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Is this the fifth COVID-19 wave?, Rittenhouse closing arguments expected: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast:  Is this the fifth COVID-19 wave?

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Health reporter Elizabeth Weise considers whether this is just the new normal. Plus, closing arguments are expected in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, Ghislaine Maxwell heads to trial, today’s the deadline to sign up for child tax credits and hundreds were injured in Egypt from scorpion stings after flooding.

Podcasts:True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text. 

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 15th of November 2021. Today, a potential fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus closing arguments in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, and more.

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Here are some of the top headlines.

  1. President Joe Biden is expected to sign his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law today. The package addresses things from public transportation to broadband internet and bridges.
  2. There is now a 10th victim from the deadly Astroworld Festival crowd surge. Nine-year-old Ezra Blount died yesterday after initially being placed in a medically induced coma.
  3. And the virus that causes COVID-19 is apparently spreading rampantly among deer around the country. Various studies have shown between 30 and 40% of certain populations have been infected.

COVID-19 cases and deaths are again rising in most US states for the first time in two months. So does this mean we’re into a fifth wave of the pandemic, or is this just winter? Health reporter Elizabeth Weise considers.

Elizabeth Weise:

It is too early to say this could just be winter. The coronavirus has come back. The common cold, they peak in the winter. They pretty much go away in the summer. SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID, is a coronavirus, so that may be just what it’s going to look like moving forward. We may be beyond waves. It’s a little hard to know yet. There’s a surge everywhere in the Northern tier, kind of the Northern part of the country where people go inside in the winter because it gets cold. There’s a surge in cases in all states, whether they have high or low vaccination rates. The distinction is that in the more highly vaccinated states, there’s more cases, but few of those cases are going to a hospital or dying. When we start thinking about waves, we need to think really clearly about what is it that the vaccine does and what is it that we wanted it to do. And what we wanted it to do was keep people out of the hospital and keep people from dying. And it does that actually still quite well.

I was just on a call with a bunch of very smart epidemiologists and virologists and they were all saying, “Yes, we’re seeing more cases, but folks aren’t dying. And so it’s a win.” Yes, we may have waves, but they’re not waves that are filling up hospitals and killing tens of thousands of Americans.”

Taylor Wilson:

You can stay up on all our updates across the USA TODAY Network by visiting our live COVID-19 updates page. Find it in today’s episode description.

Closing arguments are expected today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The 18-year-old is charged with killing two men and injuring a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year after a white police officer shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse faces charges of intentional homicide and reckless and attempted homicide. But Judge Bruce Schroeder said last week that he would it allow the jury to consider lesser charges against the teenager. That’s a way for the prosecution to give jurors more to consider. Rittenhouse is accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and the judge will allow a lesser charge of second degree intentional homicide in the case of Huber. That would mean the jury would still have to find that Rittenhouse intentionally took Huber’s life, but that he believed he was acting in self-defense. The jury will still consider original charges first and only move on to lesser ones if they find him not guilty on the original. Judge Schroeder and legal teams considered the changes on Friday, along with Rittenhouse himself.

Judge Bruce Schroeder:

By having a lesser included offense included, you’re raising the risk of conviction, although you’re avoiding the possibility that the jury will end up compromising on the more serious crime. Any question about any of this so far?

Kyle Rittenhouse:

No, your honor.

Judge Bruce Schroeder:

Okay. Have you had enough time to talk with your lawyers about this?

Kyle Rittenhouse:

I have.

Judge Bruce Schroeder:

Have you had enough time to think about what you’re doing?

Kyle Rittenhouse:

Yes, I have.

Judge Bruce Schroeder:

You think what you’re doing is the best thing under all the circumstances?

Kyle Rittenhouse:


Taylor Wilson:

Rittenhouse testified in the trial that he feared for his life during the violent protests and acted in self-defense. That’s despite allegedly crossing state lines from his native Illinois bringing a weapon to the protest as a 17-year-old. Still, legal observers have noted that the prosecution seem to struggle to poke holes in the self-defense claim. And at some points, the prosecution’s own witnesses even strengthened Rittenhouse’s case. Witnesses said that Joseph Rosenbaum threatened to kill Rittenhouse and that the injured Gaige Grosskreutz pointed a gun at him before Rittenhouse fired.

Ghislaine Maxwell heads to trial today. The British socialite and former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein is accused of helping him get underage girls to sexually abuse. He was indicted in 2019 accused of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005, but he died behind bars while awaiting trial. Maxwell was arrested last year on charges that include transporting a minor for criminal sexual activity and conspiring to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts. A judge set rules for the trial at a pretrial hearing earlier this month, as the APs Larry Neumeister explains.

Larry Neumeister:

Judge Alison Nathan ruled today that the victims and the women who are going to be testifying during the trial about the ordeals they went through can use pseudonyms and sometimes just a first name and won’t have to divulge their full name or full identities to jurors. And that was a point that had to be an example of evidence that needs to be narrowed, evidence rulings that need to define how the trial is going to proceed.

There were a lot of things that the defense wanted to bring into the trial, evidence of how prosecutors ended up prosecuting Ghislaine Maxwell and how they built their case and who they interviewed and who they subpoenaed. And Judge Nathan said none of that can be told to the jurors. That’s all out of the trial. She said to bring that in would confuse jurors, would make the trial last too long, and wouldn’t relate to the charges.

Taylor Wilson:

Maxwell has been in custody since her July 2020 arrest and denies all accusations.

Today is the deadline to sign up for child tax credits. The credit gives up to $300 per month per child under the age of six and up to $250 a month for children aged six to 17. If you’re already registered, a child tax credit payment should hit your bank account today, and the next scheduled payment after that is for December 15th. Payments began in July after the American Rescue Plan was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. According to the Tax Policy Center, some 2.3 million children might still be missing out on benefits because their families did not file income taxes in 2019 or 2020. If you haven’t signed up already, check out the link in today’s episode description.

More than 500 people were injured after a wave of scorpion stings in Southern Egypt. That comes after heavy rains and flooding forced scorpions from their hiding places into homes across Aswan province. Egypt is home to the Egyptian fat-tailed scorpion, which is considered one of the deadliest in the world. At least three people were killed in the flooding, though the country’s acting health minister said that no one was killed by scorpions.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us right here, wherever you’re listening right now seven mornings a week. And if you’re on Apple Podcasts, we ask for a five star rating and review if you have a chance. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

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