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Educator: Temblor could be wake-up call for preparedness

JONESBORO — Wednesday night’s 3.5 to 4.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri served as a wake-up call to residents in the area, Dr. Joseph Richmond said.

Richmond, chairman of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management department at Arkansas State University, said he didn’t feel the temblor, but many of his friends did.

“I didn’t even feel it,” he said, adding that he was taking his dogs outside at the time.

According to The Associated Press, the U.S. Geological Survey said a 4.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded around 9 p.m. Wednesday in Wayne County, with the epicenter near Williamsville, Mo.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety said in a statement online that no injuries were immediately reported, but that some people reported pictures falling off walls.

The department said people as far away as St. Louis, Springfield and Memphis reported feeling the quake.

Ronnie Sturch, director of the E-911 system for Jonesboro, said his dispatchers didn’t field any calls following the quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the earthquake occurred at a depth of about 10.6 miles.

Richmond said, “It’s a good reminder that we need to be prepared” for a higher magnitude earthquake.

Richmond said when an earthquake strikes, people need to move quickly, finding a safe spot such as under heavy furniture in their house.

He said people should have an emergency kit with food, water, lighting, and batteries that will last for two weeks. He said some sources suggest having a 72-hour supply, but people in more rural areas should have the two-week supply.

Richmond said the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross offer suggestions on their websites on emergency kits.

He also suggested people have an emergency kit in their vehicles.

Richmond also said people need to write down a medical history, what medications they’re taking and a contact list of family or friends who do not live in the area. He said listing a neighbor who’s in the same situation won’t be of any help in case of an emergency.

He said people are of the mindset that: “‘It’s not going to happen here. It’s not going to affect me if it does’ and ‘If it does, there’s nothing I can do about it.’”

“Earthquakes are unsettling,” he said, because there is no early warning system to alert the public beforehand.

Richmond said in the past there were many failed predictions about when “the big one” was going to strike.

“If you cry wolf too many times, people will stop trying to be vigilant,” he said.

Dr. Amy Hyman, assistant professor in the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management at ASU, specializes in social media use during emergencies. She said she felt the Wednesday night quake and “Twitter was alive and well” following it.

She said social media plays a role in reporting what happens during an emergency, but warned about false information that is spread through it, pointing to the falsehoods spread about the COVID-19 vaccine over social media.

She also said if communications were knocked out following an earthquake, it would take social media out of play.

“If it was still up, it would play a role in information,” Hyman said.

Richmond said the ShakeOut drills, which are held several times a year, encourage people in homes, schools, businesses and other organizations to practice what to do during an earthquake and improve preparedness using the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” methodology.

Izaak Moore, an A-State senior and business major, drew his native Australian flag in chalk for International Education Week on Thursday morning in front of the Reng Student Union Building in Jonesboro.

Drawing flags

Virus surge worsens in Midwest as states expand boosters

A surge in cases in the Upper Midwest has some Michigan schools keeping students at home ahead of Thanksgiving and the military sending medical teams to Minnesota to relieve hospital staffs overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

The worsening outlook in the Midwest comes as booster shots are being made available to everyone in a growing number of locations. Massachusetts and Utah became the latest to say anyone 18 or older can roll up a sleeve for a booster shots, and an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Friday to discuss expanding boosters.

Cold weather states are dominating the fresh wave of cases over the last seven days, including New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin, according to federal data. But the Southwest had trouble spots, too, with more than 90 percent of inpatient hospital beds occupied in Arizona.

In Detroit, where only 35 percent of eligible residents were fully vaccinated, the school district said it would switch to online learning on Fridays in December because of rising COVID-19 cases, a need to clean buildings and a timeout for “mental health relief.” One high school has changed to all online learning until Nov. 29.

At another high school, some students and teachers briefly walked out Wednesday, saying classes still were too large for a pandemic and the school needed a scrubbing.

Detroit health officer Denise Fair Razo said new cases have skyrocketed in the city in the last 14 days to 3,858, compared to 2,322 in the previous two-week period.

“We’re in Michigan so we’re not finding ourselves spending time outdoors in flip-flops and tank tops,” Fair Razo said Thursday. “We are indoors and we’re frankly becoming a little bit too relaxed. We’re no longer wearing our masks. We’re no longer washing our hands as frequently as we should. But we know these precautions.”

Elsewhere in Michigan, some schools are taking next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday instead of just three days.

“This school year has presented some major stressors that are noticed and recognized,” Superintendent Greg Helmer told parents, citing staff shortages and student absences in his district in Ravenna.

In Minnesota, the U.S. Defense Department will send two 22-member medical teams to Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week to immediately treat patients and assist weary health care workers.

“I need Minnesotans to recognize, as we’ve been saying, this is a dangerous time,” Gov. Tim Walz said in pushing vaccinations.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is calling legislators into a special session next week to pass a bill giving local governments the power to adopt temporary mask mandates. He has been opposed to a statewide mask order even as Vermont’s new daily cases approach numbers not seen since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The U.S. is now averaging nearly 87,000 new coronavirus cases per day, up from 72,000 two weeks ago, and hospitalizations are starting to increase again after steadily falling since the peak of the summer delta variant surge. The country is still averaging more than 1,100 deaths a day, and the number of Americans to die from COVID-19 now stands at 768,000.

About 59 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, or about 195 million Americans. The government and health officials are urging more people to get vaccinated, especially the 60 million people who have yet to receive a first dose.

Rodrigo Venta Curt digs a hole in preparation for more fiber optic cables to be laid on Tuesday afternoon at West Matthews Avenue in front of the Gregg Langford Bookout Funeral Homes.

Preparing for cables

A&P revs up planning for sports complex

JONESBORO — The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission is gearing up to begin the planning of a new sports complex, thanks to city council approval of a 2 percent prepared food tax.

The city begins collecting the so-called hamburger tax in January.

While sales taxes are handled by the state on behalf of cities and counties, the city is responsible for making sure prepared food and hotel taxes are collected.

Andrew Guiltner, the city’s accountant, told the commission Wednesday that the city’s finance department has prepared new forms and sent letters to more than 360 businesses that will be subject to the new tax.

The city’s finance experts estimate the new tax on prepared food sold in restaurants, convenience stores and other places will bring in about $2.9 million per year. Proceeds from the tax are to be used to build an indoor multipurpose complex.

The commission will hire an outside consulting company to help plan the facility.

Today is the deadline for companies to apply for the job.

In addition to advertising the request for proposals, Renee Golas, the commission’s sports marketing director, said she personally reached out to 10 companies that she knows are engaged in this type of work.

Jerry Morgan, the commission’s chairman, said the consultant will work with a steering committee of local residents to develop the plan.

“Our thought is to get around seven to nine individuals on that steering committee,” Morgan said. “A broad, diverse group of citizens that have a good understanding of the city. Also, learning heavily toward people that have a background in sports to some degree.”

Morgan said the steering committee will recommend cost, location, size and sports involved in the facility.

Golas said the steering committee members will have to commit themselves to a lot of work.

“The process normally takes about 12 weeks from beginning to end, but I do see this committee being involved in this for at least a period of six months and perhaps, even longer,” Golas predicted.

Anyone who wishes to be considered to serve on the steering committee may apply by email at: JonesboroAPCommission @gmail.com.

While the commission is consumed with this new project, it also plans to continue funding a number of individual events throughout the year that not only attract visitors to the city, but also helps nonprofit organizations in the community.

The commission will meet Dec. 14 to consider requests from 26 organizations for funding in 2022.

Holliday seeks change in trial site

JONESBORO — A defense attorney wants the trial of a former county clerk moved out of Craighead County because it would be impossible for his client to have a fair trial.

Little Rock lawyer Patrick Benca, who represents Kade Holliday, filed the request Thursday in circuit court.

Holliday faces both federal and state charges involving accusations that he transferred $1,579,05.03 from county bank accounts to his personal or private business accounts between Jan. 23 and June 24, 2020. During those six months, Holliday failed to pay county payroll taxes or make contributions to employees’ retirement accounts.

Holliday’s circuit court trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 29. A trial in federal court is set to start in February 2022.

In seeking a change of venue, Benca noted the six counts of theft of property could result in nearly 40 years in prison should Holliday, 33, be convicted.

“The alleged victims in this matter is every tax paying citizen in in the County of Craighead,” Benca wrote. “Indeed, every potential juror in Craighead County will be a victim of the offenses outlined” in the charging documents.

Benca also filed a motion asking the court to “prohibit the prosecutor and witnesses from making reference to Defendant’s attorneys as ‘Little Rock lawyers,’ ‘big city lawyers,’ ‘high profile lawyers,’ or any similar terminology. References such as this are prejudicial to the defendant and should not be used to introduce or address defendant’s counsel, the motion states.

In the federal indictment, Holliday faces a potential 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if found guilty. He would also be under federal supervision until restitution is paid.

In a separate, unrelated case, Holliday is charged with another count of felony theft, accused of stealing $13,975 from the nonprofit Northeast Arkansas Leadership and Business Council.

Holliday filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in October 2020, claiming $3.8 million in debts and only $1.6 million in assets.

That case continues to be open. However, a bankruptcy court trustee has argued that Holliday should not be relieved of any of his debts.

In July, Joseph A. DiPietro, trial attorney for the Office of the United States Trustee, indicated Holliday has hidden assets that haven’t been disclosed.

“The defendant has concealed, destroyed, mutilated, falsified, or failed to keep or preserve any recorded information, including books, documents, records, and papers, from which the Defendant’s financial condition or business transactions might be ascertained,” DiPietro wrote in the complaint.

Holliday was in the middle of his second four-year term as county clerk when he was removed from office following his arrest.