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Peru sees second Covid wave, orders total lockdown of capital and 9 other regions

LIMA – President Francisco Sagasti of Peru on Tuesday night announced a total lockdown of the capital and nine other regions following a significant increase in COVID cases, which he said had pushed hospitals close to collapse.

Sagasti said the new measures covering central Peru would remain in effect until at least Feb. 14. They include instructions to work from home, the closure of all non-essential shops, the suspension of interregional land and air travel and the extension of a ban on flights coming from Europe to flights from Brazil in a bid to curb new, more contagious strains of the virus.

A Covid-19 patient lies on his bed during a doctor’s visit at his home on the eastern outskirts of Lima, on Jan. 21, 2021.Ernesto Benavides / AFP – Getty Images

On Tuesday, Peru reported 4,444 new cases of the coronavirus, taking its total to 1,107,239, and 40,107 deaths. According to Reuters data here, Peru’s cases are at 57% of an Aug. 22 peak, when more than 9,000 new cases were confirmed.

Sagasti said COVID vaccines were the way out of the crisis and pledged to be among the first to receive the shot.

He said the first one million of an order for 38 million doses of Sinopharm’s candidate vaccine would arrive “in the coming days”, ready for an inoculation campaign to begin in February.

Peru also has a deal to buy 14 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and its regulators are also weighing emergency use requests from Russia’s Gamaleya Institute and Pfizer.

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Republicans circle the wagons around Trump one more time

WASHINGTON — A year ago, Republicans argued that Donald Trump shouldn’t be impeached and removed from office because the country was too close to an election.

“Let the voters decide” was the common GOP refrain back then.

Well, after voters did decide — and after Trump tried to overturn the results — most GOP senators on Tuesday voted that Trump shouldn’t be impeached and convicted because he is no longer in office (though some say they still haven’t made up their mind whether they’ll vote to convict).

No matter that the alleged offense (inciting an insurrection) took place while he was president.

No matter that it was the GOP who decided not to hold a Senate trial while Trump was still in office.

And no matter that there’s clear precedent (the case of Secretary of War William Belknap) for impeaching and trying someone who just left office.

It all underscores how most Republicans — though not all — refuse to hold Trump accountable for his actions, whether it’s asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, or begging Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results or telling his supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the Electoral College count.

And every time Republicans refuse to hold Trump accountable — after “Access Hollywood,” or Ukraine, or the Jan. 6 attack — he puts his party in a tougher spot with his next action.

Yet as the GOP circles its wagons around Trump this latest time, it also comes when the former president has never been weaker.

There’s no powerful office to punish critics and reward supporters. There’s no Twitter account. And there’s no GOP Senate majority (due in large part because of Trump’s actions after Nov. 3).

Democrats’ fragile Senate majority

But speaking of that Senate majority, we got a reminder Tuesday night of just how fragile the new Democratic majority is, with the 50-50 tie in the chamber.

“Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will preside over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, returned home after he was taken to the hospital Tuesday evening, a spokesman said,” per NBC News.

All of the discussion about the Dem/Biden agenda; whether to use reconciliation or eliminate the filibuster; and the ability to confirm judges to the court hinges on Senate Democrats keeping every single one of their votes.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

25,550,673: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 178,944 more than yesterday morning.)

426,586: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,297 more than yesterday morning.)

108,957: That’s the number of people currently hospitalized from Covid-19 in the United States.

298.45 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

At least 19.9 million: The number of Americans who have received one or both vaccine shots so far.

1,003,807: The average number of individual shots per day since January 20

45: The number of Republican senators who voted yesterday to dismiss Trump’s impeachment trial as unconstitutional.

At least 17: The number of Republican senators required to convict Trump

80: The age of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democratic senator and president pro tempore of the Senate, who was briefly hospitalized yesterday after feeling unwell.

Biden’s bold prediction on vaccines

President Biden made a bold prediction on Tuesday – that by the end of the summer and toward the beginning of the fall, the United States will have enough supply of the Covid-19 vaccines to vaccinate 300 million Americans.

Here’s how he said that will come to be:

By summer, Biden said the U.S. will be able to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. “We expect these additional 200 million doses to be delivered this summer. And some of it will come as early — begin to come in early summer, but by the mid-summer, that this vaccine will be there And the order — and that increases the total vaccine order in the United States by 50 percent — from 400 million ordered to 600 million. This is enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 Americans by the end of the summer, beginning of the fall,” Biden said.

And on the Cabinet front, Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken easily cleared Senate confirmation with a 78-22 vote.

Biden’s pick for the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, was confirmed out of committee on a 7-4 vote.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

Biden’s day: At 1:30 p.m. ET, President Biden delivers remarks and signs executive actions on the issue of climate change. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki briefs reporters at 12:15 p.m. ET, along with National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy. And the Biden administration holds a briefing on the fight against COVID.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Biden DOJ has officially rescinded the “zero tolerance” policy.

The Biden administration will also re-open Obamacare insurance markets for Covid-19 relief.

The New York Times looks at the climate clash Biden faces ahead.

CNN reports on new comments made by Marjorie Taylor Greene (before her time in Congress) when she appeared to support the executions of some Democratic members.

Should stimulus funds be targeted only toward those with lower incomes?

Democrats are pushing a $15 minimum wage bill despite facing hurdles in the Senate.

Biden had his first call with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

CDC is laying out its recommendations for reopening schools.

Senate Republicans are bracing for more retirements.

What’s next for CPAC?

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Two found dead after SWAT situation in Austin, Texas

Two people were found dead inside a Texas medical building on Tuesday night after a SWAT situation that lasted more than six hours, according to NBC affiliate KXAN.

Austin police said officers responded to a “disturbance call” just before 4:30 p.m. at a “commercial building” in the 1900 block of West 35th Street. KXAN later identified the building as Children’s Medical Group.

The scene from a hostage situation in Austin, Tx.NewsNation

A robot unit was sent inside the building, according to police. After the camera identified a “barricaded subject,” SWAT team members were called to the scene and entered the facility, police said.

They attempted to communicate with the person barricaded inside the office over a loudspeaker, KXAN reported.

“We haven’t talked to you in a couple hours, and we want to make sure you’re OK,” a SWAT member said, according to the news station.

Loud bangs could be heard about 10:50 p.m., the news station reported. Jody Barr, a KXAN reporter at the scene, wrote on Twitter that he heard “multiple loud explosions” that sounded like gunshots. What followed was silence, Barr reported.

Shortly after midnight, Austin police said on Twitter “the SWAT situation has ended” and that they found the bodies of the two victims. Their names have not been released.

The investigation was turned over to the police department’s homicide unit.

Authorities will provide an update on Wednesday morning.

The Children’s Medical Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As of Wednesday morning, the company’s website appeared to be deactivated.

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Dry ice, containers and overworked doctors

TOKYO — Japan’s vaccination roll-out faces logistical hurdles that could further delay the slow-moving campaign, experts and officials say, complicating plans to deliver wide-scale coronavirus inoculations in time for the Olympics.

Already the last major industrial country to start vaccinations, Japan is likely to be hampered on the ground by a lack of containers and dry ice, and difficulties in recruiting medical staff, more than a dozen people involved in the inoculation drive told Reuters.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said vaccines are critical to holding a successful Olympics after last year’s delay. The first shots for medical workers are planned at the end of February, leaving just 145 days until the start of the Games on July 23.

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Japan will need to deliver about 870,000 injections a day to inoculate half its population by then, with each person needing two shots.

“The government’s plan puts a big burden on the individual municipalities in giving out the vaccines,” said Koji Wada, an adviser on the government’s Covid-19 response. “Big metropolitan areas like Tokyo may have the infrastructure to roll out the vaccinations smoothly, but more rural areas… could have more difficulty.”

Companies that transport medicines say there may not be enough specialized containers to carry the Pfizer Inc vaccine, which has to be stored at minus 75 degrees Celsius. Initially at least, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one to be used in Japan.

A man walks past a Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games countdown clock at Tokyo’s main train station on Monday.Koji Sasahara / AP

A government source told Reuters that officials only began assessing whether there were enough containers or dry ice to pack them late last year.

Japan’s vaccination tsar, Taro Kono, outlined the scale of the challenge last week. The coordination of medical workers, transport, freezer production, needle disposal and dealing with local governments are handled by different ministries, he said on Twitter.

Medical staff, already exhausted from caring for a third, deadly wave of infections, will need to be mobilized to give out shots of the still unapproved vaccine.

Ahead of those first jabs, Japan’s health ministry on Wednesday carried out mock inoculations in a nursing school gym in Kawasaki, in Kanagawa prefecture.

There, nurses led yellow-vest clad volunteers into booths for mock injections and then left them in a waiting area for 30 minutes to check for allergic reactions.

With five nurses, the facility could deal with around 30 patients per hour and would open and close depending on vaccine supplies, according to officials.

“I hope this drill can serve as an example that can be used or adapted elsewhere around the country,” Kawasaki mayor Norihiko Fukuda told reporters.

Opposition Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki, who has pressed Kono and Suga for a vaccine schedule, predicted that only a fifth of Japan’s population may be vaccinated in time for the Olympics.

“You need at least 60 percent to get herd immunity, so we could face a fourth or fifth wave of infections,” he told Reuters.

Japan has purchased enough Pfizer vaccines for 72 million people, more than half its population. The government is buying some 20,000 special coolers and sourcing massive quantities of dry ice for its transportation.

Japan produces about 350,000 tonnes of dry ice per year, but it’s mostly for food preservation, according to an official with one of the major makers. To transport the vaccine, the government will need a granular or powder type of ice, which can keep temperatures colder than the standard dry-ice blocks used for food.

“It’s not just a case of being able to switch a part on a machine, the production method (for the ice) is different,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “It would take several months to retool.”

Transport company Nippon Express Co Ltd was involved in discussions to distribute Pfizer’s vaccine, but was depending on the drugmaker to provide special containers, a spokesman said.

By February the company will have completed four specialized drug warehouses across Japan, but those aren’t designed to store for ultra cold products like the Pfizer’s vaccine, he said.

Nihon Freezer Co, which makes industrial refrigerators, is building 2,300 freezers for the government, but without a formal contract until the vaccine is approved, a company official said.

“We have made about half of them and should have the remainder finished by June,” the official said about the freezers it manufactures in Denmark. “Finding enough components has been difficult because of the sudden increase in production.”

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Biden won the fight over the filibuster without saying a word

WASHINGTON — When the dust settled from the first round of the Senate battle over the filibuster, one man had clearly won: President Joe Biden.

The new president, a 36-year veteran of the Senate, has long believed in the principle of unlimited debate. But as many of his fellow Democrats clamored to kill the filibuster, silence was Biden’s best friend.

In sidestepping the fight publicly, Biden protected his political capital while reassuring both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he could see both of their divergent points of view — and, more important, their political needs.

Jim Manley, who was an aide to Harry Reid, D-Nev., when he was the Senate majority leader, said Biden’s handling of the filibuster debate demonstrates an understanding of how a president can and can’t help himself by engaging on Capitol Hill.

“Presidents get entangled in internal Senate politics at their peril,” Manley said in an email exchange. “Doesn’t mean they can’t talk privately, but he is playing this pretty close to perfect for right now by not putting a lot of pressure on Democrats.”

The closest Biden got to taking a side was when White House press secretary Jen Psaki said his position “hasn’t changed” — a tea leaf that Republicans could take as a sign that he wouldn’t steamroll them and that Democrats could read as a harbinger of a possible future flip.

Biden is now in the White House, but his Senate record shows support for a minority’s being able to hold up business. As a senator from tiny Delaware, he understood better than most how the institution’s rules tilted toward small states and toward empowering both the minority party in general and the minority of senators on any given issue.

“This was never intended in any sense to be a majority institution,” Biden said in a lengthy and effusive defense of the filibuster during floor debate in 2005. “History will judge us harshly, in my view, if we eliminate over 200 years of precedent and procedure in this body and, I might add, doing it by breaking a second rule of the Senate, and that is changing the rules of the Senate by a mere majority of the body.”

What Biden actually thinks about the filibuster — or what he has said over the course of decades about it — may not be the only factor in his thinking going forward. Things have changed. He now represents the whole country rather than Delaware, he now sits in the White House rather than the Senate, and he is now trying to pass his own agenda rather than protecting his ability to kill the agendas of others.

Seen on a television screen in the Senate Press Gallery, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during the seventh hour of his filibuster on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 24, 2013. Cruz says he will speak until he’s no longer able to stand in opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care law.Charles Dharapak / AP file

He could cite any of those reasons to flip down the road.

It makes little sense for a politician to change a position any earlier than necessary. For now, he has spared himself the political cost of talking too much about senators’ talking too much. That’s the move of a president who understands how senators think.

Psaki’s construction reflected two realities: Biden gets the Senate, and he can count. He doesn’t have the votes to take the filibuster away from Republicans right now — even if he wanted to — and a failed effort to jam a change through would only cost him among lawmakers in both parties over the long term.

Instead of squandering his capital, he chose to build it. Most of the Senate doesn’t want this fight — even if that means all of the Republicans and only a handful of Democrats.

For senators who are willing to buck the Democratic Party to keep the filibuster, like Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., it is reasonable to assume that there are others who agree with them but do not want to say so publicly for fear of a backlash from activists.

Manchin and Sinema provide cover not only for other Democrats but also for each other; as long as they stand together, neither of them will be the sole focus of vitriol from the party’s left.

And Biden and the two senators provide cover for one another. It’s harder for activists to be angry with Biden if he doesn’t have the votes, and it’s harder for them to be angry at the senators if the White House has indicated that Biden still agrees with their position.

And all of that gives cover to McConnell.

He cited Manchin and Sinema on Monday night when he dropped his insistence that rules organizing the Senate for the current Congress include a safeguard for the filibuster.

“They agree with President Biden’s and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation,” McConnell said, suggesting that Biden has made his views clear behind the scenes.

McConnell’s move means Biden doesn’t have to start his presidency — won on a promise of unifying the country — by twisting Democratic senators’ arms to amass the votes needed to jam a rules change down the throats of the minority party.

Few people are as familiar with the Senate, its rules on debate and the potential ramifications of changing them as Biden is. The threshold to overcome a filibuster was lowered from 67 votes to 60 votes in 1974, Biden’s second of 36 years in the Senate. His knowledge of the chamber, and its prerogatives, is unusual in a modern president. Since 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned, the only other president who served in the Senate has been Barack Obama, and his tenure in the legislative branch was brief.

Former President Donald Trump’s go-to tool on Capitol Hill was to bash senators of both parties from a Twitter account that has since been banned.

Obama’s approach to the Senate might be described as cool ambivalence. He often dispatched Biden to the Senate to negotiate the most politically tricky matters.

Now, Biden is helping the Senate run a very familiar play: the punt. More broadly, his handling of the issue allowed everyone to come out of the fight unscathed. McConnell lost on a firm commitment to entrench the filibuster, but it won’t go anywhere without a major push from Biden.

It could be that gridlock entices Biden to flip against the filibuster later. In that scenario, it would be easier for him to argue that events justified killing it. Psaki’s words carried the subtle threat that he could try to strip the filibuster from Republicans if they abuse it.

After all, Biden will have more influence with Manchin and Sinema for having stood with them now, and, as president, he will have a bully pulpit to stir up public pressure if he so chooses.

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Trump impeachment trial vote sees too many GOP senators dooming the party

What were Senate Republicans voting on Tuesday when they opposed the impeachment trial of Donald Trump? Not whether Trump stays in office — he’s already left. Not how he’s remembered by history — 400,000 dead from the coronavirus have already decided that question. Instead, the fate they were deciding was their own.

As they know better than anyone else, the kinds of politicians who populate the Senate don’t have a place in the party they’ve helped create.

Sadly, most showed they still aren’t ready to begin reclaiming the party from the conspiracists. Just five GOP senators joined Democrats to vote down Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s motion that the impeachment proceedings were unconstitutional because Trump’s term has finished. At least 17 Republicans will have to join Democrats to reach the two-thirds threshold to convict Trump, a necessary step before a follow-up vote can be held to permanently bar him from federal office.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican who voted to remove Trump from office during his first impeachment. The question before the Senate was whether it was OK for a president to blackmail a foreign country into helping him cheat in an election, and whatever their pusillanimous protestations otherwise, every other member of his party voted yes.

On Tuesday, Romney finally had some company. He was joined by the same four colleagues — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — who also joined him in November in acknowledging Joe Biden’s victory and standing steadfast in opposition to outlandish claims that the election was rigged or stolen.

Murkowski denounced Trump for having “perpetrated false rhetoric that the election was stolen and rigged, even after dozens of courts ruled against these claims.” Sasse said Trump didn’t have any evidence to back up his claims of election fraud, “and neither do the institutional arsonist members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote.”

Those five votes — and the senators’ clear, forceful statements against Trump’s lies since the election — suggest that there is still a healthy, responsible part of the party (albeit a small one). But there’s no guarantee it will survive. As the saying goes, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.

And Republicans have a very serious problem.

As they know better than anyone else, the kinds of politicians who populate the Senate don’t have a place in the party they’ve helped create. No matter how much they court Trump’s base or dog-whistle to the conspiracy theorists, foreign policy hawks like Marco Rubio of Florida, anti-poverty innovators like Tim Scott of South Carolina, old-school appropriators like Roy Blunt of Missouri, chameleons like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and erstwhile constitutional libertarians like Mike Lee of Utah don’t have a place in a party whose future belongs to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, two freshman Republicans who have expressed sympathy for the QAnon cult.

Boebert live-tweeted about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the Capitol insurrection Jan. 6 as Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, was being rushed to a secure location. Greene, among other offenses, made comments in 2018 and 2019 suggesting that she supported executing prominent Democrats.

Some of the senators who endorsed Paul’s motion Tuesday might be tempted to think they can simply move on from Trump and therefore want to avoid an impeachment trial so his entire shameful presidency can be forgotten as quickly as possible.

But they’ve helped to create a disaster much bigger than Trump. By giving in to him at every turn, Republicans helped create the epidemic of conspiracy theories and alternative facts rampant in the Republican Party.

Perhaps most consequentially, they endorsed his Big Lie about the election. It wasn’t just Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri who propagated fantasies about widespread voter fraud, irregularities and a “steal.” Fourteen Senate Republicans announced before the attack on the Capitol that they planned to object to counting at least one state’s electoral votes, even though Trump had won none of his more than 60 lawsuits trying to overturn the results and even though no evidence of widespread voter fraud was found by election officials in any state regardless of party.

It was this penchant for conspiracy theories, fueled by the metastasis of QAnon and stoked by some Senate Republicans, that created the explosion at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

So now Republicans have to stamp out this mass delusion by convicting Trump and disqualifying him from federal office. If they don’t, they’ll only accelerate the conspiracist takeover of the GOP. But even these steps are not sufficient to repair the party. The remaining GOP officeholders must repeat the truth, and their mea culpas, until the Republican base no longer believes the election was illegitimate.

Yet 45 Republican senators voted against taking up the impeachment trial Tuesday. Some want to spend as little time thinking and talking about Trump as possible, but many are still in thrall to his base. Twenty Republican senators are up for re-election in two years, and they no doubt fear primary challengers from the MAGA right if they show any sign of breaking with Trump. What’s less clear is why, given their rhetoric and behavior over the last four years, they think the country would be any worse off with Trump sycophants in their seats.

Thanks to the impeachment process they’ve been gifted by the Democrats, Senate Republicans have one last chance to break with Trump and the conspiracist authoritarianism he represents. Their opening move Tuesday was a weak one, but they still have time for a course correction when the vote on conviction takes place next month. If they won’t do it for the country, they should at least do it to save their place in the party.

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CDC officials say schools can re-open during pandemic — but precautions are crucial

Schools should reopen as soon as possible if social distancing and mask-wearing can be maintained to keep in-person learning safe, health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study published Tuesday.

The research, published online in the journal JAMA, provides a framework for how to open schools safely while limiting the spread of Covid-19. Research supports “a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery,” according to the study.

The recommendations provide some clarity about a contentious topic and offer much-needed guidance for local officials, school administrators and parents.

But opening schools safely also requires controlling the virus’s spread within communities, the scientists said. As a result, they recommended maintaining other rules that are designed to reduce transmission but have been politically unpopular, such as restrictions on indoor dining.

“Decisions made today can help ensure safe operation of schools and provide critical services to children and adolescents in the U.S.,” the scientists wrote. “Some of these decisions may be difficult.”

The researchers said fall semester data from schools in the U.S. and internationally show that schools are not responsible for the same type of worrisome outbreaks that have been reported at nursing homes, correctional facilities and “high-density worksites,” such as meatpacking plants.

“There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” they wrote. And keeping schools closed “could adversely affect students’ academic progress, mental health, and access to essential services.”

The CDC scientists said that while a return to in-person learning is recommended, schools should limit activities that could increase the risk of transmission, such as indoor sports practices and competitions.

The study cited a high school wrestling tournament in Florida last month that brought together 130 student-athletes from 10 schools. The tournament became a superspreader event and led to 38 infections. Through contact tracing, 41 more infections were identified, and one death was reported. An investigation to track secondary transmissions continues, according to the study.

To protect students and teachers, the CDC scientists said schools should require certain mitigation measures, such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, increasing ventilation indoors and using a “hybrid” approach that combines in-person and online learning when necessary to avoid crowding in classrooms. The guidelines also said testing should be expanded so infected teachers or students can be identified quickly and isolated.

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HBO Max’s ‘Harry Potter’ streaming plans would give J.K. Rowling an undeserved platform

HBO Max’s 2021 strategy has so far focused heavily on making the old new again, with mixed reviews. It announced it was reviving “Sex and the City” — sans Samantha — followed by reports of a “Game of Thrones” spinoff series. But the latest property reported to have been taken off the shelf is definitely one that should be left alone: “Harry Potter.”

Streaming services promise access to their vast catalogues, making it easier to develop new stories for the franchises you already love.

One could argue that this is what streamers were always going to do. Streaming services promise access to their vast catalogues, making it easier to develop new stories for the franchises you already love. The strategy is working out very well for Disney+, which has hit series under the “Star Wars” and Marvel banners. Warner Media owns both Warner Bros. Pictures, which holds the rights to the “Harry Potter” film franchise, and HBO, the original purveyor of prestige TV series. Bringing them together with a big-budget “Harry Potter” television series was perhaps inevitable.

But while the entertainment industry was undergoing seismic shifts last year, so was the Wizarding World. As little as three years ago, a new TV series would have been greeted with enthusiasm by Potterheads, an incredibly loyal fandom. That began to change in 2019, after “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” opened to less-than-stellar buzz. Despite increasing evidence that actor Johnny Depp had abused his wife, both Warner Bros. and author J.K. Rowling defended him. Meanwhile, there were rumors that Rowling was becoming more reactionary and exclusionary in her beliefs, which were increasingly anti-trans.

It wasn’t until last summer that Rowling really made her anti-transgender feelings clear, when she released a lengthy screed on her website outlining her “fears” of “trans activism.” For a woman who made billions using the written word, it was a shockingly unreadable piece, full of pseudoscientific nonsense to dress up undeniable bigotry. It was also a pivot sure to shock her audience. The “Harry Potter” series was beloved by readers because it preached messages of tolerance and inclusivity. The evil Voldemort and his followers are characterized as believing in wizarding purity, an unsubtle stand-in for eugenics. And yet, here was the woman credited with turning a whole generation of readers into progressives, suddenly, and loudly, declaring that intolerance was sometimes acceptable. Worse, Rowling hasn’t let it go, circling back every few weeks to remind everyone that she is still dedicated to the transphobic cause.

In the context of such statements, giving Rowling another platform seems deeply wrongheaded. The evils of intolerance are a main plotline in the “Fantastic Beasts” trilogy. One assumes that any TV series would also be predicated on championing diversity and equality for all. But how can fans take such a thing seriously when the author herself is tearing down the marginalized?

In the context of such statements, giving Rowling another platform seems deeply wrongheaded.

On a more practical level, Rowling’s post changed her bankability. From the actors made famous by her movies to the fan sites dedicated to the Wizarding World to Warner Bros. itself, just about everyone put out statements distancing themselves from Rowling’s beliefs. Warner Bros. says it remains committed to finishing out the “Fantastic Beasts” series, but the third movie has been pushed back multiple times.

While some believe they can love the Wizarding World while rejecting the author, the damage to the franchise has been done. The backlash from former fans this week suggests that the appetite may not be there. And perhaps the studio is listening: After The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of the show’s “early development,” Warner Bros. and HBO Max issued a statement to Variety denying that anything was going forward at this time.

HBO Max doesn’t need “Harry Potter” anyway. The streamer got off to a slow start last summer, but that was in part because it wasn’t available on Roku and Fire, the two most popular ways to access streaming apps in America. (HBO Max’s user base grew massively in the final months of the year, in part because users were finally able to download the app.) Two original sleeper hits in its first six months, “The Flight Attendant” and “I Hate Suzie,” proved creativity pays dividends. It doesn’t need a hobbled “Sex and the City” without Samantha; it doesn’t need more “Game of Thrones.” And it certainly doesn’t need to saddle itself with more “Harry Potter.”

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Tornado that hit Alabama town, killing 1, was an EF-3 with 150 mph winds

A tornado that struck Alabama on Monday night, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring more than two dozen people, was an EF-3 storm with peak winds of 150 mph, the National Weather Service said.

The tornado struck Fultondale and Center Point, northern suburbs of Birmingham, at around 10:30 p.m. Monday as a series of storms swept through the central part of the state.

Elliott Hernandez, 14, who was found dead in the basement of a Fultondale home that collapsed, the Jefferson County medical examiner said.

Patti Herring sorts through the remains of her home in Fultondale, Ala., on Jan. 26, 2021, after it was destroyed by a tornado.Jay Reeves / AP

There were around 30 injuries, officials said. The tornado came through the middle of Fultondale, a city of around 9,000, Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie said.

The National Weather Service did storm surveys and Tuesday evening classified the tornado as an EF-3 with peak winds of around 150 mph. The intensity varied along the storm’s path, which was around 9 1/2 miles.

“It’s devastating,” Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight said of the damage in the hardest-hit areas. “But we’re going to get through this,” he added. “It’s going to take a while.”

Fultondale suffered the brunt of the damage, but a residential area in Center Point to the northeast was also hit, the mayor of that city said.

Aerial video showed destroyed and collapsed homes, and structures with roofs torn off. A hotel was heavily damaged and partially collapsed.

One woman who was in a hotel in Fultondale that was heavily damaged told NBC affiliate WVTM that she was asleep and the storm sounded “like a train.”

Jason Williams, his wife and their two daughters escaped after their home collapsed and trapped them in the basement where they sought shelter.

“God had his mighty hand on us. That’s all I can say. God protected us last night,” Williams, who suffered a cut on his forehead and bruises to his legs, told The Associated Press.

James Scott, 19, pauses while picking through the remains of his home, which was destroyed by a tornado, in Fultondale, Ala. on Jan. 26, 2021.Jay Reeves / AP

The 14-year-old boy who died was in the 9th grade, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter B. Gonsoulin Jr. said. Fultondale High School suffered a lot of damage and he called it a blessing that the tornado did not strike during the day.

The boy was in the basement with family members when a tree fell on the home, officials said.

“They did what they were supposed to do,” Knight, the county commissioner, said. The father was also injured, he said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey pledged any assistance required. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also said he has spoken with the mayors of Fultondale and Center Point and offered the city’s help.

An aerial view of damaged homes caused by a weather event in Fultondale, Al, on Jan. 26, 2021.Anthony Dodd Photos

“We all understand how the violent power of a tornado can change lives in a moment,” Woodfin tweeted.

The Tuscaloosa and Birmingham area was hit by a major EF-4 nearly a decade ago, a tornado that also struck Fultondale.

The April 27, 2011 tornado killed 65 people in all and had estimated maximum winds of 190 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

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Elliot Page files for divorce from wife Emma Portner

Elliot Page and his wife, Emma Portner, have called it quits.

The Oscar-nominated “Juno” star, 33, who recently came out as transgender, filed for divorce Tuesday in Manhattan. The pair confirmed their split in a statement to TODAY.

Emma Portner and Elliot Page attend the premiere of “Flatliners” at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 2017.Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic

“After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce following our separation last summer. We have the utmost respect for each other and remain close friends,” the statement read.

The former couple had announced their marriage in a January 2018 post on Instagram.

News of their split comes nearly two months after Page announced he is transgender in an emotional post on Instagram.

“Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot,” he wrote in part. “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”

“I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self,” he added.

Portner responded in the comments. “Love you so much elliot,” she wrote.

The 26-year-old dancer later shared a heartwarming message about Page on her own Instagram account, calling the “Umbrella Academy” star’s existence “a gift.”

“I am so proud of @elliotpage,” Portner wrote. “Trans, queer and non-binary people are a gift to this world. I also ask for patience & privacy but that you join me in the fervent support of trans life every single day.

“Elliot’s existence is a gift in and of itself,” Portner added. “Shine on sweet E. Love you so much.”

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