First up, the 46th presidential inauguration.
Joe Biden officially became the 46th U.S. President on Wednesday at an inauguration ceremony that included performances from a wide array of celebrities. This ceremony looked different than in years past, with a tight security lockdown after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building two weeks prior. Although further protests were anticipated and prepared for on inauguration day, there were no major security problems. Despite the fact that attendance was also restricted due to the pandemic, the event was attended by various dignitaries including many former presidents. Former President Trump was in Florida at the time of the ceremony and did not attend.
Next, new coronavirus developments.
President Biden held a memorial ceremony Tuesday to remember Americans who have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S recently passed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. Biden has promised to take immediate steps to increase the federal government’s response to the pandemic, including signing executive orders requiring masks on federal property and rejoining global efforts to combat the virus. In other virus news:
- The SAT will drop its optional essay and subject test portions in the U.S. in a stated desire to “streamline” the exam process and reduce demands on students during the pandemic. Many colleges and universities have dropped standardized testing requirements in light of the coronavirus.
- Will and Kankakee counties resumed limited indoor dining Thursday, with restaurants allowed to serve indoors at 25% capacity or 25 people, whichever is lower.
- Chicago released new vaccination plans Tuesday, along with a tentative schedule for different groups.
Around the world:
- Jordan is one of the first countries in the world to allow refugees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The country is currently home to 750,000 refugees, many of whom have fled civil disputes in neighboring Syria. Two vaccine centers in the country’s largest refugee camps plan to open later this week.
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, refugees have been included in every aspect of the Jordanian government’s public health plan, which includes administering all doses of the vaccine free of charge to all citizens and asylum seekers. The plan’s first phase also prioritizes vaccinating healthcare workers, anyone in the country over age 60 and persons with chronic illnesses.
- Worldwide, 51 of the 90 countries that are actively involved in a vaccination program have pledged to include asylum seekers and refugees. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged world leaders to expand vaccine coverage to “all people” as a fundamental right during the public health crisis.
Finally, a controversial fishing practice remains legal.
Driftnet fishing: A form of fishing that uses vertically-hanging nets floating atop the water column, called driftnets, to entangle fish that swim into them. The nets, which can be over a mile long and 100 feet tall, are used in California primarily for swordfish and shark fishing but have extremely high bycatch rates of marine mammals, seabirds, and other large aquatic life. Bycatch species are discarded, dead or dying, back into the ocean.
On Jan. 1, 2021, former president Donald Trump vetoed a bill that would phase out the use of commercial driftnet fishing in the federal waters off the coast of California.
- The practice is already banned in U.S. territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the gulf of Mexico, along with regions off the coasts of Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.
- The state of California enacted their four year plan to obsolete drift nets from state jurisdictions in 2018. The plan incentivizes the move to more modern and efficient fishing gear, like deep-set buoys, which have significantly less bycatch.
- The bill passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Trump over its potential economic impact. It was authored in the Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the House.
- The incoming Biden administration, who have indicated that environmental reform is a top priority, will likely pass the bill into law.