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Coronavirus

Georgia Man Catches Federal Charges for Price Gouging Masks During Pandemic

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On Thursday, a Stockbridge businessman was arraigned on federal charges for hoarding and price gauging N95 masks during a global pandemic.

What We Know:

  • Milton Ayimadu, also known as Don Milton, 22, was arraigned on federal charges of hoarding and price gouging in violation of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA). According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, Ayimadu was charged by a criminal information. No official court records have been found regarding his case.

  • In the press release, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak claims “Ayimadu allegedly saw the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic as an opportunity to make a profit. Desperate to find personal protective equipment during the pandemic, thousands of customers unfortunately paid his inflated prices.”

  • The claims against Ayimadu state that from early March to May, Ayimadu engaged in hoarding and price gouging of more than 200,000 face masks in violation of the DPA, which President Trump invoked on March 18. On March 25, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with authority delegated by the President, designated certain health medical resources as scarce materials under the DPA – including face masks that cover the user’s nose and mouth.

  • The businessman allegedly purchased more of the face masks from a foreign country for approximately $2.50 each only to re-sell them to Americans, through his website, BabyPuuPu.com, for double the price. During the two months in which he sold the masks, he engaged in over 22,000 financial transactions. While he priced his masks higher than the general market prices at the time to, allegedly, maximize his profits to “the detriment of consumers desperate for personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” manufacturers of authentic N95 masks continued selling masks for the pre-pandemic price of under $2.00 per mask.
  • The case is being investigated by the F.B.I., U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tal C. Chaiken and Russell Phillips are prosecuting the case. Attorney General William P. Barr created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, led by Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, who is coordinating efforts with the Antitrust Division and U.S. Attorneys across the country wherever illegal activity involving protective personal equipment occurs.

  • Acting Special Agent in Charge, Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama, made a statement. “When the nation needed face masks the most, Ayimadu decided to turn our fears into dollars. HSI and its partners are working diligently to investigate and arrest those criminals that have decided to use illegal business practices to increase their profits during this global pandemic.”

No information has been released regarding Ayimadu’s plea. U.S. Attorney Pak made a note to remind the public that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Coronavirus

Fan at Chiefs-Texans Game Tests Positive for COVID-19

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A fan who attended the Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texans game on September 10th has tested positive for the coronavirus.

What We Know:

  • The Kansas City Health Department has confirmed that a person who was in attendance at the NFL season opener at Arrowhead Stadium has tested positive for COVID-19. The department has quarantined 10 other people for possible exposure to the virus as well.
  • The Chiefs were one of the few teams to allow in-person fans for Week 1. The team said that their protocol required all fans and personnel to wear face coverings while inside. Several other NFL teams have stated that they will not allow fans into stadiums for the rest of 2020.
  • The Chiefs defended themselves in their statement, saying that their contact tracing mechanisms and mask mandate limited potential exposure to a single seating zone of the stadium and allowed officials to identify all exposed people. The Chiefs have not made any announcements about allowing spectators for future games.
  • The Chiefs-Texans game was the first NFL game to be held in front of fans. The Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts are the only teams that allowed fans to be in attendance at the start of the season. Arrowhead Stadium’s capacity is approximately 76,000 and it has been reduced in accordance with coronavirus protocols. Almost 16,000 fans were in attendance for this game.
  • The Chiefs-Texans season opener was also in the news for the scene fans made before the game. Players from both sides held a “moment of unity” pregame and displayed messages supporting Black Lives Matter and racial justice. The fans in attendance could be heard on the broadcast booing the players during this moment.

The NFL has not made any official statements about this positive case of a fan. There is no official league-wide rule about having fans in stadiums. The NFL also announced seven new positive cases among players and team personnel in the latest round of testing.

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Big 10 to Begin Football Season in October

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One of the nation’s power 5 college sports conferences has announced that it will begin its football season next month, a reversal of its decision earlier this summer, CBS Sports reports.

What We Know:

  • Teams in the league will play eight regular-season games as well as a Big Ten Championship game set for December 19th. Their schedule will make them eligible for the College Football Playoff as the season’s final rankings announcement is slated for December 20th. Consolation games will also be played at the conclusion of the season.
  • No tickets will be sold and fans will not be permitted to enter any games. Some exceptions may be made for family members of players, coaches, and staff.
  • In regards to coronavirus safety, the conference will institute mandatory, daily COVID-19 testing for athletes and coaches beginning September 30. If a member of any team tests positive for the virus, the earliest they could return to the field is 21 days following their testing.

The decision follows pressure to resume play, including from President Donald Trump who is eager to see a return to normalcy. No decision has been made from PAC-12 officials regarding a reconsideration. The Big 10’s decision makes them the only power 5 conference not playing college football this year.

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Mayor de Blasio Will Furlough Everyone in Office, Including Himself

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All staff members working in the mayor's office will need to take a week-long furlough unpaid. Courtesy of news.sky.com

The New York City mayor stated that he will mandate everyone who works in his office to take a 5-day unpaid furlough due to a budget shortfall.

What We Know:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio stated the city had lost $9 billion in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. The city has cut the budget by $7 billion, yet cost savings are still needed.

  • The layoffs will start on October 1st and will be extended until March 2021. The Mayor also mentioned he will also be part of the furlough. The unpaid time off is suggested to save about $1 million.
  • The Mayor stated, it is a step that you never want to see for hardworking, good people. He went on to say that it’s with pain he had to announce that employees and their families will have to lose a week’s pay and its something that has to be done.
  • There is a total of about 500 employees in the Mayor’s office. There was already a hiring freeze put in place and other cuts were made to save about $12 million.
  • When de Blasio was asked if there could be a possibility this might be extended to the entire city workforce, he answered that they are looking into all options.
  • Fiscal hawks have called on the city to order more cuts before turning to borrow more money. The city has asked for permission to borrow roughly $5 billion. De Blasio anticipates the furloughs, first reported by The New York Times, would help convince Albany lawmakers he is firm about cutting back.
  • New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected in following the Mayor’s lead in placing himself on furlough and took a swipe at the city’s quality of life.

De Blasio stated decisions such as furloughing other city workers instead of doing layoffs could be taken into consideration. Cuts could also be accomplished by wage freezes or early retirements, although unions would have to agree to such decisions. At the same time, the city has the legal authority to do layoffs unilaterally.

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