Independence Day is this weekend. You know what that means...
Well, yes. But carefully. This weekend many will be out celebrating America's 245th birthday with family and friends, fireworks, and parades. But before you bust out your red, white, and blue fanny pack, there are some things you should be aware of…
Heat...The Pacific Northwest is still being hit with a heat wave – with temps rising to triple digits. Several cities have banned fireworks, worried about accidental fires or serious injuries. Here are some tips to safely own the night à la Katy Perry. Staying cool throughout the day (and night) is key. Drink lots of water, take cool showers, you know the drill. But also: be aware of the signs of heatstroke, including for your pets.
Long Lines...This weekend will be busy. No, really, it's expected to be the busiest travel period since the beginning of the pandemic – with more than 47 million Americans hitting the road or the TSA line. And high demand means high prices. Rental cars have apparently increased their prices 140% since 2019. And gas is also averaging out over $3 a gallon. Just about everything else is pricier too, because inflation. But people are still moving full throttle – especially since more than half of the country's adults are fully vaccinated...which reminds us.
COVID-19...Because yes, we're still in a pandemic. Coronavirus infections are up 10% since last week. And it's mostly because of the Delta variant – the strain that's 60% more contagious than Alpha, and carries double the risks of hospitalization. Delta already counts for a quarter of all new cases and has been detected in every single state. It could become the dominant strain in a matter of weeks. And the CDC's warning that the slowing vaccination rate could leave many vulnerable to the virus.
The Supreme Court. Yesterday, it upheld Arizona voting restrictions in a 6-3 decision. It's one of the court's biggest voting rights rulings in years. The case looked at two state rules: one, allowing it to throw out ballots cast in the wrong precinct. And two, banning "ballot harvesting" – when someone other than a family member or caregiver collects and drops off your ballot. Democrats argued they disproportionately impact voters of color. A lower court agreed. But most of the Supremes said just because there's "some disparity" doesn't mean there's an unequal opportunity to vote. Republicans applauded the move, taking it as a hint SCOTUS could side with them on a number of voting restriction cases. Justice Elena Kagan dissented, accusing the court of rewriting the Voting Rights Act. President Biden said he's "deeply disappointed."
AG Merrick Garland. Yesterday, he announced a moratorium on federal executions. It's so the DOJ can continue its review of the death penalty. There hasn't been a scheduled federal execution since President Biden took office. But the former Trump admin carried out the first one in more than 17 years, and 12 more after that. Now, Garland says the death penalty could be disproportionately impacting people of color. There are currently 46 inmates on federal death row.
Surfside, FL. Yesterday, search and rescue continued after an hours-long pause – brought on by fears that the remainder of the condo building could fall. Since the building's partial collapse last week, at least 18 people have been confirmed dead, including two children. 145 are still missing. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited the site and met with families of the victims, telling them to "never give up hope." And people are questioning the safety of other buildings. Yesterday, a report found that 72 condos outside Orlando are also unsafe...and at risk of collapsing
Walmart. Earlier this week, the retailer shared it will be selling its own private brand of insulin. More than 34 million Americans have diabetes. Of them, nearly 30% rely on the lifesaving drug to control their blood sugar. But it's not cheap (think: thousands of dollars a year). And even higher for those without health insurance. In comes Wally World. Its private brand ReliOn will sell insulin vials for about $73 – saving people as much as $100 per vial.
The State Dept. Earlier this week, it said Americans can immediately pick whether they identify as "M" or "F" for their passport – without a medical certificate. And that a plan to add a third option – for those that identify as "nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming" – is in the works.
"Hillbilly Elegy" author JD Vance could be eyeing a different role.
Skimm’d by Rashaan Ayesh, Mariza Smajlaj, Clem Robineau, and Julie Shain
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