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5 things to know for March 19: Covid-19, China, spa shootings, Cuomo, abortion

After the difficult year we’ve all seen, this year’s list of the world’s happiest countries feels even more relevant. Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Coronavirus

Europe missed its chance to stop a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic before it got out of control. Now, with new lockdowns being imposed across the continent, it’s paying a high price. Some experts blame Europe’s current problems on politicians being too quick to ease restrictions. American public health officials worry the US could be next. States are pushing ahead with rolling back restrictions on businesses and large gatherings. And while Covid-19 vaccine access is rapidly expanding, two obstacles stand in the way of herd immunity and a return to normal life: highly contagious Covid-19 variants and vaccine hesitancy. In other news, the CDC is expected to update its physical distancing guidelines for schools from 6 feet to 3 feet today, saying it would make no significant difference in Covid-19 transmission rates.

2. China

When it was announced that US and Chinese officials would be meeting in Alaska this week, it seemed like this could mark the start of a new relationship between the two countries. “So much for a reset,” writes CNN’s James Griffiths. The first meeting got off to a particularly heated start. After US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration would bring up “deep concerns” about some of China’s actions around the world, Chinese officials pushed back. They warned the US against meddling in their “internal affairs” and said it should “stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world.” For now, it appears that not much has changed since the major deterioration in relations we saw in the final year of President Trump’s term. A final set of talks is expected to begin today.

3. Spa shootings

We’re starting to learn more about the victims who were killed when a gunman opened fire in three metro Atlanta spas earlier this week. Investigators are trying to piece together the movements and the motive of the suspect. Meanwhile, there’s a fierce debate underway over whether he should face hate crime charges for the attacks that left eight people, six of them Asian women, dead. President Biden and Vice President Harris are heading to Georgia today in a trip that had previously been planned to promote their Covid-19 relief package. They now plan to meet with Asian American leaders.

4. Gov. Cuomo

The third former staffer to publicly accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate conduct answered questions from investigators yesterday about her time in the governor’s office between 2013 and 2015. “It was a toxic, verbally abusive, retaliatory workplace, especially for young women like myself,” Ana Liss said. It’s the latest development regarding the investigation into multiple sexual harassment allegations facing the governor. Two other former staffers met with investigators earlier this week. Cuomo has repeatedly denied the allegations.

5. Abortion

The US Supreme Court justices are expected to meet privately today to consider whether to take up Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Conservative justices on the bench have shown that they want to topple abortion rights, but they can’t seem to agree on how far they will go, writes CNN’s Joan Biskupic. Their aims, based on recent writings, range from reversing Roe v. Wade, to forbidding clinics from challenging restrictions on behalf of women, to relaxing the standard that states must meet to limit women’s access to the procedure. Though the justices could decide to take up the case, they may also wait to take up one of several other abortion laws heading their way.


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