News Headlines 3/2/21

CDC DIRECTOR WARNS RECENT COVID PROGRESS COULD BE REVERSED, SAYS CASES RISING AGAIN: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned Monday (March 1st) that the U.S. could potentially reverse the progress that has been made in recent weeks against the coronavirus since the height of the most recent wave in January as states continue to ease safety measures while the more contagious variants are spreading. Walensky said, “Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.” The CDC director said that new infections are increasing again, with about two percent more this week compared to last, and the seven-day average of deaths has also risen by two percent. Some 15.3 percent of the U.S. population had gotten at least one vaccine shot as of Monday, according to CDC data, and about 7.7 percent have gotten both.

TOP TEXAS UTILITIES REGULATORS RESIGNS IN WAKE OF WINTER STORM FAILURE: Texas’ top utilities regulator resigned yesterday (March 1st) in the wake of the state’s electric grid buckling in the wake of a winter storm in mid-February, leaving millions of Texans without power or heat and eventually water for days amid frigid temperatures and snow. More than 40 deaths in the state were blamed on the storm and the following blackouts. DeAnn Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, said in a letter to Governor Greg Abbott that she accepted her role in the power outages, but that others, including gas companies and lawmakers, should also take responsibility. Meanwhile, Texas’ attorney general said yesterday that he’s suing electricity provider Griddy, after its customers received huge bills during the storm. The suit accuses Griddy of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and is seeking refunds for customers.

THIRD CUOMO ACCUSER COMES FORWARD, CLAIMS IMPROPER ACTIONS AT WEDDING: A third woman came forward yesterday (March 1st) accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of improper behavior, increasing the calls for the Democratic governor to step down. Anna Ruch told The New York Times that moments after she met Cuomo at a wedding reception in September 2019 he touched her back, put his hands on her face, and asked if he could kiss her. A photo that accompanied the story showed Cuomo’s hands on her face. Ruch, who’s 33 and worked as a photographer at the White House during former President Barack Obama‘s second term, said, “I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed. I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.” Earlier in the day, state Attorney General Letitia James received a letter from Cuomo’s office authorizing her to take charge of an investigation of the claims against the governor. It allows her to have an outside law firm conduct a probe, with the findings to be publicly disclosed. Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching or propositioning anyone.

CARDONA CONFIRMED AS EDUCATION SECRETARY: Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s former education chief who was once a public school teacher, was confirmed as President Biden‘s education secretary on Monday (March 1st) by the Senate. His nomination was approved in a 64-33 vote. Cardona has said he will make it his top priority to get schools safely reopened from their coronavirus shutdowns, something he pushed to do in Connecticut. Cardona was appointed as head of the state’s education department in 2019 after 20 years working in public schools. He began as teacher, then became a principal and assistant district superintendent before becoming state education commissioner.