Congress’ Doctor Warns
COVID Cases Are Surging
A warning last week from the attending physician for Congress about skyrocketing COVID-19 cases is compelling lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff members to rethink their meeting schedules and masking requirements.
A letter Dr. Brian P. Monahan wrote to House and Senate leaders says that at Capitol Hill test centers the COVID-19 positivity “rate went from less than 1 percent to greater than 13 percent” in the past week.
He urged them to adopt a policy of “maximal telework” while limiting in-person meetings as much as possible.
Monahan also wrote that cloth face masks, blue surgical masks and gaiter masks “must be replaced by the more protective KN95 or N95 masks.”
The positivity rate at the Capitol is similar to a rise in COVID-19 infections throughout the District of Columbia, making it a pandemic hotspot for the United States.
The omicron variant infected about 61 percent of the people who tested positive at the Capitol. The delta variant made up 38 percent of the cases.
Warnings about the rise in infections prompted Senate Democrats to switch their caucus lunches to virtual meetings this week. The Capitol Visitor Center is expanding its space and personnel at its test center. House eateries temporarily closed.
The House requires that everyone on its side of the Capitol wear masks. The Senate so far has encouraged but not required masks.
“Any group activity indoors should promote strict mask-wear compliance,” Monahan’s letter said.
He described most infections among staff members as “breakthrough” for people who have been vaccinated. So far, none of the people who tested positive were hospitalized, suffered serious complications or died, “attesting to the value of coronavirus vaccinations,” the letter said.
Former Washington Football Player
Sentenced for False Medical Claims
Former professional Washington football running back Clinton Portis is spending the next six months in federal prison and six more in home confinement after being sentenced in a healthcare scam.
He admitted receiving nearly $100,000 after filing false medical claims.
Portis was one of nine retired National Football League players the Justice Department charged in December 2019 with filing false claims with the Gene Upshaw National Football League Health Reimbursement Account Plan. The plan was designed to care for former NFL players who are sick or infirm.
Together the nine players filed $3.9 million in false claims, according to the Justice Department. The health plan paid $3.4 million of the claims.
Portis pleaded guilty to fraud in September.
After his sentencing, the 40-year-old Portis thanked his legal team from Baker Botts LLP in an Instagram post that showed him in a photo with his attorneys.
“I would fight with you all any day!” Portis wrote. “You all believed in me from the start & worked tirelessly to prove my innocence! We came up short & things didn't go as planned but the bond created will last forever! Thank you all!”
The players are accused of submitting false claims for expensive medical equipment, such as hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines and ultrasound devices.
Portis submitted a claim for $44,732 for an oxygen chamber and $54,532 for a cryosauna. He was reimbursed with $99,264 from the health plan.
Portis rushed for 9,923 yards and 75 touchdowns in his nine-year professional career. He played for the Washington Redskins from 2004 to 2010 and made it into the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season.
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D.C. in Brief
Letters to the Editor
New Laws Take Effect This Month
Throughout Washington Area
New laws took effect this month in the Washington area to address the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and evolving demographics.
In the District, leaf blowers still can be used but only if they are electric. Gas-powered leaf blowers are now banned.
The D.C. Council ordered the ban after complaints about noise and fumes from gas-powered blowers. Violators could be fined $500.
A second environmental measure prohibits restaurants in the District from routinely giving out plastic utensils with each meal. They still can give them to customers but only on request.
The D.C. Council is trying to cut down on pollution from plastic, which can hang around in the ecosystem for decades after it is discarded. Restaurants can apply to the city for grants to cover any additional costs from switching away from plastic.
Prince George’s County Sued
Over Allegations of Police Abuse
Prince George’s County is facing another lawsuit over a police corporal whose alleged abuse already has resulted in a $20 million settlement with the family of a man the officer shot while he was handcuffed.
The lawsuit filed this month accuses Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. of brutality in separate incidents against four men.
It says his behavior demonstrates a “consistent and well-known history of police brutality.”
“For 50 plus years, Prince George’s County has condoned the brutality inflicted by its police officers, refusing to implement effective training, oversight, or disciplinary measures for its officers to this very day,” says the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Owen is suspended without pay from the Prince George’s County Police Department and is awaiting trial on charges that include second-degree murder.
We Could Use Your Help
Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation.
You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents. Click the photo above to make a donation today.
Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
Here is the link to the Legal Aid website for donations: https://www.legalaiddc.org/donate-to-legal-aid/
For more information, contact Rob Pergament at Legal Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org
Garland Repeats Vow to Prosecute
Participants in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland renewed his pledge last week just before the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol to hold anyone who participated in the violence liable through criminal prosecution.
He said “there is no higher priority” for the Justice Department.
The Justice Department announced this month that 725 suspects have been arrested in the year since the Capitol riot. The FBI is investigating 350 more.
“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he said. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
Garland’s vow of strict law enforcement against the insurrectionists is drawing criticism from some Democrats.
Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time
Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations.
We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win.
Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
Join us! Donate & subscribe: https://www.washlaw.org/support-us
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