Pulling 'no punches' against COVID-19 – USA TODAY

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President Biden shared his strategy to battle COVID-19 this winter. A controversial Trump-era program is set to restart. And the House passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown.
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President Joe Biden announced his strategy to combat the evolving coronavirus Thursday, highlighting tighter travel rules, free at-home tests and booster shots. Biden said his plan to get through the winter months is one that “pulls no punches in the fight against COVID-19.” The president emphasized that he was not expanding or adding vaccination requirements as the federal courts review his previously announced rules for health care workers and employees of larger companies.
Confirmed U.S. cases of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus rose Thursday after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said five have been identified in her state. “Let me be clear: This is not cause for alarm. We knew this variant was coming and we have the tools to stop the spread,” Hochul said in the tweet. The variant’s presence in the country was first reported Wednesday with a case in San Francisco. The second and third known instances were confirmed earlier Thursday. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis tweeted a midday alert saying omicron as been found in the state.
The Biden administration said Thursday Mexico agreed to cooperate on restarting the Migrant Protection Protocols policy as long as the United States takes steps to address Mexico’s human rights concerns with the Trump-era program. Also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, the measure forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they await U.S. immigration proceedings. Changes to the program before it is reimplemented would include providing COVID-19 vaccinations for migrants and committing to concluding proceedings within six months of an individual’s return to Mexico. Though the Biden administration seeks to end the program, it was forced to restart the program to comply with a court order.
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The House passed a bill Thursday to fund the government through Feb. 18 as Congress tries to stave off a shutdown that could happen Friday if lawmakers don’t act. The temporary spending bill will now head to the Senate, where it will need to pass by Friday night to avoid a shutdown, which would result in the furlough of thousands of workers. The bill could face complications in the Senate, where a group of Republicans were threatening to delay passage of the bill in the upper chamber because they wanted language in the bill that would prevent the use of federal money to carry out a Biden administration mandate on workplace vaccinations.
Authorities identified the victims of the shooting at Oxford High this week as Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17. Myre was remembered as a standout football player being recruited to play in college and an honor student. Baldwin was an aspiring artist and a “smart, sweet loving girl,” her grandmother wrote on a GoFundMe. St. Juliana “was one of the happiest and most joyful kids,” her father said. Shilling was on the golf and bowling teams. He was “simply a pleasure to be around,” Anita’s Kitchen, a Middle Eastern restaurant where he worked, posted on Facebook.
A set of footprints found in Tanzania from millions of years ago have long been thought to belong to a bear, but researchers have discovered they actually belonged to an ancient human species, suggesting there may have been more than one early human species existing at the same time. Ellison McNutt, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, says the cross-stepping prints indicate they are from hominins – ancestors of humans. As hominins evolved, hip muscles allowed them walk on two legs and maintain enough balance to cross-step in a way bears or chimpanzees cannot.
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