Omicron, student loans and TikTok | Daily skimming

Omicron

The story

No one had Omicron on their holiday wish list. But it’s here.

What’s the last one?

The COVID-19 variant has now been identified in all 50 states. And this is the dominant strain, accounting for nearly three quarters of new cases. Groundbreaking cases are on the rise, with vaccines potentially up to 30-40% effectiveness against infection (but higher against severe illness). Earlier this week, President Biden announced a new line of defense. Think: vax clinics for boosters and more testing sites. Not the freebies we expected, but we’ll take it. Some health experts say that is not enough. But now there is a new COVID-19 treatment on the horizon.

Keep on going.

The FDA yesterday granted emergency clearance for Pfizer’s Paxlovid. To read: the first home treatment for COVID-19. Anyone over 12 years old and high risk with serious illness who test positive can get a prescription. Data shows that the pill can reduce hospitalizations and deaths by up to 90%. And they should also be working against Omicron. The United States bought 10 million courses of the treatment. But only 265,000 will be available in January since the at least six months to make them. Meanwhile, new research indicates that Omicron could be much smoother than the Delta variant.

Well, that’s good news.

He is. But until the data is sorted out and the pill becomes widely available, Omicron is forcing many people to make tough decisions. Many scramble to get tested before vacations. Health officials may look like broken records, but they are adamant: the most effective way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated, including a reminder. For those who can see family, keep in mind: air travel is expected to exceed Thanksgiving travel highs. If you are crouching at home, take care of yourself. You can curl up with a good book, get back into organization mode, or quarantine.

leSkimm

COVID-19 foils many vacation plans. But we’re not back to where we were in 2020. Vaxx, hide away and cheer up – or at least treat yourself to something that could.

PS: If your test is positive, we’ll see what to do next in today’s episode of “Skimm This”. Think of everything from buying take out to texting. Tune in tonight at 5 p.m. ET.

And also … This

Who presses the “pause” button again …

President Biden. Yesterday he announced his intention to extend the hiatus on student loan payments until May 1. They have been on hold since the early days of the pandemic, allowing borrowers to avoid adding interest if they need more time to raise the money. The suspension has already been extended four times. And payments were due to resume on February 1. Now, the extension could be a saving grace for an estimated 41 million borrowers – 27 million of whom have reportedly not paid their bills since early 2020. Biden said millions of student loan borrowers “still face the impacts of the pandemic ”. Progressive Democrats say “okay, but remember your plan to write off some student debt? And underlining the positive impact that this decision could have on the wealth of blacks. Republicans say “the money has to come from somewhere.” And I don’t want other taxpayers to foot the bill.

PS: To verify our guide on managing student loans during the pandemic.

What is under the microscope …

Astromonde. Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform launched an investigation into the murderous music festival. Last month, around 50,000 people gathered to attend Travis Scott’s sold-out concert in Houston, TX. But a massive wave of crowds left 10 dead and hundreds injured. Many wonder what security measures could have prevented this. And the victims and their families have filed around 300 lawsuits. Now the members of the committee are looking at what led to the tragedy. They expressed concerns that security and medical staff were “inexperienced”. And I want answers on exactly what the event organizer (Live Nation) did to prepare for the concert. The company has until next month to provide answers.

PS: In a recent episode of “Pop Cultured”, we talked about what happened at Astroworld, the culture Travis Scott has created around his shows and the possible legal consequences.

What’s new in 3, 2, 1 …

The James Webb Space Telescope. NASA plans to launch the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope on Saturday. Scientists hope Webb will help “reveal new and unexpected findings.” Did anyone say aliens?

While navigating difficult political convos during the holidays …

Here are some tips on how to talk about your personal reproductive choices.

Who is a runner, who is a track star …

TIC Tac.

Skimm’d by Rashaan Ayesh, Kate Gilhool, Mariza Smajlaj, Clem Robineau and Julie Shain

About Judith J. George

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