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Doctors Arrested After Attempting to Give Migrants Free Flu Shots

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  • At least two doctors were arrested after laying down and protesting in front of the U.S Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego headquarters.
  • Those doctors, along with others demonstrating on the sidelines, wanted to be allowed to give free flu vaccinations to migrants detained in a nearby short-term detention facility.
  • CBP officials denied the request, saying it was against policy and arguing that migrants are only held in that facility for 72 hours, but the agency later promised to pass on the request to CBP’s chief medical officer.

Doctors Push Vaccine Program Request

After three days of protests, doctors wishing to give flu shots to detained migrants have found some success, even after at least two were arrested during demonstrations. 

On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials eased tensions after meeting briefly with protest leaders. In that meeting, officials told protesters that they would pass on a request to start a pilot program that would allow doctors to vaccinate detained migrants at a San Diego facility.

That request has now been forwarded to CBP’s chief medical officer, with officials telling the doctors to expect a follow-up call later this week.

The concession comes after an event Monday, where around 20 medical doctors walked up to a short-term migrant detention center in San Diego. Reportedly, those doctors carried coolers full of vaccines and were hoping to inoculate at least 100 individuals in the facility; however, they said they would vaccinate all willing migrants.

At the center, they were told to come back the following day to meet with border officials. When they reportedly again asked to be allowed to vaccinate migrants on Tuesday, CBP told them no.

“This is intentional cruelty,” Marie DeLuca, an emergency medicine research fellow, said. “People are needlessly suffering and dying. You can’t lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care.”

After being denied, they began to demonstrate outside of the Border Patrol headquarters. Six people then laid in front of the headquarters’ driveway, with others on the sidelines chanting: “Shame on you!”

Federal Protective Service officers gave those people a six-minute warning to get up, but they were eventually arrested when they refused. That group reportedly included at least two doctors.

Those people were soon released after being given a notice to appear in federal court and a citation “for failure to comply with the lawful directions of a federal police officer.”

California Border Patrol Says Vaccinations Don’t Align With Standing Policy

Later that day, the Department of Health and Human Services Press Secretary tweeted, “Of course Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.”

The CBP also told multiple news outlets that it has never vaccinated migrants in its custody because most migrants will either be released or transferred to a different federal agency within 72 hours of being detained. Because of that, a spokesperson said that “operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

However, short-term detention centers are becoming increasingly congested, and many are struggling to push migrants through that three-day window. Border Patrol has even admitted to holding hundreds of children way past that date. Currently, the average wait time is about six days, twice the legal wait time.

Additionally, that spokesperson noted that long-term detention centers run by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security do vaccinate migrants.

“We would encourage those who wish to volunteer medical services to go to shelters and NGO facilities, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, to donate their time and services,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

Although it has refused to offer flu shots, the CBP did say it followed a CDC recommendation to hire more nurses and physicians assistants, including increasing its staff from about 20 a year ago to 250 as of now.

Wednesday morning, Senator Kamala Harris tweeted about the incident, saying, “It makes no sense to deny flu vaccines to immigrant children in U.S. custody.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union also responded to the tweet from the DHS Press Secretary later than evening.

“When our government refers to doctors as “radical political activists” and flu vaccines as “drugs,” it becomes clear how far we’ve slipped from the realm of reality.,” it said.

Migrant Children Are Dying of Flu at Higher Rates

Doctors for Closed Camps said it decided it wanted to distribute vaccines following a recent wave of migrant children dying from the flu either while in government custody or soon after their release. In August, it was reported that six migrant children had died, with three of those children dying from the flu. 

In a letter penned by doctors with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, those doctors said, “Influenza deaths are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.”

“While comparisons are difficult for many reasons, this rate of death from influenza appears to be substantially less than the rate in detention facilities,” they added.

Last week,  ProPublica obtained and published footage of the final moments of one of those children, 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez.

In the video, Vasquez can be seen collapsing in his cell. According to Propublica, no guards ever came to check on them. Later, Vaquez gets up and goes to the bathroom, but again, he collapses. 

According to the report, this is the last time he was ever seen moving. The video then goes blank for a few hours, with guards reportedly conducting three wellness checks in that time.

When the video starts again, Vasquez is in the same position. A cellmate later woke up to find Vasquez laying in the bathroom. He then called for a Border Patrol agent, who found that Vasquez did not have a pulse.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The San Diego Union-Tribune) (Fox 5 San Diego)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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