- In a letter to U.S. governors on Thursday, President Trump said his administration will be releasing new, potentially more relaxed guidelines on social distancing and other coronavirus mitigation measures.
- Trump has repeatedly expressed hope that the American economy can be reopened soon, despite health experts warning the crisis is only worsening.
- Trump’s guidelines are not mandatory, and ultimately, state officials have the final call on orders surrounding the outbreak.
- Some are worried conflicting messages from federal and state officials could cause confusion, as many U.S. governors continue to push orders to stay home.
Letter to Governors
President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration will soon release new social distancing guidelines that may be more relaxed for some areas of the country.
In a letter to U.S. governors, Trump thanked the leaders for their responses to the pandemic before outlining some of his next steps going forward, mentioning his hope that Americans can soon “resume their normal economic, social, and religious lives.”
“This is what we envision: Our expanded testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria, developed in close coordination with the nation’s public health officials and scientists, to help classify counties with respect to continued risks posed by the virus,” Trump wrote.
“Under these data-driven criteria, we will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk,” he added.
Trump wrote that these guidelines will help state leaders make decisions about “maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place.”
Parts of Trump’s letter echo sentiments he expressed earlier this week, when he said he hopes to end federal restrictions and reopen the economy by Easter. The president reiterated this message in a press conference on Thursday night when he said the country “has to go back to work.”
Trump’s hope to potentially relax mitigation efforts clashes with the concerns of many health experts that the worst of the virus is yet to come for the nation.
“You’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading health expert on the administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, told CNN on Wednesday. “So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks — you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.”
Trump’s guidelines, based on his administration’s assessment of the risk levels in different areas of the country, will not be mandatory. Though his administration can make suggestions, it is ultimately up to each state to make its own call about keeping stay-at-home orders in place or returning to normal life.
“States are understood to have a general power to legislate for the health, welfare, safety and morals for the people of their state,” Andrew Kent, a professor at Fordham University’s School of Law, told The New York Times.
However, some fear this could cause confusion among citizens if they hear conflicting messages from federal and state officials.
“There are areas where we know there’s a problem, and there are areas where we don’t know if there’s a problem or not,” Anthony Wright, the executive director of the advocacy group Health Access California, told the East Bay Times. “If we do have comprehensive screening and testing and epidemiology then there is a way to deal with this in a more regional and targeted way — but that’s certainly not where we are right now.”
Some Governors Resist
Trump’s indication that more relaxed mitigation measures are on the way came the same day that the U.S. officially became the country with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.
Many U.S. governors have not followed suit with the president’s messaging. Some have argued that more tightened measures are needed to combat the virus.
On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the number of state citizens who have died from the coronavirus rose to 519.
“Sadly, we expect this number to rise as patients who have been on ventilators for weeks succumb,” Cuomo said.
Also on Friday, Cuomo extended the order of school closures across the state until at least April 15.
“I don’t do this joyfully, but when you look at where we are and the number of cases that are increasing, it only makes sense,” Cuomo said.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, another state hit hard by the virus, wrote a similar message on his Twitter page the day after Trump’s letter came.
“We are nowhere near declaring victory,” Inslee said. “Stay home. Stay healthy.”
By the end of this week, stay-at-home orders will take effect for a total of 23 states, impacting more than half of the U.S. population.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (NPR)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- 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)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- 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.