10 things you need to know today: May 11, 2021

Biden restores health-care protections for transgender people, the FDA approves Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 to 15, and more

The Pfizer vaccine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Biden restores health-care protections for transgender people

President Biden on Monday restored health-care protections for transgender people, reversing policies put in place by former President Donald Trump. Under Biden's policy, the Department of Health and Human Services will renew prohibitions against discrimination by health-care providers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Trump had ordered that anti-discrimination rules in the 2010 Affordable Care Act didn't apply to transgender people. "Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences," said Biden's health secretary, Xavier Becerra. "It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period."

The New York Times

2. FDA approves Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12 to 15. It now needs CDC approval before it can be used on this age group. Pfizer's two-dose vaccine already has been approved for use in those 16 and older. The decision to allow emergency use of the vaccine that Pfizer developed with German partner BioNTech will speed up efforts to get middle school students vaccinated before next school year, boosting the national push to reduce new infections. Children account for about 20 percent of the population, so getting them vaccinated is seen as a critical part of the effort to fight the pandemic. U.S. officials said recently that so many Americans are resisting getting vaccinated that herd immunity might be out of reach.

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3. Israel airstrikes follow Hamas rocket attacks

Israel launched airstrikes against the Gaza Strip on Monday in retaliation for rocket fire by the Palestinian group Hamas. At least 24 people were killed in Israel's strikes. Gaza militants were among the dead, according to Israel's military. An Israeli citizen was lightly injured when a Hamas antitank missile hit his car in southern Israel. The Hamas rocket attacks included the group's first strikes against Jerusalem in several years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacks from Gaza "crossed a red line" and would be met with "great force." Tensions had been rising ahead of Monday's Jerusalem Day celebrations and Israel's planned evictions of Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem. Several days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Jerusalem have left hundreds of Palestinians injured.

The Washington Post CNN

4. WHO says India variant a global health threat

A World Health Organization official said Monday the agency was reclassifying a COVID-19 variant rampant in India as a global health threat. The variant, known as B.1.617, is a triple-mutant coronavirus strain that is highly contagious. India's new coronavirus infections and deaths remained near record daily highs on Monday, with 366,161 new cases and 3,754 deaths. The numbers were slightly below recent peaks but not low enough to provide relief for hospitals running out of oxygen and beds, or overwhelmed morgues and crematoriums. Pressure is mounting on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown like the one imposed during the country's first coronavirus wave last year. Top White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told Indian authorities: "You've got to shut down."

CNBC Reuters

5. Official: L.A. County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity by end of July

If Los Angeles County continues to administer 400,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots a week, it could reach herd immunity among adults and older teenagers by mid- to late-July, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. To reach herd immunity, a community must have enough people who have either been inoculated or have natural immunity to protect the rest of the population against the coronavirus. In Los Angeles County, more than 3 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and if 2 million more get their first doses, 80 percent of all residents 16 and older will have received at least one shot. Ferrer stressed that for the county to reach herd immunity in mid- to late-July, vaccine rates must stay steady.

Los Angeles Times

6. McCarthy says vote on Cheney ouster coming Wednesday

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced Monday that the chamber's 212 Republicans would vote Wednesday on removing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the No. 3 spot in the GOP leadership. Cheney has faced mounting criticism from members of her party for her condemnation of former President Donald Trump's bogus claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through vote fraud. Cheney three months ago survived a vote of no-confidence after voting to impeach Trump on charges that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. "Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it's clear that we need to make a change," McCarthy said in a letter to Republicans. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) warned that replacing Cheney "won't gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few."


7. FBI confirms criminal gang blamed for pipeline hack

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Monday that investigators had identified a criminal gang — traced to Eastern Europe, possibly Russia, and known as DarkSide — involved in the cyberattack that forced the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline Co., which supplies more than half of the East Coast's gasoline and diesel fuel. The hack, which was disclosed over the weekend, intensified concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. economy to ransomware attacks, in which hackers lock computer systems and demand payment to unfreeze them. President Biden said the Russian government didn't appear to have been involved in the Colonial Pipeline attack, but he said Moscow has tolerated dangerous cyberattacks from its turf. "They have some responsibility to deal with this," Biden said.

The Wall Street Journal

8. Biden approval rating boosted by coronavirus response

President Joe Biden, fresh off his first 100 days in office, received the approval of 63 percent of respondents in a poll released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Biden's backing got a boost from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which got high marks from 71 percent of respondents, including 47 percent of Republicans. Fifty-four percent of those polled said they believed the country was on the right track, the highest mark in an AP-NORC poll since 2017. The optimism was fueled by progress the Biden administration has made to speed up the U.S. vaccination campaign, which has paid off with falling rates of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The poll found worries about the pandemic to have fallen to their lowest level since February 2020.

The Associated Press

9. Tebow reportedly near deal to return to NFL

Tim Tebow is reportedly continuing his unconventional professional sports career and will head back to the NFL for the first time since 2015. Tebow, a legendary Heisman Trophy- and national championship-winning quarterback for the University of Florida who transitioned to professional baseball, is reportedly close to sealing a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which would reunite him with his old college coach, Urban Meyer. Tebow will reportedly be trying to make the roster as tight end, a positional move that a lot of analysts thought the 33-year-old should have made to prolong his career when he was younger. If Tebow and the Jaguars complete their deal, there's no guarantee he'll make the final roster.

NFL Network

10. NBC cancels Gold Globes broadcast after controversy

NBC announced Monday that it would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globe Awards following a push for reform within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has put on the awards event for 80 years. The decision came after WarnerMedia joined Netflix and Amazon Studios in severing ties with the organization as part of a mounting pressure campaign to get it to speed up its plan to address its lack of Black members. A coalition of publicists has boycotted the group. Tom Cruise joined the protest by returning his three Golden Globes. "We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform," NBC said. "However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right."

Los Angeles Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.