Michigan County to repay virus aid

Zoo leopard tests

positive for the virus

The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — An unvaccinated snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has contracted covid-19.

Keepers noticed Ramil, a 9-year-old male snow leopard, had a cough and runny nose on Thursday. Later, two stool tests confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement on Friday.

Ramil has no additional symptoms, the zoo said, but because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, staff assume they were exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit closed.

It is not known how Ramil got infected.

In January, a troop of eight gorillas at the zoo’s sister facility, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, contracted covid-19 from a keeper who had the virus but showed no symptoms. The gorilla troop, which has since recovered, became the first known example of the virus infecting apes.

The case prompted the zoo to request an experimental vaccine for animals in an emergency. The vaccine from Zoetis, an animal health company that was once part of Pfizer, was given to species most at risk of contracting the virus, including several primates and big cats.

However, Ramil had not been vaccinated prior to his infection. There is no vaccination mandate for staff, but unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks at all times, the zoo said.

Michigan County

repay virus aid

The Associated Press

CORUNNA, Mich. — Elected officials in a conservative Michigan county who handed themselves bonuses totaling $65,000 with federal Covid-19 relief aid said they would return the money after days of criticism.

Shiawassee County commissioners acted after the prosecutor said the payments were illegal, The Argus-Press reported. Michigan’s Constitution prohibits additional compensation for elected officials “after services have already been rendered,” Attorney Scott Koerner said Friday.

The commissioners, all Republicans, voted July 15 to award themselves $65,000 as part of a plan to give $557,000 to 250 county employees as ‘hazard pay’ to deal with the pandemic of coronavirus.

The smallest amounts for recipients were $1,000 to $2,000, but County Council Chairman Jeremy Root received $25,000. Two other commissioners received $10,000 each, while four others received $5,000 each.

The vote was 6-0 with an absent commissioner.

The commissioners awarded money to other elected officials, including the district attorney, sheriff and county clerk, all Republicans. They too said they would return it.

“Since these payments were made, confusion over the nature of these funds has become widespread,” said a statement from the commissioners. “[We] deeply regret that this gesture was misinterpreted and have unanimously decided to voluntarily return the funds to the county, pending further guidance from the State of Michigan.”

Commissioner Marlene Webster insisted she had no idea she had voted to pay herself and returned the money last week, even posting a copy of the check on Facebook. She criticized the latest statement, saying there was no misinterpretation of the payments.

“This is an insult to the citizens of Shiawassee County,” Webster said.

Two Michigan congressmen, a Democrat and a Republican, said federal virus aid was not intended to reward elected officials.

A judge has set a hearing for today in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the bounties. It was filed before the last action.

In this Oct. 10, 2019, photo, provided by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Ramil, a male snow leopard, rests at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego. Ramil was tested for coronavirus after keepers noticed he had a cough and a runny nose on Thursday, July 22, 2021. The animal’s stool sample was tested by zoo staff and in a state-level laboratory, both of which have confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement the next day. It is not known how Ramil got infected. In 2017, vets removed his left eye due to a chronic condition he already had when he arrived at the zoo. (Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance via AP)

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