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Michigan county to repay virus aid

by The Associated Press | July 26, 2021 at 4:39 a.m.
This Oct. 17. 2018, photo, provided by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, shows Ramil, a male snow leopard, who was tested for the coronavirus after caretakers noticed that he had a cough and runny nose on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego. The animal's stool sample was tested by the zoo staff and at a state-level lab, both of which confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement Friday, July 23. It's unclear how Ramil got infected. In 2017, veterinarians removed his left eye due to a chronic condition he already had when he arrived at the zoo. (San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance via AP)

Zoo leopard tests

positive for virus

The Associated Press

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

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

Ramil is not showing additional symptoms, the zoo said, but because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, the staff assumes they have been exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit was closed.

It's unclear 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 for emergency use. The vaccine from Zoetis, an animal health company that was once part of Pfizer, was administered to species most at risk of contracting the virus, including several primates and big cats.

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

Michigan county

to repay virus aid

The Associated Press

CORUNNA, Mich. -- Elected officials in a conservative Michigan county who gave themselves bonuses totalling $65,000 with federal covid-19 relief aid said they will return the money after days of criticism.

Shiawassee County commissioners acted after the prosecutor said the payments were illegal, The Argus-Press reported. The Michigan Constitution bars additional compensation for elected officials "after services had already been rendered," prosecutor 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" for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The vote was 6-0 with one commissioner absent.

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

"Since these payments were made, confusion about the nature of these funds has run rampant," a statement from the commissioners said. "[We] deeply regret that this gesture has been misinterpreted, and have unanimously decided to voluntarily return the funds to the county, pending additional guidance from the state of Michigan."

Commissioner Marlene Webster insisted she had no idea that 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.

"That's an insult to the citizens of Shiawassee County," Webster said.

Two Michigan congressmen, a Democrat and a Republican, said federal virus aid wasn't intended to reward elected officials.

A judge set a hearing for today in a lawsuit aimed at rescinding the bonuses. It was filed before the latest 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 the coronavirus after caretakers noticed that he had a cough and runny nose on Thursday, July 22, 2021. The animal's stool sample was tested by the zoo staff and at a state-level lab, both of which confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement the following day. It's unclear how Ramil got infected. In 2017, veterinarians 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)
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 the coronavirus after caretakers noticed that he had a cough and runny nose on Thursday, July 22, 2021. The animal's stool sample was tested by the zoo staff and at a state-level lab, both of which confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement the following day. It's unclear how Ramil got infected. In 2017, veterinarians 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)

Print Headline: Michigan county to repay virus aid

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