Milwaukee will require mask wearing in public spaces

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The Milwaukee Common Council on Monday afternoon unanimously approved an ordinance requiring masks in public spaces.

Under the ordinance, which Mayor Tom Barrett has said he will sign into law, anyone age 3 or older will be required to wear a face covering in public buildings and any outdoor public space where it is not possible for people to stay six feet away from others outside of their family or household.

The ordinance will fine businesses that do not comply, and makes some exceptions for health and religious reasons. A similar mandate requiring everybody over the age of 5 to wear a face covering went into effect in Dane County this morning.

Milwaukee’s ordinance will not be enforced by police, but rather by the health department. Penalties for businesses not enforcing the mandate would start with a warning, followed by citations of between $50 and $500. Businesses that repeatedly violate the law could lose their licenses and be shut down.

Common Council President Cavalier Johnson oversees Monday’s special meeting of the council

Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic sponsored the resolution, citing great urgency to act in the face of surging COVID-19 cases around the state. “The science on face coverings is clear, as they help stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” she wrote in a statement last month. “When you wear a face mask during this pandemic, you are demonstrating care for our community. The fastest way to reopen our economy safely and return to a new normal is by covering your mouth and nose in public.”

“I offer to you that this is not a perfect resolution,” Dimitrijevic said at Monday’s Common Council meeting. “It’s a combination of public input, compromising and best practices.” She argued the risk of not passing the ordinance far outweighed any trade off.

“Did we do enough? We have Milwaukeeans who have died,” she said. “We could regret not doing enough, but I doubt that we would ever look back and say we regret requiring people to wear face masks.”

Ald. Mark Borkowski expressed concerns about some of the outdoor requirements of the ordinance, but said they were not enough for him to vote against the ordinance.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution establishing a program that will allow all city residents to receive a face mask for free by request. The specifics of that program have not been drafted yet.

The ordinances were approved after a week that saw the state continue to break new records for new COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high this weekend after 926 cases were reported on Saturday.

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Miller Park will host drive-through early voting for this fall’s elections

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You won’t be able to attend a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park this fall, but you may be able to vote there. Milwaukee plans to open about 15 early voting sites for this fall’s election, including a drive-through early voting site at Miller Park, under a plan shared by Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg,

“I have been working with the Milwaukee Brewers to create a drive-through in-person absentee voting experience at Miller Park,” Woodall-Vogg wrote in a memo, according to the Journal Sentinel. “The Election Commission would continue to offer curbside voting at all locations. However, Miller Park would provide a space dedicated to the service that we believe will be well received by the community and run more efficiently.”

After withdrawing herself from consideration for the commission’s executive director position last month, a decision she reversed last week, Woodall-Vogg was appointed its executive director today on a narrow 8-7 vote by the Common Council.

In addition to the race for president, the Nov. 3 general election will include races for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Wisconsin Legislature. It’ll be preceded by a partisan primary on Aug. 11.

Miller Park may not be the only local sports arena to host voting this fall. In a tweet last week, Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry volunteered the Fiserv Forum as a voting site. “We’re looking forward to working with the City of Milwaukee, in any capacity that we can, to ensure ppl can safely exercise their right to vote!” he tweeted.

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Milwaukee Art Museum will reopen July 16 with free admission for a month

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Four months after it closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Milwaukee Art Museum has announced that it will reopen on July 16, and that admission will be free for all visitors for one month.

The museum will reopen one week earlier, on July 9, for its members.

All staff and visitors will be required to wear a mask at all times. According to a press release, the museum “has implemented robust cleaning procedures” and installed hand sanitizing stations in the galleries. Signs and decals have been placed throughout the museum to remind visitors to social distance.

The museum has also implemented a timed ticketing system to maintain a controlled crowd size. The museum will reserve its earliest 9:30 a.m. entry times for visitors who are at high risk.

You can read the museum’s complete press release, which includes its hours, below.

Milwaukee Art Museum
Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum

Here’s the museum’s press release

The Milwaukee Art Museum has announced that it will reopen to the public on July 16, 2020, with free admission for all visitors for one month. Museum Members will have the opportunity to visit beginning one week earlier, on July 9.

Thanks to a gift from the Krei Family in Memory of Melinda, Museum admission will be free through August 16 to welcome back the community, especially first responders and essential workers. The Museum is also modifying its hours, including opening a half hour earlier, which will be reserved for high-risk visitors.

“The Milwaukee Art Museum has been an institution that our family has greatly enjoyed over the years. Melinda’s love of the facility, the programs, and the staff made the Museum a special place for her and our family,” said Ken Krei. “My son, Andrew, and I are especially proud to provide support at a time when the reopening can be an important part of Milwaukee’s emergence from the effects of the pandemic.”

This is the first step in a phased reopening of the Museum to the public, and includes new protocols to support a healthy and safe environment for visitors and staff. The Museum has implemented robust cleaning procedures and installed hand sanitizing stations at entrance points and in the galleries. Staff and visitors are required to wear a face covering at all times, and signs and decals are strategically placed throughout the Museum to help promote safe social distancing.

The Museum now also has timed ticketing, to further ensure safe social distancing. Visitors will be able to reserve their tickets up to two weeks in advance on the Museum’s website, at mam.org/visit, and agree to observe a set of basic guidelines, such as staying at home if they feel ill.

Guests will enter through Windhover Hall and proceed through the Collection Galleries along a dedicated pathway that encourages social distancing. Paintings from the American collection and a selection of masterworks from the Bradley Collection from the second floor are being moved to broaden the experience for visitors, with only the first floor open during this phase. Also being placed on view are newly acquired photographs.

The Museum Store will offer shopping in Windhover Hall, and Windhover Cafe will have coffee and a selection of menu items for enjoying on the go or outside on the terrace. New outdoor furniture is being added to Baumgartner Terrace and will be appropriately spaced. Parking will be available in both the Calatrava Garage and Museum Center Park.

“Our valiant staff has been busy preparing for the reopening of the Museum, and we are all eager to welcome visitors back inside our galleries,” said Marcelle Polednik, PhD, Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director, Milwaukee Art Museum. “The Krei family has made our reopening all the more special, and meaningful, with a gift, in memory of Melinda, that allows everyone to visit for free during the first month. Melinda was one of the Museum’s greatest advocates, and her legacy is sharing the comfort and inspiration she found here with the community during this challenging time.”

Thanks to Donna and Donald Baumgartner and Joel and Caran Quadracci and the Windhover Foundation, the Museum has been making renovations throughout the Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion. Completed projects include the refinishing of the marble floors in Windhover Hall and the wood floors in the Baker/Rowland Galleries. Scheduled for completion by the reopening date is the repair of one of the hydraulic cylinders that helps operate the Museum’s Burke Brise Soleil (“wings”).

The Museum created an internal task force to establish protocols that were required to be in place before staff and visitors could begin returning to campus. The task force continues to closely monitor guidelines and recommendations from local, national and global health organizations. The Museum hosted a test period June 25-28 to analyze the new visitor experience, survey participants and make adjustments before the official reopening.

Staff deemed necessary to work on-site began returning to the Museum’s campus in mid-June. A large proportion of employees will continue working from home. The Museum originally closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 15, 2020.

Further information and updates about the Museum’s reopening are available on the Museum’s website, mam.org/visit.

Hours

Thursdays:  9:30* a.m.–5 p.m, last online ticket slot at 3:30 p.m.

Fridays: 9:30* a.m.–5 p.m., last online ticket slot at 3:30 p.m. 

Saturdays: 9:30* a.m.–5 p.m., last online ticket slot at 3:30 p.m. 

Sundays: 9:30* a.m.–5 p.m., last online ticket slot at 3:30 p.m. 

*9:30 is reserved for those who are high risk 

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As coronavirus cases surge, Milwaukee businesses petition for mandatory mask wearing in public spaces

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More than 70 Milwaukee restaurants and businesses have signed a letter to Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson calling for mandatory mask wearing in public spaces. In the letter, the businesses request that all workers and patrons at stores, museums, theaters, restaurants and bars be required to wear masks to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Without mandatory mask wearing, they write, “The risk is much higher for new outbreaks, which could result in new stay-at-home orders that put us out of business for good.” The letter was signed by businesses including Fiserv Forum, Bartolotta Restaurants, Colectivo Coffee, The Pabst Theater Group and Lowlands Group.

The call comes as Milwaukee prepares to enter phase 4 of its reopening plan. Starting Wednesday, July 1, restaurants will be able to increase their dine-in capacity from 25% to 50%.

It also comes after the Milwaukee Public Market announced that it will require masks for everybody after three employees tested positive for COVID-19.

As COVID-19 cases surge around the country, Wisconsin’s numbers have also started to trend in the wrong direction. Starting late last week, the state reported five days in a row with more than 400 new cases, including 539 new cases on Saturday, followed by its largest single-day report of new cases on a Monday.

Wisconsin’s 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases is once again climbing rapidly | dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/data.htm

The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the state is similarly on the rise. On Sunday, Wisconsin say highest rate of positive tests in more than a month, an alarming 7.1%.

You can read the Milwaukee business owners’ complete letter below. Individuals can sign a Change.org petition making a similar call here.

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There are 10 Black Lives Matter events happening in and around Milwaukee this weekend

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All of these are subject to change. We may have missed some. But these are all the Black Lives Matter events going on this weekend in and around Milwaukee.

Saturday

9 a.m. at Humboldt Park in Bay View

A plant sale to raise money to go towards buying necessary supplies needed at protests around the city. Facebook event information here.

10 a.m. in Greendale at the Greendale Village Hall

A Black Lives matter chalk drawing. Facebook event info here.

11 a.m. at MATC’s Downtown campus

A children’s protest lead by The People’s Movement and book swap. Facebook event info here.

Noon at Washington Park. Together We Stand Celebration

Facebook event info here.

12:35 p.m. at Downtown Racine Monument Square

We March for Change march. Facebook event info here.

2 p.m. mural painting on Holton and Center

Facebook event info here.

3 p.m. at Gordon Park in Riverwest

March for all Black lives. Facebook event info here.

5 p.m. in Oshkosh

Facebook event info here.

Sunday

2 p.m. at the corner on Holton and North in Riverwest.

LGBTQ Pride and BLM march. Facebook event info here.

4 p.m. at 2nd and Lapham

Youth and Families march for BLM. 2.3k are interested in Facebook right now. Facebook event info here.

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Milwaukee’s scaled-back DNC has been moved from Fiserv Forum; delegates told not to attend

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Joe Biden still plans to accept the nomination in Milwaukee at this August’s Democratic National Convention, but beyond that the DNC won’t look much like the grand spotlight on the city that organizers imagined before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Democratic National Convention Committee Leaders announced today that the convention is being moved from Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center, and that organizers have advised state delegations not to travel to Milwaukee for the convention.

Organizers instead have announced plans for a largely virtual event, where delegates will vote remotely. Large events like the welcome reception and parties for volunteers have been canceled.

The decision came after consultation with public health officials, and as COVID-19 cases have been surging around the country amid increasing fears of a second wave. On Wednesday, the country broke its record for new COVID-19 cases, recording 38,672 positive test results.

The convention — or what’s left of it — will take place Aug. 17-20.

The Wisconsin Center will host a considerably scaled back DNC

In a statement, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put a bright spin on the situation, saying that he’s happy Milwaukee will still host the convention.

“I am saddened that we will not have the opportunity to have an economic impact that would have been so beneficial to the city of Milwaukee,” he said. “But I’m also pleased that the Democratic values place public health above blind political ambition.”

According to a DNC press release, these are the changes

  • Conducting official business without risking public health—After consulting with public health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic, convention organizers are announcing today that they have determined state delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely. A process is being developed to ensure all delegates can cast their votes on all convention matters, including the presidential nomination, remotely during the convention. DNC standing committee meetings will take place virtually, as well, with the meetings tentatively set for the last week of July.
  • Announcing our Convention Chair—U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson will serve as Permanent Chair of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The Convention Chair presides over all official convention business.
  • Developing robust health protocols—In addition to continued collaboration with local, state, and federal public health officials, the DNCC is bringing on nationally-renowned epidemiologists and infectious disease experts Dr. W. Ian Lipkin and Dr. Larry Brilliant, who will help advise on efforts to protect the health and safety of convention staff, attendees, and the people of Wisconsin. Dr. Lipkin, Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, is an expert in diagnostic testing and collaborated with the WHO on coronavirus outbreak control for SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Dr. Brilliant, a former professor of epidemiology, is best known for his work on the successful eradication of smallpox.
  • Updating the convention campus—With fewer people gathering in person at this year’s event, convention planners are modifying the convention campus. All convention proceedings will move from Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center, the convention center located in downtown Milwaukee. Specifics regarding delegation representation on the convention floor will be provided after public health officials complete their assessment of the trajectory and impact of the coronavirus pandemic and determine how many people can safely gather in person later this summer.
  • Eliminating official auxiliary events—Previous conventions have included several large-scale events attended by thousands of people, such as a welcome reception for media and delegates as well as an event for volunteers. In keeping with the commitment to deliver a convention that poses no unnecessary risk to public health, convention organizers will no longer proceed with hosting these in-person parties.
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Amid a pandemic and a dire budget crunch, Milwaukee County Parks reopens as best it can

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Milwaukee has always valued its parks system, but in the midst of a public health crisis that’s rendered many shared indoor spaces unsafe, the county’s outdoor areas are more integral than ever. The parks are one of the few places left in the city where you can feel a sense of relative normalcy.

Milwaukee County Parks department has been doing its best to meet the demand for outdoor recreation while navigating the restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. Golf courses, tennis court and basketball courts are back open, as are dog parks, playgrounds and outdoor fitness areas. Beaches and trails are open, too, and they’ve been as busy as you’d expect.

Yet this is far from an ordinary summer for the parks system. Fireworks, concerts and festivals have been canceled. Indoor facilities and pools are closed, as are bathrooms. And, as Milwaukee County Parks Deputy Director Jen Francis explains, the department is constantly preparing for the possibility that things could change.

The Lion Bridges at Lake Park | Wikimedia Commons

“We are working around the clock to keep up with where we are at any given moment, because we are in such unknown territory,” says Francis. “Reopening isn’t a once-size-fits all decision, and nothing is black and white. There’s a lot of complexity in the decision making process. Sometimes the public really wants one thing, but that might not be what’s safe in the moment. We experienced some of that when we had to close the playgrounds.”

A ‘desperate and dire’ staffing situation

The pandemic has also hit the parks’ budget hard. The department generates most of its operating budget through fees, but between the cancellation of special event, the delayed reopening of golf courses and the marina and the loss of picnic rentals, it’s had to make painful cuts. In a normal summer, the department hires more than 900 workers to help take care of garbage, litter, restrooms and other maintenance tasks. This year it’s only brought on 200.

It’s because of those severe staffing shortages, in addition to COVID-19, that the parks have had to keep their restrooms locked this summer. Francis says the department is planning on bringing portable toilets to some of the county’s more popular parks to compensate.

The parks department has also assigned 92 staffers who usually handle administrative duties to help with basic parks upkeep, like trash collections. The department is working around the clock to maintain its award-winning parks system, Francis says, but the reality is its staffing situation is “desperate and dire.”

“You’re going to see the grass getting longer, the trash getting fuller, and restrooms less open,” she says.

COVID-19 isn’t entirely to blame for this situation. “This story isn’t new; we don’t have enough staff,” Francis says. “We’ve been living this way for a while, but people don’t understand the story, because they don’t understand how the parks department is funded. Staffing in the parks department over the past 10-15 years has plummeted. We used to have close to a thousand full time staff, now we have 240. Our staff has been amazing in that they’ve been able to give people the feeling they live in a place with a remarkable parks system, but a lot of it is held together with glue and duct tape.”

Still, Francis says, the department will continue to reopen as much as it can. The Whitnall Beer Garden recently reopened, and the Traveling Beer Garden has resumed its 2020 schedule after missing its first two stops. The department is working to reopen the South Shore Park Beer Garden and The Vine in Humboldt Park as well; nothing is official, but announcements could come in the next few weeks. And while pools are closed, Francis believes the department should be able to open its wading pools and splash pads this summer.

“I really want to encourage people just to get outside,” Francis says. “You can do that safely and it really does restore your being. You might not be able to go to the Domes right now, but you get outside and enjoy 15,000 acres of county parks, which is a lot of county land. Visiting may require a little more awareness and planning ahead because the restrooms aren’t open, but the parks are still an incredible resource.”

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Juneteenth is officially a holiday in Milwaukee now

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Juneteenth is now a holiday in Milwaukee County. This morning Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson announced an executive order declaring that county employees will have a floating holiday on June 19, a day commemorating the end of slavery in America.

The holiday’s roots date back to June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when the final enslaved Americans in Texas finally learned of their freedom. Juneteenth is celebrated around the country, but Milwaukee claims one of the oldest and largest celebrations, filling a long stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive with tens of thousands of people most years. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the city’s Juneteenth celebration, which is organized by Northcott Neighborhood House.

“Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the rich history and culture of the African American community,” Crowley said in a statement. “It is also a day to appreciate the long struggle for civil rights that Black people in America have faced for centuries. I am hopeful that our employees will be able to take June 19 as a day ‘on’ not a day off in order to fully support Black lives, liberation, and the vision of Milwaukee County to achieve racial equity and become the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Despite chilly weather, last year’s Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee drew a typically huge crowd. This year’s celebration has been canceled because of COVID-19.

Sadly, this year’s Juneteenth celebration has been canceled because of the coronavirus, but organizers have found other ways to commemorate the day. There will be a voter registration drive and COVID-19 testing on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, followed by a 4 p.m. solidarity march starting at 2661 N. 2nd St. More information is on the flyer below.

There will also be a Black Womxn’s march and Juneteenth block party starting at 1:30 p.m. at Sojourner Family Peace Center. Meanwhile, Liberate MKE is hosting a series of virtual Juneteenth events starting Tuesday. They include a study group on defunding the police and a lecture from Dr. Deborah Blanks on the history of policing in Milwaukee. Safe & Sound is also hosting its own virtual Juneteenth celebration from noon to 2 p.m.

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There is a Black Lives Matter march today at Riverside Park

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Every day we round up the Black Lives Matter events, marches and protesters taking place around Milwaukee. Here’s what organizers have lined up today.

Gathering at 4 p.m. and marching at 5 p.m. at Riverside Park

Info from the Facebook event:

Milwaukee’s next peaceful protest is being held on June 15th, 2020 starting at Riverside Park.

Gathering and Supply Donation: 4pm
Walking of the protest: 5pm

This being a more night time event please make sure you are bringing the most weather appropriate clothing for sundown!

If you’d like to donate financially so that supplies can be purchased as well (Masks, Water, Snacks, Etc) our currently used Venmo is @TomiBordeaux

The route will be determined by what is safest for the group as a whole taking into consideration all parties involved.

*REMINDER* We advise for your safety and everyones safety you wear a mask during this protest. We also reccomend goggles just in case, as well as any other neccesities you feel you may need as the walk will be lengthy.

We thank everyone over the last week who has continued to join in these peaceful gatherings and want to remind everyone that with the continuation of this we have become a movement and there will always be power behind your voice and IT DESERVES TO BE HEARD!

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Supreme Court delivers major victory to LGBTQ employees

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation.

The vote was 6-to-3, with conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch joining the court’s four liberal justices in the majority.

The opinion is available here.

“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee,” the court held in Monday’s decision. “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

Transgender activist Aimee Stephens sits in her wheelchair outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2019, as the court holds oral arguments in cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation | Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The lawmakers who drafted and enacted the legislation didn’t necessarily need to envision how it might be applied in cases like the ones the court has since considered, Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

“Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

A group of cases

The court’s decision came in several cases brought by gay and transgender employees.

Gerald Bostock was the child welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Ga. He contended that he was fired after he joined a gay recreational softball league in 2013.

“From that point on, my life changed,” he said in an NPR interview last October. Up until then, he said, his job evaluations had been excellent, and under his guidance, the county “reached the benchmark of serving 100 percent of the children in foster care, which was an unheard of milestone in any metro Atlanta program.”

None of that seemed to matter, however, when word got out that he had joined the gay softball league.

“I lost my livelihood. I lost my medical insurance, and I was recovering from prostate cancer when this occurred,” he said. “It was devastating.”

Aimee Stephens, presented as a man for six years, worked as a funeral director for the Harris Funeral Home in Livonia, Mich. But by 2012, Stephens was in despair over her gender identity, at one point contemplating suicide.

“I stood in the back yard with a gun to my chest. But I couldn’t do it,” she told NPR last October.

Instead she decided to come out at work as a transgender woman, telling her colleagues and her employer of her decision in a letter. But two weeks after giving the letter to her boss, she was fired.

Stephens died earlier this year, but her case lived on.

Tom Rost, the owner of the Harris Funeral Home, who fired Stephens, explained his decision as one necessitated by the reaction he anticipated from “the families we serve. How would they possibly react to this?” he said, noting that Stephens was “the face of the Harris Funeral Home.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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