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WABE’s Week In Review: CDC’s New Mask Policy, A Gas Shortage And Water Wars Continue

Laura Parker, who covers climate change and ocean conservation for National Geographic, recently wrote, “Globally, 65 billion gloves are used every month. The tally for face masks is nearly twice that —129 billion a month. That translates into 3 million face masks used per minute.”
Laura Parker, who covers climate change and ocean conservation for National Geographic, recently wrote, “Globally, 65 billion gloves are used every month. The tally for face masks is nearly twice that —129 billion a month. That translates into 3 million face masks used per minute.”
Credit Apu Gomes / AFP via Getty Images

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that physical distancing requirements and masks were no longer necessary for those who are fully vaccinated.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Thursday.” We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

The updated recommendations come as the pandemic outlook continues to improve in the country and as evidence mounts that COVID-19 vaccines offer protection in real-world situations, according to Walensky.

The CDC is still encouraging prevention measures like masking and distancing for unvaccinated people.

Getting back to being a teenager… 

Tori Hood, an emergency room nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, gives 15-year-old Tristan Linscott her first COVID-19 vaccine dose at a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.
Tori Hood, an emergency room nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, gives 15-year-old Tristan Linscott her first COVID-19 vaccine dose at a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. CREDIT SAM WHITEHEAD / WABE

Federal regulators this week authorized the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between and 12 to 15 years old. And some of the kids at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park on Thursday, were to get the shots since it could help them return to their pre-pandemic life. 

Georgia immigrant detention center back under the microscope… 

Stewart Detention Center
Stewart Detention Center in southwest Georgia. CREDIT: DAVID GOLDMAN/AP

Those being held in a South Georgia immigrant detention center say the facility has not taken proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One detainee, who asked to be called Roberto as his immigration status is pending, told WABE’s Roxanne Scott he was in the Stewart Detention Center for less than a couple of months and he still caught COVID-19.

“I couldn’t breathe. I lost my sense of smell. My sense of taste. My chest was hurting,” said Roberto. “I felt like I was gonna get a heart attack. I was afraid to fall asleep.”

It took a long time for him to get to see the doctor, Roberto said. And he was given masks but inconsistently.

Roberto lost his residency status after a drug charge landed him in prison. After serving his time, he was detained by immigration officials.  His experience with COVID-19 at Stewart coincides with a new report by advocates about conditions at the facility during the pandemic.

The report from El Refugio cites the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate cleaning supplies and a lack of social distancing.

Stewart has had longstanding issues with medical neglect. And the head of El Refugio Amilcar Valencia said detainees were in genuine fear of dying while in detention.

The report is based on more than 400 calls to the organization’s hotline as well as letters from people detained there during the pandemic.

Officials have reported that four people have died at Stewart due to COVID-19.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative did not respond to specifics about Stewart. But said in a statement ICE ensures those in custody are safe.

As for Roberto, he believes his treatment in ICE custody was unjust. And he hopes that federal officials will investigate conditions at Stewart and so do advocates.

Cyber attack messes up Georgia company’s flow… 

Cars line up at a QuickTrip on May 11, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia. There is an expectation of a gasoline shortage in Georgia after Georgia-based gas company Colonial Pipeline reported a ransomware attack on May 7. CREDIT: MEGAN VARNER/GETTY IMAGES

The cyberattack that led Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline to shut down much of its operations over the past week has led to a shortage of gas in some parts of Georgia and across the southeastern U.S.

Colonial officials say it continues to make progress in fully restoring its pipeline operations and get fuel to areas of the east coast and south that have seen shortages. Runs on gasoline followed.

Meanwhile, multiple sources reported Colonial paid the criminals nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency for a software decryption key to unscramble their network.

Despite SCOTUS ruling, Water Wars rage on… 

Lowered water levels at Lake Lanier during the 2017 drought. CREDIT: MOLLY SAMUEL/WABE

Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been arguing for decades over water. Florida and Alabama accuse Georgia of using too much of it.

Even now that a major case in the 30-year fight ended earlier this year, with the U.S. Supreme Court siding with Georgia, the disagreements are far from resolved.

Get more on our tri-state collaboration here.