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Tensions Escalate at Lockdown Protests Across the U.S.

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  • Protestors across the country have continued to call for an end to stay-at-home measures.
  • In Michigan, some armed protesters took to the capital in a move that was criticized by state leaders; however, President Donald Trump expressed support for these demonstrators.
  • Others in Chicago, Illinois made headlines after one demonstrator held a sign with a Nazi slogan on it, meanwhile, protests in Sacramento, California led to 32 arrests.
  • Roughly 1,000 people attended the Sacramento protest, but polls indicate these people hold the minority opinion in California as 70% of the state think lockdowns should continue.

Michigan Protests

Protests against coronavirus lockdown measures all over the country have led to high tensions between those who think it’s time for states to reopen, and others who think these demonstrations put public health in jeopardy. 

On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer denounced armed protesters who gathered in the state’s Capitol building. Whitmer claimed that some of the demonstrators at Thursday’s rally were carrying signs with racist imagery while calling for the stay-at-home order to end.

“There were swastikas and confederate flags and nooses and people with assault rifles,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Whitmer said that these people were not representative of her state, which is largely listening to public health officials’ advice of staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol this week depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” she also added.

Other state leaders also spoke out against the protestors’ choice to bear arms during their rally. State Sen. Dayna Polehanki said that some of her colleagues dawned on bulletproof vests as men with rifles yelled at them inside the building. 

On the other hand, President Donald Trump called the protesters, many of whom showed support for him at the demonstrations, “very good people.” He also said that Gov. Whitmer should hear them out. 

Outrage in Chicago

Michigan was not the only state to stir controversy with protests against lockdown measures. In Chicago, Illinois a viral photo depicting a woman holding a sign with a Nazi slogan caused outrage.

The German phrase translates to, “work will set you free.” The sign was quickly criticized by the Auschwitz Memorial, which said the phrase was a “false, cynical illusion” given to the prisoners of Auschwitz.

“Those words became one of the icons of human hatred,” the memorial explained. “It’s painful to see this symbol instrumentalized & used again to spread hate. It’s a symptom of moral & intellectual degeneration.”

Sacramento Protests

Protests in Sacramento, California also made headlines after they resulted in 32 arrests on Friday. Reports indicate that around 1,000 people attended. While the events started off peacefully, demonstrators ended up clashing with the California Highway Patrol. 

In April, California banned protests at the state capitol, an order that these protestors did not comply with. CHP ordered the protesters to disperse. As this became increasingly difficult and many refused, they began to detain protesters. 

The protest was organized in part by a movement called #ReopenCalifornia. On a website promoting protests in the state, they claim to be “a non-political group of citizens who believe our rights are being violated by the Coronavirus “Shelter In” Process.” 

“We want to go back to work in order to support our lives and the lives of our families,” the website adds. The group believes that the coronavirus has not hit the state hard enough to warrant these measures. The virus has infected over 55,000 people in California and caused over 2,200 deaths. 

These protesters do appear to be in the minority opinion of the state. A recent poll of California voters suggests that most want officials to be cautious and take their time when it comes to ending restrictions.  The poll found that 70% fear that if stay at home orders end too soon, the disease will spread further. On the other side, only 30% are concerned that the orders will last too long and hurt the economy. 

See what others are saying: (SacBee) (NBC News) (Chicago Tribune)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • 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)

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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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