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Indoor mask mandate to return to Disneyworld and Disneyland effective today

Effective today, all guests two years and older at Disney theme parks in the U.S. will once again be required to wear face masks while indoors, a precaution against the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. In an announcement on Disney’s website, the new policy begins Friday, July 30th at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.  It includes a requirement for masks “in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions,” the company says.  Face coverings in outdoor common areas remain optional.

The announcement comes shortly after a change in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week.  The CDC called on even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors if they live in places with “substantial” or “high” coronavirus transmission.  Since about the start of the month, both Florida and California have seen increases in coronavirus infections

After Disney theme parks closed in March 2020, Disney World finally reopened last July with social distancing and mask requirements.  California’s Disneyland reopened on April 30 this year.

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Wizards’ Russell Westbrook heading to the LA Lakers in blockbuster deal

The LA Lakers and Washington Wizards have agreed on a trade for Russell Westbrook, which would bring him back home to LA. ESPN reports that the Lakers had agreed to send guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, forward Kyle Kuzma, center Montrezl Harrell and the No. 21 pick in this year’s first round to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook. Westbrook reportedly wanted to leave Washington and join LeBron James and Anthony Davis in his hometown of Los Angeles.

The deal marks Westbrook’s third trade in as many seasons after spending 2019-20 in Houston, who traded him to Washington for the 2020-21 season. Prior to that, he spent 11 seasons with Oklahoma City. Westbrook is in the middle of a five-year, $206.8 million contract that he signed with the Thunder. He is scheduled to earn $44 million in 2021-22 with a player option for 2022. During the 2020-21 season in Washington, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game, helping lead the Wizards to the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

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President Biden announces vaccination requirements for federal workers

President Biden announced that every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to “attest to their vaccination status,” and will require anyone not fully vaccinated to wear a mask at work regardless of where they live, social distance and get tested once or twice a week. Employees can also face restrictions on official travel. According to a fact sheet that was released to reporters, Biden is directing the Department of Defense to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military. Pfizer, Moderna and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines were granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), but the FDA is facing pressure to issue full authorization of the vaccines, which could open the door to mandates in schools, and the military.

The White House is also ramping up efforts to get more Americans vaccinated, including calling on states, territories and local governments to do more to incentivize vaccination by offering $100 to those who get vaccinated and reimbursing small- and medium-sized businesses for offering their employees paid leave to get their family members vaccinated.

However groups representing large numbers of federal workers — including law enforcement and postal workers — raised some early objections to the president’s announcement. Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said in a statement: “As an association representing those men and women charged with protecting the Constitutional rights of all Americans, including the right to privacy and choice, we are concerned by any move that would mandate the COVID-19 vaccine among federal employees.”

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Chicago Cubs to trade Anthony Rizzo to NY Yankees for two prospects

The Chicago Cubs will trade Anthony Rizzo to the New York Yankees, acquiring outfielder Kevin Alcantara and right-handed pitcher Alexander Vizcaino in the deal. Chicago will also pick up the remainder of Rizzo’s contract, after the Cubs exercised their club option in Rizzo’s contract worth $16.5 million for 2021.

Rizzo wad acquired by Chicago in 2012, and was a vital part of the Cubs National League Championship Series in 2015 and 2017 and a World Series crown in 2016, breaking a 108-year drought. The first baseman is a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover who finished in the top 20 in MVP voting five straight years from 2014 through 2018. In the 60-game season in 2020, Rizzo won a Gold Glove while helping the team to a division crown with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. So far in 2021, he has 14 homers in 92 games.

Rizzo will take over as the Yankees primary first baseman, which has been D.J. LeMahieu’s position this season. The Yankees are only three games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot.

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Google and Facebook among the companies to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October, instead of its previous target date of Sept. 1.  The company plans to mandate a policy that will require employees to be vaccinated in an attempt to fight the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. Facebook also announced a vaccine mandate for U.S. employees on Wednesday.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email:  “This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.” The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters and other U.S. offices before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where the Google operates. The vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulators of each location, Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons, explaining “getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead.”

Facebook President of People Lori Goler said in a statement: “As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our U.S. campuses to be vaccinated. How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.”  Goler added that the company will have “a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves.” 

The decision to require vaccines comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the delta variant.

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Senate advances bipartisan infrastructure deal

Hours after bipartisan Senate negotiators reached a deal on an infrastructure package on Wednesday, the chamber voted to advance it, with a final vote on the bill expected shortly. The procedural motion was approved 67-32, with 17 Republicans joining all Democrats to begin legislative action. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, was among those voting to move ahead with the proposal.

The forward movement on the bill comes a week after a failed test vote on the deal. The bill is expected to be around $1.2 trillion over eight years with roughly $550 billion in new spending, but details on key components were still being worked out. Some procedural steps still lie ahead before the final passage.

A White House fact sheet on the deal outlines:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges and other major projects;
  • $11 billion in transportation safety programs;
  • $39 billion in transit modernization and improved accessibility;
  • $66 billion in rail;
  • $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle chargers;
  • $73 billion in power infrastructure and clean energy transmission.

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NJ Devils agree to 7-year, $63M contract with Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton has agreed to a seven-year, $63 million deal with the New Jersey Devils. The 28-year-old Hamilton’s departure from Carolina was anticipated after he and the Hurricanes were unable to reach agreement on a new contract during the season, and was granted permission to seek a sign-and-trade elsewhere.

Hamilton joined the Hurricanes in 2018, and over three seasons he notched 121 points (42 goals, 79 assists) in 184 games while averaging 21:30 time on ice per night. His career-best 50 points in a season came with the Calgary Flames in 2016-17.

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Nationals–Phillies game postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak

MLB announced that the Nationals vs. Phillies game on Wednesday was postponed in order for testing and contact tracing to be continued on the Nationals. Wednesday’s game was originally scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at Citizen’s Bank Park.

A COVID-19 outbreak in Washington’s clubhouse was first reported after 12 members of the Nationals organization tested positive for COVID-19, including four players, according to manager Davey Martinez. It could be the largest outbreak any team has dealt with this season. Washington shortstop Trea Turner was removed from the first inning of Tuesday’s game between the Phillies and Nationals after testing positive for COVID-19.

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CDC changes mask guidance for those vaccinated, urging mask wearing indoors and in areas with high risk of virus transmission

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its guidance on mask wearing. In a reversal of its earlier position, on Tuesday the agency recommended that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors, if they live in areas with significant or high spread. Many public health experts had been urging the agency to change its policy for weeks, arguing that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor settings, especially in areas where transmission of the virus is high.

Acknowledging that people are “tired and frustrated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, ‘this was not a decision that was taken lightly.” New data shows that while vaccinated people account for a very small amount of risk, in rare cases they can get infected and spread the virus to others. The CDC’s change in position comes as the highly transmissible delta variant is causing a surge in cases around the country, and multiple cities have reinstated indoor mask mandates, including in Los Angeles County and St. Louis.  Walensky said, “the delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us.”   In addition, the agency also recommended that all teachers, staff and students of K-12 schools wear masks, even if they are vaccinated. Children remain unprotected against the virus, as the vaccines are not authorized for children under 12 and many teenagers have yet to be vaccinated.

In May, the CDC announced it was safe for fully vaccinated people to stop masking in most settings. The hope was that dropping the mask mandate would encourage more people to get vaccinated.  But just three months later, about 30% of adults in the U.S. haven’t been vaccinated, with polls indicating that up to 80% of unvaccinated adults are unlikely to change their minds.

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Capitol police officers give testimony about defending the Capitol on Jan. 6

On Tuesday, the Capitol police officers who were injured while fighting off rioters during the Jan. 6 attack described to the House select committee what it was like on the front lines. The hearing was the first for the committee, which was formed to probe the attack by radical supporters of former President Donald Trump, who were attempting to disrupt the official certification of Joe Biden as president.

The officers spoke about the physical and psychological injuries they sustained and detailed the types of attacks they and their fellow officers suffered. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell said he was beaten with a flagpole and soaked with chemical spray while defending the Capitol. As a result of his injuries, he said had surgery on his right foot, would need surgery on his left shoulder, and will need further rehab for possibly more than a year.

D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said he was “tortured” on January 6, dragged alone into the crowd, tased and beaten with fists and metal objects. The attack rendered him unconscious and that he suffered a mild heart attack and a brain injury. Fanone said he feared for his life and pleaded with the mob, telling them, “I have kids.” He said he heard the crowd chant, “Kill him with his own gun,” and said, “I can still hear those words in my head today.”

Capitol Police Private First Class Harry Dunn, who also testified Tuesday, said he was assaulted and called racial slurs during the mob attack. Dunn said that during the siege, while in conversation with a rioter, he volunteered that he’d voted for Joe Biden. A crowd of about 20 people then surrounded him, screaming and calling him the n-word.

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