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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is speaking to CBS3 after spending several years in prison. The former DA is talking about Philadelphia’s gun violence problem.

Only on #CBS3 — fmr. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams talks about his “unique perspective” on the city’s spike in violent crime and gun violence, and why he believes a public health emergency should be declared.


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— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) February 22, 2021

Williams says it’s time to declare a public health emergency.

In the time since he left prison on an early release because of COVID-19, Williams says he has confronted his own demons — the self-medicating he believes brought down his career as Philadelphia‘s top prosecutor.

“For me personally, I self-medicated with martinis and Jack Daniels. As the DA, I had two cellphones, two Blackberrys. One went off — I’m sure like yours, Joe — every shooting, every rape, decapitations. I numbed myself with alcohol,” Williams said.

Williams agreed to do this interview hours after eight people were shot last Wednesday in North Philadelphia — a bloody mass shooting scene that sits in the shadows of landmarks important to him.

“Just the sheer madness of eight people being shot,” Williams said. “It was very personal. So, I thought, I have a unique perspective as both a former DA, a father, a Central grad, and as a former federal inmate to talk about what we need to do, what my perspective is, another possible solution to reducing the gun violence.”

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On Monday, Williams chose a snowy lawn full of t-shirts memorializing those dead as a result of gun violence to do the interview.

Like what has happened in other cities, Williams believes Philadelphia leaders must declare a public health emergency to counter the spiking number of shootings.

“People think that there’s no accountability now, that there’s no certainty of punishment,” Williams said. “Again, it’s not the severity. It’s not that you have to hold people accountable and send them away forever. It’s just that people feel as though that nothing is going to happen and so we have to change that.”

A spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration declined to comment for our report.

Williams acknowledged his checkered past, but argues, why not speak up?

“We maintain the status quo. That what we’re saying is those lives of those young Black and Brown men don’t matter. That’s why I’m angry. We have to do more and we can,” Williams said.

Williams says he knows he’s open to criticism for speaking out. He says he’s doing so because of his children and his grandchildren, and says he wants to be part of the solution.

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For a list of gun violence resources in Philadelphia, click here.

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Leaders and businesses say masks are essential protection as Texas and Mississippi lift Covid-19 restrictions

(CNN)Leaders and businesses across the US are pushing back against states lifting mask mandates by doubling down on their commitment to enforcing Covid-19 precautions as variants continue to cause concern.

This week, Texas and Mississippi joined the list of states expanding business capacity and lifting the mandates for residents to wear masks. A representative for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the mandates were no longer necessary, but a restoration of livelihoods and normalcy was urgent.Though the rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased in many states since January, tens of thousands of Americans are still being infected daily, and more transmissible variants have been spreading -- threatening another surge.
    CDC director urges people to keep masking and distancing regardless of what states decideFor that reason, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear asked residents to stick the course. "Please continue to wear a mask -- what some other states are doing is reckless," he said. "We've seen them do it before -- they paid the price."Read MoreAnd in Texas, many businesses are still encouraging mask usage. The grocery store chain H-E-B said Thursday that employees will still be required and guests will be asked to wear masks. The Texas Restaurant Association also will continue to encourage mask use, as well as regular cleanings and health screenings, the association said in a release."It's only by working together as operators, employees, customers, and Texans that we can finally turn the page and rebuild out of this pandemic," its statement said. In Mississippi, Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Gov. Tate Reeves' decision to loosen restrictions was "premature and reckless.""We are at a crucial moment in the fight against this disease and the path is unclear," Simmons explained. "We cannot relax. We cannot loosen restrictions. We cannot lift mask mandates. We cannot let our guards down."When Fauci says the US can pull back restrictionsDr. Anthony Fauci said the decision by some states to do away with mask mandates and allowing businesses to open at full capacity was "inexplicable."The US shouldn't ease restrictions in place to prevent Covid-19 before the number of new coronavirus cases falls below 10,000 daily, "and maybe even considerably less than that," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Thursday.Fauci: US shouldnt loosen coronavirus restrictions until daily new cases fall below 10,000The last time the US saw fewer than 10,000 new daily cases was almost a year ago, on March 22, 2020. The number hasn't fallen below 50,000 daily cases since mid-October, and the seven-day average on Wednesday was more than 64,000."We will be pulling back," Fauci predicted. "We're now up to about 2 million vaccinations per day. That means every day that goes by, every week that goes by, you have more and more people protected."Concrete steps to make vaccines more equitableAs the US races to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, those doses have not been distributed equally.But using community health centers, pharmacies and mobile vaccine units, Fauci said the US is taking concrete steps to address the inequity.The US has implemented "community vaccine centers, about 440 of them, with a clear recognition that we've got to put them, geographically, into those areas where the demography is heavily weighted toward minority populations," Fauci said, "You can't have it in places that are completely inaccessible."The US is getting a third coronavirus vaccine. Heres how its different from the othersSome minority populations "are in situations where they're in deserts... pharmacy deserts, food store deserts, healthcare deserts," Fauci noted. "They don't have a car to get to where they need to be. They don't have a computer to sign up for something."One solution is using mobile vaccine units to get the vaccine to people living in relatively inaccessible areas, Fauci said. "Bottom line is, it's a really high priority that we put equity into the implementation of these programs -- whether it be vaccines, whether it be health care, whether it be treatments when they become available," Fauci said, "It's got to be done in an equitable manner."Push to vaccinate teachers and reopen schoolsMany states are putting a priority on vaccinating teachers and school staff to safely reopen campuses as soon as possible.There are now 38 states as well as Washington, DC that allow teachers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. And two more may soon be added to the list.Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said that those who work in education and childcare will be among the 300,000 to 400,000 new residents who will be eligible for the vaccine next week.Many teens live online, alone. Heres how to stay connected in the pandemicAnd state officials in Rhode Island will likely announce a plan next week to "get shots in the arm of all teachers and school staff," Gov. Daniel McKee said.
      But even with those efforts underway, it is important for school officials to familiarize themselves with school opening guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, director Rochelle Walensky said. It could mean repurposing rooms with more space or moving out classroom furniture so students can be spread out, she said."I think Covid is going to be with us for a while, maybe not exactly in the way that we've seen it for this past year, but we are going to have to make some changes in our day to day in the months ahead, and it's so very important to get our children back to school," Walensky said. "So lean into the guidance and take those steps."

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