United Airlines Strengthens Onboard Mask Policy to Further Protect Passengers and Employees


United Airlines Strengthens Onboard Mask Policy to Further Protect Passengers and Employees Against COVID-19 Spread

CHICAGO, IL (STL.News) United Airlines announced today that, along with other Airlines for America (A4A) members, it will strengthen mandatory mask policies to further mitigate against the spread of COVID-19 and help continue to keep passengers and crew safe.  While the overwhelming majority of passengers are complying with United’s mandatory policy, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list.  Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review.

United currently requires all passengers to wear a face covering onboard its flights and expects that policy to remain in place for at least the next 60 days.  The only exceptions to this policy are individuals who have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering, those who cannot put on or remove a face covering themselves and small children.  Customers are expected to wear a mask for the duration of the flight, except when eating or drinking.

“Every reputable heath institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19, especially in places like an aircraft where social distancing is a challenge,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist.  “We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy.  Today’s announcement is an unmistakable signal that we’re prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew.”

Under this new policy, if a flight attendant notices or is informed of a customer onboard who is not wearing a face covering and that passenger does not fall within an exception, the flight attendant will proactively inform the customer that for the health and safety of everyone, face coverings are mandatory for all customers and crew on board.  They will also offer to provide the customer with a mask if needed.  If the customer continues to be non-compliant, flight attendants will do their best to de-escalate the situation, again inform the customer of United’s policy, and provide the passenger with an In-Flight Mask policy reminder card.  If a customer continues to not comply, the flight attendant will file a report of the incident, which will initiate a formal review process.  Any final decision or actions regarding a customer’s future flight benefits will not occur onboard but instead take place after the flight has reached its destination and the security team has investigated the incident.

“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio.  “Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees.”

In April, United became the first major U.S.-based airline to require flight attendants to wear a face mask while on duty, and beginning in May, expanded that mandate to include all employees and customers on board.  This includes front-line workers like pilots, customer service agents and ramp workers when on board an aircraft, along with any other United employees traveling using their flight benefits.

“Wearing a mask is a critical part of helping make air travel safer,” said Dr. James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic.  “The more people in a given space wearing masks, the fewer viral particles are making it into the space around them, decreasing exposure and risk.”

The airline’s mask policy is an important part of the United CleanPlus program, which brings together one of the most trusted brands in surface disinfection – Clorox – and the country’s top medical experts – Cleveland Clinic – to inform and guide United’s new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols.  As part of this program, United is taking a layered approach to help protect passengers and employees on board.  In addition to requiring masks, United Airlines planes have HEPA grade filters that recirculate air every 2-3 minutes, and the airline is using electrostatic sprayers to disinfect the cabin before flights.

In addition to the onboard actions, United has implemented dozens of other new procedures at other points in the travel journey including offering touchless check-in for baggage at more than 200 locations, asking customers to complete a health assessment at check-in, installing sneeze guards and adjusting the boarding process.



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CME Group Inc. Announces Second-Quarter 2020 Earnings Release, Conference Call


CHICAGO, IL (STL.News) CME Group Inc. will announce earnings for the second quarter of 2020 before the markets open on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.  Written highlights for the quarter will be posted on the company’s website at 6:00 a.m. Central Time, the same time it provides its earnings press release.  The company will hold an investor conference call that day at 7:30 a.m. Central Time, at which time company executives will take analysts’ questions.

A live audio Webcast of the conference call will be available on the Investor Relations section of the company’s website, www.cmegroup.com.  Following the conference call, an archived recording will be available at the same site.  Those wishing to listen to the live conference via telephone should dial 1-800-367-2403 if calling from within the United States or 1-334-777-6978 if calling from outside the United States, at least 10 minutes before the call begins.



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as more businesses reopen, worker safety & health remains DOL priority


WASHINGTON, DC (STL.News) As more workplaces begin to reopen, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that worker safety remains a priority amid both coronavirus and common workplace hazards.

In all phases of reopening, employers need to plan for potential hazards related to the coronavirus, as well as those stemming from routine workplace processes.  Employers should be aware that the pandemic might increase employee stress, fatigue and distractions and should consider these factors in planning their employees’ return to work to ensure operations resume in a safe and healthful manner.  Employers should also carefully plan before attempting to increase production or tasks to make up for downtime to avoid exposing employees to additional safety and health hazards.

As part of their reopening plans, OSHA recommends employers provide workers with “refreshers” on safety and health training and address maintenance issues they may have deferred during a shutdown.  Employers should also revisit and update standard operating procedures and remember that exposures to hazards may increase during shutdown and start-up periods.  It is important for employers to review and address process safety issues – including stagnant or expired chemicals – as part of their reopening effort.  Employers also should remember that Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 660(c), prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions.

OSHA is providing coronavirus-related guidance to help employers develop policies and procedures that address the following issues:

  • Workplace flexibilities;
  • Engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment;
  • Training workers on the signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with the coronavirus;
  • Basic hygiene and housekeeping practices;
  • Social distancing practices;
  • Identifying and isolating sick workers;
  • Return to work after worker illness or exposure; and
  • Anti-retaliation practices.

OSHA’s guidance for employers also includes frequently asked questions related to coronavirus in the workplace such as worksite testing, temperature checks and health screenings, and the need for personal protective equipment.

This guidance is intended to accompany the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ previously developed Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the White House Guidelines for Opening up America Again. Existing OSHA standards that apply to protecting workers from infection remain in place as employers and workers return to work.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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Kansas City Woman, Tonya A. Topel Sentenced for Repeatedly Embezzling From Her Employers


Tonya A. Topel sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $142,606 in restitution, which will run consecutively to original sentence imposed on April 16, 2018

KANSAS CITY, MO (STL.News) A North Kansas City, Missouri, woman was sentenced in federal court today for embezzling from her employer in what was her fourth scheme to steal from a local company.

Tonya A. Topel, 42, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to two years and nine months in federal prison without parole.  The court also ordered Topel to pay $142,606 in restitution.  Today’s sentence must run consecutively to Topel’s eight-year sentence imposed on April 16, 2018.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Topel pleaded guilty to wire fraud.  Topel admitted that she embezzled $116,367 from her employer, SunSource Homes.

SunSource Homes Fraud

After pleading guilty to embezzling from two local companies, according to court documents, Topel was hired by SunSource.  She immediately abused her position of trust as the office manager and accountant in order to unjustly enrich herself yet again.  Topel began working for SunSource as the office manager and accountant in October 2016.  She started stealing from them a month later, and continued to embezzle from SunSource while she awaited sentencing for her conviction in another federal case in which she embezzled from another employer, Construction Benefits Audit Corporation (CBAC).

Topel made unauthorized purchases on company credit cards, totaling $47,665.  She issued unauthorized checks to herself using one of the owner’s signature stamps, totaling $40,955.  She claimed fraudulent expense reimbursements, totaling $19,713, which she added to her legitimate paychecks.  Topel created $5,287 in unauthorized paychecks to herself and cashed an unauthorized check from SunSource for $2,745.

Topel used the money she embezzled from SunSource to travel to the Bahamas, Boston, Florida, and Arizona.  She paid for retail purchases, restaurants, vehicles, and overdraft fees.  She paid the attorney representing her in the prior federal case for embezzling from CBAC.  She also presented a $20,000 check, which she fraudulently obtained from SunSource, to pay restitution in that earlier scheme to defraud CBAC.  This caused management at SunSource to examine their accounting and books and discover Topel’s other thefts from their company.

Preferred Contracting Systems Fraud

Topel’s first fraud scheme occurred from October 2011 to January 2012, while Topel worked at Preferred Contracting Systems in Leawood, Kansas.  In the course of those few months, she stole more than $24,000 from her employer.  She was charged with five felony counts in April 2012 in Johnson County, Kansas.

Construction Benefits Audit Corporation Fraud

Topel’s second fraud scheme began she was hired as a senior auditor for CBAC, a non-profit corporation in Kansas City, Missouri, a few months later, on June 11, 2012.  Topel began stealing from CBAC soon thereafter, starting on Oct. 18, 2012, while her criminal case was still pending in Kansas.  She paid her criminal defense lawyer using CBAC’s credit card on Dec. 4, 2012, and she paid her restitution in Kansas on March 6, 2014, using a combination of legitimate and stolen money.  She was then discharged early from probation in Kansas.

Topel continued to embezzle from CBAC, using five separate fraud schemes until she was caught in May 2016.  Over the almost four years she embezzled from CBAC, Topel caused a loss of $295,677.  After her embezzlement was discovered, Topel claimed she stole the money to pay for cancer treatments.  In fact, Topel spent the money she embezzled on travel to the Bahamas, Hawaii, Dallas, and Boston; restaurants; entertainment such as Royals and Chiefs tickets, golf, and spas; a 2014 Ford Mustang, which she put in her daughter’s name after being caught in 2016; jewelry; and other personal spending such as clothing, dance classes, iPads, etc. Topel’s financial records showed no payments for medical treatments of any kind.  Topel pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2017, to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and was later sentenced to eight years in federal prison without parole.

U.S. Real Estate Equity Builder Fraud

Topel’s third fraud scheme occurred in between working for CBAC and SunSource.  Topel worked at U.S. Real Estate Equity Builder (USREEB) from July 11, 2016, to Oct. 7, 2016.  Topel has not been criminally charged for that fraud scheme.  At today’s sentencing hearing for the SunSource fraud conviction, the court found by a preponderance of evidence that Topel’s $26,238 theft from USREEB constitutes relevant conduct in determining today’s sentence.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen D. Mahoney.  It was investigated by the FBI.

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While Reopening Efforts Continue, Governor Phil Scott Extends State of Emergency


While Reopening Efforts Continue, Governor Phil Scott Extends State of Emergency

(STL.News) –  Governor Phil Scott today signed an executive order to update and extend the State of Emergency in Vermont to July 15.  The latest order reflects all current re-openings and eased restrictions, which have been underway since late April to account for the State’s low case counts and continued slow growth rate.

State data and modeling shows overall spread of COVID-19 continues to be limited, even as the state has seen an isolated outbreak with 84 related cases in the Winooski area.

Governor Scott also detailed how a robust testing and tracing program; better knowledge of the virus; greater public awareness of, and adherence to, preventive measures; health and safety requirements across sectors; and increased stock of critical healthcare supplies, the state is much better positioned to track, manage and box in outbreaks and slow spread, which is critical to managing this virus until there is a vaccine.

“Each of these things demonstrate why we’ve been able to slowly reopen and lift restrictions, and why when we see outbreaks like in Winooski, it doesn’t necessarily require the same drastic actions we had to take in March,” said Governor Scott.  “At the same time, we have to stay smart here at home, and we have to remember Vermont is not an island and this isn’t over.”

The Governor noted that with about 130,000 active cases within a 5-hour drive of Vermont, caution is still warranted, but that the state has most sectors open to some capacity and has incrementally eased restrictions on activities.  The updated order outlines the health and safety requirements and restrictions that remain in place, while authorizing the continued incremental reopening of sectors under the guidance of the Vermont Department of Health.

“I know that with every move we make, some believe it’s way too much, too fast and others believe it’s way too little and too slow.  I hear and understand the concerns on both sides but there are no easy answers or simple solutions and there is certainly no road map,” added the Governor.  “So, we’ll continue to move forward under the guidance of our health experts and based on the trends we’re seeing both in Vermont and around us. If we get everything open in the right way and continue to test and trace to fight outbreaks, then we won’t have to retreat.”

The State of Emergency declaration is necessary to continue to manage and respond to this public health crisis.  It gives the Governor the ability to activate numerous tools for response efforts, including protection for residents of long term and other medical facilities, licensing and regulatory flexibility to facilitate response efforts, health and safety requirements, federal emergency funding, and expanded access to needed services like housing, meal delivery and unemployment insurance.

“I know this has felt like a long journey already… and so much uncertainty remains.  But if we continue to stay smart, committed to each other… and, above all else, united together in this fight…… we WILL get through this,” concluded Governor Scott.

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Office Of The Governor, Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith Release New COVID-19 PSA


Office Of The Governor, Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith Release New COVID-19 PSA: “Wear A Mask On And Off The Field”

(STL.News) –  The Office of the Governor and Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith today released a new public service announcement (PSA) entitled, “Wear A Mask On And Off The Field. ” In the PSA, Smith urges Texans to wear a mask to protect themselves and others and follow other important health and safety guidelines like washing your hands and practicing social distancing.

TRANSCRIPT:

“I wear a face mask every single day on the football field to protect myself.  Now I’m switching it up to a different mask to protect myself and others around me.  As we open up Texas, it’s crucial that we all do our part in this fight against COVID-19.  So when you leave the house, make sure you wash your hands, make sure you practice social distancing, and last but not least, wear a mask.  You be safe.  Go Cowboys.”
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“Wear A Mask On And Off The Field”

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Maria Ressa, Philippine journalist’s conviction ‘a blow to press freedom’


(STL.News) One of the Philippines’ most prominent journalists and her colleague have been found guilty of libel in a case seen as a major blow to press freedom.  Maria Ressa denies the charges over an article on her news website, Rappler, linking a businessman to criminal activity.

Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan reports.



YouTube video courtesy of Al Jazeera News



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New York Gov. Cuomo Signs Policing Reform Legislation


New York Gov. Cuomo Signs Policing Reform Legislation

(STL.News) –  Governor Andrew M.  Cuomo today signed policing reform legislation requiring state and local law enforcement officers to report within six hours when they discharge their weapon (S.2575-B/A.10608); requiring courts to compile and publish racial and other demographic data of all low-level offenses (S.1830-C/A.10609); and requiring police officers to provide medical and mental health attention to individuals in custody (S.6601-A/A.8226).

“Police reform is long overdue in this state and this nation, and New York is once again leading the way and enacting real change to end the systemic discrimination that exists in our criminal justice and policing systems,” Governor Cuomo said.  “These critical reforms will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve and take us one step closer to righting the many injustices minority communities have faced because of a broken and unfair system.”

Police Statistics and Transparency Act (S.1830-C/A.10609)

The Police Statistics and Transparency Act – or STAT Act – requires courts to compile and publish racial and other demographic data of all low-level offenses, including misdemeanors and violations.  The data collected must be made available online and updated monthly.  The new law also requires police departments to report any arrest-related death to the Department of Criminal Justice Services and to submit annual reports on arrest-related deaths to the Governor and the Legislature.

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “The Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act, a recommendation of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, requires law enforcement to collect and publicly report demographic information ranging from low-level arrests to in-custody deaths. Because of this legislation, we’ll finally have the data necessary to identify and root out the systematic and discriminatory policing practices that law enforcement uses to target Black and Brown New Yorkers.  Today, with the signature of Governor Cuomo, this historic bill will become law.  I’m thankful for the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Codes Committee Chair Jamaal Bailey, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly sponsor Joe Lentol for helping me usher this bill to passage, along with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.  I’m honored to have had the support of Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who travelled to Albany to personally campaign for passage of the Police STAT Act.  We enact this law in honor of the memory of Ms. Carr’s son.”

Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol said, “I am proud to sponsor all of the recent sweeping reforms to New York State law that will promote greater transparency and accountability in law enforcement.  It began last week when the Governor signed the repeal of 50-a and now with the passage of the STAT Act.  Transparency is good for every sector of government.  I am especially proud to have been the prime sponsor of the STAT Act, and that after five long years of trying to move it forward, it has finally passed.”

Weapons Discharge Reporting (S.2575-B/A.10608)

This new law requires that any law enforcement officer or peace officer who discharges their weapon, while on or off duty, where a person could be struck by a bullet from the weapon is required to verbally report the incident to his or her supervisor within six hours and prepare and file a written report within 48 hours of the incident.

Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, “I would like to thank the Governor for signing this crucial piece of legislation, which requires law enforcement officials to report within six hours whenever they have discharged their weapon and could have struck an individual, and a written report within 48 hours.  It is important to have this transparency within a department to foster a better public trust, ensure accountability, and improve community police relations.  I would like to thank the Assembly sponsor, N Nick Perry, Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Speaker Heastie, for ensuring the passage of this bill.”

Assembly Member Nick Perry said, “This law should be dedicated to Jayson Tirado, who lost his life in an outrageous deadly act of police misconduct. When Police Officer Sean Sawyer with criminal intent pointed his NYPD-issued handgun and pulled the trigger ending Tirado’s life, Sawyer knew he could get away with absolutely no consequence for his wrongdoing-and he did.  This law won’t punish him, but its enactment will assure us that the next officer that commits this type of wanton criminal act of being judge, jury and executioner will face some accountability.  I thank the Governor and our Speaker for their significant support and participation in making sure this is the law of the land.”

Providing Medical and Mental Health Attention to Individuals in Custody (S.6601-A/A.8226)

This new law requires police officers, peace officers and other law enforcement representatives and entities to provide medical and mental health attention to any individual in custody.  Police can be liable for damages for anyone who does not receive medical attention and suffers a serious physical injury or has their injury exacerbated by the lack of care.

Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, “I would like to thank the Governor for signing my bill, which would require law enforcement to call for medical attention if requested by the individual apprehended.  Regardless of whether an individual is in custody or not, if they need medical attention it should be provided to them. In far too many of these cases, adequate medical assistance has been denied to these individuals or been so delayed that individuals have suffered needless, pain and suffering. In the most egregious cases, indifference or neglect of some persons’ conditions have even lead to senseless deaths, like that of Andrew Kearse, a young man whose pleas for medical attention went unheard.  I would like to thank the Assembly sponsor, Nathalia Fernandez for championing this in the Assembly and to Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and Speaker Heastie for pushing this bill to pass.”

Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez said, “Never should anyone’s call for help be ignored.  Our law enforcement officers take an oath to protect us, yet too many have died while in custody due to neglect.  It is vitally important that we, as a government, ensure that our law enforcement officers take every measure to protect and preserve life. ‘ I can’t breathe’ should never be someone’s last words.  I am proud to have carried this bill in memory of Andrew Kearse and everyone else who needlessly died in custody.  Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this into law.”

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Pennsylvanian Gov. Wolf Announces $260 Million in Funding to Help People with Intellectual Disabilities


Pennsylvanian Gov. Wolf Announces $260 Million in Funding to Help People with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism During Pandemic

(STL.News) –  Governor Tom Wolf announced that people with intellectual disabilities and autism and the providers of support services for these vulnerable Pennsylvanians will receive $260 million in CARES Act funding to help continue to provide services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This funding will help the more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians who receive assistance through one of the Department of Human Services’ programs or facilities,” Gov.  Tom Wolf said.  “It will help to improve the quality of life for these vulnerable Pennsylvanians and those who have dedicated their lives to caring for them, and it will bring relief to families and loved ones knowing we are committed to providing the highest level of care possible, even during a pandemic.”

Gov.  Wolf was joined by Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, who outlined to details of funding allocations.

“These dollars are intended to supplement the budgets of an industry built on the values of service, caregiving, and inclusion – an industry hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sec.  Miller said.  “To all of our intellectual disability and autism service providers and direct support professionals – thank you for your tireless and selfless work over the past three months, and for your dedication to helping Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism achieve the everyday life they deserve.”

The $260 million will be allocated as follows:

  • $90 million to providers of residential, respite, and shift nursing services;
  • $80 million to providers of Community Participation Support services for 120 days of retainer payments, covering operations from March through June; and,
  • $90 million to providers of in-home and community, supported and small group employment, companion, and transportation trip services for 120 days of retainer payments, covering operations from March through June.

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