In today’s episode of 5 Things: Covid-19 infections are down and now the U.S. is shifting attention abroad with a plan to ship out 80 million vaccines. Plus, President Joe Biden supports a ceasefire during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, economic opportunity reporter Charisse Jones explains the Child Tax Credit, severe flooding hits the Gulf Coast and the NBA postseason begins.
Hit play on the podcast player and read along with the transcript below.
Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is Five Things You Need To Know Tuesday, the 18th of May, 2021. Today COVID-19 infections are down in all 50 states. Plus President Joe Biden has supported a ceasefire in Israel/Hamas violence during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
A powerful cyclone slammed India’s Western coast on Monday. At least 12 people died in the storm and hundreds of thousands were evacuated, as the country is already reeling from a massive COVID-19 surge.
Beginning Tuesday, 12 to 17-year-olds in Ohio who are vaccinated against COVID-19, can sign up for a drawing that would give them a full-ride public college scholarship if they win. Drawings will be held for five straight Wednesdays beginning next week, and the state will also give away $1 million prizes to five vaccinated adults.
And Ariana Grande is a married woman. She married real estate agent Dalton Gomez over the weekend.
COVID-19 infections are down in all 50 states, and the pace of new infections fell this past weekend to lower levels since the start of the fall and winter surges. The US reported around 232,000 new cases nationwide for the week ending Sunday. That’s less than the numbers for the week ending September 12th, the day before the surge began. Daily infections are less than half what they were a month ago, and just a small fraction of January’s numbers, which were some of the worst in terms of cases and deaths seen anywhere in the world during the pandemic. The US does continue to report about 600 deaths a day, but that’s only one fifth of daily deaths in January. As the US and parts of Europe turn the corner on COVID, that’s not the case for all parts of the world. India reported a record more than 4,300 deaths on Monday, and hospitals are still slammed around the country, but infections dipped by about 165,000 and continue to fall. In Mumbai, India’s financial capital with 22 million people, new cases dropped nearly 70% over the past week, and cases are dropping slightly in the capital of New Delhi, but experts warn that Mumbai and New Delhi represent only a fraction of the overall situation in the country.
Elsewhere, some countries in Latin America are experiencing their worst of the pandemic so far, and data increasingly shows a huge disparity in who is getting vaccinated around the world. In high-income countries, 34% of populations on average have been at least partially vaccinated. That’s compared to just 0.6% in low-income countries. Experts warn that the longer that huge portions of the global population go without being vaccinated, the greater the chance of potentially more dangerous mutations, that might be able to affect those in the vaccinated population as well. The US will begin sending more vaccine doses abroad in the coming weeks. President Joe Biden pledged 80 million doses on Monday.
Over the past 118 days, our vaccinations program has led the world. And today, we’re taking an additional step to help the world. We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that’s raging globally is under control. No oceans wide enough, no walls high enough to keep us safe. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the strong thing to do. In March, we shared over four million doses of our AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and Mexico. At the end of April, we announced that we would provide another 60 million doses of our AstraZeneca vaccine overseas. Remember, this is the vaccine that’s not authorized for use in the United States yet, so we’re going to be sending it to folks once the FDA has reviewed this and said it’s safe. This is all the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in the United States. All of it will be sent to other countries.
And today, I’m announcing they will also share US authorized vaccine doses of Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson and Johnson as they become available with the rest of the world as well. And by the end of June, when we will have taken delivery of enough of such vaccines to protect everyone in the United States, the United States will share at least 20 million of those doses, that extra supply, with other countries. This means over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas.
For more on the pandemic in the US and around the world, head to the COVID-19 live updates page on usatoday.com.
Violence continues in Gaza and Israel. Israel carried out its latest airstrikes on what it said were militant targets in Gaza City. The strikes took down the six-story-high building, which contains libraries and educational centers as part of the Islamic University. Israel says it has inflicted heavy damage on Hamas’ military infrastructure, but Israeli airstrikes have also destroyed or damaged at least 18 hospitals, as well as private family homes and offices with journalists. Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, hitting a synagogue over the weekend. Recent heavy fighting broke out on May 10th, when Hamas fired long range rockets toward Jerusalem. The move came in support of Palestinian protests there against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the holy Al-Aqsa mosque, and threats to forcefully removed dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. At least 212 Palestinians have been killed, including 61 children. And 10 people in Israel have been killed, including a child.
In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, President Joe Biden said he supported a ceasefire to ongoing violence, in a move that came after 29 Democratic and Independent senators issued a joint statement on the issue. But Biden’s own party is deeply divided on foreign policy toward Israel in general, especially economic and military support the US has given the country for generations since its founding. Those tensions rose on Monday after the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration approved some $735 million in precision guided weapons to Israel. Some Democrats and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the aid. Sanders, in a New York Times opinion piece wrote, “We can no longer be apologists for the right wing Netanyahu government, and its undemocratic and racist behavior.” He talked of a decades long Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the ongoing blockade on Gaza.
But many Democrats see an Alliance with Israel as crucial to American interests. Congressmen Ritchie Torres tweeted, “Firing rockets at civilians in Israel is an act of terrorism, period. The latest rocket fire underscores the need for missile defense programs, such as iron dome, to protect Israeli civilians, both Arabs and Jews from the terrorism of Hamas.” Republicans are more aligned in their support of Israel. Florida Senator Rick Scott led 19 Republican Senators releasing a resolution that supports Israel’s side of the fighting. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has repeatedly noted that Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist group, is firing rockets at Israeli civilians, but he has not spoken as much about one of the sparks that ignited the conflict, an effort by Jewish settlers to forcefully remove Palestinian families from their homes in east Jerusalem.
Millions of Americans with children will start seeing more money in their bank accounts beginning in July. The newly expanded child tax credit starts July 15th. Under it, the Treasury Department and IRS will send payments of $250 or $300 to low and moderate income families, payments that will continue through December. Economic opportunity Reporter Charisse Jones explains how it’ll work.
If you are an individual and you make $75,000 or less, or if you’re married and you’re filing jointly and you make $150,000 or less, you are eligible for these payments. It’s money that the US government gives to parents for each one of their children, based on their income. It used to be a maximum of $2,000. Now it’s going to be $3,000 per child, and $3,600 per child under the age of six. And also for the first time, 17-year-olds are eligible, and families that didn’t make enough money to pay taxes in the past, who couldn’t get the credit, now can. You’ll be able to start getting checks between $250 to $300 a month, starting in July, going through December. They can be deposited right into your account. You might be able to get a monthly check. Families are being able to get an advanced payment in some cases. And it’s based on your most recent tax return. Democrats do want to expand it. They’d like it to be permanent. President Biden would like it to go through 2025, but for now this is a temporary gift. Many Republicans are concerned that this is going to really explode the deficit, and they also worry that it might be a disincentive to some parents to go back to work.
For more, search child tax credit on usatoday.com
Thunderstorms and flash flooding slammed the Gulf Coast on Monday, and will continue Tuesday. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, it was the third-wettest day on record according to Accuweather, with up to a foot of rain in some areas, and more is on the way Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for areas including central Arkansas, central Louisiana, Southeast Oklahoma and East Texas. A number of tornado warnings have also been issued in various cities, and the National Weather Service is urging residents to seek higher ground.
Well for the first time in its history, the NBA will hold a play-in tournament to decide the final post-season spots. The tournament tips off Tuesday, with the nine seed Charlotte Hornets taking on the number 10 Indiana Pacers. That’s followed by the number seven Boston Celtics against the eighth seed Washington Wizards. So how exactly does the play-in tournament work? USA TODAY Sports Mackenzie Salmon and Analis Bailey fill us in.
The seventh and eighth seeds in each conference will play a win and in game for the seventh seat. You win, you’re in, moving onto the real playoffs. Simple enough.
I understand that part. And as for the nine versus 10 seed games, these are going to be incredibly intense, because that’s a win or go home situation, kind of like an NFL playoff game, or an MLB wildcard game. And those ones will take place on the 18th and the 19th, right?
Yes. And the loser of that seven versus eight seed game will play the winner of the nine versus ten seed game for that eighth seed. Essentially the nine or 10 seed has to win two games, the seventh and eighth seed just have to win one game to get in to the real dance. Get it?
Got it. And I honestly think this will dominate all the NBA headlines next week, and that’s going to be a huge success for the league and for basketball as a whole.
Play-in games continue Wednesday. The nine seed Memphis Grizzlies will play number 10 San Antonio Spurs. Then the seven seed Los Angeles Lakers will play the number eight Golden State Warriors. Stick with the NBA section from USA TODAY Sports, to stay up to date throughout the playoffs.
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