10 things you need to know today: March 9, 2021
The CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather without masks, Biden grants Venezuelans temporary protected status, and more
CDC says fully vaccinated people can safely gather in small groups
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus can safely gather in small groups without masks or social distancing. The CDC said people who have been fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks and take other precautions when in public or when meeting with unvaccinated people, because those people remain at higher risk for severe COVID-19. The updated guidance came as the national vaccine effort is picking up speed, with more than 2 million shots being administered per day. More than 60 million people, or 1 in 4 U.S. adults, have now now received at least one dose, and 31.3 million are fully vaccinated. Public health officials are warning that the next two months are critical, urging people to continue taking precautions to prevent another surge fueled by more contagious virus variants first detected in Brazil, the U.K., and elsewhere.
Biden lets undocumented Venezuelans stay for humanitarian reasons
The Biden administration said Monday that it would let undocumented Venezuelan immigrants who are already in the United States stay due to the humanitarian crisis they would face if sent back to the South American nation. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted Temporary Protected Status to about 320,000 Venezuelans, fulfilling one of President Biden's campaign promises. Venezuela has huge oil reserves but the government of President Nicolás Maduro, who refused to give up power after a disputed 2018 election, has presided over an economic collapse that has driven five million Venezuelans out of the country. "This is a complex humanitarian crisis: widespread hunger, malnutrition, growing influence and presence of non-state armed groups, a crumbling infrastructure. I mean, you could go on and on," said a senior administration official.
Biden orders review of Trump rule on campus sexual misconduct
President Biden on Monday ordered the Department of Education to review Trump-era rules on how colleges investigate sexual violence on campus, and other policies established under Title IX, a 1972 law against sexual discrimination at federally funded schools. Biden has long promised to scrap Trump administration education policies, including rules that increased protections for students accused of sexual assault. The Trump administration also reversed protections for victims made by the Obama administration. The announcement came on International Women's Day. Biden celebrated the day with a speech in which he announced the nominations of two female generals to elite commands.
Jury selection delayed in Chauvin's trial
Jury selection was delayed on Monday at the start of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after Chauvin pressed his knee onto Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes last May. Jury selection was expected to start on Tuesday, although a dispute over the addition of a third-degree murder charge remained unresolved and threatened to cause further delays. Chauvin also faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill threw out the third-degree murder charge last year, but an appeals court ordered him to reconsider. Prosecutors have questioned whether the case can proceed before the matter is resolved. Hundreds of protesters chanted "No justice, no peace!" outside the fortified courthouse.
Sen. Roy Blunt becomes 5th Republican to step aside in 2022
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2022. Blunt, the No. 4 ranking Senate Republican, is the fifth Republican senator to rule out running for another term in the mid-term elections. The rising number of GOP incumbents bowing out will complicate the party's effort to regain control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50 but controlled by Democrats thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. Before the announcement by Blunt, 71, Republican Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said they were retiring from the Senate instead of running again. GOP candidates next year are expected to have to take a stand for or against former President Donald Trump's presidency, as Trump has said he plans to take an active role in the campaign.
House heads toward vote on $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package
The House is preparing to vote as soon as Tuesday on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package amended by the Senate. The proposal, called the American Rescue Plan, passed the Senate without a single Republican vote, as did an earlier version approved by the House. The current version of the legislation includes $1,400 per-person checks for most Americans, but it no longer includes an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, a provision removed by the Senate. Democrats are rushing to approve the bill, which extends extra unemployment benefits, before the benefits are scheduled to expire mid-month. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that if the House quickly approves the legislation and sends it to President Biden for his signature, many families could receive checks "by the end of the month."
FBI arrests man who guarded Roger Stone over Capitol riot
FBI agents on Monday arrested two more suspects for their alleged roles in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including one who reportedly served as a bodyguard for former President Donald Trump's confidant Roger Stone, federal authorities said. The FBI said in court papers that Roberto Minuta, identified by The New York Times as a member of Stone's security team, trespassed on Capitol grounds and "aggressively berated and taunted U.S. Capitol police officers." Minuta, 36, allegedly was "equipped with military-style attire and gear," including clothing bearing the crest of the far-right anti-government Oath Keepers militia. The other man arrested over the weekend, 32-year-old Isaac Steve Sturgeon, was charged with pushing a metal police barricade into officers during the assault on the Capitol. Minuta owns a New York tattoo shop. Sturgeon owns a lawn care business.
RNC tells Trump attorneys it won't stop using his name, image for fundraising
The Republican National Committee on Monday rejected a cease-and-desist demand from former President Donald Trump's attorneys, who called for the party to stop using Trump's name and image in fundraising efforts. RNC chief counsel Justin Riemer said in a letter to Trump's lawyers that the party had "every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech, and it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals." Trump's attorneys sent letters on March 5 calling for the RNC and other GOP groups — including the Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee — to "immediately cease and desist the unauthorized use of President Donald J. Trump's name, image, and/or likeness in all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech." Trump and the RNC worked together to raise more than $366 million during the 2020 campaign.
Dozens injured in Mexico City women's march
At least 62 police officers and 19 civilians were injured on Monday as hundreds of women marched on Mexico's seat of government in an International Women's Day protest on Monday. Some women in the march carried their children, while others had blowtorches and hammers as they protested violence against women. The crowd expressed anger at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has supported a politician several women have accused of rape. The protesters gathered at the national palace in Mexico City, where women wearing black balaclavas dismantled parts of a metal barricade erected to protect the building. Police responded by firing flash-bang grenades, sparking small stampedes. Last year, 10 women were killed per day, on average, in Mexico, and only about five percent of the roughly 16,000 cases of rape resulted in a criminal sentence.
Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview draws over 17 million viewers
CBS said Monday 17.1 million people watched Oprah Winfrey's controversial interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the U.S. on Sunday night. The audience was more than twice as big as the one for last Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, which drew a disappointing 6.9 million viewers. In fact, more people watched the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's interview than watched the most recent Golden Globes and Emmys combined. It was the "largest non-sports audience of the 2020-2021 TV season so far," Deadline reported. It was also the "largest primetime audience for any entertainment special since" last year's Academy Awards, according to Entertainment Weekly.