other victims are Archie Edgell, 84, Robert Edge, Sr., Robert Kozul, Raymond Golden and one identified in charging documents as W.A.H. USA TODAY reported last year that William Alfred Holloway, 96, died after suffering severe hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar levels plummet. 

Three deaths in three days: Veterans died at a VA hospital under the same suspicious circumstances. What happened?

The men died within months, sometimes days, of each other.

Court records say Mays attempted to kill another veteran, identified in court records as R.R.P., by injecting him with insulin. 

One veteran, John Hallman, 87, was cremated, although his daughter said his medical records showed his level of insulin spiked before he died.

Contributing: Donovan Slack and Kevin Johnson

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People with disabilities protest discrimination by doctors, police


While the nursing homes have been getting most of the headlines, the coronavirus has been ravaging another vulnerable group: the developmentally disabled. Neil Sullivan says people like his brother Joe are the “marginalized” of the marginalized. (June 11)

AP Domestic

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Pride Month. But that’s not why people are marching. 

Disability rights advocates in Austin, Texas, protested the care and treatment of 46-year-old Michael Hickson, a quadriplegic Black man who died of COVID-19, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Doctors determined Hickson could not be saved after his organs began to fail, but advocates argued that his life was devalued due to racism and ableism. The Texas Americans with Disabilities Action Planning Team (ADAPT) called for an investigation into Hickson’s death.

Families protested in Rockland County, New York, against state restrictions limiting visitations to their developmentally-disabled relatives in group homes out of coronavirus fears, a local CBS affiliate reported. Most of the demonstrators were the parents of minor children.

Advocates in Tennessee lobbied the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights to force the state to change its COVID-19 response plan. Health care workers can no longer prioritize younger patients without disabilities over older, disabled patients, Bloomberg Law reported. Conditions that allowed for health workers to exclude people with disabilities from care based on their diagnosis were also eliminated from the plan.

Last week, a disability rights group sued the New Hampshire state department, claiming that its absentee ballot system could hurt voters who are blind.

Those disputes and protests followed after another month of protesting — like that of hundreds of thousands of other Americans — against police brutality and discrimination, an issue that greatly impacts people with disabilities.

“Folks with non-apparent disabilities are especially vulnerable to police violence, especially if they’re racially marginalized,” said Reyma McDeid, co-chair of the National Council on Independent Living’s Anti-Racism and Equity Taskforce. “It impacts your ability to interact with a police officer.”

For instance, in 2018, Marcus-David Peters was shot by a Richmond, Virginia, police officer during an apparent psychiatric episode. In 2010, a Seattle police officer shot and killed a Native American man for not dropping his woodcarving knife — the man was partly deaf.

About one-third of people killed by the police have a mental or physical disability, McDeid said. A Washington Post tally found nearly a quarter of those shot and killed by police had a mental illness.

Six years ago, Dontre Hamilton, was one such person. Hamilton, who had schizophrenia, was shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer who had not received any specialized training on interacting with people with mental illness. After George Floyd’s death, people of color with disabilities were inspired to march for Hamilton and othersThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported


Antines Davis teaches a group of Milwaukee protesters how to sign Black Lives Matter in ASL


Atines Davis, who flew in from Maryland for the protest, taught the crowd how to sign “Black Lives Matter” in American Sign Language. 

“Sign His Name” instead of “Say His Name” broke out at a Washington, D.C., protest against police brutality organized by the National Alliance of Multicultural Disabled Advocates.

And in Delaware, protesters marched in June for Jeremy “Bam” McDole, a Black man in a wheelchair who was killed by police in 2015, who shot him within two seconds of asking him to drop his gun. 

Police are “deliberately obtuse in refusing to understand the danger that they place Black and brown and other multiply-marginalized disabled people in,” said Lydia X. Z. Brown, an adjunct lecturer in Disability Studies at Georgetown University. “Many of my friends and comrades in the Black disabled community, regardless of the type of disability, faced some of the most intense and horrific harassment from police.” 

Such experiences with police can  foster distrust, which can lead to underreporting crimes against people with disabilities.

‘That person is a target’

A 2019 study conducted by the anti-street harassment non-profit Stop Street Harassment also found that people with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual harassment and assault. People with disabilities were the victims of sexual or aggravated assault, robbery and rape at the twice the rate of people without disabilities, according to a 2017 summary released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

One in five surveyed believed their disability made them a target.

“Clearly people can tell by interacting with me or observing me that I’m not … normal by ableist definitions of normal, even if they wouldn’t know the specific language to use. But many people would think, ‘that person is a target,’” said Brown, who has autism and survived a near-sexual assault.

In a Washington, D.C., survey of people with disabilities who experienced harassment, only 12% said they filed a police report. Distrust of police was one reason why, according to a report by the D.C. Office of Human Rights. The office also found that people with disabilities are publicly targeted for harassment more often than any other marginalized group aside from immigrants. 

Noor Pervez, 24, who uses a wheelchair, says he has been physically harassed while waiting for the Metrobus in Washington.

“Out of nowhere, this lady comes up to me and starts hitting me with a pamphlet,” he said. The woman seemed agitated and muttered the word “wheelchair” while hitting him, Pervez added. No bystanders intervened.

Pervez chose to reach out to the anti-harassment nonprofit Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) instead of transit police. 

Attorney Albert Elia, who is blind, was harassed and threatened by a man for bumping into him while boarding a crowded Metro car with his service dog in 2018.

“I would accidentally bump into somebody and … they would not just get offended; they would shove me back. I have been pushed; I’ve been [punched], particularly on the Metro.” he said. “I would say that in the four years I lived in D.C., it happened half a dozen times.”

A commuter for over 20 years, Elia said his worst experiences with harassment occurred in D.C.

“Oftentimes, people with disabilities are harassed or mistreated, especially when trying to access transportation,” said Stephanie Franklin, the Office of Human Rights communications director. 

Because of this, some advocates were frustrated when Washington, D.C. passed a landmark anti-street harassment bill in 2018 without naming people with disabilities.

“It has symbolic importance, to name a particular community explicitly,” Brown said.

While it’s too late to amend the Street Harassment Prevention Act, an advisory committee is actively seeking a non-voting representative from the disabled community, Franklin said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if [City Council] and other people responsible for thinking through who is most vulnerable to street harassment aren’t thinking about marginalized disabled people,” Brown said. “They may associate disability only with white people who hold the most privilege and are not likely to be harassed.”

Meanwhile, implementing the act is taking longer than planned. The deadline to establish a reporting process, public awareness training and other suggested policies for the two-year-old law is September 30, but the City Council reorganized its priorities due to COVID-19. A representative for the Office of the Budget Director said $500,000 was allotted for the act, but funding may also be limited or delayed.

“We anticipate that, as the city continues to respond to the public health emergency, the implementation of the recommendations will be delayed until budgets for the rest of 2020 and fiscal year 2021 have been finalized and approved,” said Maya Vizvary, a program analyst on the Street Harassment Prevention Act.

Je’Kendria Trahan, CASS executive director, represents the nonprofit on the city council advisory committee as a non-voting member because she is not a D.C. resident.

Trahan, who is a Black person with a disability, says she prefers ride-sharing services to the Metro due to prior incidents of harassment and assault.

“We can pour resources into additional programming for communities … I think that’s the way to decrease the incidents of harassment,” Trahan said. “Or shift the culture around how we address harassment.” 


Jeanne Behm is deaf and comes from a mostly deaf family. She tells her story about growing up with the disability and the difficulties she overcame.


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LGBTQ people of color are transforming lives in the South


LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the U.S. But the community still faces threats in the form of legalization, discrimination and even violence.


For the LGBTQ community, the South is known as a region that often hangs an unwelcome sign on its door.

A report out Tuesday  reveals an eye-opening fact: Nearly one in three LGBTQ people, or 32%, call the South their home. And the area is transforming, led by LGBTQ Southerners of color who are devising unique ways to build communities and uplift lives.

The report by the Movement Advancement Project, the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Equality Federation documents the striking numbers – 93% of LGBTQ Southerners live in states with low or negative equality rankings – with the work of groups navigating around rigid policies, entrenched attitudes and scant statewide protections.

“There are issues of urgent need,” said Logan Casey, MAP policy researcher. “Economic insecurity, health issues, access to health care, housing …. Basic human needs that can’t always wait for the government process. In many cases, these are LGBTQ people of color taking care of each other. It’s not surprising they will take care of one another when government doesn’t.”

The numbers:

• About 3.6 million LGBTQ adults, including over 525,000 transgender adults, live in the South, more than any other region in the U.S.

• More than 40% of LGBTQ people in the South are people of color: 22% are Black; 16% are Latino.

Pride and racial equality: LGBTQ groups seek ‘to stand in solidarity with the black community’

The report shows that “LGBTQ people are everywhere. They permeate the American fabric and that includes the South,” MAP Executive Director Ineke Mushovic said. “LGBTQ Southerners have shown extra resilience. They are thinking differently about how to make change happen.”

The barriers LGBTQ people face in the South are well-documented in the report: There are higher rates of harassment, violence and unemployment.


A new project is documenting the history of LGBTQ people in the Deep South, a region that once all but forced gays, lesbians and others to live in hiding. (Aug. 20)

Eight Southern states have targeted religious exemption laws that allow businesses and service providers to refuse to serve people if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs.

LGBTQ people of color can face layered barbs of bias. For example, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience discrimination because of their identity when interacting with police, the report shows.

While 23% of all LGBTQ Southerners have personally experienced physical violence related to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, that number rises to 33% among Black LGBTQ Southerners. 

How to be an ally: Pride Month is over, but the work isn’t. 5 ways you can be an ally to the Black LGBTQ+ community

“It is a microcosm of what we are seeing in America as a whole. Racism is real, LGBTQ discrimination is real,” Mushovic said. ”If you are an LGBTQ person of color you are living in two ways that allow people to discriminate against you.”

That is where the work of groups led by activists of color comes into play, Casey said. “They are inherently doing work that is racial justice work and LGBTQ equality work.”

Taking on HIV, health and wellness

Zakia McKensey is the founder and executive director of one of those groups, the Nationz Foundation in Richmond, Virginia, which targets HIV prevention and health and wellness issues for the LGBTQ community.

“Our clients face discrimination in housing, some are near homelessness,  some have substance abuse or mental health issues,” McKensey said. “You are dealing with all of these things, and if you aren’t affirmed in your identity, how can you take responsibility for your health? We are trying to deal with the small things so they can be healthier and sustain themselves.”

There are an array of programs from support groups for transgender people and people living with HIV to a text line service and a computer lab.

McKensey is especially proud of a mobile testing unit and pantry, which travels the region offering food, free HIV testing and other health materials.

The group is also working to erase stigmas still haunting those with HIV, she said, by reaching out to pastors and ministers. “When we think of folks who are African American, messages out of church shape the way people think. When that narrative changes, it changes that stigma.”

‘Care today; dismissal tomorrow’: LGBTQ health workers on the front lines as Supreme Court weighs job protections

McKensey, a Richmond native and longtime activist, has been lobbying for years before Virginia’s General Assembly. Those efforts along with others came to fruition this spring with the passage of a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and credit applications.

“To see these laws passed was like a holiday,” she said. “I felt recharged.”

Casey said it could be easy to chalk up this first for the South as a partisan victory. “But it’s the result of long years of work” by LGBTQ Southerners, particularly those of color. “They organized for years and built coalitions.”   

Building 20 homes for trans women

Kayla Gore, co-founder of My Sistah’s House in Memphis, Tennessee, recently launched a GoFundMe campaign called “20 Tiny Homes” for Black and brown transgender women. The idea, Gore said, was born in the desperation of the coronavirus pandemic when so many transgender women seeking services were testing positive and had few options for quarantines.   

Memphis has no shelters with dedicated spaces for LGBTQ people, and temporary space at My Sistah’s House, which provides housing and other services for trans and gender non-conforming people, was “at capacity,” she said. “It made us think: What can we do if this were to happen again? How can we be ready?”

The transgender housing campaign started with $400, but within a few days it hit $17,000. Now the fund is at $259,000 and still growing.

 The homes, each 400 to 500 square feet, are being built on 30 acres and will provide occupants permanent ownership. The first three are expected to be completed by December.

‘We are not drag queens’: For transgender people in 2019, a conflicted reality of breakthroughs, barriers

Gore is keenly aware of the daily threats transgender women of color face, particularly in a state such as Tennessee, which MAP has ranked as a “negative” equality state.  “My Blackness and my transness … That’s what I go into the world with every day – how all these identities could literally get me killed. And someone may not say my name after I die.”

Gore is hoping the state will see some transgender representation at the legislative level “so we can have change from the inside.”

But she thinks the tiny housing campaign has tapped into something inspirational in Memphis, and that is cause for joy. “People are just super excited to be part of something they know will actually make change.”

Targeting cash bail, pretrial detentions

In the South, rates of poverty and criminalization are high for LBGTQ people, the report shows, making the justice system – and cash bail – a key focus for some advocacy groups, such as Southerners On New Ground. SONG participates in the National Bail Out Collective, a Black-led coalition working to get people out of jail and end mass incarcerations.

Britney Nesbit, a SONG resource organizer from Charleston, South Carolina, is passionate about an annual event called Black Mama’s Bail Out Action, held on or around Mother’s Day to free Black mothers held in pretrial detention. SONG has bailed out as many as 100 moms in the past couple of years, Nesbit said. Beyond bailouts, “we go in and talk to folks when they are getting out of jail and see what they need” in terms of housing and other aid, she said.

SONG, founded in 1993, does multi-racial organizing and is highly intersectional, Nesbit said. It crafted the first-ever Southern, LGBTQ-led “organizing school” for small towns and rural areas. A “Free from Fear” campaign seeks to end racial profiling of people of color and LGBTQ Southerners. 

LGBTQ people in rural U.S.: Nearly 4 million LGBTQ people live in rural America, and ‘everything is not bias and awful’

“You could be a Black immigrant, a Black immigrant Muslim person, a Black Muslim queer person … there are so many layers,” Nesbit said. “Being part of SONG has opened up my eyes to how much variance exists.”

Reaching out, uplifting and including those who are marginalized drive SONG’s mission, Nesbit said.

“Unfortunately queer and trans people of color always find themselves at the bottom of all these places,” she said. “We are always constantly thinking who are the people who will have no representation and how can we fight for them.”

Follow Susan Miller on Twitter @susmiller.

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California restrictions; NY sends testing teams to Atlanta


Businesses and cities across the country are requiring people to wear masks, which some people say infringe upon their individual rights.


Much-needed pandemic help was on its way to Atlanta on Tuesday while Californians joined a lengthening list of Americans facing tighter restrictions in the face of the rapidly burgeoning coronavirus crisis.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a joint conference with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that his state would send testing and contact tracing teams to the city.

“Mayor Bottoms, we’ve been watching you and what you’ve been going through,” Cuomo told Bottoms. “Anything we can do for you, for the city, we stand ready.”

But Cuomo, lauded globally for efforts that flattened the curve in New York, was taking heat back home for his administration’s report that appeared to off-load blame for thousands of deaths at nursing homes in the state.

In California, Los Angeles and San Diego public schools announced they will begin the school year online-only. And Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered fitness centers, churches, malls and other public areas closed in 30 counties.

In Florida, experiencing nation’s biggest surge in new cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed expansion in testing. 

“We have to address the virus with steady resolve. We can’t get swept away in fear,” DeSantis said Monday at a news conference. “We have to understand what is going on, understand that we have a long road ahead.”

Some recent developments: 

  • The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a Mexican man died of COVID-19 in Florida.
  • California Gov. Newsom ordered statewide closures Monday, including indoor restaurant operations and all bars.
  • Hawaii extended its quarantine to Sept. 1, delaying its plan to allow out-of-state travelers to visit the island by one month.
  • Face masks are required in about 3,700 U.S. Walmart locations. The CEO says a national mask mandate is “something on our minds.”

📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has surpassed 3.3 million cases with over 135,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been 13.1 million cases and over 573,000 deaths.

📰 What we’re reading: Los Angeles and San Diego schools are going online-only in the fall. Will other districts’ reopening plans defy President Donald Trump and do the same?

Pandemic threatens shopping malls, ‘changing the face of America’

Just when many shopping malls had finally figured out how to adapt to the era of digital retail, the coronavirus pandemic is upending everything. Malls had turned to dining, entertainment, fitness and personal services – a pivot that was supposed to help them survive the Amazon age. But now they face mall anchor J.C. Penney struggling to avoid liquidation, smaller retailers closing or requesting rent relief, and venues like theaters still temporarily shut down due to COVID-19. The result: anywhere from 1 in 4 malls to 1 in 2 could go out of business altogether, analysts projected.

Half the nation’s malls could be shut down “if we can’t stop the bleeding,” Coresight  Research CEO Deborah Weinswig told USA TODAY. “That ends up changing the face of America.”

Nathan Bomey, Kelly Tyko

The soaring costs of elections: ‘We are holding a back sale for our democracy’

The coronavirus pandemic has tacked on hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs to this year’s election. Dozens of interviews with local election clerks, state officials and advocates by USA TODAY Network, Columbia Journalism Investigations and the PBS series FRONTLINE reveal the country’s patchwork election system is fraying. And a proposal to provide states an additional $3.6 billion in federal money to support cratering election budgets has yet to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. One Chicago nonprofit donated $6.3 million to five Wisconsin cities to help with their elections costs.

“Local jurisdictions are literally relying on philanthropy to help pull off this election,” said Nathaniel Persily, an election law professor with Stanford Law School. “It’s like we are holding a bake sale for our democracy.”

– Pat Beall, Catharina Felke and Elizabeth Mulvey, USA TODAY Network and Columbia Journalism Investigations

Cuomo takes heat after state report on nursing home deaths

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended a state Health Department report that declined to blame thousands of nursing home deaths on a controversial Cuomo administration directive requiring facilities to take in COVID-19 patients. The report instead suggested workers and possibly visitors unwittingly spread the virus.

Cuomo said “ugly politics” were behind “this political conspiracy that the deaths in nursing homes were preventable.” Some experts are less certain. Charlene Harrington, a professor emerita of nursing and sociology at the University of California at San Francisco, said it appeared the “Department of Health is trying to justify what was an untenable policy.”

The Health Department, early in the crisis, had ordered nursing homes to admit “medically stable” coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals that were overwhelmed by patients. More than 6,000 nursing home residents died. ProPublica reported that New York’s nursing homes suffered a larger percentage of deaths relative to its total nursing home population than several states that did not have such a policy.


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Third immigrant in ICE custody dies of COVID-19

A Mexican man being held in U.S. immigration custody in Florida died shortly after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Monday

Onoval Perez-Montufa, 51, died Sunday afternoon at a Palm Beach County hospital, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement news release. He had tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2 at the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, which is west of Lake Okeechobee. Medical staff at the facility began treating him a day earlier after he complained of shortness of breath.

Perez-Montufa initially entered ICE custody June 15 following his release from federal prison in Massachusetts, where he had served 12 years for cocaine distribution. He was in ICE custody pending his removal to Mexico.

A Salvadoran man died in May after testing positive for coronavirus at a San Diego, California, ICE facility. A Guatemala man died later that month at a Lumpkin, Georgia, facility.

Trump responds to question about Arizona teacher who died: ‘Schools should be opened’

In a news conference Monday, President Donald Trump was asked about Kimberly Lopez Chavez Byrd, an Arizona teacher who died after teaching a summer school class. Trump responded by saying schools should reopen. 

Byrd’s summer school class was virtual, but she and two other teachers in the Hayden-Winkelman School District shared a classroom while they taught. All three teachers contracted COVID-19. Byrd died after she was admitted to the hospital. 

In Monday’s briefing, a reporter asked Trump, “What do you tell parents, who look at this, who look at Arizona where a school teacher recently died teaching summer school, parents who are worried about the safety of their children in public schools?”

The president did not address Byrd’s death. He responded, “Schools should be opened. Schools should be opened. Those kids want to go to school. You’re losing a lot of lives by keeping things closed. We saved millions of lives while we did the initial closure.” 

– Lily Altavena, Arizona Republic

Will Florida schools reopen?: COVID-19 separated this school board member from her preemie. She plans to vote against reopening.


COVID survivors’ main symptoms can linger for weeks or even months, causing pain, trouble breathing, nightmares and even organ failure.


New York to deploy COVID-19 testing and contact tracing teams to Atlanta

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will send testing and contact tracing teams to Atlanta as the city’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“Mayor Bottoms, we’ve been watching you and what you’ve been going through,” Cuomo told Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a joint video conference Monday. “Anything we can do for you, for the city, we stand ready.”

Bottoms responded: “Thank you Governor, and that’s exactly what we need assistance with. Testing that gets people results very quickly, and also the contact tracing because we know that’s extremely important for us to help slow the spread.”

New York was once the nation’s epicenter of the pandemic. On Sunday, New York City health officials reported that no one died from the virus in the city on July 11. Gov. Cuomo said Monday that air travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 must provide their local contact information or face a penalty of up to $2,000.

Hawaii extends its quarantine until Sept. 1

Hawaii is delaying its plan to allow out-of-state visitors to return to the vacation hot spot by a month due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the state and on the mainland U.S.

In late June, the governor’s office announced that travelers could visit Hawaii beginning Aug. 1, no quarantine required, by presenting a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding. Without one, passengers arriving from the mainland would have to strictly quarantine for 14 days, a policy in place since March that has scared away most tourists and decimated Hawaii’s tourism industry.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a news conference late Monday that the program won’t begin until Sept. 1, a decision he said was not taken lightly.  “We have always said that we will make decisions based on the health and safety of our community as the highest priority,” Ige said.

Dawn Gilbertson

Milwaukee proposes re-opening schools with online learning

Tens of thousands of students who attend Milwaukee public schools would start the school year online and gradually return to the classroom once the threat of the coronavirus has subsided, under a $90 million plan proposed by the administration on Monday. MPS school board members are expected to take up the proposal at a special board meeting Thursday.

The plan calls for students to return via virtual platforms on Aug. 17 or Sept. 1, depending on their school calendar. The online phase is projected to last 30 to 45 days, after which students would alternate two days in school and three online at home, and then fully return to classes once that was deemed safe.

“We would continue to monitor the health situation and the risk criteria … based on the number of positive cases and deaths,” said Marla Bronaugh, MPS’ chief communications and school performance officer.

Milwaukee County, which has had more than 14,000 cases and at least 359 deaths — most of those in the city of Milwaukee — has been deemed high-risk by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

– Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Oregon set to limit group gatherings

Oregon is set to ban indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and require people to wear face coverings outdoors, Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday. The two mandates go into effect Wednesday.

Starting Wednesday, face coverings will be required outdoors if they cannot remain 6 feet apart from others or if they are with people that they don’t live with. The social gathering limit does not apply to churches and businesses, Brown said.

No changes to SEC football schedule as conference continues wait-and-see approach

The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided last week to nix their nonconference football games and limit member institutions a conference-only schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. The SEC is making no such move – at least as of now.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday the conference will continue to take a wait-and-see approach with hopes of having more information to make a decision later this month.

“It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis,” Sankey said. “In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”

– Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Walmart CEO says national face mask mandate is ‘something on our minds’

Could Walmart soon require shoppers nationwide to wear masks in all of its stores? The retail giant’s CEO Doug McMillon didn’t rule out the idea Monday during an interview on the Bloomberg’s online television show, “Leadership Live with David Rubenstein.”

McMillon said masks are currently required in about 3,700 of its more than 5,000 U.S. locations “where either governor or someone else has mandated it.”  

“We don’t currently, as we’re doing this interview, mandate that in our other stores but that’s obviously something that’s on our minds,” McMillon said.

More companies are making face coverings a requirement as viral videos of shoppers’ tirades and confrontations over being asked to wear them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly Tyko

Arizona sees record number of COVID-19 ICU patients

Arizona reported a record number of COVID-19 patients using ventilators and in ICU beds. The state Department of Health Services said 671 COVID-19 patients were on ventilators and 936 were in intensive care as of Sunday. Hospitals were hovering around 90% capacity as the state ranks first in the U.S. for new per capita cases over the past two weeks.

The state became one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots in May after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions. Last week, Ducey closed gyms and bars and capped restaurants at half of their capacity but declined to shut down indoor dining entirely or issue a statewide mandate on masks.

Ducey said the state will increase testing, with a focus on low-income areas of Phoenix as many people report difficulty finding tests. The state also is paying for a private lab to greatly increase its daily capacity as people have experienced waits of up to a week or more for test results.

Michigan partygoers test positive for COVID-19 after July 4th lake bash

Michigan health officials are calling for attendees of two Fourth of July parties to monitor themselves for symptoms after partygoers tested positive for COVID-19.

Several attendees of a Fourth of July party at Torch Lake Sandbar in northern Michigan tested positive for COVID-19, while more than 40 cases in Saline, Michigan, are linked to a holiday house party. 

The state health department is asking anyone who attended the party at Torch Lake to monitor themselves and seek testing if symptoms develop and self-quarantine. Because those who tested positive could not identify all potential contacts for exposure, the health department went public to alert those who attended the event.

“This situation reminds us of how important it is to take precautions such as avoiding large gatherings whenever possible especially without social distancing and masking,” Michigan health officer Lisa Peacock said in a statement.

– Meredith Spelbring, Detroit Free Press

More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY

Where a face mask is required: Many governors are instituting or renewing orders requiring people to wear face coverings in public as cases continue to rise. Is your state on the list? See it here

Coronavirus Watch: We have a few ways for you to stay informed. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here, and come together and share the latest information about the coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.

Where are states on reopening? Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See the list.

Contributing: The Associated Press


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