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Scientists Warn Warm Weather May Not Slow the Coronavirus, But Social Distancing May Be Flattening the Curve

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  • The National Academies of Sciences is warning the White House not to rely on warmer weather to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • This is because many factors can affect the virus, the most notable being the “lack of host immunity globally”  since this is a new virus.
  • Despite this, there is hope that the virus is beginning to slow its spread in the United States because of social distancing measures. 
  • Still, officials warn that continuing to practice social distancing even as parts of the U.S. flatten the curve will be key in gaining control over the outbreak.

We’re “Likely” Beginning to See a Flattening of the Curve

The goal of “flattening the curve” has been on the minds of many Americans over the past few weeks, and now certain areas in the United States could be beginning to experience that.

Despite New York reporting 799 deaths in the Empire State on Thursday—it’s highest single-day death toll—over the last few days, the number of people checking into hospitals for COVID-19 has stabilized and even started to go down. 

Prompted by a question by Savannah Guthrie on The Today Show Thursday morning, leading Coronavirus Task Force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the state’s condition could be turning around and it may be starting to see a flattening of the curve.

“You know, I don’t want to jump the gun on that, Savannah, but I think that is the case,” Fauci said. “You want to see a steady, several day program and profile like that. I think that’s what’s going on. I’m always very cautious about jumping the gun and saying, ‘Well, we have turned the corner’ but I think we are really looking at the beginning of that, which would really be very encouraging. We need that right now.” 

In Washington, Oregon and California, the virus has also slowed. Like New York, officials have credited social distancing measures as key to those successes. 

In fact, because of social distancing, Fauci says he believes the U.S. will see around 60,000 deaths—much less than the 100,000 to 240,000 deaths the Coronavirus Task Force had predicted only two weeks ago.

Still, Fauci warned that despite the seemingly good news, now is not the time to let up on social distancing measures.

“But, having said that, we better be careful that we don’t say, ‘Okay, we’re doing so well that we can pull back,’” he said. “We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and the physical separation.” 

On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged his state to continue practicing social distancing measures to avoid a second spike in cases.

“So to the extent that we are seeing a flattening or a possible plateau of the curve, that’s because of what we are doing, and we have to keep doing it,” Cuomo said. “I know it’s hard, but we have to keep doing it.” 

“If we stop what we are doing, you will see that curve change,” Cuomo added in warning. 

Cuomo also seemed to indicate that New York may not fully return to normal anytime soon. After being asked about the Broadway League announcing tentative plans to reopen by June 7, Cuomo told people not to use that as a “barometer” for when non-essential businesses could reopen.

He added that decisions to reopen places like schools and workplaces need to come first and that even those decisions will rely on infection rates and the state’s ability to protect people in the vulnerable population. 

In California, lockdown measures may also take a while to be lifted because Governor Gavin Newsom doesn’t expect the peak of the state’s outbreak to happen until mid-May.

AG Barr Says U.S. Must Re-evaluate “Draconian” Measures Soon

However, in an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News Thursday, Attorney General Bill Barr suggested that once the White House’s social distancing measures expire at the end of the month, the government should start potentially easing lockdown measures.

“I think we have to be very careful to make sure that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified, and they’re not alternative ways of protecting people,” he told Ingraham. “When this period of time, at the end of April, expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have, and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves.”

Barr and Ingraham also discussed recent restrictions on religious gatherings in many states. While Barr said he believed governments have the right to prohibit such gatherings in times of emergency, he also said that rule only applies if churches are treated the same as any other institution.

Scientists Warn Virus Won’t Likely Go Away With Warm Weather

Despite optimism that parts of the U.S. are flattening the curve, researchers with the National Academies of Sciences have sent a letter to the White House telling it not to rely on warmer weather to slow the spread of the virus.

That’s because despite some evidence suggesting that this virus “may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread.”

The letter comes in spite of Trump having made the claim in February that warmer weather would kill the virus.

The report also goes on to explain that multiple factors “besides environmental temperature, humidity, and survival outside of the host” influence how the virus spreads among people around the world. 

Those researchers also highlighted countries already experiencing “summer” climates like Australia and Iran, which have both seen rapid spread of the virus.

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

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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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