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Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Convicted killer Nicholas Sutton executed despite pleas from victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

By multiple accounts, Nicholas Todd Sutton was a changed man.

“I can confidently state that Nick Sutton is the most rehabilitated prisoner that I met working in maximum-security prisons over the course of 30 years,” former Tennessee Department of Correction Lt. Tony Eden stated in an affidavit included with Sutton’s Jan. 14 clemency petition.

Eden was one of three prison guards whose lives Sutton saved during a prison riot at the Tennessee State Prison in 1985. Sutton, who first went to prison in 1979, is also credited with saving two fellow inmates during that riot more than three decades ago.

Despite Eden’s statement, as well as the pleas of Sutton’s attorneys, the families of his victims and several jurors who convicted him, the state of Tennessee executed Sutton Thursday night at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. He died in the electric chair, which he chose over the state’s preferred method of execution, lethal injection.

In a terse, one-sentence statement Thursday morning, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee denied the longtime inmate’s bid for mercy.

“After careful consideration of Nicholas Sutton’s request for clemency and a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” Lee said.

Two final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied Thursday night, The Associated Press reported.

Tennessee Department of Corrections via AP
Convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, was put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Photo Credit: Tennessee Department of Corrections via AP
Convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, was put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

In his final statement, Sutton thanked his wife, Reba Sutton, and friends and family who “tried so very hard to save (his) life,” according to the AP. He spoke of his faith and said Jesus had “fixed him” during his time in prison.

“I’m just grateful to be a servant of God, and I’m looking forward to being in his presence,” Sutton said.

Sutton was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m., the AP reported.

A written last statement provided by Sutton’s attorneys spoke of how the friends Sutton had made had enriched his life.

“They have reached out to me and pulled me up and I am grateful for that,” Sutton’s statement said. “I have had the privilege of being married to the finest woman, who is a great servant to God. Without her, I would not have made the progress that I have made.

“I hope I do a much better job in the next life than I did in this one. If I could leave one thing with all of you, it is, don’t ever give up on the ability of Jesus Christ to fix someone or a problem. He can fix anything. Don’t ever underestimate his ability. He has made my life meaningful and fruitful through my relationships with family and friends.

“So, even in my death, I am coming out a winner. God has provided it all to me.”

Sutton was 58 years old, the same age his grandmother was in December 1979 when authorities said he knocked her unconscious with firewood at their Morristown home, wrapped her in a blanket and trash bags, chained her to a cinder block and threw her into the Nolichucky River to drown. According to the Tennessean, Dorothy Sutton, who had adopted her grandson after his father committed suicide, was a retired schoolteacher.

It was not Dorothy Sutton’s death, or either of two additional murders a then-18-year-old Nick Sutton confessed to, that put him on death row. His death sentence did not come about until years later when he was convicted of stabbing to death Carl Estep, a convicted child rapist with whom he was serving time.

None of Sutton’s or Estep’s family members witnessed the execution, the AP reported. A Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Sutton had asked his loved ones not to attend.

The sister of one of Sutton’s earlier victims, 19-year-old John Large, was at the prison, however. Following Sutton’s death, a statement from Amy Large Cook was read to the reporters present.

“John was denied the opportunity to live a full life with a family of his own,” Cook’s statement read. “My children were denied meeting a wonderful man who would have spoiled them rotten and loved them with all his heart. He suffered a terrible and horrific death, and for that, I will never forgive Mr. Sutton.”

Cook told WBIR in Knoxville that she was in sixth grade when Sutton, who spent a lot of time at her family’s home, killed her brother. Large, who was born on the Fourth of July, had been married less than a month when he was slain.

According to the AP, Sutton was the fifth Tennessee death row inmate to choose the electric chair in just over a year. Expert witnesses have testified in court that midazolam, one part of the three-drug cocktail Tennessee uses to execute its inmates, does not prevent the feeling of pain.

The cocktail used in Tennessee’s executions would cause inmates to experience the sensation of drowning, of suffocating and of suffering chemical burns, the AP reported last month.

Four brutal killings

Sutton was initially sentenced to life in prison for three murders: the killing of his grandmother and the murders of Large, a high school friend, and another man, 46-year-old Charles Almon III. The Tennessean reported that Sutton first drew suspicion after showing up at his family’s annual Christmas Eve dinner with scratches on his face, a load of presents his grandmother had wrapped -- but no Dorothy Sutton.

His aunts called police after their mother failed to turn up by Christmas Day. Dorothy Sutton’s body was pulled from the river four days later.

Dorothy Sutton's body is found.Dorothy Sutton's body is found. Sun, Dec 30, 1979 – 13 · Kingsport Times-News (Kingsport, Tennessee) ·

The newspaper reported that authorities believed Nick Sutton grew angry at his grandmother, who had a habit of giving him expensive gifts, when she finally denied him cash. That was not the story Sutton told at his murder trial, however.

He testified at trial that he arrived home Dec. 22, 1979, to find his grandmother lying on the living room floor, covered with blood. He claimed he’d shot Almon in self-defense.

Sutton testified that he, Large and Almon had pooled their cash to buy $75,000 worth of cocaine but that Large had vanished with the money and Almon began demanding payment from Sutton.

“He went through quite a story, which did not turn out to be true at all,” former Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office investigator Martin Coffey, who worked the case, told the Tennessean last month.

Jurors shared investigators’ doubts about Sutton’s story and convicted him of first-degree murder in his grandmother’s death.

The bodies of Large, who had gone missing about four months before Dorothy Sutton’s death, and Almon remained missing until after Nick Sutton’s murder trial, when the teen struck a deal with authorities to avoid the death penalty, the Tennessean said. In return for life in prison, he led detectives to Large’s body, which he had buried on land his aunt owned in Waterville, North Carolina.

Sutton told investigators he’d killed Large by ramming a tobacco stick through his mouth and into his skull.

Almon, who had been shot to death, was found only when detectives investigating an unrelated murder in neighboring Cocke County accidentally stumbled upon his remains in a flooded rock quarry, according to the Tennessean.

Sutton pleaded guilty in 1981 to killing Almon and Large at his aunt’s cabin in North Carolina and was sentenced to two more life sentences.

The teen initially claimed to have killed two other people but authorities determined he was lying after Sutton took them on multiple fruitless searches for remains. No evidence of other killings was ever found.

Nick Sutton takes authorities on searches for bodies.Nick Sutton takes authorities on searches for bodies. Wed, May 21, 1980 – 7 · The Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville, Tennessee) ·

On Jan. 15, 1985, Estep, a fellow inmate at Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility, was stabbed 38 times in his cell. Sutton, who had a dispute with Estep over drugs, and two other inmates were charged with the slaying.

The Tennessean reported that Estep had told Sutton he had a knife and would kill him. A search of Estep’s cell after his death turned up three homemade knives.

One of the other inmates charged in the killing was acquitted, the newspaper reported. The third man received a life sentence and is now free on parole.

Sutton, whose history of violence was taken into account at sentencing, was sent to death row.

‘From a life-taker to a life-saver’

Sutton’s appellate legal team, which was headed by former federal Judge Kevin Sharp, argued that the man who was facing the electric chair was far from the abuse-scarred, drug-addicted teen who went on a killing spree over 40 years ago.

His wife, Reba Sutton, wrote that she had watched her husband, over the past three decades, overcome the pain of his childhood and repent for his mistakes. She said he cared for everyone and was “constantly looking for opportunities to serve others.”

“Nick has been my rock through some of the most difficult times in my life, including the deaths of my mother and brother. Nick is my best friend and the highlight of every day,” she wrote. “I cannot imagine life without him and would ask that you grant him the opportunity to continue to teach love, hope, and compassion to men across the state who have taken a wrong turn in life.”

Family of Nick Sutton
Convicted killer Nick Sutton, far right, is pictured on his wedding day with his wife, Reba Sutton, and then-Tennessee correctional Lt. Tony Eden, center, who served as Sutton's best man. Eden was among Sutton's supporters seeking clemency before Sutton, 58, was put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Photo Credit: Family of Nick Sutton
Convicted killer Nick Sutton, far right, is pictured on his wedding day with his wife, Reba Sutton, and then-Tennessee correctional Lt. Tony Eden, center, who served as Sutton's best man. Eden was among Sutton's supporters seeking clemency before Sutton, 58, was put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Sutton’s attorneys credited the secure, stable environment of death row with helping him to overcome his addiction, which they said began as an adolescent suffering a childhood of abuse at the hands of his violent, mentally ill father.

“Nick’s mother, Edna Fay O’Neill, abandoned Nick and his father, Pete, before Nick’s first birthday,” Sutton’s cousin, Lowell Sutton, wrote. “Pete battled severe mental illness and struggled with drug addiction throughout his life and was frequently in and out of mental institutions and jail. Pete could not hold a job and was unable to take care of himself, much less raise Nick.

“Pete’s mistreatment of Nick broke my heart. He made Nick’s life a living hell.”

Nick Sutton began using drugs at age 12, often with his father, his attorneys wrote. It was not until he was sent to death row that the cycle was broken.

“For the first time since adolescence, he was able to get sober and, through years of hard work and perseverance, become the man he is today,” his attorneys wrote. “Nick is a truly reformed inmate who, while on death row, has dedicated his life to improving himself, to helping others and to counseling people through the hardships and traumas life has dealt them.”

They pointed out that Sutton offered no justification for his crimes and was “profoundly remorseful” for his actions prior to prison. They also pointed to his behavior since being sent to death row as a reason to commute his sentence.

“Nick Sutton has gone from a life-taker to a life-saver. Five Tennesseans, including three prison staff members, owe their lives to him,” the letter to Lee stated.

Read Nick Sutton’s clemency letter below. 

Nick Sutton Clemency Applic... by National Content Desk on Scribd

The attorneys were joined in their clemency request by Rosemary Estep Hall, the eldest daughter of the man whose murder put Sutton on death row.

“It breaks my heart that Mr. Sutton has lost so much of his life on death row for killing my father,” Hall wrote.

Sutton’s appeal for clemency was also supported by the families of two of his initial victims, his grandmother and Almon.

Almon’s great-niece, who was born after he was slain, asked the governor to spare Sutton’s life because his death would further dishonor her uncle’s memory. She asked the state to not add “violence on top of violence.”

Sutton’s family also begged for his life.

“Nick’s own family was devastated when Nick murdered Dorothy Sutton in 1979, but now asks that you commute Nick’s death sentence in light of his profound transformation,” the letter stated. “Nick’s cousin, Lowell Sutton, believes ‘there is no question that Nick has transformed his life in prison. He has become a mentor and leader among his peers, is beloved and trusted by prison staff, and is an asset to the prison and its population.’”

Lowell Sutton wrote that the family forgave his cousin and did not want to see him put to death.

“Nick’s execution will only cause more pain and hurt for our family,” he wrote. “Please spare us that.”

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Tennessee's electric chair is pictured in 1994. Convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, was put to death in the chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Tennessee's electric chair is pictured in 1994. Convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, was put to death in the chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

Five of the jurors who sentenced Sutton to death, along with an alternate juror, also signed on to the clemency request. The jurors, moved by his transformation, believed that his life was worth saving, the letter stated.

A total of seven correctional officers who knew Sutton agreed.

“Nick risked his own safety on three separate occasions to protect correction staff from violence by other inmates,” the clemency letter to Lee stated. “It is the opinion of James E. Aiken, a former correction commissioner, prison warden, and a prison adaptation expert who met with Nick and reviewed his incarceration history that, ‘Mr. Sutton saved the lives of these three (prison staff members).’ Nick has also saved the lives of two other inmates.

“These actions demonstrate Nick’s true belief in the value of human life.”

Eden, the former prison guard whose life was saved during the 1985 prison riot, wrote in his affidavit that he was taken hostage by a group of five inmates armed with knives and other weapons.

“Nick and another inmate confronted them, physically removed me from the situation and escorted me to the safety of the trap gate in another building,” Eden wrote. “I firmly believe that the inmates who tried to take me hostage intended to seriously harm, if not kill me. Nick risked his safety and well-being in order to save me from possible death. I owe my life to Nick Sutton.”

Eden wrote that if Sutton were released from prison, he would welcome him into his home and as his neighbor.

Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP
Protesters wait outside as convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, is put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Photo Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP
Protesters wait outside as convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, is put to death in Tennessee's electric chair Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton, who killed his grandmother and two other people in 1979, was on death row for killing a fellow inmate in 1985.

Another former guard, Cheryl Donaldson, wrote about slipping, falling and striking her head on the floor in 1994 while walking through Riverbend Maximum, where she supervised the death row unit. She said no other staff members witnessed her fall and she felt that many inmates would have taken the opportunity to harm her while she was vulnerable.

“Nick, however, did exactly the opposite,” Donaldson wrote. “He sprang into action, helped me to my feet, retrieved my keys and radio and alerted staff to come to my assistance. This was typical of Nick, who always puts others before himself and is willing to help anyone in need.”

That care extended to his fellow inmates, who Sutton often aided when their health failed, according to the clemency letter. Joyce House, the mother of exonerated death row inmate Paul House, wrote that Sutton helped her son after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while in prison.

Sutton, upset when Paul House was denied a wheelchair, began carrying him around the prison, helped him shower and keep himself clean and consoled him when he would cry over his situation.

“As my son often told me, Nick is the only reason Paul is alive today,” Joyce House wrote. “As a mother, it was so difficult not to be able to care for my son. I owe so much to Nick for providing Paul with the care that I was unable to give him.”

AP Photo/Bill Waugh
Joyce House smiles as her son, Paul House, is released from prison in July 2008. House was one of the supporters seeking clemency for convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, who was put to death Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton helped care for Paul House following a multiple sclerosis diagnosis as they served time together, his mother said.

Tennessee executes convicted killer despite pleas of victims’ families, jurors and prison guards

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Waugh
Joyce House smiles as her son, Paul House, is released from prison in July 2008. House was one of the supporters seeking clemency for convicted killer Nick Sutton, 58, who was put to death Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Sutton helped care for Paul House following a multiple sclerosis diagnosis as they served time together, his mother said.

Sutton’s attorneys also argued in his clemency letter that prosecutors had initially offered their client a life sentence -- though it was one they said he could not take. They wrote that the deal was available only if his co-defendant, Charles Freeman, pleaded guilty to Estep’s murder and accepted a sentence of 30 to 40 years in prison.

“Nick did not accept the offer because Mr. Freeman was minimally involved in Mr. Estep’s death,” the letter said. “Nick also maintained -- and continues to maintain -- that his other co-defendant, Thomas Street, is innocent. Despite the life offer and Nick’s willingness to accept the offer for himself, the State sought and obtained a death sentence at trial.

“It is arbitrary and capricious that Nick received a death sentence rather than life due to his concern that his co-defendant not be forced into accepting an unjust plea. By offering Nick a life sentence prior to trial, the prosecution agreed that Nick is not the ‘worst of the worst,’ that he could be housed safely in prison for life, and that such a sentence served the interest of justice.”

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One New York crew handled seven cardiac arrests on Thursday, alone, Greco told       CNN .      “As an EMT (emergency medical technician) or a paramedic, doctors too, and nurses, we all swore oaths to do everything we can to save a life and now we’re making decisions that we were never trained for to handle mentally,” he       told the network .      US Attorney General Barr orders release of vulnerable federal inmates to limit coronavirus spread Update 2:33 a.m. EDT April 4 : U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the release late Friday night of vulnerable inmates to home confinement in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in federal prisons.      In a memorandum,      obtained by The Washington Post , requested the Federal Bureau of Prisons move elderly inmates and those with preexisting health conditions from Danbury, Connecticut; Oakdale, Louisiana; and Elkton, Ohio.     According to the      Post , prison officials have attributed five deaths at Oakdale and two at Elkton to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Danbury has confirmed nine COVID-19 infections but no deaths.     “I believe strongly we should do everything we can to protect the inmates in our care, but we must do so in a careful and individualized way that remains faithful to our duty to protect the public and the law enforcement officers who protect us all,”      Barr wrote .     White House attorney tapped to oversee coronavirus business loans Update 2:10 a.m. EDT April 4 : President Donald Trump nominated a White House attorney late Friday night to oversee distribution of emergency business loans aimed at minimizing the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.     According to      The Wall Street Journal , Trump nominated Brian D. Miller as special inspector general for pandemic recovery, giving him oversight of a $500 billion emergency relief fund.     Read more      here .     SCOTUS cancels April arguments amid coronavirus threat Update 1:55 a.m. EDT April 4 : The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday officially canceled its scheduled oral arguments for April, citing health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic.     According to      The Washington Post , about 20 cases are already stalled following the postponement of March arguments, and the justices offered little clarity regarding a timeline for finishing the current term.     “The court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time,” Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg said in a news release. US coronavirus deaths hit 7,157, total cases near 278K Posted 12:55 a.m. EDT April 4 : The number of novel coronavirus cases in the      United States approached 278,000 early Saturday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.     According to      researchers at Johns Hopkins University , there are at least 277,965 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 7,157 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 119,827 reported in      Italy and the 119,199 confirmed in      Spain .     Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,935 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in      New York , 646 in      New Jersey and 479 in      Michigan .      In terms of diagnosed cases,      New York remains the hardest hit with at least 103,060 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by      New Jersey with 29,895 and      Michigan with 12,744.     Six other states have now confirmed at least 8,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: •      California : 12,399, including 270 deaths     •      Massachusetts : 10,402, including 192 deaths     •      Louisiana : 10,297, including 370 deaths     •      Florida : 10,268, including 170 deaths     •      Illinois : 8,904, including 210 deaths     •      Pennsylvania : 8,570, including 102 deaths     Meanwhile,      Washington state,      Texas and      Georgia each has confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus infections;      Connecticut, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and      Tennessee each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and      Maryland, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia and      Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases.     Click      here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown .    
  • Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many life celebrations, like birthday parties and weddings, have had to be postponed or even canceled. But for Marty Jacobs, whose grandfather, Junior Jacobs, turned 90, there wasn’t a chance that he was going to let the milestone birthday pass without some kind of celebration, even if it meant celebrating from afar. Junior Jacobs lives in a long-term assisted living facility, which is currently not allowing any family members inside the rooms at this time due to the coronavirus outbreak. From Jacobs’ smile, you can tell his day was made. Luckily, he has a personal balcony, so his caretakers were able to bring him outside. His family members waved, sang “Happy Birthday” and waved a big 90th birthday banner from the green lawn outside the building. Although these can be bittersweet moments not getting to be with loved ones during these celebrations, it shows the power of human connection is still very present.
  • A nurse in Washington state is sharing her heartbreaking story after helping facilitate a goodbye on FaceTime between a daughter and her mother, who was in the hospital dying of the coronavirus. Michelle Bennett first shared her story with KIRO-TV last week. Her 75-year-old mother, Carolann Gann, was living at Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when other patients got the coronavirus. She tested positive and was soon at a hospital. Registered nurse Tatyana Huber said she and two other nurses donned their protective gear and worked to make Gann as comfortable as possible as they set up a FaceTime call with Bennett to say goodbye. Despite health care workers’ greatest efforts, Gann’s condition deteriorated. But because of the contagious nature of the disease, family members were not allowed in her room. “We felt honored,” Huber said. “We felt so honored we could do that and facilitate that for her.” Gann herself was a nurse for 38 years. The Bennetts were thankful these nurses could be there when they could not. “The nurses were so good at rubbing her head and holding her hand,” Bennett said. “Michelle had shared some things that she’d like for us to do for her mom if she could be there,” Huber said, “and they were things like holding her hand and just rubbing her head, reminding her that she was loved and that it was OK. And we did those things for her in (Bennett’s) absence.” Bennett, a former Sammamish police chief and now a major with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said nurses like Huber are truly heroic, finding ways for families to still connect with their loved ones. “I was able to say goodbye and tell her I love her,” Bennett said. “I look at the nurse, and she has all her stuff on, and she’s crying.” Huber said she wants families dealing with the same heart-wrenching distance to know they are doing all they can to help. “Please know that we're doing everything to make sure that your family member does not feel scared and alone when it's their time,” she said. “Please know that we're there for them, and just share with us what we can do to make them feel safe and comfortable.” Huber told KIRO-TV that during Gann’s goodbye with her daughter, one of the nurses in the room actually had to step outside. “She was quite tearful, as well, and she felt so overwhelmed,” she said. “So just being able to cover each other every once in a while, allow each other to take some additional breaks and just take some time to breathe and reconnect with yourself before we’re able to go back and care for our patients.” Huber also has a simple message for the community right now: Stay home. “We don’t want you and your family to be in a situation where you can’t be there to say goodbye,” she said. “Just please, continue the good work with social distancing and staying home. It won’t be forever.”
  • A large, revolutionary decontamination system being installed at Camp Murray, which will be able to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 protective N95 respirator masks every day, is being called an exciting breakthrough that could help solve the shortage of masks for health care professionals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The process, called the Critical Care Decontamination System, uses four retrofitted shipping containers joined together, and so far, it’s the only one of it’sits kind anywhere on the West Coast. The system- which was quickly invented and refined by the Ohio-based science and technology company Battelle- uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide and alcohol to clean and sanitize used masks that would have otherwise been tossed in biohazard bags after a single use. It received a rush “emergency” approval from the Food and Drug Administration after it was proven to be effective in sanitizing a single mask up to 20 times after use in contaminated conditions. There are only four of them in the country now, and they’re expected to help or even end the shortage of masks for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The decontamination procedure is about 3 1/2 hours, followed by several hours of aeration to get to a level where staff can reenter that space,” said Will Richter, principal scientist at Battelle. Cassie Sauer, who runs the Washington State Hospital Association, said the system could make a major impact on the vast shortage of personal protective equipment for first responders and health care workers. 'We are really excited about this decontamination unit coming to Washington,' Sauer said. 'We're really grateful that we're one of the first sites selected to have this unit.' The system is expected to run around the clock and put more than half a million masks safely back in use in hospitals, clinics and fire departments every week. 'So when a delivery truck shows up to drop off their next shipment, they'll drop off, reload with the PPE that's been decontaminated the previous day,' said Richter. “The shortage of PPE is serious. It’s really significant, and N95 masks are the best protection for workers against COVID spread,” said Sauer. “So the chance that we can reuse the masks we have now and know we’re doing it safely is just tremendous.” The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System is expected to be fully functional at Camp Murray by April 7.
  • Many people have complained about the trouble they have had filing for unemployment benefits on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website. Some say the site kept crashing on them, or if they tried to use the phones, they would spend hours on it to no avail. In response to this, DEO director Ken Lawson has issued an apology during a virtual town hall meeting this week and has said they will now use paper applications to help work through the backlog. However, one thing they stress on the website is that if you do choose to use the paper application process, it could take even longer to process than the online application.  You can access the paper application in three different languages, along with the mailing address here.

Washington Insider

  • With the threat of the Coronavirus spurring calls from Democrats for broader use of mail-in voting in the 2020 General Election, President Donald Trump on Friday sternly denounced the idea, even though he just cast a ballot in recent weeks using a mail-in ballot system in Florida. 'It shouldn't be mail-in voting, it should be you go to a booth,' President Trump said at his regular Coronavirus briefing. 'You don't send it in the mail where people pick up all sorts of bad things could happen,' Mr. Trump added, alleging that mail-in elections could create fraud. 'I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,' the President said, though his special commission on voter fraud made no such findings. But while the President and some Republicans in Congress have objected to the effort to expand mail-in voting for this year because of the virus outbreak, not all GOP elected officials oppose the idea of expanded mail-in voting opportunities. With the Coronavirus causing troubles right now, the Secretary of State in Georgia - a Republican - is sending absentee ballot request forms to every single registered voter in the state for the May 19 primary election. 'They will simply have to fill out and return the application to vote by mail in the upcoming elections with no in-person risk of exposure to COVID-19,' Georgia Secretary of State John Raffesnperger's office said. In Nevada, state officials decided to go one step further than Georgia. 'All active registered voters in Nevada will be mailed an absentee ballot for the primary election,' Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske announced. 'No action or steps, such as submitting an absentee ballot request application, will be required by individual voters in order to receive a ballot in the mail.' While the President said voters should use a voting booth, Mr. Trump voted absentee - by mail - in the Florida Primary just last month. Federal elections official estimate almost 24 percent of the votes cast in the 2016 election were cast using absentee-by-mail balloting, an option used by the President's home state of Florida and over 30 other states. Some states - most notably Washington, Oregon, California and Colorado - have shifted to mail-in voting.