We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Violent protests and counter-protests follow the “Million MAGA March”
Last Saturday, Trump supporters descended on Washington, DC to express their support for the president during the “Million MAGA March” (while it looks like there were not a million protesters there, there may have been tens of thousands of attendees). Earlier in the day, attendees heard a line-up of speakers and marched toward the Supreme Court, uniting around the claim that the election had been stolen from President Trump. Later on in the evening the violence broke out in D.C., with clashes between protestors and counter-protestors leading to at least 20 arrests for charges involving assault, firearms violations, and other crimes. Two police officers were injured, and one man was stabbed.
Even random passersby got caught in the crossfire, as fireworks were set off near outdoor diners. Some Republican lawmakers are now calling for the House Oversight Committee to investigate the violence against Trump supporters, also asking D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to condemn the violence.
“The worst of it, for me…was to see our country having those kinds of physical disputes over an election,” DC Chief of Police Peter Newsham said at a press conference the next week. “We attribute that to other countries across the world, but you don’t see that here in the United States, so that was the worst of it for me.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
New York City schools go remote
“Home for the holidays” just got a whole new meaning for schoolchildren in New York City. After trying a mix of in-person and remote learning for less than two months, the city has closed schools because of COVID-19 once again.
In March, school districts across the country, including New York City, stopped in-person instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic, but New York City later committed to physically reopening in the fall, making it the only major school district in the United States to do so. Though schools opened in September, coronavirus cases have been rising in New York City since—with more than 1,700 new cases reported on Wednesday, the day Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city’s schools would go back to fully online instruction.
De Blasio said the city had met the threshold for school closure: 3 percent of coronavirus tests returning positive. As one writer (and unhappy NYC parent) points out, 3 percent of all tests, which include many healthy people trying to guarantee that they really are healthy, is a much different metric than, say, 3 percent of the entire population testing positive.
Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of students have transitioned to remote learning overnight. School administrators are calling it a “temporary closure,” with the week after Thanksgiving being the earliest that students could return. De Blasio promised to reopen schools “as quickly as possible,” though it’s unclear when students will be able to go back to their classrooms. —MFS
Taylor Swift responds to the second sale of her master recordings
Taylor Swift turned to the court of public opinion in regards to the recent sale of her master recordings. Scooter Braun, who purchased Swift's recordings for millions from Big Machine Records in 2019, sold the singer's master's for $300 million to Shamrock Holdings. The original Big Machine contract Swift signed as a teenager would not allow her to own her first six albums, according to Tune Core.
The private equity company Shamrock Holdings informed Swift they bought her recordings from Braun. While she was "open to the possibility of a partnership with Shamrock," she learned that under the terms Braun will continue to profit off of her music, she wrote on Twitter, which is a “non-starter” for her. The only way for Swift herself to have ownership of her first six albums’ songs would be to re-record them, which she updated fans is a process that’s underway. In the meantime, she tells her fans, "I love you guys and I'm just gonna keep cruising, as they say." —Melanie Wilcox
The CDC wants you to buy a smaller turkey
Well, “holiday face masks” are now a thing, proving for the 1000th time that 2020’s year-end festivities are going to look a little different. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. “More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days,” the CDC announced on Thursday. “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”
About 50 million Americans plan to travel anyway, creating some tension between a 200-year-old tradition and the commands of government officials. New York governor Andrew Cuomo was widely criticized for ordering that no more than 10 people can gather in a home. California governor Gavin Newsom urged families to stay home over Thanksgiving before appearing maskless at a swanky, well-attended dinner party. Political hypocrisy aside, as coronavirus cases rise, caution is important however you choose to spend the holiday.
If you do travel, the CDC recommends first getting your flu shot and checking any travel restrictions at your destination. The United States is expected to see a 10 percent drop in travel over Thanksgiving, but millions people will still be migrating to get to their turkey. Nearly half as many travelers are expected to fly to their destinations, and driving will make up 95 percent of holiday travel. Wherever you go (or don’t go), don’t forget your mask and hand sanitizer, and if you’re driving, download a good audiobook to get you through the traffic. —MS
Death toll from Hurricane Iota rises
Hurricane Iota swept through parts of Honduras and Nicaragua this week, continuing to ravage the same stretch of the Caribbean coast that was hit by Hurricane Eta two weeks ago. The Category 4 hurricane on Nicaragua’s northeastern coast caused landslides that wreaked havoc on homes and downed trees in roadways. Nicaragua Vice President and first lady Rosario Murillo said the death count has reached 16.
“At this moment our priests are mobilizing to that area and we are making ourselves available to all who are affected,” Monsignor Rolando José Alvarez, the Roman Catholic bishop of Matagalpa, tweeted. —MW
Censored pro-life activists sue Washington, DC
A pro-life group is suing the city of Washington, DC after an August event when police officers arrested two of its members for writing “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” in temporary paint outside of a Planned Parenthood facility.
Following anti-racism protests in June, the DC Public Works Department painted “Black Lives Matter” on the street in front of the White House, and Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed the street Black Lives Matter Plaza. Two months later, when pro-life activists at Students for Life of America planned an event to paint “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” in chalk and temporary paint a couple of miles away, they were told to stop by the police, despite having a permit. Two students began to paint anyway, and they were arrested.
“The government can’t discriminate against certain viewpoints by allowing some voices to be heard while silencing others,” argues Elissa Graves, legal counsel at Alliance Defense Fund, the legal advocacy nonprofit representing the pro-life activists. “The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.” —MFS
FAA says Boeing 737 can return to the skies
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an order Wednesday allowing Boeing 737 to carry passengers again, which will likely be in 2021, according to CNN Business.
Errors in runaway stabilizer trim, a part of Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software, led to crashes of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and a Lion Air flight, killing a total of 346 people when the safety features failed. For both crashes, the system interpreted the nose of the plane to be higher than it was, thus activating a nose-down trim, which moved the front of the plane down, Terry Gleason, former chief pilot at Southwest Airlines, said. “It was a bad reading from the angle of attack sensor to the MCAS system,” Gleason said about the crashes.
Boeing stock market shares rose when the news was released, and then dropped upon news of an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
For the Boeing 737 to be flown for U.S. domestic flights, the FAA said the necessary changes to the 737 Max identified in the approval process must be installed and be inspected by the FAA, and the pilots must complete additional training. —MW
Singer Christina Perri shares that her baby will require post-birth surgery
Christina Perri, known for singing emotional ballads such as “Jar of Hearts” and “A Thousand Years,” is sharing her emotional journey of pregnancy this week on social media. A hospitalized Perri says doctors informed her that her unborn baby has an intestinal complication and will need emergency surgery immediately after birth. “We’re going to prepare for [the NICU], but anything could happen,” Perri shared in a video. “We’re just gonna stay really hopeful. I guess the biggest thing is we hope the baby stays inside and can get as big as possible before this big event they have to go through. It’s just a couple more weeks, so I’m gonna try to take it easy and hope for the best.”
Perri and her husband share a two-year-old daughter together, but 11 months ago her last pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Hoping to reduce stigma and misunderstanding around miscarriage, she shared at the time, “I am so sad but not ashamed. I am ever reminded how amazing and powerful women are at making life and at healing.”
Perri’s messages regarding her past miscarriage and hopes for her current pregnancy can’t help but remind me of last month’s Verily article by Grace Emily Stark on the weight of pregnancy loss and how moms are sharing that viewing the unborn child as a person helps them grieve. For Perri currently, it also sounds like it helps her keep hope. Regarding this high-risk pregnancy, Perri shared in a message on her Instagram story Tuesday: "Please send some love from your heart to the little heart beating in me that we all make it through this.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Good News of the Week
Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective
The biotech company Moderna announced this week that the vaccine the company is developing for the novel coronavirus is 94.5 percent protective against infection. In a 30,000 person study, 95 patients developed COVID-19 after receiving a placebo injection. Only 5 people who had taken the actual vaccine got sick. Further, 11 of the cases in the placebo group qualified as “severe disease.” In the vaccine group, no severe disease occurred, suggesting the medication may have a protective effect even when it doesn’t entirely prevent infection.
The vaccine was also shown to be effective in vulnerable patient populations, like the elderly and ethnic minorities, who have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. Side effects included fatigue and muscle aches, which affected almost 10 percent of patients.
The Moderna news comes as Pfizer, which announced its own vaccine news last week, issued an update saying its injection also has shown about 95 percent efficacy.
In the race to come up with a coronavirus vaccine, concerns have been raised about some pharmaceutical companies’ methods, which involve producing vaccines using cells from aborted babies. This includes vaccines currently being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer, however, have been found to avoid that ethical pitfall. —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
While Taylor Swift may not possess the master recordings of her first six albums, in this interview, she speaks to the importance of self-possession.