Rose Garden event suspected of virus outbreak alarms D.C. health officials

The D.C. regulations do not cover federal property, meaning the White House was technically exempt, but the fallout has left city officials scrambling over how to respond. For now, they have deferred to the Trump administration for contact tracing efforts to contain the transmission of a disease that has killed more than 208,000 Americans.

Experts said contact tracing for an event with more than 150 people — who were on hand in the Rose Garden as Trump introduced his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett — would be extraordinarily difficult. Seven people besides Trump who were there have tested positive in recent days: first lady Melania Trump, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and an unnamed journalist.

It is not known how many others in the crowd have been tested, contracted the virus or begun to self-quarantine in Washington or in other cities. Hope Hicks, a senior White House aide, also has tested positive, though it is not known if she attended the Rose Garden event. Her case raises the possibility that the virus spread through the White House afterward, and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has said more positive tests among White House staff are likely.

The uncertainty comes at a crucial moment for the city, which has fared better than most states in controlling the virus, averaging about five new daily cases per 100,000 residents. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has said it is safe to begin partially reopening the city’s 51,000-student public school system in November, and she is expected to make a decision in the coming days after tussling with the teachers union about safety plans.

A local resurgence of cases could disrupt those plans.

“It is disappointing that the White House has flaunted not wearing masks and gathering large crowds,” said D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who represents a downtown district that includes areas surrounding the White House. “That is not only dangerous messaging for the country, but it is directly threatening to our efforts to decrease our spread across the District.”

The White House has dismissed such criticism. Since June, President Trump has routinely staged large gatherings, including official events and campaign rallies, in Washington and other cities, in some cases flouting local regulations. Last month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) slammed Trump as “reckless and selfish” after the president held an indoor rally with thousands of supporters in Henderson, Nev.

In Washington, Trump welcomed scores of guests for a fireworks show on Independence Day and spoke on the South Lawn to 1,500 supporters, most not wearing masks and seated closely together, during his renomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August.

“For months in the midst of a global pandemic, the media has celebrated large gatherings of so-called ‘peace protesters,’ — some of whom have burned down, looted, and rioted in cities across the country,” White

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Rose Garden Event Suspected COVID-19 Super-Spreader

Rose Garden Announcement Of Supreme Court Nominee Suspected COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event

Last week in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, the Guardian reports. That gathering is now a suspected super-spreader event, as at least 7 people, including the president, have tested positive for COVID-19 this week. They are:

First Lady Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, former White House senior adviser, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), the Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame University, and a White House reporter.

According to USA Today, more than 180 people were in attendance at the Rose Garden, with only about 50 wearing masks and even fewer practicing social distancing.

Barrett previously tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered this summer.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, who was in close proximity to the president during prep for the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, has also tested positive for the virus. Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman who attended the debate, as well as two other White House reporters, have also tested positive, the New York Times reports.

As ESSENCE previously reported, the avalanche of diagnoses began after Hope Hicks, 31, a top Trump aid who traveled with Trump to Cleveland for the debate, tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday. Hicks was seen traveling on Air Force One without a mask. She also traveled with Trump to his rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

While Trump receives treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, contact tracing continues in an attempt to determine where exactly the president contracting the coronavirus. A difficult task since, in addition to the event in the Rose Garden, he has held several campaign rallies in defiance of COVID-19 safety protocols set in place by his own administration’c coronavirus task force.

To date, the United States has had 7.36 million COVID-19 cases and over 209,000 deaths. 

TOPICS:  News Politics Amy Coney Barrett coronavirus COVID-19 Rose Garden

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Canadian woman suspected of sending White House a ricin package pleads not guilty

A Canadian woman suspected of mailing a package containing ricin to the White House last week appeared in court Tuesday afternoon where she pleaded not guilty.

Pascale Ferrier, of Quebec, was arrested Sunday at the New York-Canada border on a charge of threatening the president. Her court appearance was brief and U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. entered a not-guilty plea on her behalf.

This photo provided by the Hidalgo County (Texas) Sheriff's Office, showing the booking photo of Pascale Ferrier. 

This photo provided by the Hidalgo County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office, showing the booking photo of Pascale Ferrier. 
(Hidalgo County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office, via AP)

Ferrier, who wore a tan jail jumpsuit, had her hands in cuffs and a chain around her waist. A blue mask covered much of her face as she spoke only briefly to answer the judge’s questions.

Through an interpreter and her attorney, she also asked for an identity hearing — which would compel the government to prove that she is indeed the person for whom the arrest warrant was issued — and a probable cause hearing for the government to prove there is sufficient cause to proceed in the case. The judge ordered her held without bail.

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Her attorney, Fonda Kubiak, said Ferrier was exercising her rights to those hearings, which were scheduled for Monday.

“She has a presumption of innocence and that’ll be pursued further after today,” Kubiak said outside the courthouse.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer walks outside of an apartment complex Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in St-Hubert, Quebec, during a raid in connection with an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to the White House. 

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer walks outside of an apartment complex Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in St-Hubert, Quebec, during a raid in connection with an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to the White House. 
(The Canadian Press via AP)

The package, postmarked from Canada and addressed to the White House, was sent sometime last week and intercepted at a mail sorting facility on Friday. It included a letter that included disparaging remarks about the president, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

During the investigation, the FBI discovered that six additional similar letters appeared to have been received in Texas in September and also had stamps indicating that they’d been mailed from Canada, according to court papers.

Those letters “contained similar language” to the letter that was sent to Trump and were sent to people affiliated with facilities where Ferrier had been jailed in 2019.

Investigators also matched Ferrier’s fingerprints from four of the letters, the complaint said. In Facebook and Twitter posts in September, Ferrier also wrote threatening messages against the president and used similar wording as she did in the letter, according to the document.

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When she was arrested Sunday while trying to enter a border crossing in Buffalo, Ferrier told Customs and Border Patrol agents that she was “wanted by the FBI for the ricin letters,” the complaint said. Officers found a loaded gun in her waistband and said she was also carrying a knife.

Ferrier was booked into the Hidalgo County jail in March of 2019

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Woman Suspected of Sending Ricin-Filled Envelope to White House to Appear in Court | World News

(Reuters) – A woman arrested by U.S. authorities on suspicion of sending a ricin-filled envelope to the White House and to five other addresses in Texas will appear before a federal court in Buffalo, New York, later on Tuesday.

U.S. authorities arrested a woman on the Canada-U.S. border on Sunday, at the so-called Peace Bridge that runs between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo.

She is due to make her initial appearance at U.S. District Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT). She has yet not been officially identified.

The envelope was intercepted at a government mail center before it arrived at the White House, Canadian police said on Saturday.

Canadian police on Monday searched an apartment in a Montreal suburb linked to the woman. She has joint Canadian and French citizenship, two sources said.

The woman is suspected of sending a total of six letters, with the other five addressed to law enforcement and detention facilities in South Texas, according to a U.S. law enforcement source.

So far no links to political or terrorist groups have been found, but the investigation is ongoing, the source said.

The police department in Mission, Texas, received a suspicious letter within the last week, Art Flores, a spokesman for the department, said on Monday. The department did not open the envelope and turned it over to the FBI, he said.

Flores also said the Mission police had arrested the woman now believed to be held in Buffalo in early 2019.

Ricin is found naturally in castor beans but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.

(Reporting by Christinne Muschi in Longueuil, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Mark Hosenball in Washington, additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Woman suspected of sending ricin to White House arrested near Canada border

An arrest was made in the investigation into an envelope addressed to the White House that was intercepted Saturday and deemed “suspicious,” the FBI said in a statement on Sunday.

The Associated Press, citing three law enforcement officials, reported that a woman has been arrested on the New York-Canada border. She is suspected of sending an envelope with poison ricin.

The woman was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Peace Bridge border crossing near Buffalo and is expected to face federal charges, the officials said. Her name was not immediately released.

PACKAGES SENT TO PENTAGON SUSPECTED TO CONTAIN RICIN, ‘SUSPICIOUS ENVELOPE’ SENT TO TRUMP AMID SCARE AT CRUZ OFFICE IN TEXAS

The individual who was arrested is believed to be the person who sent the letter, according to the FBI Washington field office.

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According to Mayo Clinic, Ricin is poisonous and can be produced from the waste that results from processing castor beans. There is no vaccine or antidote for the poison.

A Navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes to Trump and members of his administration that contained the substance from which ricin is derived.

Fox News’ Sam Dorman and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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Arson suspected in fire at St. Paul ‘nightmare’ house where man was fatally shot a day earlier

A suspicious fire struck a home Sunday where a man was shot to death a day earlier in St. Paul, authorities said.

The blaze at the residence in the 800 block of E. Lawson Avenue, which has drawn a substantial amount of police attention this year, was being investigated as a possible arson, Fire Department personnel at the scene said.

A 37-year-old man showed up at the home about 2:20 a.m. Sunday while intoxicated and “attempted to enter the crime scene that was protected by crime scene tape and monitored by officers,” said Police Sgt. Mike Ernster.

The man was told by police to leave, but he sat down on the drive and defied the officers’ orders, Ernster said. Police arrested him and booked him in jail on suspicion of obstructing the legal process, a misdemeanor.

Police left the scene about 9 a.m. only to return about two hours with firefighters after “witnesses reported smoke and flames coming from the house,” the sergeant said. The blaze was extinguished, and no injuries were reported.

On Saturday, officers called to the scene about 4 p.m. and found a man suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper body. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. The victim’s identity has yet to be released.

The death marked St. Paul’s 24th homicide of the year. No arrests have been announced.

Ernster said that the residence has been connected to 170 911 calls this year.

“They were everything from drug offenses to property crime calls to quality-of-life issues and disorderly conduct,” the department spokesman said.

Al Thompson, who lives nearby, said, “That house has been a nightmare to our neighborhood. We hear gunshots almost on a daily basis just from that address.

“This was going to be my kids’ bus stop if they were not distance learning. I am so glad I do not have to worry about that address or the kids playing at the park nearby.”

Homicide investigators were interviewing witnesses at police headquarters Saturday night. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 651-266-5650.

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