We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
The United States sees first doses of COVID vaccine
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was administered to healthcare workers and nursing home staffers Monday, ABC News reports. Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse from Northwell Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the first vaccinated during a live-streamed event with Governor Andrew Cuomo. She lives in Queens, one of the hardest-hit counties in the nation. She told Cuomo she wanted to instill trust in the vaccine, according to ABC News.
"I believe in science. As a nurse, my practice is guided by science and so I trust that," she said during the livestream. "What I don't trust is that, if I contract COVID, I don't know how it would impact me or those who I come in contact with, so I encourage everyone to take the vaccine."
The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered within days of the Moderna vaccine’s expected FDA authorization Friday, after an FDA panel voted on Thursday that its benefits outweigh its risks. —Melanie Wilcox
The Electoral College backs Biden
The 2020 election has finally entered its last chapter, with the Electoral College officially electing Joe Biden as the next president. On Monday, Biden received 306 of the 538 votes, the same number that President Trump won in 2016. As the AP points out, Trump referred to his 306 votes four years ago as a “landslide” victory. But don’t expect Trump to make the same claim about Biden.
While we may be inching closer to January’s presidential inauguration, the Trump team is still contesting the results of the election. The president has spent the past few days tweeting about the “the Fraudulent 2020 Election,” even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood by the result of the Electoral College vote, telling Republicans not to contest it when Congress counts the 538 votes on January 6. If any Republican senator joins House Republicans in contesting the electoral votes, both chambers of Congress must vote on the election.
This is exactly the polarizing situation that McConnell is trying to avoid, as it puts Republicans in a tough spot. How likely is it that we the people will watch Congress battle it out at the beginning of the year? That’s hard to say, but there will be an end to this drama soon enough: inauguration day is January 20. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Google conks out—again
As if it wasn’t hard enough to get work done during the holiday season, Google services crashed for the third time this year. In a bad case of the Mondays, Google websites such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and YouTube briefly went down on Monday morning, sending office workers worldwide into a tizzy. A Google spokesperson reported that the issue was caused by a lack of storage for Google’s authentication tools, which prevented users from signing in and accessing their Google accounts.
In true 2020 fashion, this is just the latest installment in Google’s manifold struggles. A similar glitch occurred just last month, when YouTube and Google TV experienced a worldwide outage that lasted a few hours. And back in August, the Google suite—Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and other programs—went down for about six hours.
At least one tech expert thinks this may be a good time to revisit our relationship with technology, particularly Google. “People are sat in the dark unable to turn on their lights controlled by Google Home, my last two meetings have been unable to use the planned slides as they are stored in Google Slides,” Adam Leon Smith, a fellow of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, told The Guardian. “Our dependency on technology has grown so much, but the amount spent on reliability, testing and quality hasn’t grown in parallel.” —MFS
Shia LaBoeuf, sued by FKA twigs for abuse, is also slammed by singer Sia
This week, two singer-songwriters came out in solidarity expressing concerns about relationship problems and abuse with actor Shia LaBoeuf. FKA twigs sued ex-boyfriend LaBoeuf with allegations of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. “I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” FKA twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, told the New York Times.
LaBoeuf responded to the accusations telling the New York Times, “I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”
Singer-songwriter Sia shared support for FKA twigs on Twitter since, drawing from her experience in a bad relationship with LaBeouf. “I too have been hurt emotionally by Shia, a pathological liar, who conned me into an adulterous relationship claiming to be single,” she wrote, alongside supportive tweets for FKA Twigs.
"It may be surprising to you to learn that I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship,” FKA twigs shared on Instagram. “It was hard for me to process too, during and after i never thought something like this would happen to me. Which is why i have decided it's important for me to talk about it and try to help people understand that when you are under the coercive control of an abuser or in an interpersonal violent relationship leaving doesn't feel like a safe or achievable option." —Mary Rose Somarriba
15-year-old boy wins The Voice
This year’s winner of The Voice finale is Carter Rubin, a 15-year-old singing prodigy and student of Voice coach Gwen Stefani. Rubin, whose rendition of “Rainbow Connection” brought Stefani to tears earlier in the season, sang a cover of Lauren Daigle’s hit song “You Say” in the finale knockout.
“You won The Voice! You won The Voice!” Stefani exclaimed upon the celebration, considering whether to hug the winner, but deciding against it for social-distancing reasons. “You won The Voice during a pandemic!”
Rubin shared how the recognition helped validate his unique gifts. “Being a teenager, it’s a lot of pressure to try to fit in and be ‘cool,’ whatever that means,” The Washington Post quoted Rubin as saying. “Being a 14-year-old boy in middle school-slash-high school that sings, doesn’t really play sports, not very athletic . . . I have been picked on by the other kids for being this different, unique individual.” As the winner, Rubin gets a record deal and $100,000. Going forward, Rubin says Stefani encouraged him to put attention on songwriting, to keep expanding his gifts. —MRS
Good News of the Week
In an act of charity this week, Mike Esmond of Gulf Stream, Florida called the utility companies of his neighborhood and paid off 114 homes’ utility bills, including those who would have had shut-off services over the Christmas holiday. In total, Esmond donated $7600 toward his neighbors’ needs.
Esmond, who owns a pool business, had a good revenue for his business this year, despite the pandemic. “We’ve had a good year, and that’s why I want to share what I have with the people who need it,” he said.
Since Esmond’s story has made news headlines, he’s received calls from people asking how they can donate to help people as he did. He tells them, “‘Go do what I did. Start this in your own communities.’ It’s something I can see that we could really pass on and make Christmases better for people in the future.”
It’s true. Many electric, gas, and other utility companies will tell you how you can donate to pay the bills of those facing shut-off notices. All you have to do is call. —MRS
Watch of the Week
With the release of her surprise album evermore, Taylor Swift has this week dropped a music video about her late grandmother that includes lots of beautiful footage (and background vocals) of her grandmother Marjorie Findlay.