COVID-19 WAIVERS

WASHINGTON (AP) — As businesses reopen across the U.S. after coronavirus shutdowns, many are requiring customers and workers to sign forms saying they won’t sue if they catch COVID-19.

Businesses fear they could be the target of litigation even if they adhere to safety precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials. But workers’ rights groups say the forms force employees to sign away their rights should they get sick.

The liability waivers, similar to those President Donald Trump’s campaign is requiring for people to attend a Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would protect businesses in states that don’t have liability limits or immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

So far, at least six states — Utah, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama — have such limits through legislation or executive orders, and others are considering them. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying for national liability protections.

SEN. MAJ. LEADER McCONNELL OK WITH RENAMING BASES

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell says he is “OK” with renaming military bases such as Ft. Bragg that are named after Confederate Army officers.

In doing so, McConnell declined to side with President Donald Trump and other Republicans opposed to the move.

The Kentucky senator said he'll live with whatever lawmakers decide as they debate an annual defense policy bill for the military in the coming weeks.

Trump has blasted the calls to rename the military bases.

A GOP-controlled Senate panel voted last week to require bases such as Ft. Bragg and Ft. Hood to be renamed within three years.

McConnell, himself the descendant of a Confederate veteran, didn't endorse the idea but said he wouldn't oppose it.

VA. GOV. MAKES JUNETEENTH AN OFFICIAL HOLIDAY

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he is making Juneteenth — a day that marks the end of slavery in the U.S. — an official holiday in a state that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy.

Juneteenth, which is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. Texas first made it a state holiday in 1980. The holiday would be a paid day off for all state employees. Northam said he thinks Virginia would be only the second state to do so.

The Democratic governor is giving every executive branch employee Friday off as a paid holiday and will work with the legislature later this year to pass a law codifying Juneteenth as a permanent state holiday. The legislation is likely to pass the Democratic-controlled legislature with little trouble.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when news finally reached African Americans in Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves living in Confederate states two years earlier. When Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to bring the news that slavery had been abolished, former slaves celebrated.

WHITE MISS. OFFICIAL FACES CALLS FOR RESIGNATION

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After rejecting a proposal to move a Confederate monument, a white elected official in Mississippi said African Americans “became dependent” during slavery and because of that, have had a harder time “assimilating” into American life than other mistreated groups. Critics said his remarks were outrageous and called on him to resign.

In Mississippi's Lowndes County, supervisors voted along racial lines Monday against moving a Confederate monument that has stood outside the county courthouse in Columbus since 1912.

At one point during the meeting, a white supervisor, Harry Sanders, opposed moving the monument.

After the meeting, Sanders, a Republican, was quoted by the Commercial Dispatch as saying other groups were able to assimilate into American life — but that African Americans didn’t. He attributed that to his claim that blacks “became dependent, and that dependency is still there.”

FEDS: COVID-19 VACCINES EXPECTED TO BE FREE

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say they expect health insurance companies will cover vaccines for COVID-19 without charging copays, once those vaccines are developed and become available.

At a briefing for reporters, a senior Trump administration official said the government has been talking with insurers about offering vaccines at no cost to patients. The industry earlier made a similar commitment to cover testing for the coronavirus without charging copays.

The White House has launched an initiative to quickly manufacture millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, once the Food and Drug Administration approves one or more formulations.

Candidate vaccines are in early trials, and the goal — considered ambitious — is to have 300 million doses by early next year.

NYPD BACKS OFF POISONING CLAIM AT SHAKE SHACK

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police determined there was nothing criminal afoot when three officers got Shake Shack milkshakes that might have been accidentally tainted with a cleanser.

Police came to the determination after “a thorough investigation," NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said in a tweet early yesterday.

The officers complained of feeling ill upon sipping the shakes and ended up going to a hospital.

Several of the city's police unions pounced on the incident as an example of an anti-police attack, initially claiming the officers were intentionally poisoned.

The Detectives' Endowment Association said in a statement that “three of our brothers in blue were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers,” a claim echoed by another police union

Shake Shack tweeted that it was “horrified” by reports of the alleged contamination — and would work with police in the probe, which turned up no evidence of deliberate tainting of the beverages.