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The U.S. Has Administered Its First Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine

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  • The United States officially started administering its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. New York nurse Sandra Lindsay is believed to be the first American to receive it.
  • During a livestream with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lindsay said it felt like getting any other vaccine and added, “I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming.
  • The FDA authorized Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine on Friday. The Director of the CDC approved the administration of it on Sunday.
  • Trucks are delivering close to 3 million doses of the vaccine from Michigan to all 50 states. It will arrive at 145 vaccine distribution sites by Monday and another 425 on Tuesday.
  • Healthcare workers and those in long term care facilities will get it first. The general public will likely have to wait until the spring or summer before being vaccinated.

First Vaccine Administered in New York

A nurse from New York is believed to be the first American to become vaccinated against the coronavirus outside of scientific trials. 

Nurse Sandra Lindsay, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York received the vaccine on Monday during a livestream with Governor Andrew Cuomo. It was administered by Northwell Health Director of Employee Health Services Dr. Michelle Chester. This vaccination marks a historic and hopeful moment for the country, which has lost nearly 300,000 lives to the deadly virus. 

“Sandra, you didn’t even flinch,” Cuomo said after Lindsay received the shot. “I take it Dr. Chester has a good touch.”

“She has a good touch and it felt like taking any other vaccine,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay is among the many healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines responding to the pandemic. The hospital she works at is located in one of the New York boroughs hit hardest by the virus when it struck the city in the spring. 

“I feel hopeful today, relieved,” she added during the live stream. “I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning to the end of a very painful time in our history.” 

Both Lindsay and Cuomo encouraged people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing as the country continues to ride out the worst wave of the pandemic yet. While healthcare workers and those in long-term care are getting priority access, the general public will likely have to wait until the spring or summer until they get their hands on it. 

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel,” Cuomo said.

President Donald Trump also celebrated the news of the vaccination on Twitter.

Vaccine Marks Major Medical Triumph

The Food and Drug Administration issued authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday. On Sunday, CDC Director Robert Redfield approved it for administration. The vaccine requires two shots and trials proved it to be 95% effective, marking a milestone medical triumph.

The first coronavirus case was reported less than a year ago, and by comparison, vaccines for other illnesses like mumps and measles took four years and nine years respectively.

The timing of this vaccine could not be any more crucial as the pandemic is worsening throughout the country. There have been a total of 16.3 million infections in the U.S. and nearly 300,000 deaths. Cases are on the rise, and experts believe we are nearing a point where we could see over 3,000 deaths a day consistently—the equivalent of losing more lives than a 9/11 a day.

Vaccinations will begin in several states Monday and continue throughout the week. In addition to New York; Iowa, Kentucky, Connecticut, Washington D.C. and other states and cities have vaccinations scheduled. 

Nearly 3 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine left a plant in Michigan on Sunday headed to all 50 states. Doses will reach 145 vaccination distribution sites Monday, land at another 425 on Tuesday, and then 66 more on Wednesday. 

Distribution will be challenging for states as the vaccine needs to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures. States have also said they lack the federal funding needed to administer the shot and track who has and has not gotten it. Still, federal officials say that by the end of 2020, 20 million doses will have been distributed. 

Side effects for the vaccine include fatigue, fever, headaches, injection site pain, and joint and muscle pain, which are generally common vaccine side effects which are said to last only a few days. Two nurses who received it in the U.K. did get allergic reactions, but both had histories of allergic reactions and are recovering well. While health officials are looking into this, experts still believe there are very few people who will not be able to safely take this vaccine. 

Four people in Pfizer’s trial also developed Bell’s Palsy, but it is not believed that this is related to or caused by the vaccine. Those cases are still being researched and there is still no reason to believe Bell’s Palsy is a side effect of the vaccine. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Washington Post) (New York Times)

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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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