Federal agents fire tear gas again at Portland protesters

By Deborah Bloom

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Federal agents fired tear gas canisters at Black Lives Matter demonstrators in downtown Portland early on Friday in a 56th straight day of protests, amid growing scrutiny over the use of border patrol officers in the city.

Positioned behind a steel fence, agents began firing tear gas after a small group of protesters, many helmeted and wearing face masks, lit a fire at the entrance of the building shortly after midnight.

Saying they were being hit with projectiles and lasers, federal agents declared an unlawful assembly and forced protesters back up a block from the federal courthouse.

The agents then retreated to a different corner of the courthouse and confronted protesters there, lobbing more canisters that bounced off the walls of buildings into protesters. Journalists were clearly identifiable in the crowd.

Security forces have frequently tear-gassed and clubbed demonstrators during the unrest. The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would investigate the use of force by federal agents in Portland after another night of unrest in which Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed.

The investigations follow public anger over the deployment of federal border patrol officers to Portland against the wishes of local officials. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said it is sending a similar contingent to Seattle.

Earlier on Thursday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order barring federal law enforcement from using force against journalists and legal observers at the Portland protests. This followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of journalists whom federal agents had hit with non-lethal “impact munitions.”

RE-ELECTION BATTLE

Demonstrators and local officials see the deployment of the agents in Portland as a ploy by Trump to drum up a “law and order” campaign as he faces an uphill re-election battle.

Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has said all federal agents have been making lawful arrests and properly identifying themselves as law enforcement.

Mayor Wheeler, a Democrat, has called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence.

In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said U.S. police and security forces must not use disproportionate force against protesters and journalists, or detain them unlawfully.

“It is very important that people are able to protest peacefully, that people aren’t subject to unnecessary, disproportionate or discriminatory use of force,” Liz Throssell, U.N. human rights spokeswoman, said.

Earlier in the evening a crowd of thousands of Black Lives Matter supporters gathered in the city center.

“I’m so inspired to see a sea of people who don’t look like me who are saying Black Lives Matter,” said Damany Iqwe, referring to the majority-white crowd.

Iqwe, 43, is a Black man who grew up in Portland and has frequently attended protests that have continued since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

“This city is one of the most systematically racist places to live in as a Black man,” Iqwe said.

(Reporting by Deborah Bloom in Portland, Additional reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru and , Editing by Gerry Doyle and Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

Seattle police clear protest zone after flares of violence

By Lindsey Wasson

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Seattle authorities moved on Wednesday to dismantle a protest zone that the city’s police chief derided as “lawless and brutal” and which had prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to call for action against demonstrators.

Officers, clad in helmets and extra protective gear, entered the “autonomous zone” early and by mid-morning had arrested 31 people for failure to disperse, assault and other alleged crimes, according to the police department’s Twitter feed.

Police moved to retake the zone after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan declared the gathering around the police department’s East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park an “unlawful assembly,” the police chief, Carmen Best, said in a statement that highlighted a recent spate of shootings and the deaths of two teenagers.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr commended Best in a statement for distinguishing between the right to protest and violent crime in “restoring the rule of law.” Barr did not mention Durkan, a Democrat who has been a target of the Republican president’s ire.

Harry “Rick” Hearns, a protester who said he volunteered to provide armed security at CHOP for 24 straight days, told Reuters he supported the police crackdown “1,000 percent.” He blamed the violence on outsiders who he said had marred an otherwise successful month long occupation.

“We don’t represent violence. People brought that to us,” said Hearns, 59.

Police were walking in and out of the East Precinct on Wednesday, re-establishing control. Weeks earlier, they abandoned the building following clashes with protesters in the wake of the May 25 killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of that city’s police.

Floyd’s death triggered a nationwide wave of largely peaceful demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality, giving rise in Seattle to the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone east of downtown.

“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings — two fatal — robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several-block area,” Best said.

Trump has been demanding that local authorities eject the protesters, whom he labeled “domestic terrorists.” Conservative pundits have pointed to the zone in Seattle to support an argument that protests across the country were less peaceful than they were being portrayed.

Black armored vehicles and baton-wielding officers patrolled the perimeter of the area that was barricaded with spray-painted plywood, some marked with phrases like “All Lives Don’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter” and “RIP E Precinct.”

Bicycle police employed three dozen bikes to create a barricade at East Pike and 12th Avenue, allowing city crews to take down protesters’ tents. Some officers sipped Starbucks’ coffee, evidence the operation had met no serious resistance.

The zone had become less crowded and active over the past several days. Crowds that came by the thousands to listen to speeches about police brutality and marvel at street art commemorating Black lives had disappeared, as had medic stations and multiple free food tents.

Businesses in the area, a trendy neighborhood of hipster bars and boutiques, have been pushing for a tougher stance by authorities. Attorneys have filed two class action lawsuits against the City of Seattle, including one aimed at preventing the establishment of “lawless autonomous zones” in the future.

Lencho Williams, who was roused by police from the CHOP encampment on Wednesday, said protesters would regroup. He said the movement had become disorganized when three original demands — defund the police, fund the Black community and amnesty for demonstrators — morphed into 12.

“We’re going to be back. If not tomorrow, the next day. You can’t stop a revolution. Black lives matter now and forever,” said Williams, 32.

(Reporting by Lindsey Wasson in Seattle, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernadette Baum, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

Seattle plans to dismantle occupied protest zone after shootings

(Reuters) – Seattle authorities, alarmed by two weekend shootings, plan to start dismantling six blocks of streets in a part of the city occupied by activists protesting against police brutality and racial inequality across the United States.

A teenager was killed and at least two other people were wounded in the shootings in what is known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said city authorities were working to bring the CHOP zone to an end and that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) would soon move back into a precinct building its forces had largely abandoned in the area.

“SPD will be returning to the East Precinct. We will do it peacefully and in the near future”, Durkan told a news conference on Monday.

Durkan condemned the violence, writing on Twitter that it was “unacceptable”.

She said such violence distracted from changes in policing demanded by demonstrators.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the demonstrations in the Seattle protest zone are being run by “anarchists”.

Anti-racism protests and demonstrations against police brutality have spread around the world since an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him in Minneapolis on May 25.

Protesters have also demanded authorities take down monuments honoring pro-slavery Confederate figures and the architects of Europe’s colonies.

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Teenager killed in Seattle protest zone shooting, one wounded

(Reuters) – Seattle police on Saturday said they were investigating the fatal shooting of one person and wounding of another in a part of the city occupied by activists protesting against police brutality and racial inequality across America.

The Seattle Police Department said it was investigating a shooting at 10th Avenue and East Pine inside the Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area, which has been occupied by activists without any known police presence since June 8, when Seattle police abandoned the East Precinct located there.

The police said they responded to a report of shots fired in Cal Anderson Park at about 2:30 a.m. PDT (0930 GMT) only to learn that two male victims had already been moved to Harborview Medical Center by CHOP medics.

Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg confirmed the hospital received two shooting victims from Capital Hill in the early hours and that one, a 19-year-old, died shortly after arrival while the other was in critical condition in intensive care.

The police said that the suspect or suspects, for which they had no description, had fled and were still at large.

The occupation of the district came as widespread protests against police abuse and injustice took place across the United States after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died while he was in Minneapolis police custody. A bystander recorded video of the officer who was charged with murder holding a knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video footage after the Seattle shooting from Omari Salisbury, a reporter for Converge Media, showed a small group of police entering part of the protest zone on foot, holding riot shields and firearms, as occupants raised their hands and shouted at officers to drop their guns.

The footage, seen by Reuters, also showed people surrounding multiple police cars, which then left the area.

In a statement, the police called the protesters a “violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims.”

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew; Editing by Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis)

Seattle mayor says illegal for Trump to send military to clear protesters

By Gregory Scruggs

SEATTLE (Reuters) – The mayor of Seattle said on Thursday it would be unconstitutional and illegal for U.S. President Donald Trump to send military forces into the city to clear protesters occupying a neighborhood, as he has suggested.

But Mayor Jenny Durkan, speaking at an afternoon press conference, did not say how or when authorities would remove the roughly 500 demonstrators who have established a makeshift encampment behind barricades in the Capitol Hill district.

“It is unconstitutional and illegal to send the military into Seattle,” said Durkan, a first-term Democrat. “There is no imminent threat of an invasion of Seattle.”

Activists have occupied the area since police on Monday moved street barricades and abandoned their East Precinct station in a move city officials say aimed to reduce tension.

In a Youtube video, Seattle’s police chief, Carmen Best, said it was not her decision to leave the precinct.

“You fought for days to protect it, I asked you stand on that line day in and day out to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened and in some cases hurt,” Best told her department in the video published on its Youtube page.

Protesters used the police barricades to section off the area, calling it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”

“We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday.

“Let the governor do it. He’s got great National Guard troops … But one way or the other, it’s going to get done. These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city.”

On Sunday, a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the area that became the “autonomous zone” the following day. He then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop, according to police and eyewitness video.

The man who was shot was in stable condition at a hospital while the driver was arrested.

Major U.S. cities have been convulsed by marches, rallies and sometimes violence for more than two weeks over the death of a black man, 46-year-old George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody. A bystander recorded video of the now-dismissed officer holding a knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“What we have been given here is a unique opportunity to see how a police-free zone can be facilitated,” protester David Lewis told Reuters, standing in front of the abandoned East Precinct.

“Making this a community or education center would be a momentous and very powerful movement that the city can commit to the lack of police brutality and also an acknowledgement of the debts of the past.”

Police officers returned to the East Precinct building on Thursday to inspect it for damage but it remains unstaffed.

Best said the neighborhood could not remain occupied but neither she nor Durkan would say how the city planned to dismantle the camp.”We have to make sure we don’t recreate the entire cycle we were able to disrupt,” Durkan said.

(Reporting by Gregory Scruggs in Seattle; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool and Clarence Fernandez)

A picture and its story: A shooting in Seattle

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Stunned protesters surround a car that has driven into their ranks. A man is lying on the ground nearby. Another man exits the driver’s side of the vehicle brandishing a gun. The protesters back away from him and he runs off and melts into the crowd as medics rush to help the wounded man.

The dramatic scenes of a drive-by shooting on the streets of Seattle were captured by Reuters photographer Lindsey Wasson during protests against police brutality and racism that have rocked the city – and many other places across the United States – in recent days.

Wasson, a Seattle native, has been covering the protests in Washington state’s largest city since May 31.

She took the series of pictures on Sunday evening from the window of a local newspaper that has offices overlooking a street that became a flashpoint.

A combination picture shows Dan Gregory appearing to try and enter the vehicle of a man who tried to drive through the crowd during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, (top) and Gregory falling back and tended to by medics after being shot in the arm (bottom), in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

“I had maybe just stepped to the main window, and I was looking over the crowd and seeing what was going on. I heard a scream and commotion and rushed to the dirty side window to photograph what was happening in a side street,” she said.

“The whole sequence probably took a minute, it happened very quickly.”

Video taken by others at the scene show that the man who was injured fell to the ground after he appeared to lean into the car. The shooter handed himself over to the police shortly after the incident.

“Suspect in custody, gun recovered after man drove vehicle into crowd at 11th and Pine. Seattle Fire transported victim to hospital,” Seattle Police wrote in a tweet.

A police report of the incident obtained by a local NPR radio station named the injured man as Daniel Gregory and said he had a gunshot wound to the arm.

A GoFundMe page set up for Gregory said he was recovering in the hospital. Reuters could not immediately reach Gregory for comment.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and have evolved into a movement for racial equality and reforms to police departments across the country.

For Wasson, the protests in her home town have been of a size and intensity unlike others she has seen before.

“It has been very odd to see something like this where you grew up. What feels different this time is the scale and how sustained it’s been. I’ve never seen it happen for this long, this extended energy and purpose,” she said.

The majority of her coverage of the protests over the last week has been of more peaceful moments, said Wasson.

At those times, she has focused on how she will tell the story. But it is also important for a photographer on the ground to read the situation and be aware of exit routes if needed, she added.

In this case, she had an unusually high vantage point that gave her the perfect view. Taking photos through glass is never ideal, because of the challenges related to reflection. How the images turn out depends on the light and how close you can get, said Wasson.

“It’s not ideal but at that particular moment it was the only thing available to me.”

(Reporting by Greg Scruggs and Rosalba O’Brien; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Man drives car into Seattle protest crowd, shoots bystander: police

Reuters) – A man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Seattle on Sunday, then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop, according to police and eyewitness video.

Seattle police said firefighters took the man who was shot to the hospital and that he was in stable condition. No one else was injured, the police said.

Photojournalist Alex Garland helps apply a tourniquet to the arm of a gunshot victim after a man tried to drive through a crowd and shot one man during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The suspect was seen in the video exiting his car as protesters began to surround it. He brandished what appeared to be a gun, dashed through the crowd and turned himself over to police.

The incident was in contrast to the mostly peaceful weekend protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last month while in Minneapolis police custody.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

Seattle police oversight to continue after 12,000 Floyd protest complaints

By Gregory Scruggs

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Police in the city of Seattle will continue to be overseen by federal monitors, the mayor said on Wednesday, days after the force drew 12,000 complaints for its handling of protests over the death of George Floyd.

Mayor Jenny Durkan reversed her position from last month when she and the U.S Justice Department filed a motion to end the eight-year federal intervention, arguing police had met obligations under a “consent decree” imposed for excessive use of force, such as killings of young men of color.

Prosecutors have leveled new criminal charges against four policemen implicated in the death of Floyd, a black man pinned by his neck to the street during an arrest in Minneapolis. Outrage over the death has sparked more than a week of protests and civil strife in major U.S. cities.

The backpedaling in Seattle came after its Office of Police Accountability on Monday reported a host of complaints against the police response to weekend protests, including pepper-spraying a young girl and placing knees on the necks of two people arrested.

“The City knows it still needed to address concerns on discipline and accountability,” Durkan, who helped introduce the 2012 consent decree as a U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “We should pause as our community is rightfully calling for more police reforms.”

The Seattle Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seattle’s decision came as former President Barack Obama urged every American mayor on Wednesday to work with communities to review police use-of-force policies.

Seattle lawyer and community organizer Nikkita Oliver, who ran against Durkan in the 2017 election, characterized the city’s decision to continue federal oversight as a longstanding demand from police reform advocates.

States like New Jersey and Colorado have proposed police reforms in response to the Floyd killing, but critics say deeper overhauls like defunding or dismantling of departments are necessary to bring real change.

(Reporting by Gregory Scruggs in Seattle, additional reporting and writing by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

U.S. pumps $8.3 billion into coronavirus battle as more states report cases

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – A bill signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will provide $8.3 billion to bolster the country’s capacity to test for the fast-spreading new coronavirus and fund other measures to stem an outbreak that has now hit 21 states, with Pennsylvania and Indiana reporting their first cases.

The president signed the legislation, approved by the Senate on Thursday, at the end of a week in which the virus began to disrupt daily life for many Americans.

In Seattle, the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak, there were school closings and orders to work from home. In Miami and Baltimore, areas less affected by the outbreak, music festivals and sporting events were canceled or curtailed as a precaution.

The funds will partly go toward expanding testing capacity, which health officials say is a key slowing the spread of the respiratory illness in the United States.

The U.S. death toll reached 14 by Friday with more than 230 cases. Worldwide, about 100,000 people have been infected and more than 3,400 have died, most of them in China.

“We’re doing very well,” the president said after signing the bill. “But it’s an unforeseen problem … came out of nowhere but we’re taking care of it.”

Trump’s spokeswoman said he would travel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta on Friday.

The planned trip had been called off because a CDC staff member was suspected to have the virus, but the person tested negative, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

Washington’s King County has been the hardest hit area in the United States with 12 of the deaths, at least six whom were people living at a nursing facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.

The University of Washington announced on Friday that all classes would be held virtually for the rest of the winter term to limit contagion.

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Thursday joined Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp in recommending employees in the Seattle area work from home after some contracted the virus, a policy affecting more than 100,000 people. Gap Inc on Friday closed its New York headquarters because one employee had tested positive.

In Florida, Miami officials canceled two music festivals on Friday – Ultra and Calle Ocho – because of potential risk that coronavirus could spread at events that bring large crowds into close proximity.

For similar reasons, the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament will go ahead at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this weekend but without spectators, the university said on Friday.

As new states report their first cases, others watched their tally grow. Cases in New York jumped to 33 from 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday, adding that some 4,000 people in the state were under precautionary quarantine and 44 under mandatory quarantine.

But he also tried to stem any sense of panic by the public. “I think the anxiety and the fear is more of a problem than the virus,” Cuomo said.

GRAPHIC: Tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html

INCREASED TESTING

Trump said he had spoken to California Governor Gavin Newsom about a cruise ship that was barred from docking in San Francisco after at least 35 people developed flu-like symptoms while on board. The ship has been linked to two confirmed cases of the illness caused by the virus called COVID-19.

“We’re doing testing on those people,” Trump said.

Test results of passengers were due on Friday, according to Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management. State and local officials airlifted diagnostic kits to the vessel.

More than $3 billion included in the $8.3 billion spending bill is intended for test kits, research and development into vaccines and treatments. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the illness, which began in China and has spread to about 90 countries and territories.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was present at Trump’s bill signing, said the CDC had already sent tests for 75,000 people to public health labs around the country, amid widespread criticism of not enough tests available for states in need.

Azar said a private contractor was working with the CDC to send kits capable of testing 400,000 people to private hospitals and labs nationwide.

“The production and shipping of tests that we’ve talked about all week is completely on schedule,” Azar said.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged issues that slowed distribution of coronavirus tests, but said the overall response was going well.

“There were certainly some missteps in the beginning,” he told NBC’s Today program. “In the next couple of weeks we should be ratcheted up to get many more out.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, tasked by Trump to lead the coronavirus response, on Thursday noted there were not yet enough tests to meet demand going forward.

The deepening crisis has hit stocks hard. The benchmark S&P 500 was down nearly 3% on Friday after also falling by as much on Thursday.

The Trump administration may take targeted steps to stimulate the U.S. economy as the outbreak may temporarily drag down some sectors, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday.

“We’re worried about individuals at home who may lose paychecks. We’re worried about small business,” he said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert Timothy Ahmann and Steve Holland in Washington, D.C., Gabriella Borter, Peter Szekely and Nathan Layne in New York; Writing by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Berkrot)

‘Do we really want to close schools?’ U.S. authorities resist coronavirus closures

By Andrew Hay and Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Like many Seattle residents, Andrew Davidoff is demanding schools close to slow the country’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, but as in other U.S. cities school officials are resisting that, saying closures could make things worse.

Davidoff, a Microsoft Corp employee, has been told to work from home to slow the spread of the virus. He thinks his daughter, and other children in Lake Washington School District (LWSD) should do the same after 11 people died in the state from COVID-19.

“LWSD is doing everything they can to get me sick,” said Davidoff, 59, among over 20,000 people to sign an online petition demanding school closures.

But in a controversy like ones playing out in New York and Los Angeles, the Seattle school district is staying open.

“School closures can be disruptive and costly for families,” LWSD said in a statement, recommending schools not shut unless there were COVID-19 exposure risks.

The dilemma over whether to close schools has rolled into the United States as U.S. coronavirus cases top 200. The outbreak has had an unprecedented impact on schools worldwide, the education of over 290 million students affected in 13 countries, according to the United Nations.

Closures have long been a U.S. response to influenza, a dangerous and highly contagious disease for students. But health authorities are rethinking their approach for coronavirus, shown to have limited effects on children.

“Do we really want to close schools or do we want to keep schools open so faculty can continue to come in and serve children?” said Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County.

Not all of Seattle’s schools are staying open.

Northshore School District closed on Thursday, citing possible exposure of staff to COVID-19 and a student absentee rate of 20 percent. It said children’s education would continue online.

Davidoff said other districts should follow suit.

“Kids will have mild exposure but they will be spreading it to vulnerable parents,” said the Redmond software engineer.

VIRUS CARRIERS

Having a large portion of the more than 56 million school children in the United States stay home for weeks or even months could have unwelcome societal and economic impacts.

Schools offer much more than education, providing meals to over 30 million students, according to the Food Research & Action Center. They give free child care to working families, with around a quarter of the U.S. workforce having no paid sick leave if forced to stay home with kids.

School closures could have a paradoxical effect on coronavirus spread.

If children are carrying the infection but not showing symptoms, they could be an invisible reservoir for community spread, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Duchin said sending students home to grandparents or older caregivers could expose them to the virus. And students sent home often gather together at places like malls, risking community spread.

“If kids are not getting infected and they’re not getting sick, then the last thing you want to do is shut down a school,” said Osterholm, citing data that only 2.1 percent of China coronavirus cases were among those 19 or younger.

Closure proponent Satya Ananthu expected children to spread COVID-19 to their families if schools did not shut.

“Having kids in school will make them carriers of the virus to older people,” said Ananthu, a tech worker who started an online petition for a shutdown in Everett, Washington.

Parents like Alicia Aguirre, in Los Angeles are taking matters into their own hands, keeping children home.

“I am going to go by the week and the numbers,” said Aguirre, 27.

Others such as Jamilah Mabruk, 36, are conflicted.

She lives 10 minutes from the Kirkland area of Seattle where nearly all the state’s deaths have been reported among nursing home residents.

Her 15-year-old daughter is opposed to missing school, conscious of grades, but suffers from asthma and could be vulnerable.

“My anxiety is out the roof. I am very concerned because every day there is something new … a new death,” said Mabruk, who sends her daughter off with a pack of Clorox travel wipes.

(GRAPHIC: Tracking the novel coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html)

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Christopher Cushing)