In Brief: May 13, 2021

Taming the virus: US deaths hit lowest level in 10 months

COVID-19 deaths in the United States have tumbled to an average of around 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and, on some days, hitting zero.

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Confirmed infections have fallen to about 38,000 per day on average, their lowest mark since mid-September. While that is still cause for concern, reported cases have plummeted 85% from a daily peak of more than a quarter-million in early January.

The last time U.S. deaths from the pandemic were this low was in early July of last year. The number of people with COVID-19 who died topped out in mid-January at an average of more than 3,400 a day, just a month into the biggest vaccination drive in the nation’s history.

The Boston Herald put a huge zero on its front page Wednesday under the headline “First time in nearly a year state has no new coronavirus deaths.” Indiana reported one COVID-19 fatality Tuesday. Kansas, which peaked at 63 reported deaths on Dec. 22, has been in the single digits since February and seen multiple days with just one virus-related death.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University, said that vaccinations have played a crucial role even as the nation struggles to reach herd immunity.

Colonial Pipeline restarts operations days after major hack

CLEMMONS, N.C. — The nation’s largest fuel pipeline restarted operations Wednesday, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers.

The disruption of Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations in the Southeast due to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations.

Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations late Wednesday, saying in a statement that “all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations.”

But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.

In the meantime, drivers have been finding gas stations with little or no gas in some Southeast states.

GOP dumps defiant Trump critic Cheney from top House post

WASHINGTON — Republicans dumped GOP Rep. Liz Cheney from her House leadership post Wednesday for her persistent repudiation of Donald Trump’s election falsehoods, underscoring the hold the defeated and twice-impeached former president retains on his party.

She defiantly insisted she’ll keep trying to wrench the party away from him and his “destructive lies.”

Meeting behind closed doors, GOP lawmakers needed less than 20 minutes and a voice vote to oust the Wyoming congresswoman from her job as their No. 3 House leader. The banishment, urged by Trump and other top Republicans, showed his ability to upend the careers of antagonists, even those from GOP royalty.

Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has repeatedly rebuked Trump for his oft-repeated falsehood that his 2020 reelection was fraudulently stolen from him and for his encouragement of supporters who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6. On Wednesday she unrepentantly lashed out anew.

“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person,” she told her colleagues before the vote, according to a person who provided her remarks on condition of anonymity. “You have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.”

US advisers endorse Pfizer COVID shot for kids 12 and up

U.S. health advisers endorsed use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12 on Wednesday — just as planned new guidelines say it’s OK for people of any age to get a coronavirus shot at the same time as other needed vaccinations.

The shots will let kids safely attend camps this summer and help assure a more normal return to classrooms next school year, concluded advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“And this is another way to get closer to ending this horrible pandemic,” said adviser Dr. Camille Kotton of Harvard Medical School.

The sprint to vaccinate millions of middle and high school students has already started in parts of the country, as a long line of kids rolled up their sleeves in suburban Atlanta for a first dose Wednesday.

“It just felt like a flu shot, honestly,” said Meredith Rogers, 14, from Decatur, Georgia, after getting her vaccination.

Stocks sink again on Wall Street as inflation worries mount

Inflation worries rattled Wall Street Wednesday, pulling the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than 680 points lower and placing the major stock indexes on track for their worst week in more than six months.

The selling came as investors reacted to a surprisingly big jump in inflation last month that stoked concerns that the economy may bounce back too fast from its pandemic-induced doldrums.

Tech giants, which had soared during the past year of lockdowns, took some of the biggest losses. Only energy stocks eked out a small gain.

Bond yields snapped higher after the government reported that consumer prices rose 0.8% in April, more than expected, and prices rose year-over-year at the fastest rate since 2008.

From wire sources

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.69% from 1.62% a day earlier, a big move. Bond yields rise when investors fear that an increase in inflation will erode the future value of the income that bonds pay.

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Ruling paves way for longer sentence in George Floyd’s death

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the death of George Floyd, paving the way for the possibility of a longer sentence for Derek Chauvin, according to an order made public Wednesday.

In his ruling dated Tuesday, Judge Peter Cahill found Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer when he restrained Floyd last year and that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty. He also cited the presence of children and the fact Chauvin was part of a group with at least three other people.

Cahill said Chauvin and two other officers held Floyd handcuffed, in a prone position on the street for an “inordinate amount of time” and that Chauvin knew the restraint was dangerous.

“The prolonged use of this technique was particularly egregious in that George Floyd made it clear he was unable to breathe and expressed the view that he was dying as a result of the officers’ restraint,” Cahill wrote.

Even with the aggravating factors, legal experts have said Chauvin, 45, is unlikely to get more than 30 years when he is sentenced June 25.

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Barry Jenkins on his unflinching epic ‘Underground Railroad’

LOS ANGELES — When Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins was considering adapting Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the Underground Railroad into a limited series, he kept hearing the same thing: Impossible.

It would be emotionally and mentally draining, Jenkins knew. And he questioned the ethics of such a production: Do people really need to be reminded about the horrors of slavery?

Ultimately, Jenkins worked through the doubts. The result is “The Underground Railroad,” an unflinching portrayal of Cora, an enslaved woman who escapes a Georgia plantation and its horrors only to be pursued by an unrelenting bounty hunter. Along the way she must confront the anger she feels for her mother, who left her at the plantation when she was 10.

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The 10-hour limited series, which premieres Friday on Amazon, is at times unbearably painful to watch and at others achingly beautiful. Early reviews have declared the series a triumph and something only Jenkins could have pulled off.

It was “the most satisfying creative experience of my life,” said Jenkins, who won an Oscar in 2017 for “Moonlight” and was nominated again the next year for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

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