(EUGENE, Ore) -- Drew and Kayla Gottfried were heartbroken after they were told that their wedding video had been erased after they tied the knot in 2007.
In a fortunate twist this past spring, Drew Gottfried received a call from their church saying that an old VHS tape had been found in the basement. Astonishingly, it was their wedding video.
For two months, Gottfried kept the secret until July 27, the couple’s 14th anniversary.
On that night, the couple went out to dinner and a movie at a local theater in downtown Eugene, Oregon, where Gottfried surprised his wife with a private viewing of the recovered video.
Kayla Gottfried’s emotional response was caught on camera and has since been viewed 6.1 million times on TikTok.
“How do you have video of this?” Kayla Gottfried said when she was surprised with the video. She told “World News Tonight” that she was happy to have that memory back.
“Break out those old family videos and relive those special moment with your loved ones often,” she said.
Although he’s also happy to have the video back, Gottfried shared a message that the present is just as important as the past.
“Enjoy your life, the moment you’re in, with your families. Whatever they are -- birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, get-togethers,” said Gottfried. “Just enjoy your time with your family. Be present and be there.”
(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
More than 611,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and over 4.1 million people have died worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 57.6% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC on Tuesday, citing new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, changed its mask guidance to now recommend everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission -- vaccinated or not -- wear a face covering in public, indoor settings.
Here's how the news is developing Thursday. All times Eastern:
Jul 29, 6:25 pm Minnesota to offer $100 for shots following Biden call
After President Joe Biden called on states to offer $100 to those who get vaccinated, Gov. Tim Walz said Minnesota would do just that.
"Good idea, @POTUS," Walz tweeted Thursday evening, following the president's COVID-19 vaccine address. "Starting July 30, every Minnesotan who gets vaccinated will get $100! All you have to do is roll up your sleeves."
Under the new incentive program, Minnesotans ages 12 and up who receive their first dose between Friday and Aug. 15 will be eligible for a $100 Visa gift card.
Jul 29, 4:00 pm
Biden calls on states to offer $100 to those who get vaccinated
President Joe Biden is urging local governments to offer $100 to those who get vaccinated with funding from the American Rescue Plan.
Biden will also announce Thursday that all federal government employees and outside contractors will be asked to "attest to their vaccination status," and those who aren’t vaccinated must social distance, get tested once or twice a week and wear a mask at work no matter where they live. This includes members of the Armed Forces and National Guard.
Biden's also set to announce that small and medium businesses will be reimbursed for giving employees paid leave to get their family members vaccinated.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle
Jul 29, 2:54 pm
US approaching same case, hospitalization levels as 1 year ago
One year ago, the U.S. was beginning to see a downturn in COVID-19 cases following a summer surge. On July 27, 2020, the U.S. was averaging about 63,400 new COVID-19 cases per day.
Now, one year later, the U.S. case average is trending in the wrong direction, averaging nearly 62,000 new cases a day.
The new infection average is up by 64.1% in the last week and 440% since mid-June.
Hospitalization levels are also nearing last summer’s numbers. More than 33,000 COVID-19 patients are now receiving care, close to the 37,000 patients hospitalized on Aug. 1, 2020.
Daily deaths, however, are significantly lower now than they were last summer.
-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos
Jul 29, 2:42 pm
Florida hospital at capacity
Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, warned Thursday that its hospitals and emergency rooms are at maximum capacity.
Hospital president and CEO Michael Mayo said earlier this week that the hospital had over 400 COVID-19 patients, an all-time high, and that unvaccinated people accounted for at least 97% of the patients. "It’s never been as bad as it is now,” Mayo said in a statement.
-ABC News’ Will Gretsky
Jul 29, 2:06 pm
Vaccinations up in Louisiana, Kentucky
Louisiana reported more than 10,000 vaccine doses per day over the last week, the first time the state’s daily numbers climbed above 10,000 since April, according to state data.
Kentucky is seeing a "little bit of an uptick" in vaccinations, Gov. Andy Beshear said, as cases skyrocket in the state.
When asked if he was considering a mask mandate, Beshear said, "I am not currently considering reinstating the mask mandate, but it's still on the table if needed."
Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said 95% of all cases involve unvaccinated individuals.
-ABC News’ Will Gretsky and Jason Volack
Jul 29, 1:16 pm
Israel to give 3rd vaccine dose to those 60 and over
In Israel, a third vaccine dose can be administered to people 60 and older beginning Aug. 1, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
The third shot will be given to those who received a second dose at least five months ago.
-ABC News’ Bruno Nota
Jul 29, 12:34 pm
University of Missouri requiring masks in classrooms
The University of Missouri is requiring masks in classrooms, including for those who are vaccinated as of Aug. 2, the school said.
COVID-19 cases are surging in Missouri. The state's positivity rate stands at 14.7%.
The university said the temporary mask requirement will be reviewed by Sept. 15.
-ABC News’ Will Gretsky
Jul 29, 9:46 am
Masks required in all federal buildings in areas of high or substantial transmission
Masks are now required for everyone -- including vaccinated people -- in all federal buildings that are in areas of high or substantial transmission, according to an Office of Management and Budget official. That includes federal offices in Washington, D.C., which is currently in substantial transmission status.
Jul 29, 8:12 am
US now administering over 600,000 shots per day on average
Over 754,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines went into the arms of people across the United States on Wednesday, according to White House COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar.
That figure includes 498,000 newly vaccinated individuals, Shahpar said, which is the highest daily amount reported since July 1.
The U.S. is now averaging more than 600,000 total shots administered per day, an increase of about 18% compared with last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jul 29, 7:21 am
Daily case count hits record high in Tokyo amid Olympics
As the 2020 Summer Olympics plays out in Tokyo, the host city saw a record-breaking number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the third straight day.
A new all-time high of 3,865 cases were reported on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the daily count a week ago, according to data from Tokyo's metropolitan government. The Games, which were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, are being held under a regional state of emergency and stringent restrictions.
Although Japan has managed to keep its COVID-19 cases and death toll lower than many other countries, its numbers have been on the rise in recent weeks with infections soaring not just in the capital city but across the nation.
"We have never experienced the expansion of the infections of this magnitude," Japanese chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters Tuesday.
At least 198 confirmed cases have been associated with the Tokyo Olympics. Of those, 24 were reported on Thursday and include three athletes who are staying at the Olympic Village, according to data from the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
Jul 29, 5:41 am
Dozens of cases across US linked to Christian summer camp
At least 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 17 U.S. states have been linked to a Christian summer camp in North Carolina, officials said.
The outbreak is associated with campers and staff who attended The Wilds camp near Rosman in North Carolina's Transylvania County between June 28 and July 17, according to a statement from the local public health department.
The camp, nestled on 1,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, offers sessions for children, adults and families.
Last week, a spokesperson for the camp told Ashevile ABC affiliate WLOS that they had cancelled sessions that week to work on enhancing COVID-19 protocols. Although there was no plan to cancel further sessions, the spokesperson said the camp was working to limit the number of attendees and started asking campers to get tested for COVID-19 before their sessions.
"We've been checking our staff, we've been doing screenings for everyone who comes onto the campsite and anticipating they're coming to our campsite healthy," the spokesperson told WLOS during a telephone interview last week. "And the anticipation is that they would leave healthy as well."
Jul 29, 1:20 am
FDA approves shelf life extension for J&J vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration has approved another extension to the shelf life of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, from four-and-a-half months to six months, J&J said in a statement late Wednesday.
"The decision is based on data from ongoing stability assessment studies, which have demonstrated the vaccine is stable at six months when refrigerated at temperatures of 36 – 46 degrees Fahrenheit," J&J said.
Jul 29, 12:38 am
CDC changes testing guidance for vaccinated people
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its guidance on testing for vaccinated people on its website.
While the CDC had previously said vaccinated people did not have to get tested for COVID-19 after being exposed to someone with the virus, unless they had symptoms, that is no longer the case.
The government agency now recommends: "If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms."
"You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive," the updated guidance states.
Jul 28, 10:20 pm
Disney World brings back indoor mask requirement for all guests
Masks once again will be required while indoors at Disney World, regardless of vaccination status, the company announced Wednesday, as Florida has quickly become a COVID-19 hotspot.
Starting Friday, face coverings will be required for all guests ages 2 and up while indoors, including upon entering and throughout all attractions.
They are also required while riding Disney transportation.
Masks are still optional in outdoor common areas, the company said.
The theme park had initially dropped its mask requirement for vaccinated guests last month.
The updated rule will also go into effect Friday at Disneyland in California.
(LOS ANGELES) — A Boeing 747 pilot near Los Angeles reported Wednesday night another "possible jet pack man in sight." It's the latest in a string of mysterious jet pack sightings near the City of Angels since last year.
"A Boeing 747 pilot reported seeing an object that might have resembled a jet pack 15 miles east of LAX at 5,000 feet altitude around 6:12 p.m. Wednesday," a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News. "Out of an abundance of caution, air traffic controllers alerted other pilots in the vicinity.”
Air traffic controllers could be heard directing pilots in the area to "use caution towards the jet pack." The FAA spokesperson said there were no "unusual objects" that had appeared on the radar around LAX around that time on Wednesday.
"We were looking but we did not see Iron Man," one person said on the air traffic recording.
The supposed jet pack sighting follows several others dating back to early 2020. In December 2020, a Southern California pilot captured a video of what appeared to be a person with a jet pack flying off the Palos Verdes Peninsula at around 3,000 feet.
Another sighting was reported in August 2020, after two different commercial airline pilots reported seeing a man in a jet pack hovering near LAX, ABC News reported.
“Reports of unmanned aircraft sightings from pilots, law enforcement personnel and the general public have increased dramatically over the past two years,” the FAA said on its website.
The agency says it receives more than 100 such reports each month.
Unauthorized operators flying around airplanes, helicopters and airports is illegal and may be subject to fines and criminal charges, including jail time, the FAA Says. The FAA spokesperson said the agency works with the FBI to investigate these sightings.
“The FAA has worked closely with the FBI to investigate every possible jet pack sighting report,” said the spokesperson. “We have not been able to validate any of the reports.”
ABC News’ Alex Stone and Mina Kaji contributed to this report.
(MT. LEBANON, Pa.) -- A horrific eruption of violence unfolded early Thursday in a Pennsylvania town when a 25-year-old man called police saying he killed his parents and wanted to surrender but then started a gunfight when officers arrived at his family's home, authorities said.
The deadly episode occurred in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. When it was over, the suspect was found dead and with a gunshot wound following a high-speed police chase that ended in a crash, police said.
Two officers were injured in the encounter, including one who was shot, officials said.
Just after midnight, a 911 dispatcher received a call from a man claiming to have killed his parents during a fight. When officers got on the phone with him, he told them he wanted to surrender, Deputy Chief Jason Haberman of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department said at an early morning news conference.
He said officers arrived at the man's house about 12:18 a.m. and confirmed both his parents were dead.
"He was very calm with the officers involved. They made phone contact with him. There was no indication he was not going to surrender," Haberman said.
Haberman said that even after officers initially arrived at the man's home, "there was no indication that he was going to turn this into a gunfight."
Without warning, the man, whose name was not immediately released, pulled a gun and started shooting at officers, hitting one from the neighboring Dormont Police Department, who was taken to a hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Haberman said.
Haberman said a second officer from the Mt. Lebanon Police Department suffered an unspecified non-shooting injury during the encounter and was treated at a hospital and released.
Officers from surrounding agencies set up a perimeter around the gunman's home, but the suspect somehow managed to get in a vehicle and breach the perimeter, Haberman said.
Haberman said officers were chasing the man south on Route 19 when he crashed. He said officers found the man dead in his vehicle and with a bullet wound.
Haberman said the man was not shot by police. He said Allegheny County police are investigating how the man was shot and whether that or the crash killed him.
The names of the suspect's parents were also being withheld, pending notification of relatives.
Haberman said Mt. Lebanon police had prior contact with the suspect and had gone to the family's home before to investigate reports of domestic violence.
"Thanks to the heroic acts of a number of officers involved and the assistance of a number of jurisdictions," Haberman said, "injuries were minimized and lives were saved."
(NEW YORK) -- As more people return to the skies, the largest flight attendant union in the U.S. is sounding the alarm on a rise in unruly passengers.
Eighty-five percent of the nearly 5,000 U.S. flight attendants The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) surveyed said they had dealt with an unruly passenger in 2021.
Almost 60% said they had experienced not one, but at least five incidents this year, and 17% reported that the incident got physical.
Flight attendants recalled incidents in which visibly drunk passengers verbally abused them, "aggressively" challenged them for making sure passengers were in compliance with the federal mask mandate, shoved them, kicked seats, threw trash at them and defiled the restrooms.
More than half of the flight attendants reported that unruly passengers used racist, sexist and/or homophobic slurs.
"I've been yelled at, cursed at and threatened countless times in the last year and the most that has come out of it has been a temporary suspension of travel for the passenger," one flight attendant wrote in the survey. "We need real consequences if flight attendants are ever going to feel safe at work again.”
The AFA is doubling down on its call for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to "protect passengers and crew from disruptive, and verbally and physically abusive travelers."
The FAA is still enforcing its zero-tolerance policy for in-flight disruptions which could lead to fines as high as $52,500 and up to 20 years in prison. The agency has looked into more than 610 potential violations of federal law so far this year --- the highest number since the agency began keeping records in 1995.
When asked if any unruly passenger has paid the FAA's proposed fine, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in late May didn't answer directly, saying only that the administration was still in the "very early stages" of enforcing the policy.
Last month, a coalition of airline lobbying groups and unions called on the Justice Department to go a step further and prosecute unruly passengers "to the fullest extent of the law."
"It is time to make the FAA ‘zero tolerance’ policy permanent," AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson said in a statement. "The Department of Justice to utilize existing statute to conduct criminal prosecution, and implement a series of actions proposed by our union to keep problems on the ground and respond effectively in the event of incidents."
"Let me be clear in underscoring something," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a news conference in May. "It is a federal mandate that one must wear a mask in an airport, in the modes of public transportation, on the airplane itself — and we will not tolerate behavior that violates the law."
Seventy-one percent of surveyed flight attendants across 30 airlines said they "received no follow-up" when they filed an incident report with airline management and a majority said they "did not observe efforts to address the rise in unruly passengers by their employers."
Out of the 3,615 unruly passenger reports received by the FAA since January, the vast majority, 2,666, involved people who refuse to wear a mask.
"This is not just about masks as some have attempted to claim," Nelson said. There is a lot more going on here and the solutions require a series of actions in coordination across aviation."
(FRESNO, Calif.) -- It's 7:51 p.m. on a warm Friday night. Fresno, California, police officer Bret Hutchins and his two partners are checking on a burglary call. The 911 caller reported somebody broke into a garage and they can hear them banging around inside. The officers are having a hard time finding the burglary when their police radios come alive. Dispatch puts out the call of shots fired with a male victim down.
ABC News was riding along on this night. As the officers sprint back to their patrol SUVs, we ask, "What's going on?" After advising dispatch that he is responding, Hutchins says, "Victim of shooting, let's go." We jump in, slamming the patrol doors as Hutchins hits his lights and sirens and we scream off to the growling sound of the Ford Police Interceptor giving what seems like all of its horsepower.
Speeding through the streets of Fresno, onlookers standing to get into clubs watch and take pictures as we zoom by with sirens blaring to the latest act of violence in the city. On the police radio, another responding officer asks, "Did anybody see him get shot?" Dispatch relays that the caller found the man down.
As we pull up to the scene, Hutchins says aloud to himself the license plate numbers of every car pulling out to memorize them in case they could be a suspect fleeing the area who they will need to track down.
We arrive to a victim down, shot multiple times. Medics are still minutes away, so Hutchins and his partners grab medical kits from the back of their patrol vehicles and sprint toward the man who is unconscious and badly bleeding.
"Okay, I have one entry wound right here," Hutchins tells his partners as they begin CPR. "One, two, three, four, five, six ... " Hutchins counts as he begins doing chest compressions on what would become Fresno's 42nd murder of 2021. Shell casings litter the area. Who shot the man is unclear in the moment, but a search for a killer would get underway. In the hours that followed, homicide detectives would canvass the area for any tiny amount of evidence.
Like many American cities, Fresno is dealing with a sharp surge in gun crime. Fresno has a population of 525,000. Its population is bigger than Kansas City, Missouri, Pittsburgh or Cleveland, but operates with a fraction of officers of some smaller cities.
"What we're seeing, yes, is a peak in violent crime," Paco Balderrama, the city's new police chief, told ABC News. "And there's a lot of factors in that."
Balderrama became the chief of police in Fresno earlier this year after spending much of his career in Oklahoma and in Texas. Since arriving, he has been tasked with figuring out how to reduce the surging violence in his city. The vast majority of the gun violence is related to gangs and the guns are most often illegal.
"I'm talking about people who have been to prison who have no business carrying a gun. Active gang members. People who are intending to hurt somebody in a crime," Balderrama said.
At a time when many cities have seen their police budgets cut and amid calls to defund the police, Fresno is in a unique position in that it is rapidly trying to hire more officers to battle the crime. The city council and community groups have given support to the idea of bringing on more officers. Fresno is looking to hire 120 new officers in the next 18 months. Part of that effort is making up for attrition but others are additional positions to increase lagging police ranks.
"I think (120 officers) is a goal we can reach. We asked the city council for $125,000 in the budget toward recruiting for a new recruiting video, for billboards, for wraps for some of the cars," Balderrama said.
He knows the department needs to rapidly increase officer numbers in this time of high crime without lowering standards. Convincing people to become a police officer is a tough task right now due to a year of negative headlines, public perception, and pressure on police, he said.
In the meantime, Balderrama's department is looking for unique ways to end the violence with current staffing. One of those ideas is a program called Advance Peace or AP. Advance Peace is less than a year old in Fresno, partially funded by the city. Its mission is to interrupt gun violence before it happens.
Members of Advance Peace are sometimes former gang members and are close to the gang community. They get to know young gang members, foster relationships with them and try to give them other ways to get out their anger.
The group focuses on mainly young men who are prone to violence. "Before he commits a gun crime, he'll call us," Aaron Foster, who works for Advance Peace, told ABC News. "We try to get out in front of it."
Foster lost a son and a daughter to gang violence in Fresno in recent years. Now he works in the community to gain the trust of gang members.
"We know them mostly because we saw them grow up as a kid. When he was in junior high school, we knew this kid would be the next round of shooters," Foster said.
The staff at Advance Peace say they often get calls from young gang members they are mentoring who say they have just shot somebody and need advice on what to do next. The group will counsel them but, in order to keep their trust and credibility, does not turn them into police. Advance Peace lets police do their investigations without being a source of intelligence. Yet, when members believe there is a gang shooting coming they may tell police they should have units in a certain area beforehand to prevent violence.
Balderrama said he supports Advance Peace as one idea that might help reduce the violence in his city.
"When you build relationships you have influence. If you have no relationships you have no influence," Balderrama said. "Advance Peace gives us the ability to communicate and give people resources."
Advance Peace staff member Marcel Woodruff becomes emotional as he shows a shelf of pictures and funeral programs for those victims of gun violence the group has worked with in the past year. The list of names is long.
"There's nobody else actively seeking shooters who say 'Hey, I wanna take you to get some Popeye's Chicken,'" Woodruff said. "It is unique in that we are the only group saying we want those who have been deemed to be the most lethal in our city and want to build a relationship with them because we inherently know they've been the most unloved."
Leaders of Advance Peace say they are constantly defending themselves against critics of the program who believe the city is simply paying gang members to reduce violence. The organization works to justify its existence and relies on its own fundraising to keep much of the program up and running.
Across the country there is a long list of ideas on how to best reduce gun violence during this nationwide surge. California Assemblymember Marc Levine, a Democrat, is working on a bill that would place a 10% tax on guns and 11% tax on ammunition sales in California.
The money from the higher taxes would go toward gun violence prevention programs and is designed, like taxes on cigarettes, to maybe also deter some from buying guns and ammunition if they cost more money.
Levine said the amount of money raised through the gun tax would be substantial and would be put to good use. "These are proven programs to reduce gun violence in our communities. It would raise $100 million annually."
But critics of Levine's bill say it would not stop street crime in California cities because much of it is being done with stolen or so-called ghost guns that have been manufactured by an individual rather than a commercial gun manufacturer. Or, critics say, if somebody does want to buy a gun through a store or dealer they will just go to Nevada or Arizona to buy what they want through dealers that are willing to sell.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, believes such taxes and other laws punish legal gun owners.
"We have 400 million guns in private possession in America," Paredes said. "Any focus you put on reducing the number of guns in public is just not going to work. That horse has left the barn."
Police point out most of the guns they come in contact with are illegally obtained and harsher gun laws likely would not impact how they are bought and sold on the streets. Paredes argues the crime surge the U.S. is experiencing is a result of not enough police on the streets, lenient prosecutors and courts, and mental health issues.
"As long as they continue to look for solutions by controlling guns through laws only affecting law-abiding citizens, because they are the only ones who obey the laws, we are going to see an increase in the violent crime rate and use of firearms in commission of crimes," Paredes said.
Police say the increasing problem is homemade ghost guns, which are made using parts that can be purchased online or in stores and assembled in a home. They are primarily unregulated, unregistered and untraceable by typical means, police said.
Paredes counters that ghost guns aren't the problem police and the media make them seem to be and that ghost guns arguments are a way to ignore the bigger mental health problem suffered by those committing violence. "The whole issue of ghost guns are a red herring," Paredes said. "I believe it's elected officials deflecting."
Officer Hutchins in Fresno feels differently, though, as he is racing from call to call. "Lately, it's been the ghost guns that are the problem," said Hutchins.
Limiting access to guns being made in secret or illegal guns being passed around under the radar has proven to be tough to fix. Few seem to agree on the problem, let alone a solid solution. Marcel Woodruff at Advance Peace said gun laws won't fix the street crime problem. He believes it has to be a longer term solution by showing gang members how to live more fulfilling lives so they don't turn toward shootings to get what they want.
"So if we deal with the violence at the systemic and structural levels that are denying people access to things they need to move through life healthy, then we consequently reduce them using a firearm to make a way for themselves," said Woodruff.
For now Fresno police remain busy moving from shooting call to shooting call.
This story is part of the series Gun Violence in America by ABC News Radio. Each day this week we're exploring a different topic, from what we mean when we say "gun violence" – it's not just mass shootings – to what can be done about it. You can hear an extended version of each report as an episode of the ABC News Radio Specials podcast.
(WASHINGTON) -- New vaccine requirements for federal employees expected to be announced by President Joe Biden Thursday "very well" could mean troops will be required to get the shot, a senior Pentagon official told ABC News on Wednesday. But if not, it still may only be a matter of time.
Because COVID-19 vaccines are available to the military under the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization (EUA), the shot has so far been strictly voluntary.
"It is not FDA approved, and therefore, it is still a voluntary vaccine," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters earlier this month. "I would like to add that as we speak, almost 69% of DOD personnel have received at least one dose. That's not bad."
By last week, the proportion of fully vaccinated troops had risen past 70%, based on data from the Department of Defense. That's significantly higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate of 49% for the U.S. population as a whole.
While the DOD can't independently decide to force service members to take a vaccine that isn't fully approved, the president "may under certain circumstances waive the option for members of the armed forces to accept or refuse administration of an EUA product," according to the FDA.
Biden said Tuesday that a federal mandate is "under consideration" and sources familiar with the discussion told ABC News the president is likely to announce federal employees will be required to be vaccinated, or else abide by "stringent COVID-19 protocols like mandatory mask wearing -- even in communities not with high or substantial spread -- and regular testing."
The president demurred on the issue when asked by ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers as he arrived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday.
"I'm talking about made in America today, that's all I'm going to talk about," Biden replied. "Tomorrow I'll talk about whatever you want to talk about, including COVID."
If Biden doesn't include service members in a mandate for federal workers, one could still come later.
Pentagon officials have publicly said they would consider requiring COVID vaccinations, as is done with more than a dozen other vaccines, after the FDA fully approves the vaccines.
"I believe that when it's formally approved, which we expect pretty soon, we probably will go to that, and then that question will kind of be moot," Vice Adm. John Nowell told a sailor in a town hall question-and-answer video posted to Facebook last month.
On July 1 the Army Times reported it had obtained an internal Army memo that said commanders should "prepare for a directive to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for service members (on or around) 01 September 2021, pending full FDA licensure," the order said.
"As a matter of policy we do not comment on leaked documents. The vaccine continues to be voluntary," Maj. Jackie Wren, an Army spokesperson told ABC News. "If we are directed by DOD to change our posture, we are prepared to do so."
Mick Mulroy, former deputy assistant secretary of defense and ABC News analyst, said evidence should determine the issue.
"Readiness has always been a key component of any military, especially one as expeditionary as the U.S. Ever since the existence of vaccines they have been a part of the readiness capability," Mulroy said. "If the medical professionals in the CDC and the DOD determine it is safe and critical to protect our force from COVID and all its variants, then that should be dispositive on the issue."
So far, the Pentagon has not announced any official decisions for the future.
"There has been no change to our use of the vaccine as a voluntary measure of protection," Kirby said in a statement to ABC News Tuesday. "We continue to urge everyone in the department to get vaccinated."
A defense official confirmed on Wednesday that this stance has not changed.
ABC News' Luis Martinez, Molly Nagle and Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega contributed to this report.
(NEW YORK) -- The Pacific Northwest is bracing for another heat wave as large wildfires continue to burn through the region.
While the spread of wildfires has slowed in recent days, that could soon change. Temperatures near Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, are expected to approach 100 degrees by Friday and dry lightning originating from the deadly monsoons in the Southwest could spark more fires.
Currently, dozens of uncontained wildfires are burning in the U.S., with the majority of them located in the West -- a region experiencing tinderbox conditions as a result of megadrought and climate change.
The Dixie Fire near the Feather River Canyon in Northern California has grown to nearly 218,000 acres, destroying more than a dozen structures, and was 23% contained. Crews are prepping for structure protection in Taylorsville, California. The fire is now the largest burning in the state and more than 8,000 people are under evacuation orders, according to the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, currently the largest in the country and the third-largest in state history, has burned through more than 413,000 acres and was 53% contained by Tuesday.
The Tamarack Fire near Gardnerville, Nevada, has scorched more than 68,000 acres by Monday and was 59% contained.
A heat wave is blanketing much of the country outside the West as well.
The heat dome is continuing to build from the north and central Plains to New Orleans. Fifteen states are currently under heat warnings and advisories.
The humidity and high temps will make it feel more like 110 degrees for some areas. Some cities in the upper Midwest, such as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Minneapolis, could break records as temperatures climb toward 100 degrees.
(MILWAUKEE, Wis.) -- A judge announced Wednesday that he has found probable cause to bring homicide charges against a Wisconsin police officer, five years after a local district attorney declared the officer was justified in his use of deadly force on a man he found sleeping in a car in a suburban Milwaukee park.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro said at a hearing that there is probable cause that former Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah committed the crime of homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon when he killed 25-year-old Jay Anderson Jr. in 2016.
"This decision has not been taken lightly, nor was it predetermined. It is the result of a careful and extensive review of the evidence in this case," Yamahiro said.
Yamahiro came to his conclusion after holding a rarely used "John Doe hearing," which provides a forum and a procedure in Wisconsin for a citizen to ask a court to review a district attorney’s decision not to issue criminal charges in cases where the citizen believes one or more crimes have occurred.
“There is reason to believe, based on the testimony, that Officer Mensah created an unreasonable, substantial risk of death," Yamahiro said as he read his lengthy decision in a courtroom packed with Anderson's relatives.
Yamahiro said he will appoint a special prosecutor within 60 days to review the case and "decide which charge or charges, if any, they believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a far higher standard than probable cause."
Anderson's loved ones, including his parents, burst into tears and applause upon hearing the judge's decision. Outside the courtroom, a large crowd of supporters cheered and began chanting Anderson's name.
"It's awesome, I can breathe," Anderson's mother, Linda Anderson, said after the hearing.
Anderson's father, Jay Anderson Sr., added, "We feel good. This is something that should have been done five years ago. This is justice, you guys, this is justice."
Now a Waukesha County, Wisconsin, deputy sheriff, Mensah left the Wauwatosa Police Department after fatally shooting 17-year-old Alvin Cole in 2020, an incident that sparked large protests in and around the Milwaukee area.
It was the third on-duty fatal shooting in five years that Mensah was involved in. His use of deadly force was justified by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in each case, including the 2015 killing of 29-year-old Antonio Gonzales.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on Yamahiro's ruling.
"What happened today is historic not just for the state of Wisconsin but for this country," said Kimberley Motley, an attorney for the Anderson family who requested the John Doe hearing.
Motley also represents the families of Gonzales and Cole.
Anderson's death unfolded just after 3 a.m. on June 23, 2016, when Mensah found him sleeping in a car in Madison Park.
“Approximately five and one-half minutes after Officer Mensah entered the park, Mr. Anderson was shot," Yamahiro said.
Mensah claimed he opened fire in self-defense when Anderson "lunged for a gun" that was in the passenger seat of the car he was in, according to evidence presented at the John Doe hearing Yamahiro held between Feb. 19 and May 19 of this year.
During Wednesday's hearing, Yamahiro said Mensah failed to activate his body-worn camera until after the shooting and did not turn on his squad car's emergency lights, which would have automatically switched on his vehicle's dashboard camera. Mensah's body-worn camera, however, activated automatically and recorded about 25 seconds of the incident without audio and captured the shooting.
"The court has also heard testimony that Officer Mensah failed to activate his emergency lights or recording equipment at the time Antonio Gonzales was shot in 2015," Yamahiro noted.
In an interview with Milwaukee Police Department investigators, the agency assigned to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting, Mensah claimed that when he approached the vehicle Anderson was in, he saw a handgun through the open passenger-side window lying on the passenger seat.
Mensah claimed that Anderson initially complied with orders to put his hands up, but during the encounter, he claimed Anderson appeared to reach for the gun with his right hand four different times before he lunged for the weapon, according to his statement to investigators.
During the John Doe hearing, two retired police homicide detectives testifying as expert witnesses claimed Mensah's story of how Anderson was shot conflicted with the physical evidence at the crime scene and the findings of an autopsy that showed Mensah was shot three times in the right side of his head and once in the right shoulder.
Ricky Burems, a retired Milwaukee Police Department detective who has investigated more than 1,000 homicides, testified that if Anderson had been lunging for the gun, he would have sustained wounds to the front of his body, the front of his head or his upper chest and even the top of his head. Burems also said there would have been blood on the passenger seat.
"All of the blood was on the driver's seat, the driver's floor, the roof of the driver's seat, the backrest, the pad or bottom where your legs and butt are and also the driver's headrest," Burems said, according to a transcript of his testimony that Yamahiro read in court Wednesday.
"So that tells me that when Mr. Anderson was shot, he was facing straight ahead. If Mr. Anderson had been lunging toward the passenger seat, that’s where his body would have been," Burems testified. "So there’s no way that he could be shot while extending or leaning or lunging toward the passenger seat and then afterward be upright in the driver's seat with his hands on his lap."
Yamahiro also said that before Milwaukee police investigators arrived at Madison Park, the crime scene was compromised by other Wauwatosa police officers who removed the gun from Anderson's car without first taking photos of the weapon and the position it was in when Anderson was shot.
“That is critical evidence that the Milwaukee Police Department didn’t get to, because Wauwatosa had already handled the gun and already moved it from the car, and already cleared it," Yamahiro said. “I don’t know if that means they unloaded it or if they looked and saw there were no bullets in it, to begin with."
Efforts by ABC News to reach Mensah on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office, where Mensah now works, released a statement saying, "In light of Judge Glenn Yamahiro's decision regarding Joseph Mensah, Sheriff Eric Severson will be reviewing all of his options, and will have a more detailed statement and decision forthcoming."
Wauwatosa Police Chief James MacGillis, who has been on the job for just three days, read a statement during a brief news conference, saying, "The officers of the Wauwatosa Police Department continue their dedication to public safety for all citizens and understand that this is a time for community healing and trust-building."
MacGillis said he has contacted the Anderson family in private to express his condolences.
"Now is the time to process the judge's decision and then move forward," MacGillis said. "The legal process has played itself out, and it’s going to continue to play itself out. My role is to lead this department, look at processes, look at how we function as an organization."
(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) -- The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit concluded that the shooter who killed eight at a FedEx facility in April carried out the shooting as "an act of suicidal murder."
"The shooter decided to commit suicide in a way which he believed would demonstrate his masculinity and capability of fulfilling a final desire to experience killing people," FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said at a press conference announcing the results of the investigation Wednesday.
In April, Brandon Scott Hole allegedly opened fire outside the building and in a locker room area of the FedEx facility just outside of Indianapolis.
Hole was "indiscriminate" at who he shot at both inside and outside of the facility, adding that he was outside for a total of three minutes before walking back into the locker room and taking his own life, Craig McCartt, deputy chief of investigations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said.
He was stopped from entering the facility by the physical security barriers put in place.
"It certainty could've been much worse had he gotten access to the back part of that facility where there was a lot of other employees," McCartt said.
Acting U.S. Attorney John Childress said Hole was "exacerbated by mental health issues."
The Behavioral Analysis Unit concluded that shooter "did not appear" to be motivated by the need to address any injustices, nor did the shooter "appear to have been motivated by bias, or desire to advance any ideology." Four of the victims of the shooting came from the area's Sikh community.
The FBI said that after examining over 175,000 files on his computer they found 200 files of "mainly German military, German Nazi things."
"But there was no indication that there was any animosity towards the Sikh community or any other group for that matter," Keenan said.
The FBI said there wasn't any evidence to suggest he targeted the FedEx facility other than that is a location he knew well. Also, the FBI said 73% of mass shooters carry out an attack at a place with which they are familiar. Hole had worked at the facility from August to October 2020.
"He also incorrectly believed he had identified a vulnerability which would have given him unobscured access to many potential victims," Keenan said.
McCartt also said that Hole's mother reported him to the IMPD in March 2020, saying he might want to carry out suicide by cop after which the department confiscated a shotgun belonging to Hole. A police report from that incident showed that officers also observed white supremacist material on Hole's computer.
"He never got that gun back in his possession, but then some months later he was able to buy more firearms," McCartt explained.
The FBI said Hole started acquiring guns that were used in the eventual shooting in July 2020.
The shooter simply just stopped showing up for work and that is why he lost his job, McCartt explained, adding Hole acted alone in his efforts.
"In talking with other employees and FedEx personnel, he had never had any kind of issue there," McCartt added.
(NEW YORK) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced that all patient-facing health care workers in hospitals run by the state will be required to get vaccinated. He said, “There will be no testing option.”
Additionally, as of Labor Day, all state employees must either be vaccinated or get tested on a weekly basis.
Governor Cuomo said the decision was made due to the “dramatic action” needed to control a surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the Delta variant. He said school districts in areas of high transmission should also consider taking a more aggressive approach.
“I understand the politics, but I understand if we don’t take the right actions, schools can become super-spreaders in September,” Cuomo said.
Calling on private sector businesses, Cumo said they should incentivize vaccinations by only allowing vaccinated people in.
75% of adults in New York state have been vaccinated.
(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing a COVID-19 summer surge as the delta variant spreads.
More than 611,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 57.6% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, citing new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, changed its mask guidance to now recommend everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission -- vaccinated or not -- wear a mask in public, indoor settings.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed over 4.1 million.
Here's how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
Jul 28, 8:46 pm
Atlanta to require masks indoors
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an order Wednesday requiring everyone to wear masks indoors in public places, as the city is experiencing "substantial" COVID-19 transmission.
"Public health experts overwhelmingly agree, and data has proved, that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this deadly virus," Bottoms said in a statement. “As COVID-19 rates increase, we must remain vigilant, wear a mask, follow CDC guidelines and other measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities."
The order includes exceptions while eating and drinking and for children under the age of 10, among others. It does not say those who have been vaccinated are exempt.
Those who continue to fail to comply after an initial warning could face up to a $50 civil penalty, according to the order.
The city's order comes as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp took to Twitter Wednesday to say he won't issue a statewide mask mandate and urged people to "get vaccinated as quickly as possible." Just over 45% of Georgia residents ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, Kemp, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against Bottoms, a Democrat, for requiring face coverings and other pandemic measures that were more restrictive than his own executive orders. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.
Jul 28, 8:22 pm
Defense Department to require masks in Pentagon
The Department of Defense said Wednesday that, effective immediately, masks are required for everyone in the Pentagon, regardless of vaccination status.
The updated mask guidance applies to all service members, federal employees, onsite contractor employees and visitors to "installations and other facilities owned, leased or otherwise controlled by DoD in the Pentagon Reservation," the department said in a statement.
The Department of Defense had said on May 14 that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at any of its facilities.
In its weekly virus forecast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that U.S. COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and daily deaths will increase over the next four weeks.
Daily fatalities have increased by 30.7% in the last week.
Over 32,000 patients are now hospitalized across the country with COVID-19, a 43.2% jump in the last week. One month ago, just under 12,000 COVID-19 patients were receiving care across the country.
Jul 28, 1:22 pm
Google requiring vaccines for in-office workers
Anyone working on Google’s campuses must be vaccinated, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced Wednesday.
"Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy," Pichai said.
Google also said it’s extending its global voluntary work-from-home policy through Oct. 18.
Jul 28, 12:00 pm
US reports highest number of new cases in the world
The U.S. reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the world in the last week, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. saw a 131% increase in new cases for the week ending July 25 compared to the previous week, according to the WHO’s epidemiological report.
The U.S. was followed by Brazil, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and India.
Globally, there were 3.8 million new cases in the last week, an 8% increase over the previous week. The number of new COVID-19-related deaths also increased sharply this week to over 69,000, a 21% jump from 57,000 deaths last week.
Jul 28, 11:27 am
Health care workers in NY state-run hospitals must get vaccinated
All patient-facing health care workers in New York’s state-run hospitals must get vaccinated, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
(UNITED STATES) -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness says whenever a tragic act of gun violence occurs, people with mental illness are often unfairly drawn into the conversation.
But experts say the relationship between mental health and gun violence is complex.
"Someone who goes out and massacres a bunch of strangers, that’s not the act of a healthy mind. There’s something wrong with that person," Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University’s School of Medicine told ABC News. "But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have one of these disorders of thought or mood regulation that psychiatrists commonly treat."
Swanson, who co-authored the study "Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiologic research to policy," said the issue is complicated because there's rarely just one explanation for mass shooters; they could also be grappling with trauma, drug use, alcohol abuse, alienation or mental illness.
"When we think about gun violence, what we know is that extreme anger, hatred and violence can motivate people to hurt or kill others. But we should never confuse strong emotions and beliefs with mental illness," Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy for NAMI, told ABC News.
Because politicians, police and the public put so much attention on mental health in the wake of gun violence, Kimball said those who have been diagnosed with things like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder face discrimination and marginalization. She said the world will often confuse those conditions with things like psychosis, which has many causes, including paranoia, Alzheimer's disease, drug use, trauma or sleep deprivation.
According to Kimball, people with mental health conditions are 23 times more likely to be the victims of violence than the general public.
"Blaming mental illness or mental health conditions for gun violence is really a distraction from the real issues at hand which are evidence-based risk factors and the fact that in our country, it’s easier to get a gun than to get mental health care," Kimball said.
Access to mental health care has been a passion of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose county seat is Chicago, a city no stranger to gun violence. In 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a three-year violence reduction plan that addresses what she calls the root causes of violence, including systemic racism, disinvestment and poverty. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed 875 gun-related homicides in 2020, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994.
Dart, who was first elected to the office in 2006 and has seen first-hand the effect gun violence has had on communities, said mental health also plays a role. He started a series of mental health programs to help the inmates in his jail, like the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort, or SAVE program. It offers intensive therapy and life-training skills for 18 to 24 year-olds who live in the county's 15 most violent-prone zip codes.
"They spend eight hours a day going through cognitive programming, we tweak it every once in a while but it’s a pretty solid plan that we’ve had going for about five years now," Dart said. "It (targets) what we and experts have suggested are some of the triggers for violence."
Dart also developed a Mental Health Transition Center, a place that offers a complete schedule of behavioral treatment like cognitive programming, anger management, therapy, meditation, parenting classes, and a discharge process so there's a hand-off to the community.
Oftentimes, police are the ones who are called when someone who has a diagnosed mental health condition is in crisis. That's why Dart said he makes sure his officers get training and why he developed a unit called Treatment Response Teams.
"We now have iPads, that our police officers have, so when they go to a mental health case, we literally hand the iPad to the mother or father or we’ll actually hand it to the person in a mental health crisis, and they’re sitting on the iPad talking to a mental health professional," Sheriff Dart said.
Although most of the attention given to guns and mental health focuses on mass shootings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on average, 60% of all the gun deaths in the United States are suicides.
Linda Cavazos, a gun violence survivor and advocate, lost her brother Louie to gun suicide when he was 26 years-old. She said Louie was experiencing depression and anxiety over job loss and a relationship issue before his death.
"All five siblings got phone calls that day from Louie," Cavazos said. "It wasn't unusual for him to call. He sounded like Louis. I realized later that he was sentimental and I realize now that he was saying goodbye."
The death changed Cavazos' family, and their mental health, forever. She said her father became a shell of the man he was for at least five years. The brother who found Louie withdrew and his personality changed, Cavazos said while another brother felt anger and hurt for years. She and her sisters were left with feelings of grief, shock and survivor's guilt.
Cavazos said not only did the family not know Louie was having suicidal thoughts, she also said he lied to a friend to get the gun.
"The friend basically left the gun unsecured with ammunition and told him that he wasn’t going to be home and to come over and get it," Cavazos said.
It's one reason she is pushing for more secure storage laws and what's known as Red Flag laws. Nineteen states plus Washington, D.C., have passed Red Flag laws, which Swanson said lets police or a family petition a court to temporarily remove guns from someone who poses a threat to others, or themselves.
"Even if you’re someone who says ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’ here’s a law that’ll help you figure out who those people are," Swanson said.
According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, the country has seen nearly 11,000 gun violence deaths so far this year. Last year, that number was more than 19,402, the highest number of gun violence deaths in more than 20 years. That was during the height of the pandemic when there were fewer mass shootings, the overwhelming majority were gun suicides.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK].
This story is part of the series Gun Violence in America by ABC News Radio. Each day this week we’re exploring a different topic, from what we mean when we say “gun violence” – it’s not just mass shootings – to what can be done about it. You can hear an extended version of each report as an episode of the ABC News Radio Specials podcast.
(SALINA, Kan.) -- NASA recently began new research to investigate how extreme summer weather may be affecting the upper layers of earth's atmosphere.
Kenneth Bowman, Ph.D., the principal investigator for the Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTSS) research project, spoke to reporters about the project during a press briefing on Tuesday. He said their goal is to understand how intense summer thunderstorms over the U.S. affect the stratosphere -- the second layer of earth’s atmosphere as you move toward space -- especially as climate change causes severe thunderstorms to occur more often.
“Most thunderstorms occur in the lower layer of the atmosphere, which we call the troposphere. But when we get particularly intense thunderstorms, the updrafts -- the rising air in the storm -- can actually overshoot into the layer above, which is the stratosphere,” Bowman said.
He said that when this happens, the air in the troposphere can rise up to the stratosphere in as little as 20 to 30 minutes. Those updrafts can transport pollutants and water that might not normally reach this level of the atmosphere in such a short amount of time.
The stratosphere is usually dry, according to the project’s website, and the water and pollutants may "have a significant impact on radiative and chemical processes" in the atmospheric layer.
David Wilmouth, Ph.D., a scientist at Harvard University who is working on the project, said the updrafts could potentially “change the chemical composition of the stratosphere, a process that would not otherwise happen.” Their work will determine if that’s the case.
Bowman explained that the stratosphere is important because it contains the Earth’s ozone layer, which protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun. About 90% of the world’s ozone layer exists within the stratosphere, according to Wilmouth.
Wilmouth said the ozone layer is “critical” for protecting life on earth. If its protective shield was to weaken, humans would be more susceptible to skin cancer, cataracts disease and an impaired immune system, according to NASA.
Dan Csziczo, Ph.D., a professor and head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, said during the briefing that their goal is specifically to understand the composition and size of the particles that make their way up to the stratosphere, and how they might influence the earth’s climate. Csziczo said the research would also help scientists understand the process of cloud formation and subsequent precipitation.
Understanding the relationship between climate change and particulate matter in the air is critical because, ultimately, each of them might exacerbate the impact of the other on humans’ health and way of life.
For the project, NASA is working with several universities across the country, as well as the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The mission consists of three eight-week-long deployments over the course of the 2021 and 2022 summer seasons. The DCOTSS will be using NASA’s ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft for the mission.
DCOTSS will be operated out of Salina, Kansas, a site chosen by the researchers due to its central location within the U.S. It’s also a region of the country that’s particularly prone to severe and intense thunderstorms during the summer.
The ER-2 aircraft is equipped with fully robotic, pre-programmed instruments that can measure the gases and particles that come out of the overshooting tops of the thunderstorms, as well as meteorological information, such as water vapor, Wilmouth said.
The aircraft can only transport its pilot, who must wear a pressurized suit to withstand the high altitudes, which can go as high as 70,000 feet -- about twice the altitude of typical commercial airlines, according to the project’s website.