NURSING HOMES AND CORONAVIRUS

NEW YORK (AP) — Faced with 20,000 coronavirus deaths and counting, the nation’s nursing homes are pushing back against a potential flood of lawsuits with a lobbying effort to get states to grant them emergency protection from claims of inadequate care.

At least 15 states have enacted laws or governors’ orders that explicitly or apparently provide nursing homes and long-term care facilities some protection from lawsuits arising from the crisis. And in the case of New York, which leads the nation in deaths in nursing homes, a lobbying group wrote the first draft of a measure that apparently makes it the only state with specific protection from both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution.

Now the industry is forging ahead to get other states to agree COVID-19 was an unprecedented crisis and nursing homes shouldn’t be liable for events beyond their control, such as shortages of protective equipment and testing, shifting directives from authorities, and sicknesses that have decimated staffs.

Watchdogs, patient advocates and lawyers say immunity orders are misguided. At a time when the crisis is laying bare such chronic industry problems as staffing shortages and poor infection control, they say legal liability is the last safety net to keep facilities accountable.

They also say nursing homes are taking advantage of the crisis to protect their finances. Almost 70% of the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes are run by for-profit companies, and hundreds have been bought and sold in recent years by private-equity firms.

NYPD OFFICER GROUNDED FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING ARREST

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer caught on video Saturday pointing a stun gun at a man and violently taking him to the ground over an alleged social distancing violation has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty pending an internal investigation.

Bystander video showed the plainclothes officer, who wasn’t wearing a face mask, slapping 33-year-old Donni Wright in the face, punching him in the shoulder and dragging him to a sidewalk after leveling him in a crosswalk in Manhattan’s East Village.

“The behavior I saw in that video is simply not acceptable,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted yesterday. He said earlier in the day that there will be a careful look into what happened.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell said Wright “took a fighting stance against the officer” when he was ordered to disperse and was arrested on charges including assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

The Manhattan D.A.’s office says the charges have been deferred pending further investigation.

NEBRASKA ELECTION STILL SET FOR NEXT MONTH

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska is forging ahead with plans to hold the nation's first in-person election in more than a month, despite health concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and allegations that political motivations are fueling opposition to an all-mail approach.

Barring an unexpected change, Nebraska's primary will take place on May 12 — five weeks after Wisconsin held the last in-person balloting when courts sided with Republican legislators who pushed for that election to go forward.

Republicans who hold all statewide offices and control the Legislature have encouraged people to cast early, absentee ballots. However, they argue state law requires polling sites to be open and that it's important for voters to have a choice for how they vote, even amid health concerns.

As Secretary of State Bob Evnen put it last month, “I don’t think Nebraskans are going to stay away from the polls or not vote because of a microbe.”

LAPD OFFICER ARRESTED IN SHOOTING OF FELLOW OFFICER

BARSTOW, Calif. (AP) — A Los Angeles Police Department officer was arrested early yesterday on suspicion of shooting and wounding a fellow LAPD officer while they were off-duty at a Southern California recreation area, authorities said.

Deputies responded to reports of a shooting shortly before 1:30 a.m. in the desert just south of Barstow, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.

They found a 48-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his upper body, the statement said. The man, whose identity was not immediately released, was airlifted to a hospital in stable condition and is expected to survive, sheriff's officials said in a statement.

Deputies arrested LAPD officer Ishmail Tamayo, 44, of Ontario, on suspicion of attempted murder.

ONE DEAD, ONE HURT IN HOUSTON POLICE HELICOPTER CRASH

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston police officer injured in a police helicopter crash that killed another officer was in serious condition yesterday at Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center.

A department spokeswoman says Chase Cormier, 35, was upgraded from critical condition following surgery after the early Saturday crash that killed officer Jason Knox, 35 — son of Houston City Council Member Mike Knox.

Mike Knox, in a statement yesterday, expressed gratitude for support his family had received from the city.

The helicopter was part of a search for bodies in a nearby bayou. The search was prompted by a tip the police chief has said was “probably a bogus call — we don’t know.”

Police say no bodies were found — and authorities are investigating whether the aircraft was hit by gunfire.

FATAL GATOR ATTACK IN S.C.

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Deputies in South Carolina shot and killed an alligator that fatally attacked a woman on Friday, authorities said.

The officers were called to a pond on Kiawah Island around 5 p.m. and saw the animal attack, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said.

The woman was dead. Her name has not been released. Deputies retrieved the alligator's carcass to help with the investigation, deputies said on Twitter.

Authorities did not say if they knew what the woman or the alligator were doing before the attack.

This is the third fatal alligator attack in South Carolina in the past four years. A 90-year-old woman walked out of a Charleston nursing home in 2016 and was killed, while a 45-year-old woman walking her dog was fatally attacked on Hilton Head Island in August 2018.

Before those attacks, South Carolina had never recorded a person killed by an alligator.