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Dr. Terri Tiersky poses for a portrait in full personal protective equipment, double mask, face shield, gown and gloves, at her dentist office in Skokie, Ill., on Friday, June 12, 2020. Tiersky closed her office to all but emergencies in mid-March. She then helped arrange donations of personal protective equipment from the Chicago Dental Society for health workers treating COVID-19 patients. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Lawmakers will guide rewrite of academic standards

BOISE — The Legislature will play big a role in rewriting Idaho’s academic standards.

When new committees hold their first meetings this week, 11 legislators will be among the 88 people assigned to rewrite math, English and science standards.

But it won’t just be a handful of legislators. The entire process will be guided by a three-page letter that lawmakers sent to state officials earlier this year urging them the replace the standards.

“The letter, that really is the roadmap for the rewrite of the standards,” Chief Deputy Superintendent for Communication and Policy Marilyn Whitney said.

The committees — one each addressing science, math and English — meet remotely Monday and Tuesday.

Those meetings will set off a lengthy and detailed process that is expected to include finishing newly proposed standards in time for the State Board of Education meeting in October 2021. From there, newly proposed standards would go before the 2022 Legislature.

If this sounds familiar — and maybe even a little confusing — it should. Earlier this week, a legislative interim committee met for the first time to discuss the standards review process. That legislative committee is separate, but it will help guide the standards review committee, SDE officials said. There is also overlap between members of the legislative committee and the three committees rewriting the standards.

Standards debates have been a hot topic in four of the previous five legislative sessions.

This year, the House Education Committee voted to repeal all academic standards in math, science and English before it was overruled by the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said she opposes science standards that cast Idaho businesses and industry in a negative light.

“That needs to be looked at with a fine-toothed comb on the politicization of different careers and industries in this state that are not looked favorably upon currently in some of the science standards,” Moon said Monday.

Moon has a seat on the committee rewriting science standards.

The process to fill the committees began after the legislative session ended. Schools chief Sherri Ybarra’s content and curriculum staffers sought nominations from education stakeholder groups, parents, educators, legislators and the public.

House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and retiring Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, both recommended members. Reps. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, John McCrostie, D-Garden City, and Moon also submitted nominations, said Karlynn Laraway, the SDE’s director of communications, assessment and accountability.

Altogether, those groups sent 168 nominations to the SDE, which pared the list down based on geographic considerations and including minimum numbers of representatives across the different stakeholder groups.

The three committees include teachers, administrators, higher education professionals, school board members, parents and legislators. The SDE committee rosters list 41 teachers and 11 legislators between the three committees.

Reopening Committee deadline nears

Gov. Brad Little’s Public School Reopening Committee held its second full meeting of the week Thursday.

Rather than take action, the meeting was more of a check-in for members as they prepare to bring a draft of guidance forward next week.

The committee faces a tight deadline. Little only announced its existence last week. It’s given itself a June 30 deadline to piece together guidance that will be intended to help local school officials who are developing their own reopening plans.

“I don’t want our timing to overshadow the quality of work,” State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said.

The state has turned over the decisions on local reopening plans to local school boards. The guidance Little’s committee will issue will be nonbinding.

Critchfield said she expects the committee to issue a shorter report, perhaps in the ballpark of 10 pages, that would be easy for parents, teachers and school leaders to understand.

Even as the June 30 deadline nears, the committee is wrestling with many complicated issues. Insurance carriers have said they likely won’t cover costs if someone contracts COVD-19 at school and sues, making school liability a hot topic within the reopening debate.

Other issues are stubborn, including uncertainty about how students will maintain six feet of physical distance on the school bus and how it could affect pick-up and drop-off times.

Masks are another matter. Committee members said there is a huge difference in meaning if even a few words are interchanged between ”masks are permitted,” “masks are encouraged,” “masks are recommended” and “masks are mandated.”

The full committee is expected to meet again Monday afternoon.

Fireworks business strong despite pandemic, Twin Falls goes ahead with show

TWIN FALLS — The firework business is still booming for Independence Day despite concern for COVID-19, vendors say.

Jennifer Thompson and her family run a firework stand on Addison Avenue and Blue Lakes Boulevard. Thompson said she was a bit worried about business this year with an ongoing pandemic that’s had wide-ranging financial consequences.

But so far, turnout has been strong.

“Crazily, it’s been really good,” she said. “We’re off to a good start.”

Fourth of July is the first major U.S. holiday since Idaho has allowed larger groups to gather. The state is in Stage 4 of its reopening plan, which allows groups of any size as long as certain social distancing guidelines can be met.

Thompson said customers are noticeably excited for the holiday, and she is, too.

“People are wanting to gather and do something outside where you can still do social distancing,” she said. “It’s kind of a bummer when it’s over because this is what we look forward to all year long.”

Desiree Romano agreed. Romano is a stand operator for Family Fun Fireworks on Blue Lakes Boulevard near the Red Lion Hotel. She said people are excited to get back to something normal.

“I’m hoping this year will be nice and chill and relaxed and we can all just have a good time,” she said.

The business, which has been in the family for 43 years, has seen fine turnout so far, and more customers are expected as the holiday approaches, Romano said.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” she said. “We’ve been steady.”

Twin Falls firework rules

Residents can light fireworks in Twin Falls between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight through July 5. “Safe and sane” non-aerial fireworks are allowed, such as cone fountains, battle tanks, spinners and pinwheels

Using fireworks outside those dates and times can result in a fine up to $156.50 for each offense.

Aerial fireworks are not allowed in Twin Falls, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman Candles, aerials, missiles, and other similar items — if it leaves the ground or explodes, it is illegal.

The city has several safety guidelines for people who buy fireworks:

  • Only purchase and use fireworks that are permissible in your area
  • Read the labels for proper use and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Do not allow children to possess or use fireworks or novelty items without direct adult supervision
  • Only use fireworks in a safe area that is clear of combustible materials
  • Have a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby at all times
  • Ensure that all spectators are a safe distance away from fireworks
  • Be courteous and sensitive to the effects of the use of fireworks to your neighbors and pets

Fireworks show at CSI

Those who don’t want to buy their own fireworks but still want to participate can watch the city’s firework display hosted at College of Southern Idaho on July 4.

The event begins at about 10 p.m. and lasts about 30 minutes. Areas for seating will be available on campus and spectators are asked to maintain at least 10 feet from others outside their household.

Alcohol and personal fireworks are not allowed on campus.

The city will not close Falls Avenue or Washington Street this year to allow for thru traffic. North College Road between Washington Street and Frontier Avenue will be closed at 9 p.m.

PHOTOS: Fireworks over Twin Falls
Gallery: Fireworks on sale now
Gallery: Fireworks Show in Twin Falls
Gallery: Firework Sales and Regulations
Gallery: Fireworks at CSI

Toronto's Marriott City Center, with rooms facing the field for Blue Jays games, is offering "Baseball Stadium view" bookings into August, though they have yet to receive permission from the Blue Jays. 

World hits coronavirus milestones amid fears worse to come

The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday — 500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases — and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings continued to backtrack and warn that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus as officials try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge.

“Caution was thrown to the wind and so we are where we are,” DeSantis said.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the U.S., Latin America and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as the held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections. Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail in their ballots.

In Texas, Abbott appeared with Vice President Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas ... but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practice social distancing. He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he doesn’t have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he’s tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us.”

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviors by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had topped 500,00.

About 1 in 4 of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the U.S. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about 1 in 9.

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher. Experts say that especially early on, many victims died of COVID-19 without being tested for it.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world—topping over 189,000 in a single 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

Overall the U.S. still has far and away the most total cases. At more than 2,450,000—roughly twice that of Brazil. The number of actual cases worldwide is much higher.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicenter, is now “on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with “Meet the Press.”

The state reported five new virus deaths Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day. New York still leads the nation in COVID-19 deaths with nearly 25,000.

In the state of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee put a hold on plans to move counties to the fourth phase of his reopening plan as cases continue to increase. But in Hawaii, the city of Honolulu announced that campgrounds will reopen for the first time in three months with limited permits to ensure social distancing.

Britain’s government, meanwhile, is considering whether a local lockdown is needed for the central English city of Leicester amid reports about a spike in COVID-19 among its Asian community. It would be Britain’s first local lockdown.

“We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Sunday.

Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miss. lawmakers vote to remove emblem from flag

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi lawmakers voted Sunday to surrender the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag, triggering raucous applause and cheers more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

Mississippi’s House and Senate voted in succession Sunday afternoon to retire the flag, each chamber drawing broad bipartisan support for the historic decision. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill, and the state flag would lose its official status as soon as he signs the measure. He did not immediately signal when the signing would take place.

The state had faced mounting pressure to change its flag during the past month amid international protests against racial injustice in the United States. Cheering and applause erupted as lawmakers hugged each other in the Senate with final passage. Even those on the opposite side of the issue also hugged as an emotional day of debate drew to a close. Bells also could be heard ringing in the state capital city as passage of the measure was announced.

A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will set a different design using the same guidelines, and that would be sent to voters later.

Mississippi has a 38% Black population — and the last state flag that incorporates the emblem widely seen as racist.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who is white, has pushed for five years to change the flag, saying that the Confederate symbol is offensive. The House passed the bill 91-23 Sunday afternoon, and the Senate passed it 37-14 later.

“How sweet it is to celebrate this on the Lord’s day,” Gunn said. “Many prayed to Him to bring us to this day. He has answered.”

Debate over changing the flag has arisen before, and in recent years an increasing number of cities and all the state’s public universities have taken it down on their own. But the issue has never garnered enough support in the conservative Republican-dominated Legislature or with recent governors.

That dynamic changed in a matter of weeks as an extraordinary and diverse coalition of political, business, religious groups and sports leaders pushed to change the flag.

At a Black Lives Matter protest outside the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion in early June, thousands cheered as an organizer said the state needs to divorce itself from all Confederate symbols.

Religious groups — including the large and influential Mississippi Baptist Convention — said erasing the rebel emblem from the state flag is a moral imperative.

Business groups said the banner hinders economic development in one of the poorest states in the nation.

In a sports-crazy culture, the biggest blow might have happened when college sports leagues said Mississippi could lose postseason events if it continued flying the Confederate-themed flag. Nearly four dozen of Mississippi’s university athletic directors and coaches came to the Capitol to lobby for change.

“We need something that fulfills the purpose of being a state flag and that everybody in the state has a reason to be proud of,” said Mike Leach, football coach at Mississippi State University.

Many people who wanted to keep the emblem on the Mississippi flag said they see it as a symbol of heritage.

Legislators put the Confederate emblem on the upper left corner of Mississippi flag in 1894, as whites were squelching political power that African Americans gained after the Civil War.

Democratic state Sen. Derrick Simmons of Greenville, who is African American, said the state deserves a flag that will make all people proud. “Today is a history-making day in the state of Mississippi,” Simmons told colleagues before the Senate voted for passage. “Let’s vote today for the Mississippi of tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted approvingly of a video showing one of his supporters chanting “white power,” a racist slogan associated with white supremacists. He later deleted the tweet and the White House said the president had not heard “the one statement” on the video.

The video appeared to have been taken at The Villages, a Florida retirement community, and showed dueling demonstrations between Trump supporters and opponents.

“Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” Trump tweeted. Moments into the video clip he shared, a man driving a golf cart displaying pro-Trump signs and flags shouts ‘white power.” The video also shows anti-Trump protesters shouting “Nazi,” “racist,” and profanities at the Trump backers.

“There’s no question’’ that Trump should not have retweeted the video and “he should just take it down,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told CNN’s “State of the Union.” Scott is the only Black Republican in the Senate.

“I think it’s indefensible,” he added.

Shortly afterward, Trump deleted the tweet that shared the video. White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement that “President Trump is a big fan of The Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”