Commentary: It’s 2022, But Many Schools Are Reverting to 2020’s COVID Playbook

young girl getting face mask put on her face

It’s 2022 but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s still 2020—especially if you have children enrolled in K-12 district schooling. Some parents are grappling this week with a return to, or threat of, remote learning first introduced nearly two years ago.

Fear of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus is leading school officials across the country to once again shutter schools. In Cleveland, for example, this first week of school for the new year is entirely remote for public school students. Several districts throughout Ohio are following suit, while others are re-imposing 2020 virus-related restrictions or extending the holiday break into this week.

Newark, New Jersey public schools announced they will be fully remote for the next two weeks, as did other districts throughout the state. Public schools in Atlanta will also be closed this week, reverting back to remote learning.

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WGU Tennessee Announces 9th Annual Tenn-K Scholarships

WGU Tennessee is launching its 9th annual Tenn-K Scholarship campaign for the 2022 school year according to a press release Friday by the state-endorsed nonprofit online university. As part of its annual Tenn-K Scholarship for 2022, WGU Tennessee is awarding $10,000 scholarships to up to 10 Tennesseans.

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Commentary: Joe Biden’s Failed Policies Has Lead to a COVID Test Shortage

President Joe Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as he departs the U.S. Capitol after addressing the House Democratic Caucus, Thursday, October 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

America has basically run out of tests for Covid-19 as lines are forming at emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and doctors’ offices, and now patients are simply being turned away nationwide. In the meantime, tests are being rationed to those with greater risk factors just a month after President Joe Biden was pushing “test to stay” in order for Americans to be allowed to go to work, school and to travel.

This comes as the Institutes for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) project an estimated 1.9 million probable Covid infections in the U.S per day — and rising. By the end of January, IHME estimates as many as 2.8 million new cases per day, largely thanks to the new omicron variant that accounts for 95 percent of all new cases, the Centers for Disease Control say.

For perspective, last year, IHME estimated cases peaked at over 500,000 a day in early Jan. 2021.

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Missouri Attorney General Sues St. Louis County After Council Enacts Mask Mandate

The day after the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 along party lines to enact a mask mandate, Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, filed a 17-page petition in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Last week, St. Louis and Jackson Counties filed an appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals over the November ruling by a Cole County Circuit Court stating all COVID-19 public health orders were null and void.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Announces Intent to Regulate Lying

Jay Inslee

Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation that would regulate candidates and elected officials from spreading lies about elections that are likely to result in violence.

The legislation, which is still being written and has yet to be released, would be “narrowly tailored” to cover “false statements” made for the “purpose of undermining the election process or results,” according to Inslee’s announcement.

“This legislation attempts to follow the relevant U.S. and state supreme court opinions on this issue. We’re talking about candidates and elected officers knowingly throwing bombs at democracy itself when doing so is likely to result in violence,” Inslee said in a statement.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Made Nearly $100 Million in 2021

Apple chief executive Tim Cook made nearly $100 million in compensation in the company’s fiscal year, according to SEC filings published Thursday.

SEC filings show that Cook took home $98.73 million in the 2021 fiscal year, more than 500% more than the previous year’s $14.8 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Cook’s $3 million base salary remained stable in 2021, but he received a $12 million bonus for hitting Apple’s financial and environmental sustainability goals, $1.39 million in other compensation and $82.35 million in stock awards.

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Jobless Claims Jump to 207,000, Higher Than Anticipated

Photo “Unemployment Insurance Claims Office” by Bytemarks. CC BY 2.0.

The number of Americans who filed new unemployment claims increased to 207,000 in the week ending Jan. 1 as workers seek more attractive positions with better pay and Omicron coronavirus variant cases surge.

The Labor Department figure shows a 7,000 claim increase compared to the week ending Dec. 25, when claims reached a revised level of 200,000. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal projected claims would decrease to 195,000.

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Supreme Court’s Conservative Justices Seem Skeptical of Biden Admin’s Workplace COVID Vaccine Rules

The Supreme Court on Friday hearing oral arguments on two major Biden administration efforts to increase the country’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 — starting with the mandate requiring large-scale employers to require workers to be vaccinated or tested.

In the first case, the National Federation of Independent Business, et al., Applicants v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, et al.

OSHA is more specifically requiring businesses with 100 or more workers either require them to be vaccinated or et tested weekly and wear masks while working, with exceptions for those who work outdoors.

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Rep. Davis Blasts Pelosi for Refusing to Release January 6 Evidence

The top Republican on the House committee that oversees U.S. Capitol security is blasting Speaker Nancy Pelosi for refusing to release key evidence showing the security planning prior to the Jan. 6 riots and is warning that the police force that protects lawmakers has not reformed itself enough to avoid another tragedy.

“We know there were intelligence analysis failures at the Capitol Police,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) told the John Solomon Reports podcast during an interview Thursday on the one-year anniversary of the Capitol riots. And frankly, John, I don’t think those have been corrected yet.

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Americans Ring in 2022 with Highest Mortgage Rates Since the Pandemic Started

Mortgage rates soared to their highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in the first week of 2022, according to Freddie Mac.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.22% in the week ending on Jan. 6, up from a 3.11% average during the previous week and marking the highest level since May 2020, Freddie Mac announced Thursday. The 30-year rate dropped to 2.65% in early 2021, its lowest level on record.

“Mortage rates increased during the first week of 2022 to the highest level since May 2020 and are more than half a percentage higher than January 2021,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, according to a company release.

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Republican Leaders Slam Biden After Jobs Report Shows ‘Massive Miss’

Republican leaders slammed President Joe Biden after December’s jobs report released Friday reported numbers well below economists’ projections, highlighting the report as another example of how the president mishandled the post-pandemic recovery.

The U.S. economy added only 199,000 jobs in December while unemployment dipped to 3.9%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal projected that the economy would add 422,000 jobs in December and that unemployment to fall to 4.1%.

“Our economy should be soaring right now, but the policies of this administration continue to stifle growth and hold back American businesses and workers,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.

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Former Planned Parenthood President Says School Closures Harm Children

Dr. Leana Wen

A former Planned Parenthood president and public health professional argued in a Thursday op-ed for The Washington Post that the rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant is not a reason to keep schools closed.

Dr. Leana Wen argued “both sides [of the school reopening debate] are wrong,” in her op-ed. “let’s agree that schools are essential and then work to reduce risk to get students back to in-person learning,” Wen wrote.

Wen called it “astounding” that governors in states like Texas, Georgia and Iowa are fighting against school mask mandates and that Florida’s surgeon general is discouraging testing in schools, attributing ” “low vaccine uptake among children” to “rampant right-wing disinformation.”

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Florida Governor DeSantis Suspends Two Sumter County Commissioners Charged with Perjury

Weeks after being arrested and charged with perjury, two Republican county commissioners in Sumter County were suspended from office Thursday by Governor Ron DeSantis in the first two executive orders of 2022 (EO 22-01 and EO 22-02).

Until their cases are settled, Governor DeSantis ordered the immediate suspension of commissioners Oren Miller of District 5, and Gary Robert Search of District 1, who were arrested on December 15th and charged for lying during an investigation into possible violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

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State Rep. Quang Nguyen Introduces Bill to Protect Religious Arizonans from Liability If an Employer Requires the COVID-19 Vaccine

Religious employees in Arizona who suffer an injury due to being required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by their employer will have a remedy if a proposed bill makes it into law. State Rep. Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), along with several co-sponsors, introduced HB 2043 that makes employers liable for a “significant injury” to an employee resulting from the vaccine if the employer denies them a religious exemption. 

“This is one of the most important bills I’m introducing this coming session,” Nguyen said in a statement. “The reality is COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time. Public and private health mandates are not a good solution and could instead cause harm in some cases. If businesses and employers are intent on mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment, they should be held accountable if their employees face serious harm or illness.”

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David Perdue Files Suit Against Law He Says Gives Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s Campaign Unfair Advantage

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue said a new state law gives Governor Brian Kemp a significant financial advantage as he seeks reelection, and this week Perdue filed suit to challenge that law’s constitutionality. In his lawsuit, Perdue, a former Republican U.S. senator, cited Senate Bill 221. The bill became law in July of last year, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s website.

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Audit Shows Clean 2021 General Election in Ohio

An audit by Ohio county boards of election showed a clean 2021 general election, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

LaRose recently announced post-election mandatory audits from all counties were finalized for the 2021 general election, and results showed a 99.9% accuracy rate in counties that used a percentage-based audit.

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Hennepin County Commissioners Call for Resignation of Sheriff Hutchinson over DUI Conviction

Five Hennepin County Commissioners have joined the call for the resignation of Sheriff Dave Hutchinson following his DUI conviction. Angela Conley, Chris LaTondresse, Marion Greene, Jeffrey Lunde, and Irene Fernando all have issued statements asking him to step down from his position as sheriff.

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FBI Lost Control of Rogue Informant in Whitmer Case

Gretchen Whitmer

According to documents filed by the government prosecutors in response to a motion by the defendants in the alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) informants turned rogue during the plot.

The controversy stems from Steve Robeson, a Confidential Human Source (CHS) in the case.

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State Lawmaker Seeks to Bolster Pennsylvania Parents’ Rights

A Pennsylvania state senator wants to ensure parents have the final say in how they raise their children by preventing government from superseding their authority.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, introduced Senate Bill 996 this week to explicitly define parental rights as fundamental rights, a move designed to protect decisions on education, health care, mental health and other issues.

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Expired COVID Test Controversy Turns Political

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced approximately 800,000 to one million unadministered COVID tests stockpiled in a warehouse expired. The tests were produced by the manufacturer, Abbott, and were at-home test kits.

Democrats and progressives across Florida took unsubstantiated political shots across DeSantis’ bow.

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Ohio Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Renacci Stands with Trump After Biden’s January 6 Attacks

In a press release Thursday, Ohio gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Jim Renacci made it clear that he stands with former President Donald J. Trump after President Joe Biden’s disparaging remarks. 

“It’s a shame that Joe Biden is using this day to divide Americans, distract from his disastrously failed presidency, and take cheap shots at President Trump. The liberal media may eat it up, but Ohioans, who voted against Joe Biden and for President Trump in the biggest landslide in our state in over thirty years, see right through it,” Renacci said in a press release on the anniversary of the mostly peaceful protests at the Capitol.

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Arizona Nonprofit Awarded $250,000 Grant for COVID-19 Prevention in Refugee Communities

The International Rescue Committee’s Tucson office received a $250,000 federal grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in refugee, immigrant and migrant (RIM) communities.

The Tucson IRC office is one of 23 organizations around the U.S. to be awarded such a grant.

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Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips Introduces Resolution to Deem January 6 ‘Democracy Day’

Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN-03) introduced a resolution to deem January 6 “Democracy Day.” The resolution is also supported by Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), saying that she is an “original cosponsor.”

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Milwaukee Public Schools Extend Virtual Learning Another Week, Wisconsin Rep. Gallagher Says It’s a Decision Based on ‘Outdated Science’

Milwaukee Public Schools voted to extend virtual learning another week, after making the last minute decision to not have in-person classes following Winter Break, which Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) said is based on ‘outdated science.’

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Cincinnati Border Patrol Says City’s Port Is Among Busiest for Smuggling

In a Wednesday press release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a press release detailing its efforts to curb smuggling through the port in Cincinnati, which it says ranked fifth in the nation for smuggling busts in fiscal year 2021. 

“From October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, Cincinnati seized 6,738 shipments, ranking the port in fifth-place for seizures among all 328 CBP ports of entry nationwide,” the release said. “Additionally, Cincinnati agriculture specialists issued 7,240 Emergency Action Notifications (EANs), the highest number of agriculture seizures ever recorded at the port.”

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Virginia COVID-19 Hospitalizations Beat January 2021 Record

Virginia COVID-19 hospitalizations of confirmed and pending COVID-19 cases climbed to 3,329 on Friday and to 3,478 on Saturday, beating the previous daily record of 3,329 set on January 13, 2021, according to data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). That’s part of a broader trend of higher-than-before COVID-19 daily case counts in Virginia. On January 2, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 19,506 cases, over twice as much as the previous high of 9,914 on January 17, 2021. On Friday, the VDH reported 18,309 new cases, with a seven-day average of 14,645.

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Tennessee Legislator Files Bill Criminalizing Online Posting of False Business Reviews

Person using a laptop, pointing to the screen

A Tennessee legislator filed a bill which would criminalize the posting of false reviews about businesses on the internet.

If passed, the House Bill 1664 would classify those actions as Class B misdemeanors under the Tennessee Code. The maximum penalties for a Class B misdemeanor conviction in Tennessee are fines of up to $500, as much as 6 months in jail, or both.

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