10 things you need to know today: April 28, 2021
The CDC says fully vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors, the FBI investigates Brown killing by N.C. deputies, and more
CDC says fully vaccinated people generally can safely go maskless outside
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday revised its guidance on coronavirus precautions, saying that fully vaccinated people can safely go without masks when walking, jogging, or cycling outdoors, or when dining with friends and family at outdoor restaurants. The new recommendations apply starting two weeks after people have received their final dose of an approved coronavirus vaccine. The change came after rising pressure on public health authorities to relax mask mandates for people who are outside, where social distancing is easier and breezes quickly disperse airborne virus particles. Humidity and sunlight also help reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance was part of an effort to help vaccinated Americans resume normal activities. More than 52 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose.
FBI investigating Andrew Brown Jr. killing by N.C. deputies
The FBI confirmed Tuesday that it was launching a civil rights investigation of the killing of Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man, by sheriff's deputies in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. Attorneys for Andrew Brown Jr.'s family said Tuesday that a private autopsy showed that a deputy fired a "kill shot to the back of the head" as Brown sat in his car outside his home in Elizabeth City shortly after deputies arrived to serve search and arrest warrants connected to felony drug charges. "Yesterday, I said he was executed," Brown's son Khalil Ferebee said. "This autopsy report showed me that was correct." Ferebee spoke at a news conference, which prompted angry shouts from spectators. Family attorneys and local officials also called for the release of more body-cam video, after the family was allowed to see just a 20-second clip on Monday.
Biden wants more money for IRS crackdown on tax evaders
President Biden wants to provide the Internal Revenue Service with an extra $80 billion and added authority so it can help come up with more revenue to cover the costs of his economic plans, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two people familiar with the proposal. Biden reportedly wants the IRS to step up efforts to collect money owed by tax evaders, both individuals and corporations. The tax funds recouped could reach $700 billion over a decade to help pay for Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which he will officially unveil to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. The proposed legislation also is expected to call for raising the top marginal tax rate for wealthy Americans, and taxes on profits from stock sales made by people who earn more than $1 million per year.
Biden to order minimum wage hike to $15 hourly for federal contractors
President Biden is set to sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal contractors, an increase from the current $10.95 an hour. The order will give agencies until early 2022 to implement the new wage. The White House also said the executive order will eliminate the "tipped minimum wage" for federal contractors by 2024. This will affect "hundreds of thousands" of federal contractors, although a senior administration official noted to NBC the exact number who will benefit is not "static." The minimum wage for federal contractors was last raised in 2014. This comes after an effort by Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour came to a halt in the Senate.
U.S. gains popularity among allies under Biden
The United States' popularity has improved significantly among several U.S. allies since President Biden entered the White House, according to a Morning Consult survey released Tuesday. The most dramatic swing took place in Germany. On Jan. 20, only 24 percent of Germans viewed the U.S. favorably. Two months later, that number increased to 46 percent. Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom all saw double digit jumps, as well, while Mexico registered an 8 percent increase. Among the 14 nations surveyed, only China reported a notable downward trend, though it's possible that would have happened regardless, considering the state of affairs between Washington and Beijing. Biden has made a point of telling other countries "America is back" in the global community.
Pfizer CEO says oral COVID-19 drug could be ready by end of year
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that the company's experimental oral medicine for COVID-19 could be available by the end of 2021. "If all goes well, and we implement the same speed that we are, and if regulators do the same, and they are, I hope that by the end of the year," Bourla told CNBC's Squawk Box. The company began early-stage clinical trials for its new antiviral coronavirus therapy in March. The drug is a protease inhibitor designed to target an enzyme the virus uses to replicate in human cells. Pfizer partnered with German drugmaker BioNTech to make the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved for emergency use in the United States. It also has requested FDA approval to authorize use of its vaccine on adolescents ages 12 to 15, and it is testing the vaccine on children 6 months to 11 years old.
Biden to nominate Houston sheriff to lead ICE
President Biden plans to nominate Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the White House announced Tuesday. Gonzalez, a Democrat, is responsible for Texas' most populous county, which includes Houston, and was a critic of immigration raids under former President Donald Trump's administration. "I do not support ICE raids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.," Gonzalez wrote in a July 2019 Facebook post. "The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats." A month earlier, Trump had tweeted that ICE would start deporting "millions of illegal aliens." Gonzalez's nomination, which comes as Biden rolls back restrictive Trump immigration policies, will have to be confirmed by an evenly divided Senate.
India reports record daily COVID-19 death toll
India on Wednesday reported a record number of single-day COVID-19 deaths as the total number of fatalities in the country surpassed 200,000. The government confirmed that 3,293 people died over 24 hours. The country also reported 360,960 new infections, marking the seventh straight day the country has recorded 300,000 or more new infections. India now has had nearly 18 million total cases. More than 5.8 million of those cases were recorded in April during a surge that has overwhelmed the country's hospitals, many of which are running out of oxygen needed for the patients with the most severe respiratory problems. Foreign governments have responded with promises of aid. The United States is sending raw materials that vaccine makers in the South Asian nation need to produce their version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
GOP doctors in Congress tout vaccinations in video
A group of Republican lawmakers, all of them doctors, released a video on Tuesday calling for Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The lawmakers appeared in the video wearing white coats, with stethoscopes around their necks. They tried to chip away at concerns expressed by Americans who are hesitant to get the shots. "This vaccine is safe," Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), a heart surgeon, said in the video. Some of the messages hit popular GOP themes, such as complaints that restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic are denying people freedom. Bucshon said the way "to end the government's restrictions on our freedoms is to take action and get the vaccine." Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) emphasized that the vaccines were developed during the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, before President Biden took office.
Baseball ratings strong despite GOP boycott calls
Ratings for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Major League Baseball's flagship weekly national broadcast, are off to a strong start in the 2021 season. The games have been averaging more than 1.7 million viewers, which is up 38 percent over the average during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and 7 percent compared to 2019. In fact, the ratings haven't been this strong at the start of the season for Sunday Night Baseball since 2017 when the numbers were boosted by a large audience tuning in to watch the Chicago Cubs' opening game after their first World Series victory in 108 years. It's too soon to tell if this is a trend for baseball, but the rise comes despite calls from Republican politicians to boycott MLB after it moved the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia's controversial new voting law.