Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 15, 2021

‘Real progress:’ President Biden shares reasons for optimism in Covid fight

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We can’t yet unmask in public or hug non-relatives, but we could be past the worst of the pandemic soon. That’s part of what Joe Biden told Americans last week in his first prime-time televised address as president. "We're making some real progress now," the new leader said from the White House. "We'll have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May. That's months ahead of schedule." Biden directed states and tribal governments to make every adult eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine by May 1. To help, the federal government will set up new vaccination sites and launch a website to let people find the nearest shots.

About 35 million Americans were fully vaccinated as of last Friday and 66 million had at least one shot of the two-stage inoculations. Three coronavirus vaccines have emergency use authorization from the government. Moderna's and Pfizer's two-dose vaccines were authorized in December and Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine received clearance last month. There's also encouraging news about schools: Three-quarters of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade now attend schools that offer some level of in-person instruction. Other districts plan to reopen this month or in April after spring break.

"If we do our part, if we do this together -- by July the Fourth, there's a good chance you, your family and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day," the president said in his 24-minute speech. "After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special."

Amid reasons for optimism, a somber reality remains: Despite a large drop in new infections since early this year, the U.S. coronavirus death rate remains at nearly 1,500 people every day. Covid fatalities since last March exceed an astonishing, historic level of 532,000 -- more than half a million victims. With that in mind, President Biden last Thursday night indirectly criticized governors who lift public mask-wearing requirements and allow full occupancy at restaurants, theaters, arenas and other public places, as Texas and Mississippi did last week. "This is not the time to let up," he warned in the national address. "If we don't stay vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track." At the federal Centers for Disease Control, director Rochelle Walensky cautions: "There is so much that’s critical riding on the next two months. How quickly we will vaccinate versus whether we will have another surge really relies on what happens in March and April."

President says: "The last year has tested us in unimaginable ways, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will emerge stronger." – March 11 address to nation

CDC director says: "If we're not really cautious, we could end up with a post-spring break surge the way we saw a post-Christmas surge. … Now is not the time to stop wearing a mask." – Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Centers for Disease Control

White House adviser says: "We need to try and get the children back to school. It's less likely for a child to get infected in the school setting than if they were just in the community." – Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2021

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