National

Maryland school district replacing diesel school buses with electric

Courtesy of Thomas Built Buses BY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools has announced a contract to replace its diesel buses with electric ones, starting with 326 electric buses over the next four years. It marks the single largest purchase of electric school buses in North America, according to the release announcing the deal.

The county school board, which is located northwest of Washington D.C and operates more than 200 schools, approved the deal with Highland Electric Transportation, a Massachusetts-based start-up that delivers electric school buses to school districts. 

Although this contract only replaces about a quarter of the entire 1,400 bus fleet, the contract could be extended to replace the entire fleet, according to Todd Watkins, the Transportation Director for Montgomery County Public Schools.

“The reason we picked four years instead of the entire contract is that the whole school bus industry thinks that prices on electric vehicles are going to be going down significantly as we saw with Tesla...And everybody fully expects that to happen with school busses, too. And we didn't think it was very responsible to try to contract out further than four years,” says Watkins.

Watkins says the district got several proposals, but ultimately went with Highland Electric because they provided everything they wanted.

“We asked for use of the vehicle, design, installation, and maintenance of the charging infrastructure, we asked for the electric the busses run on and we asked for maintenance of the busses. ... We wanted every piece of it to be part of the contract so that we knew for sure what we were going to pay for those,” says Watkins. 

Nat Kreamer, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national clean energy business group, applauded the announcement in a statement

“This leadership step taken by Montgomery County Public Schools shows that it’s possible today to electrify transportation at scale. Comprehensive solutions like Highland Electric’s can leverage private capital, meet the needs of fleet operators, and serve communities now without burdening ratepayers or taxpayers,” said Kreamer.

As part of the deal, Highland Electric will purchase the buses from Thomas Built Buses in North Carolina. It will be supplied and serviced by Annapolis, Maryland-based American Bus- a long-time provider for the school district. Thomas Built will use its all-electric Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley school bus and it will be powered by Proterra batteries. The buses are capable of up to 135 miles range on a single charge. 

Highland Electric will also electrify all five of the MCPS bus depots and supply all the charging infrastructure, with the goal of purchasing 100% renewable energy to power them over time.

Duncan McIntyre, CEO of Highland Electric, says he believes the county chose the company because they were able to make the contract budget neutral. 

“We're looking at their capital that they've got available and their operating expenses that they expect to spend over the next 10 to 15 years to operate a diesel fleet. And we're sort of shifting that around and making the bet with our money. We're making the bet that electric busses are much cheaper to operate, and so there's a shift, we're willing to pay a lot more because we're making a bet that savings will materialize,” says McIntyre.

One common concern for customers is what the price of electricity will be down the road. McIntyre says they are the ones taking the risk of the costs when they bundle future prices into the annual contract. 

“For the district, it's a win-win. They get to wash their hands of it. What they know is they get sixteen thousand miles per year per bus, because that's how many miles they need to drive. And it's our obligation to power up the busses every night, [or the] middle of the day, and create an optimized strategy that gives them charge readiness for their routes,” says McIntyre. 

The company plans to deliver 25 buses this fall, before ramping up to 61 in 2020, then around 120 each of the next two years. Watkins says it will take 14 years to completely electrify the entire fleet. 

The move to electric buses also gets rid of dangerous carbon emissions, says Watkins.

“We get to have a vehicle that we know doesn't produce any tailpipe emissions at all. ...we know that whatever impact there is of diesel exhaust on students riding our busses, or being in school driveways, while those are much, much less than they were 20 years ago ... there's still some greenhouse gases. There's still some particulate matter and still burns fossil fuels,” says Watkins. 

When the buses are not in use, especially during the summer when school is out, the batteries [can] provide energy to the electrical grid. 

“We've been doing that for a few years and have a number of vehicle to grid projects that are primarily smaller. But we're making a bet that we can earn some income,” says McIntyre.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas governor on ending mask order: 'We no longer need government running our lives'

Michael Anthony/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(HOUSTON) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is opening up about his decision to end the state mask mandate, stressing that he still urges residents to take precautions, but Texans "no longer need government running our lives."

On March 10, Texas' mask order will end and businesses can reopen at full capacity, Abbott announced Tuesday.

In a Thursday interview with ABC Houston station KTRK, Abbott said the decision "was a product of the data that we have seen."

Thursday marked the lowest positivity rate and number of hospitalizations since October, Abbott said. Over 50% of Texans ages 65 and older have received at least one vaccine shot, he added.

"All the metrics are moving in the right direction," he told KTRK. "The numbers are adequate for people to be able to go back to work, open up and get back to a sense of normalcy, especially for our kids and schools, while at the same time making sure that people do follow the best practices."

"We are still urging people to continue to wear the mask," Abbott said.

In the face of backlash over his decision, including from President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Abbott conceded, "There's never going to be a uniform agreement on this."

The governor added, "If businesses don't feel safe opening, they should not be required to."

Abbott stressed, "We no longer need government running our lives. Instead, everybody must continue to assume their own individual responsibility to take the actions that they have already mastered to make sure that they will not be contracting COVID-19."

Biden on Wednesday called Abbott's ruling "Neanderthal thinking."

"I hope everybody has realized by now these masks make a difference," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office.

"The last thing we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, 'Everything’s fine, take off your mask,'" Biden said.

Fauci said Abbott's decision was "quite risky."

"If you look at the amount of infection that is in the community right now, even though the slope is coming down sharply, if you look at the last seven day average, it’s plateaued," Fauci said Wednesday in a livestream with United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone.

"That’s a dangerous sign because when that has happened in the past, when you pull back on measures of public health, invariably you’ve seen a surge back up," Fauci said.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also said Tuesday that county mask mandates would be lifted and businesses could "operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules." Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey took a more conservative approach, announcing Thursday that she was extending the state's mask mandate until April 9.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


California authorities identify those injured in deadly crash near US-Mexico border

katifcam/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(HOLTVILLE, Calif.) -- Authorities have begun to identify the victims of a deadly car crash that happened earlier this week in California, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The incident was one of the deadliest border crashes on record and it's believed to be linked to a migrant smuggling operation.

The collision occurred Tuesday morning on California State Route 115 at an intersection near the city of Holtville, about 125 miles east of San Diego and about 10 miles from the country's border with Mexico. A 2011 Peterbilt tractor-trailer slammed into a 1997 Ford Expedition that was carrying 25 people. Thirteen occupants of the Ford Expedition, including the driver, were killed while the other 12 were injured, many of them severely. The driver of the tractor-trailer also suffered major injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol.

All 13 who lost their lives "are suspected to have entered the U.S. illegally," according to the United States Customs and Border Protection.

Mexico's foreign consulate in Calexico, California, said in a statement Tuesday that at least 10 of those killed in the accident were Mexican citizens.

On Thursday, the California Highway Patrol released the identities of the 12 injured passengers of the Ford Expedition. They range in age from 15 to 46, and all but one sustained major injuries in the crash. At least seven of them reside in Mexico and two live in Guatemala, while the residences of the other three were unknown.

All 12 remain hospitalized in Southern California, mostly in San Diego and Palm Springs, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Shortly before the accident happened, U.S. border patrol agents reported a "10-foot breach" in the international boundary fence between Mexico and the United States near Interstate 8. They reviewed surveillance footage that showed two different vehicles leaving the area in proximity of the hole in the fence, according to the United States Customs and Border Protection.

A red Chevrolet Suburban engulfed in flames was located near the intersection of Interstate 8 and California State Route 115 close to the city of Calexico, about 15 miles southwest of Holtville. Border patrol agents assisting with the incident encountered 19 individuals hiding in the brush nearby and determined that they had entered the country illegally through the opening in the border fence. They were taken into custody, according to the United States Customs and Border Protection.

The hole in the fence was about 30 miles east of the scene of the deadly crash. Border patrol agents did not attempt to stop or pursue the Chevrolet Suburban nor the Ford Expedition prior to the separate incidents involving those vehicles.

"Initial investigation into the origins of the vehicles indicate a potential nexus to the aforementioned breach in the border wall," El Centro Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gregory Bovino said in a statement Wednesday. "Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life. Those who may be contemplating crossing the border illegally should pause to think of the dangers that all too often end in tragedy; tragedies our Border Patrol Agents and first responders are unfortunately very familiar with.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Water slowly returns to Jackson, Mississippi residents but boil order remains

Oleksandr Filon/iStockBy MARLENE LENTHANG, ABC News

(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Water is slowly returning to homes in Jackson, Mississippi, but a boil water order remains for the city's more than 160,000 residents, officials announced.

The city is still struggling to restore water after the state was ravaged by winter storms three weeks ago. The storms crippled the city's water treatment plants due to freezing temperatures and led water pressure to drop when the plants went unused for so long.

On Thursday, city officials offered a message of hope, announcing the city's water pressure recovered overnight and water started flowing in the system again.

"Water is flowing in the system. Our tanks are being filled," city officials said in a statement shared with ABC News. "Residents that lost pressure yesterday have seen water return."

Jackson's public works director Charles Williams said the state's water system is at 85 psi, or pounds per square inch, compared to about 50 psi Wednesday. The goal is for the system to reach a consistent 90 psi, officials said.

Williams said in a city update Wednesday about a fourth of Jackson's customers remained without running water.

Jackson officials said they're working with "contractors and vendors to investigate solutions and triple check everything from hydrants to valves in order to get everyone fully restored and avoid any further setbacks."

Officials said the next step in the water recovery effort is to fill tanks enough to sample the water to determine if it's safe to remove boil water notices.

Mississippi declared a statement of emergency in wake of the storm. Gov. Tate Reeves deployed the National Guard and said Thursday that 526,098 water bottles and several tankers of non-potable water were delivered to Jackson residents in need.

The city hasn't released a timetable of when all water will be restored and running.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Cold blast hits Northeast as new storm gets ready to slam West, from California to Washington

ABC NewsBy MAX GOLEMBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Winter is back for the Northeast.

Upstate New York and New England are seeing below zero-degree wind chills Friday morning, as the I-95 corridor is seeing wind chills in the teens and single digits.

Winds have been gusty Friday morning, blowing at more than 40 mph.

The chilly weather will linger through the weekend for the Northeast, but a nice warm-up is expected by the middle of next week.

Meanwhile in the West, a winter storm brought snow to parts of the Rockies Thursday.

About 8 inches of snow fell in Colorado, where roads were covered in snow and ice. Some accidents and spinouts were even reported in Colorado Springs.

The Rockies snowstorm is now moving into the South with rain and a few thunderstorms.

In the West Coast, from California to Washington, a new storm will move in Friday, bringing a threat of flooding, heavy mountain snow and gusty damaging winds.

A winter weather advisory has been issued for Northern California, where up to a foot of snow may fall.

A flood watch has been issued for western Washington, where heavy rain could cause rivers to rise quickly, producing flooding.

Also, high wind alerts have been issued for Oregon and California, where winds could gust at up to 70 mph.

The storm will reach the San Francisco Bay Area late Friday evening, and heavy rain is possible to the north of the city. Flooding is unlikely.

Over the next 48 hours, 2 to 3 inches of rain may fall from Northern California to Washington, and up to a foot of snow may fall in the Cascades.

Also, most rivers in the Mid-South, including hard-hit Kentucky and West Virginia, will begin to recede Friday night and continue into this weekend.

Even though rivers are receding, there is still moderate and major flooding happening Friday. Many homes, roads and neighborhoods are still under water.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Body found 465 feet below Grand Canyon rim believed to be missing Kentucky man, authorities say

jose1983/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Authorities believe they have found the body of a Kentucky man who disappeared at the Grand Canyon last week.

John Pennington, 40, of Walton, Kentucky, was thought to have entered the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on or around Feb. 23, abandoning his vehicle at the South Rim near Yaki Point.

He was believed to be traveling alone, possibly on a yellow 2005 Suzuki motorcycle, according to the National Park Service.

After days of searching the area, National Park Service personnel spotted a body and a motorcycle on Wednesday, below the South Kaibab Trailhead, south of Yaki Point.

Park rangers recovered the body, which was located approximately 465 feet below the canyon rim, according to the National Park Service.

The body was flown by helicopter to the rim and was then transferred to the Coconino County Health and Human Services Medical Examiner's Office in Flagstaff.

"Based on evidence found with the body, the individual is believed to be missing person John Pennington," the National Park Service said in a statement Thursday.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing. No additional information was immediately available.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas power grid CEO fired in wake of last month's fatal blackouts

Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, was fired on Wednesday in the wake of February's deadly blackouts that left millions without electricity and heat in freezing temperatures.

As power grid manager, Magness was given a 60-day termination notice by the company's board of directors. He has not released a statement yet on his termination, but he informed the board that he will not seek or accept severance pay, according to an updated employment agreement.

"The ERCOT Board is expected to begin an immediate search for a new President and CEO, and will continue to discuss the transition plan at future meetings during this time period," the agency said in a statement.

ERCOT, which oversees 90% of the state's power grid, came under fire for downplaying the severity of the winter weather, according to state legislators. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was among a group of state leaders who called for Magness to resign because of his role in one of the worst power outages in U.S. history.

"They downplayed the severity of it, at the same time telling me and the public that they were fully prepared for it," Abbott said at the Feb. 25 hearing. "Texans suffered last week in ways they shouldn't have to suffer."

Magness, who testified at the hearing, claimed that the scale of forced blackouts was necessary in preventing an even larger energy failure.

"We came dangerously close to losing the entire electric system," Magness said. "I'd say [ERCOT] worked from keeping us from going into a blackout that we'd still be in today -- that's why we did it."

Magness became the second senior official to leave his position at ERCOT while at least six board members have resigned in the aftermath of the blackouts.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


San Diego Zoo vaccinates great apes against COVID-19

Goddard_Photography/iStockBy MARK OSBORNE, ABC News

(SAN DIEGO) -- The San Diego Zoo announced on Thursday it was in the process of inoculating many of its great apes after several of its gorillas became sick with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in January.

So far, four orangutans and five bonobos are in the process of being vaccinated, the San Diego Union Tribune reported. The zoo would only say "some of the members of the great apes" were being vaccinated.

Zoetis, a producer of medicine and vaccinations for animals, provided the shots, according to the zoo, and they were not for human use.

"Zoetis provided our veterinarians with a limited supply of recombinant purified spike protein vaccine, intended for use in protecting animals against SARS-CoV-2," San Diego Zoo said in a statement. "The vaccine doses originated from a supply strictly intended for nonhuman use."

These are the first known vaccinations of great apes, the zoo said.

The zoo said the animals were getting two shots three weeks apart -- just like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines developed for humans -- and had begun receiving them in January. Officials said they have seen no adverse reactions to the injections.

Meanwhile, the troop of gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park that was infected is on the mend.

"The gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are doing well and appear to be on their way to a full recovery," officials said in a statement.

The gorillas will not be vaccinated "as they were exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and we assume their own immune systems have developed antibodies to the virus," the park said.

In February, Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said the zoo was "so grateful for the outpouring concern and support we’ve received while the troop safely recovered."

Vaccines for the primates known as humans remain in short supply around the country, including California.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state had administered 9.3 million vaccines. He was presumably not counting humans' closest living relatives.

The gorillas are just some of the many wild animals to come down with the virus during the pandemic. At the Bronx Zoo, at least eight big cats -- five tigers and three lions -- came down with the virus last year.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'I am an American, too': Violence sparks new grief, reckoning for Asian Americans

ABC Photo IllustrationBy NAM CHO and CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A barrage of attacks on Asian Americans, reported to be fueled in part by biases pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, have filled communities around the country with fear and rage.

But they have also exposed old wounds as advocates implore their fellow Americans to see and hear what they call a long-standing plight of invisibility.

"Our people are getting attacked, our people are getting harassed, spat on, beat up, you know, slashed," Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, told ABC News. "Please, somebody pay attention, please notice us."

"Give me confirmation that -- I am American, too," the congresswoman said. "I just haven't been able to feel that in a long time."

The coronavirus pandemic and its suspected origins in Wuhan, China, is cited as having led to a new onslaught of Anti-Asian discrimination in the U.S. that has waged on for almost a year.


There have been nearly 3,000 hate incidents towards Asian Americans in 2020 alone, according to data from the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, which set up a website to help track the cases, some of which were not reported to police. The group, which says it started to operate last year in response to an increase in discrimination, does not have statistics for 2019, but for context, in that year, there were 158 incidents of reported anti-Asian bias crimes in the U.S., according to FBI hate crimes data.

Some lawmakers and advocates, however, believe this represents a tiny fraction of the total in any given year -- as many victims in Asian American communities may not report crimes due to distrust of the government or language barriers.

Until the very end of his term, former President Donald Trump repeatedly used the phrases "China virus" and "Kung flu" to describe COVID-19. Critics said racist rhetoric by Trump exacerbated anti-Asian xenophobia in the U.S., alienating people of Asian descent.

As a rash of recent attacks in California and a number of incidents -- including the murder of an 84-year-old man -- have been caught on video, many Asian Americans are speaking out to raise awareness, offer support to each other and affirm to all the "American" in the Asian American identity.

"Even though I and so many Asian Americans were born and raised in the United States of America, there are always instances where we are made to feel that we are foreigners," Meng said. "That we are just not good enough in some people's eyes to be American."

An unprovoked murder, caught on grainy video

On Jan. 28, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was taking his morning walk around his neighborhood in San Francisco, California, when he was violently shoved to the ground by a random passerby.

Ratanapakdee, who his family said was beloved as "grandpa" by his neighborhood, was taken to the hospital following the attack. He died two days later.

Monthanus Ratanapakdee tearfully remembered her father as a "family man" and a gentle soul. He had moved from Thailand to San Francisco four years ago to help care for his grandchildren.

"He was a good senior citizen," she told ABC News.

"I want him to stay alive and wake up … and come and see me again," she said. "But he will never wake up again."

A 19-year-old suspect, Antoine Watson, was arrested in connection to Vicha Ratanapakdee's death and has been charged with murder and elder abuse, though the incident is not being treated as a hate crime. He has pleaded not guilty.

The suspect's lawyer has insisted the attack was not racially motivated, but was due to a "break in the mental health of a teenager." The lawyer said that the suspect had "no knowledge" of Ratanapakdee's ethnicity because his face was covered with a mask.

San Francisco District Attorney Boudin told the New York Times that there is no evidence to suggest the assault was motivated by racial animus.

But in an earlier statement announcing the filing of charges against the suspect, Boudin said, "My heart goes out to the entire AAPI community for the harm and fear this tragedy has inflicted."

The victim's family, however, disagrees that the attack was not racially-motivated.

Eric Lawson, Ratanapakdee's son-in-law, told ABC News' Nightline, that he believes, "It's pretty obvious that it's a racist attack."

"He looked at a little Asian man and felt like he could take out his anger on him and it was justified somehow," he added. "He ran from all the way across the street downhill and slammed him into the garage, into the floor and broke his head open."

"We know that we've got to speak up and we can't be quiet about this because that's why this keeps happening," Lawson said.

Ratanapakdee's violent assault, which was caught on surveillance video, came amid a flurry of similar attacks against Asian Americans in Northern California.

The video sparked outrage and galvanized Asian American actors and public figures across the country to decry pandemic-related racism.

And though it is not a monolith, Asian America have seemed to come together.

'None of this is really new'

While many have recently pointed to the pandemic and the Trump administration's incendiary language as the root of the anti-Asian hate, historians note that the U.S. has a long legacy of xenophobia towards people of Asian descent.

"I would argue that none of this is really new," Dr. Nobuko Adachi, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Illinois State University, told ABC News. "This stereotype of 'foreigners' toward Asians and Asian Americans have been used throughout the history of the United States."

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred the immigration of Chinese laborers and marked the first time in history that the U.S. placed broad restrictions on immigration, according to the U.S. Office of the Historian, which stated American objections to Chinese immigration stemmed in part from "ethnic discrimination."

More than a half century later in 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that paved the way for the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Some 112,000 people of Japanese descent were sent to "relocation center" camps.

The majority of those people (70,000) were American citizens.

"Since this is embedded into American mindset, people will easily forget that Asian Americans are really Americans," Adachi said.

Last month, President Joe Biden said he signed an executive action "to combat the resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we've seen skyrocket during this pandemic."

As videos circulate online of elderly Asian people being violently attacked, Adachi said, "We should now turn these tragedies as opportunities to vocalize to mainstream society that we do suffer racial bias and discrimination."

"We need to tell our children to learn our history of what happened in the past, so they understand that what is happening right now has a clear history," she said. "We need to deal with the issues instead of hiding our feelings inside, until we have a mental break down."

The importance of 'storytelling' and 'solidarity'

Amanda Nguyen, an activist and founder of the civil rights nonprofit RISE, told ABC News that in her experience, "Asians are often seen as an afterthought."

"The feeling that you don't belong, the feeling that you have to prove yourself consistently," she said. "And we shouldn't be."

"If you are anti-racist, you must acknowledge the Asian American experience," she said. "And if you care about diversity, you must include us at the table."

Nguyen called for more Asian American representation in the media and Hollywood, arguing that "storytelling" builds empathy.

"I implore mainstream media to cover our stories, to give credence to our existence to witness our pain," she said. "And not only to witness our pain, but also to cover Asian excellence, because that's the fabric of humanity."

Dr. Adachi echoed Nguyen's sentiments, saying it is imperative to break the silence and "let people know what's really happening right now."

"We live here. We are Americans. It's okay to talk about your feelings," Adachi said.

The police killing of George Floyd last May sparked protests in all 50 states condemning police brutality against Black Americans and systemic anti-Black racism in the U.S.

Congresswoman Meng said the national racial reckoning also sparked new conversations "about racial justice and why Black lives matter, why the movement is important not just for Black people, but for all Americans."

While the insidious legacy of racism in the U.S. continues to loom large, Meng expressed hope that the America her children grow up in will be a slightly better place.

"My kids are still a little young, but I think their generation will be able to understand the importance of solidarity and the importance of being there for each other's communities," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


LA business owners fighting to survive in pandemic feel mix of hope and frustration

ABC NewsBy ASHLEY RIGGLE, MARJORIE MCAFFEE, and ANTHONY RIVAS, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- As Los Angeles edges out of the most restrictive tier in its covid-19 reopening plan, small business owners who’ve struggled to stay afloat say that whatever hope it brings is mixed with feelings of frustration and anger.

For many of the small business owners, the past year has been defined by sacrifice and heartbreak, and the constant concern that their business could go under as they try to keep up with the latest requirements.

Jared “JP” Perelmutter, the owner and operator of Brick Fitness, hasn’t been able to open his gym for indoor workouts for the last year. Since last summer, the parking lot outside the gym and a loyal clientele have made it possible to hold outdoor in-person workouts -- even if that means wearing masks, social distancing and keeping the noise levels low.

“So, this is the equivalent of a silent disco,” Perelmutter said during a recent visit from “Nightline.” “You can see some of them have their EarPods in so that they can listen to their own music, and then they just have to focus and listen intently because the coach can’t scream.”

“They’re just happy to be outside of their house and moving their bodies,” he added.

Under the state’s purple tier, L.A. restaurants and gyms have been allowed to operate solely outdoors and with modifications, while other businesses, like theaters and music venues, have remained closed.

Watch the full story on "Nightline" TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC.

Perelmutter says that for the limited programs he’s been able to offer at the 11-year-old gym, they’ve still only added up to 50% his normal volume. Moreover, while the cost of doing business has increased, half of the 28 staff members at the gym pre-pandemic had to be let go.

“On a monthly basis, our increased expenses to operate safely outdoors is between $10,000 and $12,000 a month,” he said. “Increased cleaning crew, increased cleaning materials, the tent rentals … our maintenance is five times what it was on equipment alone; [it’s] getting worn and broken being outside, and being weathered.”

And while he’s still prohibited from using the space for normal business, Perelmutter is still expected to pay the full rent for his 10,000-square-foot gym -- a staggering $30,000 per month. He called it his “really expensive warehouse and storage facility.”

“It’s just completely empty. For just general upkeep, even a building, if they stay abandoned too long, they basically fall apart,” he said. “We still have to maintain it. Cleaning crew still comes in every night and does some basic touch-up work -- make sure the place is clean. We change out all the HVAC HEPA filters because we do have staff and members that come in … to utilize the bathroom.”

Perelmutter said he “understands the severity” of the pandemic and that he has immunocompromised family members himself. But the handling of COVID-19 precautions, he says, has been frustrating.

“There’s a lot of negative energy because we all just feel like we’ve been kinda left out on the island to survive on our own,” he said.

Thirty minutes away, in historically Latino East LA, 58-year-old Senen Sanchez has relied on delivery apps to serve chili rellenos, enchiladas and taquitos out of Chico’s Mexican Restaurant.

“It still is hard for me to go through the tablet and try to program it and stuff. I have to call my daughters or I need to get assistance,” Sanchez told “Nightline.” “But yeah, I had to jump into the technology, otherwise I would be totally dead if I’m not on the website or using the media.”

With only a few tables set up for outdoor eating, however, Sanchez says his revenue stream has taken a “painful” hit. Delivery apps can charge commission fees as high as 30% per order, putting less money in the pockets of restaurant owners who were already operating under tight profit margins before the pandemic.

“What you take home is less,” Sanchez said. “That’s how it is now.”

Sanchez said he’s been “blessed” to have a “great” landlord who has kept his rent low since before the pandemic began.

“It makes a huge difference because the people that are in business -- a small business like mine -- when they raise the rent crazy, we’re not able to cover it,” Sanchez said. “It’s sad that so many people have such high rent, and then the bars are closed. The patios were closed for so long.”

Restaurants in the city of 10.4 million people only returned to outdoor dining a few weeks ago, after seeing a spike in cases that made January the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic so far. By September 2020, more than 15,000 businesses in L.A. had shut their doors -- more than any other city in the U.S. -- with half of the closures expected to be permanent, according to a Yelp analysis.

Yet, even with that reality casting a shadow over Sanchez’s head, a harsher reality lingers for the father of two: In Los Angeles, the Latino community has seen three times more death from COVID-19. Sanchez said he’s trying his best to keep his customers and employees safe and avoid exposing them to the virus.

“They’re working hard with the vaccine and trying to control this virus because nobody wants it,” Sanchez said. “I mean, we don’t want it. We just want it away. And I hope they can control that. I mean, I think that will be the answer. If everything goes back to normal, it’s because it’s under control.”

States have loosened their COVID-19 restrictions at different rates, and just this week, Texas and Mississippi announced they would lift their mask mandates and reopen businesses at full capacity. California, however, has fluctuated between shutdowns and partial reopenings, and angry business owners and employees have directed their frustrations toward Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“You wanna shut things down that aren’t deemed essential, but then you can’t cherry pick what’s essential and what’s not,” said Jason London, a bartender at the Pineapple Hill Grill and Saloon in Sherman Oaks for over a year. “It pays my bills. It pays my rent. I can’t call the Chevy dealership like, ‘Hey, I can’t pay my truck note this month. Sorry.’ They don’t care. Like, they feel bad for you, but they still want their $450 for their truck.”

London noted it’s not just those working inside the restaurants who are impacted by the restrictions -- it’s everyone who helps to keep the restaurant running, too.

“My produce guy has not been working. My beer vendors have no been working," he said. "The delivery drivers for my beer have not been working. So, it’s not just us. It trickles down, and it’s sad.”

Angela Marsden, the owner of Pineapple Hill, first spoke to ABC News in March 2020 after she’d received news of the mandatory shutdown. At the time, she wasn’t sure if her restaurant would still exist today.

Since then, she’s worked hard to comply with the state’s restrictions, first relying on takeout only, then building a patio for outdoor dining, and finally, doing indoor dining with some modifications before she was forced to close again.

“The summertime was the hardest,” Marsden said. “After they shut us down inside, they basically said, ‘Well, now you can go outside, but you can’t go inside. But here’s what you need to be outside.’ And again, it’s like this 48-hour warning.”

Marsden said she turned to Facebook to buy used furniture off other restaurant owners who could not set up outdoor dining. Pointing to one set of tables that she said were bought from an Italian restaurant owner, she explained, “The stress of everything. He was older, and the fear of COVID. He ended up in the hospital, and his manager is working with me on what to charge me for his used furniture that I’m buying.”

“So it was very heartbreaking,” she said. “But I had to do it because I have to survive.”

Marsden said that when they reopened during a heat wave last summer, her staff were not only wearing masks but they wanted to wear face shields and gloves as well. “I had one person out here almost have a heat stroke,” she said.

She said business started coming back in September and she saw her first profit of the entire year in October. As for the rest of the year, she said, “I have taken a loss every single month -- anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. Overall, I’ve lost over half a million [dollars] in revenue that would normally be coming in.”

Then, in November, the state implemented another full shutdown, prohibiting outdoor dining and gatherings with individuals outside of one’s own household, even if outdoors. Marsden said by this point she had already spent $80,000 on modifying the restaurant and that the Paycheck Protection Program loan funds she’d gotten had already run out.

“I told my staff to meet up with me the following week and I would give them their last paychecks and then bags of food,” Marsden said. “Remember, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays for restaurants. I went out and bought $10,000 worth of food to sell that now can’t be sold.”

That same day, she said a film production crew set up a food truck and tented dining area in the parking lot where she’d built her outdoor dining patio. Film productions had been deemed essential by Newsom.

“I still get upset talking about it. I looked at my girlfriend. I was like, I have to start telling the truth whether people think it’s political [or not]. I don’t know what they’re gonna think … that I don’t believe in COVID? Because I do. But they’re killing us,” she said of the restrictions. “They’re just killing our community and I’ve watched too many businesses die.”

Marsden subsequently posted an emotional video on Facebook where she questioned the difference between the two dining operations and blasted the state for categorizing businesses like hers as nonessential. The video went viral and people from around the world helped her raise over $220,000 in a crowdfunding campaign.

“My real complaint was never with the movie company or the movie industry,” Marsden said. “I have a lot of people that work for the industry that support my pub, and they’ve been out of work. My problem was with [Mayor Eric] Garcetti and Newsom because they’re the people that are making the rules. They’re the people that are making the tiered programs and saying who can open and who can’t.”

Like Marsden, many people across California have expressed frustration with Newsom. Some have even called for his resignation.

Speaking to ABC News, Newsom said, “We just put $2.5 billion in small business grants. We just did an almost $10 billion stimulus in the state and $3.8 billion in direct grants, $600 grants to households -- families that have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. An additional $2 billion on top of our $500 million for grants for small businesses.”

“We’re moving through tiers -- now purple, red tiers,” he added. “And as we move through tiers as the case rates decline … as that stabilizes, you’re going to see businesses over the next weeks, not just months … begin to reopen with modifications at a much larger scale than they currently are.”

With their restrictions loosening, Perelmutter and Marsden are now concerned about how they’re going to settle all the debt they’ve accumulated this past year.

“We’re coming on 12 months. I have been forced to shut down my business as it was operating successfully for a decade, while still under the assumption that I’m supposed to maintain all of the normal expenses,” Perelmutter said. “How does that work in any storyline?”

Marsden said that even with the crowdfunding donations, she’s still close to $300,000 in debt after taking out both a PPP loan and a separate loan from the Small Business Association.

“I took that money and I paid my staff. I paid for the patio. I paid for all the COVID stuff,” she said.

Nevertheless, as they continue to face uncertainty moving forward, all of the business owners said they don’t plan on giving up.

“I actually am really loving the outside, but I really want to get back inside because my fellow business owners, there are a lot of them that can’t even be outside right now,” Marsden said. “So, I hope that I own this [restaurant] until the day I die. I can’t wait until we’re back inside and we can see each other in that setting again.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dallas police officer arrested on 2 counts of capital murder

BlakeDavidTaylor/iStockBy MARLENE LENTHANG, ABC News

(DALLAS) -- A Texas police officer was arrested Thursday on two counts of capital murder, authorities said.

Bryan Riser, a 13-year veteran of the Dallas police force, was taken into custody and transported to the Dallas County Jail for processing, Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a press conference.

A man came forward in August 2019 and told investigators that Riser directed him to kidnap and kill two people in 2017, Garcia said. The murders took place when Riser was off-duty, Garcia added.

Officials said his arrest stems from a 2017 internal affairs investigation. A lawyer for Riser couldn’t immediately be identified, Associated Press reported.

On March 10, 2017, officers found Liza Saenz, 31, with several bullet wounds in her body in the 200 block of Santa Fe Avenue.

The man stated that he had kidnapped and murdered Saenz at the direction of Riser, who also told him to kidnap a second victim, 61-year-old Albert Douglas, Garcia said.

Douglas was reported missing by his family in February 2017. His body was never found.

MORE: Former Maryland police chief facing dozens of attempted murder charges in alleged arsons
Garcia said Douglas was kidnapped and murdered on the same 200 block of Santa Fe Avenue.

The motive behind the murders is unknown. Garcia said the killings were not related to Riser’s police work and the investigation is ongoing.

Garcia said Riser had a relationship with at least one of the victims.

“The actions that have been investigated in no way reflect the actions of the men and women who wear this uniform," Garcia said.

Riser's conduct as a police officer and his arrests will be investigated, Garcia said.

Riser had been patrolling the streets of Dallas up until his arrest and officials said they will expedite the process to have him removed from the department.

ABC News' Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rise in anti-Asian American hate crimes may lead to mental health crisis

kali9/iStockBy Dr. MISHAL REJA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Crisanna Tang, a New York-based health care worker, was just on her way to work.

"A man got on the train without a mask," said Tang, a 31-year-old Chinese American born in New Jersey and raised in Port St. Lucie, Florida, "and he sits across from me. He started saying, 'Go back to China,' and started spitting all over me, and said all these things about Chinese people causing the virus."

Tang is not alone. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said it's received almost 3,000 reported incidents of aggression targeting at Asian Americans between March and December 2020. The elderly and women were disproportionately attacked.

A growing body of research suggests that experiencing such racist aggression can have serious mental health impacts.

A study published in Ethnic and Racial Studies found that Asian Americans who encountered COVID-19-related discrimination experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression. And another review of 121 studies found that youths who experienced discrimination were more likely to develop chronic mental health problems.

"We know that when an individual experiences racial trauma, it can lead to a host of mental health issues -- increased anxiety, depression, trouble eating and sleeping," Joo Han, deputy director of the Asian American Federation, told ABC News.

Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, said that many victims "are now displaying signs of racial trauma, where they have long-term effects of depression, anxiety and somatic symptoms."

Asian Americans were considered a high-risk group even before the pandemic, according to mental health experts. A study by the Asian American Federation found that Asian Americans had some of the highest rates of depression and suicide, and were less likely to seek help compared with other racial groups.

"The mental health toll that Asian Americans have always had to live with has been one of invisibility," said Sherry Wang, an associate professor in the Counseling Psychology Department at Santa Clara University. "Like colorblindness -- not really seeing Asian Americans as people of color who struggle with issues of racism, poverty and health inequities."

Experts have said Asian Americans are partly held back by the "model minority" myth, which stereotypes them as a compliant group that's upwardly mobile and not in need of extra help or attention.

"The model minority myth continues to be a challenge -- despite the fact that Asian Americans are the poorest group in New York City," with about 1 in 4 living in poverty, Han noted, adding that only about 1.4% of the city's social service contracts are for nonprofits serving Asian Americans even though they make up 5.6% of the population.

Skyrocketing unemployment among Asian Americans during the pandemic also has worsened the mental health of many. An AAF report found that "both the high rate of unemployment among Asian New Yorkers and the struggles of Asian small businesses to keep their doors open have created a high level of stress and anxiety in our community."

"We need to make sure we're calling on elected leaders and funders to invest in culturally competent mental health services," Han explained, "so this doesn't become a crisis of its own making."

Mishal Reja, M.D., an incoming gastroenterology fellow at State University of New York, Downstate, is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Businesses continue with mask requirements despite states lifting mandates

pinkomelet/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Even as some states ease or end mask mandates, a handful of businesses say they will still require customers and staff to wear face coverings as the pandemic continues.

The governors of Texas and Mississippi announced earlier this week that they were fully lifting mask mandates in their states. Texas' mandate lifts on March 10, and Mississippi ended its mandate as of Wednesday.

The moves drew ire from health officials and even President Joe Biden, who blasted the decisions as "Neanderthal thinking" amid the ongoing pandemic.

Despite the shift in rules from the government, many firms in the private sector have said they will still require their customers and staff to wear masks while at their businesses.

The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, defended businesses' decisions to require masks even if state or local governments are rolling back requirements.

"Retail stores are private entities. If they require you to wear a mask in their stores, and you choose not to, that store can refuse admission or service," NRF Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Bill Thorne said in a statement. "It is within their right to implement and enforce policies that protect the health and the safety of their employees and their customers."

Thorne lamented how many states and municipalities throughout the pandemic have mandated masks, "yet have failed to provide any enforcement mechanisms, leaving it up to individual business operators to take steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

This issue has led to many businesses facing a tripwire of issues, as some employees are forced to ask customers to wear masks -- which have become a political flashpoint in the U.S. -- and in some cases, altercations have followed.

"Mandate or not, retailers are on the front lines of the pandemic, safely providing goods and services, and now vaccines, to people across the country," Thorne said. "This is not due to government mandates; it is because of their proven commitment to do the right thing for their employees and their neighbors in the communities they serve."

CVS, Starbucks and Target are among the companies that have confirmed to ABC News they still plan to require masks at their businesses in all states.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis told ABC News that its face covering policy, implemented in July of last year, remains in effect nationwide based on federal public health recommendations.

"If a customer is not wearing a mask or face covering, we will refer them to our signage and ask that they help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering," DeAngelis said via email. "For safety reasons, our employees are directed to avoid escalated confrontations with non-compliant customers, and to instead help them complete their purchases as quickly as possible."

Starbucks' Jory Mendes told ABC News that the company "continues to focus on prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and communities we serve, supporting health authorities and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of the virus."

"Based on guidance from the CDC and other public health experts, Starbucks will continue to require all partners and customers to wear a mask while inside our stores -- continuing with the requirement we instituted in July 2020," Mendes added. "We will continue to make decisions rooted in facts and science, and are committed to meeting or exceeding public health mandates."

A Target spokesperson similarly told ABC News Thursday they "require guests to wear masks or face coverings in all of our stores, except for guests with underlying medical conditions and young children."

"We also require all store team members to wear masks at work and have provided them with reusable and disposable masks," Target's spokesperson added. "Those who have been vaccinated for coronavirus are still required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing guidelines, in line with current CDC guidance."

Target said to aid customers, it is providing disposable masks at store entrances, reminding guests to wear signs via signage and audio messages, and guiding guests who don't want to wear masks to shop via various no-contact options including Target.com, Shipt and Drive Up.

Health officials have implored Americans to wear a mask during the pandemic for months now, citing studies that indicate mask-wearing can significantly reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The CDC's then-director Robert Redfield said during a testimony before lawmakers last September that he "might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former Maryland police chief facing dozens of attempted murder charges in alleged arsons

Prince George's County FireBy MARK OSBORNE, ABC News

(LAUREL, Md.) -- A former Maryland police chief is facing more than a dozen attempted murder charges after he allegedly targeted a series of enemies in at least 12 arson cases going back a decade, officials said.

David M. Crawford, the former police chief of Laurel, Maryland, was charged and arrested on Wednesday.

The 12 fires took place in Prince George’s, Montgomery, Howard, Frederick and Charles counties from 2011 until late last year. Law enforcement said it had been unable to make a connection between the 12 alleged arsons until the most recent fire in Clarksburg on Nov. 17, 2020.

Like all of the fires, it was set in the middle of the night and the person seen on surveillance video had concealed their identity with a sweatshirt and hood, Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department said in a lengthy press release detailing all of Crawford's alleged crimes.

"The break in the case came shortly after the last known fire in 2020 when a link between the victims was discovered and that eventually led investigators and detectives to Crawford," Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department said in the statement. "Through the course of the investigation, it was determined that the structures and vehicles that Crawford intentionally set on fire were connected to victims with whom he had previous disagreements."

Among the targets were a fellow former Laurel police chief, two other former police officers, two relatives and two of Crawford's former doctors. Upon executing a search warrant at Crawford's home in January, officers found a list naming victims of the arsons, authorities said.

Crawford resigned as police chief in Laurel in 2010. He'd also previously served as chief of the District Heights Police Department, officials said.

The first fire was set in May 2011 in Laurel, less than a year after he resigned as the city's police chief. Two vehicles at a house were seen being doused in gasoline and lit on fire, officials said. The target of the fire was allegedly Marty Flemion, Laurel's then-deputy city administrator, with whom Crawford did not have "a good working relationship," according to charging documents.

Of the 12 arsons, there was one case in 2011, one in 2016, four in 2017, three in 2018, two in 2019 -- including one in which Crawford is a suspect but not charged -- and one case in 2020, according to the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department.

Crawford is now facing a laundry list of charges in the state across four counties.

In Prince George's County, where Laurel is located, Crawford is facing four counts of first-degree attempted murder, four counts of second-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree arson, six counts of first-degree malicious burning and five counts of second-degree arson.

One of the fires in Prince George's County in 2019 allegedly targeted Richard Mclaughlin, Crawford's deputy chief while the two work for Laurel police, according to the charging documents. The two had a tenuous relationship and McLaughlin was promoted to chief when Crawford was asked to resign in 2010.

In that fire, and several others, police used information from Crawford's Apple Health app to determine he was awake at the times of the arsons, according to charging documents.

He's facing three counts of first-degree arson, three counts of first-degree malicious burning and one count of second-degree arson in Montgomery County.

Justin Scherstrom, Crawford's stepson, was targeted in three different fires in Montgomery County, according to charging documents. The fire on Nov. 20, 2020, the final arson in the decadelong string of attacks, occurred at Scherstrom's home in Clarksburg.

In Frederick County, he's facing one count of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree arson and one count of first-degree malicious burning. The fire was allegedly set on the property of Bud Price, who served as deputy chief of the Prince George's County police while Crawford was an officer. When Price retired, Crawford asked to be recommended to fill the position. However, Price decided to nominate another officer instead, according to charging documents.

In Howard County, Crawford is facing eight counts of first-degree attempted murder, eight counts of second-degree attempted murder, three counts of first-degree malicious burning, two counts of first-degree arson, two counts of second-degree arson, one count of second-degree malicious burning and "various" counts of malicious destruction.

The eight attempted murder charges come from two arsons in 2017 when Crawford allegedly lit fires in Elkridge and Ellicott City and there were five people and three people inside the homes, respectively.

The fire in Elkridge targeted the home of Drs. Russell and Veronica Antico, who owned a chiropractic practice in Howard County and treated Crawford 19 times, according to charging documents. Both doctors, as well as their two children and Veronica Antico's mother were in the home at the time of the arson.

He could still face charges in Charles County, where he is suspected of lighting a car and garage on fire in March 2019, authorities said.

Crawford is being held at the Howard County Department of Corrections.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin and Ben Stein contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Capitol on high alert but quiet amid March 4 threat

uschools/iStockBy BEATRICE PETERSON and BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As Capitol Police and National Guard troops were on high alert amid a potential threat tied to March 4, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed that the House changed its schedule so it wouldn't be in session on Thursday.

"I don't think anybody should take any encouragement that because some troublemakers might show up that we changed our whole schedule," Pelosi told reporters. "No, we just moved it a few hours," she said, to accommodate Republicans headed to an issues retreat Thursday afternoon.

"We were going to be out by noon because we promised that to the Republicans," she said.

The House held a late-night session on Wednesday to ensure that members and staff would not have to be on the Capitol complex on March 4.

At the same time, Pelosi conceded there were security concerns for House members, compared to the Senate, which was in session Thursday, noting that the House is "at least four times more people, and therefore, all that that implies in terms of numbers of people in the Capitol if, in fact, there's any troublemakers around, and it made sense."

Capitol Police officials said earlier Wednesday they had "obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4" -- the date far-right conspiracy theorists believe former President Donald Trump would return to power.

As of mid-day Thursday, security remained visibly tight but there was no indication that any attack would happen.

The intelligence, law enforcement sources said, suggested the militia plot hoped to draw 50,000 members from around the country to overwhelm and take the Capitol but there was sign of large numbers of people headed to Washington. Authorities have been monitoring travel to D.C. and hotel reservations and they say they have seen no meaningful uptick –- such things are more noticeable as travel during the pandemic has been relatively light and hotel room availability remains high.

Capitol Police faced criticism for not sharing intelligence from the FBI about the potential for violence the day before the Jan. 6 attack and since then smart phones have been distributed to all officers and intelligence shared with them.

In response to the ongoing threats, ABC News has confirmed that Capitol Police officials have requested a 60-day extension for the National Guard presence at the Capitol.

There are currently more than 5,000 armed National Guard troops still at the Capitol and in the city, down from the peak of 25,000 present for security at the Jan. 20 inauguration.

The scheduled end for the 5,000 remaining troops is March 12.

Asked about the National Guard presence, Pelosi said a security review could be made public next week.

"We should have them here as long as they are needed, and the silliness of this being Inauguration Day ... falls into the realm of let's not waste our time on it," she said. "We have to have what we need, and when we need it, and in the numbers we need it. But that's a security decision."

She added, with “the threat of all the president's men out there, we have to ensure with our security that we are safe enough to do our job."

"It's going to take more money to protect the Capitol in a way that enables people to come here, children to come and see our democracy in action, all of you to cover what happens here safely, members to be comfortable that they are safe when they are here, and not be concerned about what happened last time, but that -- that just doesn't have a place in a democracy.”

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief U.S. Yogananda Pittman also told Congress in February that there are ongoing threats to disrupt President Joe Biden's expected speech to a joint session of Congress, perhaps later this month.

"We know that members of the militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with a direct nexus to the State of the Union, which we know that date has not been identified," Pittman testified. "So, based on that information we think that it's prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward."

The Capitol security review commissioned by Pelosi and led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore will recommend adding roughly 1,000 new Capitol Police officers to the force and improving infrastructure around the Capitol Hill complex, according to an executive summary obtained by ABC News.

The draft report, which has been shared with congressional leaders and relevant committees, recommends replacing the temporary, razor wire-topped fencing around the House and Senate office buildings with both mobile and retractable fencing that could still "enable an open campus" absent any threats.

It also recommends empowering the Capitol Police chief to request assistance from federal law enforcement and the D.C. National Guard in an emergency, to avoid the bottleneck and extensive delays that plagued the response to the Jan. 6 riot.

Other recommendations in the report include that Capitol Police should maintain Civil Disobedience Units to be on duty whenever Congress is in session, that more K9 units are needed to detect explosives, that the Capitol Police mounted unit be reestablished and that a permanent quick reaction force be on standby to supplement Capitol Police and local law enforcement when needed.

ABC News' Jack Date and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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