In response to rising COVID-19 case numbers among teachers, officials of schools in Indiana, Michigan North Carolina, Nevada and Nevada declared this week that they would close temporarily or switch to remote learning due the worsening shortages of teachers.

In Indiana, at least four Marion County school districts have shifted to remote learning. Indianapolis Public Schools said Wednesday the decision “has been made based on the number of staff absences, including COVID-19 isolation and quarantines at the middle and high school levels.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that state employees can use the allotted days of volunteer time to substitute for paid teachers. Roy Cooper made the announcement Wednesday. Due to an increase in COVID-19-infected staff, Nevada schools were shut down for a portion of Wednesday.

ABC News reported that Maryland’s largest district school asked for the National Guard’s help to provide bus driver replacements. New Mexico’s governor said Thursday she’s considering seeking help from the National Guard to address COVID-19 staffing shortages at public schools in the state, too.

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►As some experts say the current COVID-19 wave may be peaking, new coronavirus cases ticked down slightly for the second time this week. USA reported 5.51 million cases for the week ended Thursday, an improvement on the revised 5.53million that was recorded Wednesday. This is according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

Roughly one in five hospitals reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA TODAY analysis found. One-fourth of hospitals anticipated having critical shortages over the course of the week. 

►U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office apologized Friday to the royal family for holding a late-night staff party the day before Queen Elizabeth II sat alone and mourned her late Prince Philip in a socially distanced funeral service due to the country’s COVID-19 rules.

►New York’s eviction moratorium, which protected hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who were late on payments due to hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic from eviction, expires Saturday.

►More than half-a-million people in Israel have received a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s health ministry said Friday.

►Cruise lines will no longer be obliged to follow COVID-19 guidance on ships as the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which was extended and modified in October, will expire Saturday.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 63.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 846,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 319 million cases and nearly 5.5 million deaths. More than 208 million Americans – 62.8% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘This is what we are readingIs this the end of the COVID explosion? Researchers search your sewage to find clues.

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US insurers paid $100M+ for disproven COVID-19 treatment ivermectin, study finds

According to a new study, U.S. insurance companies paid $129 million annually for the deworming drug ivermectin despite it not being proven that the medication benefits COVID-19 patients.

Ivermectin can be used to control parasites, such as ear mites, heartworms, and other diseases in pets, horses, cattle, and sheep. Only occasionally, it may be given to people with parasitic-worm infestations.

It’s been promoted as a COVID-19 cure but there’s little data to suggest it is effective.

About 6% of prescriptions were ruled out by the researchers as parasitic infections.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of the research conducted at the University of Michigan Medical School in Boston University.

The Food and Drug Administration specifically says ivermectin should not be taken for COVID-19 and cites side effects such as skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, seizures and confusion and liver injury.

However, COVID-19 patients still have millions of prescriptions.

On average, Medicare Advantage patients received $35.75 reimbursement from their private insurers and Medicare Advantage patients $39.13.

– Elizabeth Weise

Biden Administration launches website to offer free kits for testing

A senior official in the administration said that Wednesday’s launch of a new website by President Biden will allow Americans to get up to four complimentary COVID-19 test kits.

These tests are part of the 500 million purchased by the Biden Administration last month in an effort to combat a record-breaking rise in infection rates. They will be accessible at The official said that they would then be mailed to their homes in 7-12 days.

In response to a lack of COVID-19 testing, the President Joe Biden said earlier this week that his administration will double its orders and purchase 500 million additional at-home COVID-19. This comes amid long waiting lines at test locations nationwide as well overburdened hospitals. Officials announced that the second batch will be available for free on the federal website. 

— Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY

Students march out against COVID safety. They call schools a ‘petri dish’

Students across the country are demanding to be included in the debate between schools and teachers unions over remote and in-person learning. This week many are organizing walkouts, with Boston being one of them.

We are those who live in such an environment each day. Kayla Quinlan (16 years old), a student activist at Boston Day and Evening Academy, stated that it is our bodies we are putting at greatest risk. While students should have the right to decide how their learning environment is designed, our voices remain silent.”

Boston Globe and NBC Boston confirm that around 10:30 a.m., students at Boston Public Schools walked out of their schools.

Students’ demands are different in each district. However, they all want remote learning as an alternative to students who cannot come to school. Students’ coalitions have called for full remote learning, but only temporarily, if schools don’t enforce more strict COVID-19 precautions such as frequent testing or higher quality masks.

“It feels like a breeding ground for COVID, like a COVID petri dish,” Quinlan added. How can one feel safe?

Novak Djokovic could be deported again following a second revoked visa by the Australian government

After the Australian government deported Novak Djokovic’s visa, Novak Djokovic could be sent home again.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to revoke the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds three days before the Australian Open is to begin. Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appeal the cancelation in the Federal Circuit and Family Court as they successfully did after the first cancellation.

Djokovic traveled to Melbourne last week in order to defend the Australian Open title. The tournament organizer, Tennis Australia and Victoria’s state government approved Djokovic’s exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. This apparently enabled him to obtain a visa for travel.

However, the Australian Border Force refused to grant the exemption and voided Djokovic’s visa when he arrived in Melbourne. Djokovic was held in immigration detention for four nights before being overturned by a judge Monday.

— The Associated Press

Center for COVID Control will ‘pause’ nationwide testing sites

A coronavirus testing company under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice and which has drawn criticism from customers in several states announced Thursday a “one-week pause on all operations.”

The pause was expected to take effect Friday through Jan. 21 at all Center for COVID Control testing sites. According to its website, the Illinois-based firm has over 300 locations across multiple states in the U.S. Washington and Massachusetts took this week’s action to close down testing facilities at the company in their respective communities.

USA TODAY obtained an internal memo from the Center for COVID Control addressed to all location managers and owners. It stated that there had been “increased media scrutiny” of the operation at our collection sites over the last week. It processes approximately 80,000 tests per day, according to the company.

This, in conjunction with customer complaints, led to various state departments of health and the Department of Justice becoming interested in our company,” said the notice. 

— Grace Hauck, USA TODAY

Supreme Court blocks COVID-19 workplace vaccine-or testing mandate

The Supreme Court on Thursday halted enforcement of one of President Joe Biden’s signature efforts to combat COVID-19, ruling that his administration doesn’t have the authority to impose vaccine-or-testing requirements on employers that would have covered tens of millions of Americans.

The unsigned opinion, which came days after the justices heard arguments in the emergency appeal, marked the second time the nation’s highest court unwound a pandemic policy of the Biden administration, again concluding that federal officials exceeded the power given to them by Congress. The court blocked Biden’s eviction moratorium in August, ruling that it also was an overreach.

At issue in the workplace case was whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had the power to impose the requirements under a 1970 law.  

It was not immediately clear what, if any, options the Biden administration has to respond to the ruling. President Biden stated in a statement that he was disappointed and “now it is up to individual states and employers whether or not to make workplaces safe.” Find out more about Biden’s next campaign for vaccines.

— John Fritze, USA TODAY

Celina Tebor (USA TODAY, The Associated Press) Contributing



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