Boston Marathon bomber's $1,400 stimulus should go to victims, prosecutor says: Live COVID updates

Boston Marathon bomber's $1,400 stimulus should go to victims, prosecutor says: Live COVID updates

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be forced to use a $1,400 COVID-19 stimulus payment he received to help cover the millions of dollars he was ordered to pay his victims, prosecutors say.

Tsarnaev, 28, was convicted in 2015 of 30 charges for his role in the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 260. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison – and ordered to pay more than $101 million in criminal restitution. Tsarnaev, being held at the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, has paid about $2,200 so far, U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell says in his filing.

Tsarnaev received the stimulus payment last June and has a total of less than $4,000 in his inmate account. Prosecutors want all of it funneled to the bombing victims, saying he has been giving money to relatives and others but has not been paying down the restitution. 

“In light of the defendant’s payment history and incarceration status, the United States requests that this court enter an order authorizing the (Bureau of Prisons) to turn over all funds held in the defendant’s inmate trust account … as payment toward the outstanding criminal monetary penalties,” Mendell wrote.

Also in the news:

► Vaccinated, masked New Orleans residents and tourists began ushering in Carnival season Thursday with a series of parties and a wary eye on coronavirus statistics. Carnival officially begins  on Jan. 6 – the 12th day after Christmas – and comes to a raucous climax on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which falls on March 1 this year.

► The American Medical Association said it welcomed the CDC recommendation to expand the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s booster dose for kids ages 12-15.

►Several Canadian airlines are refusing to fly a group home from Mexico after they filmed themselves partying maskless last week aboard a chartered Sunwing flight. The airline canceled the flight home after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the group “idiots” and their behavior a “slap in the face.” 

► No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic was confined to a immigration hotel in Australia while trying to stave off deportation. He’s accused of failing to meet requirements for a vaccine exemption. The Australian Open begins Jan. 17.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 57 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 832,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 297.9 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 206 million Americans – 62% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: As common as cloth face masks have become, health experts say that they do little to prevent tiny virus particles from getting into your nose or mouth and aren’t effective against the new coronavirus variant. USA TODAY’s Gabriela Miranda explains.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

4M cases reported in first 6 months of pandemic, now 4M in a week

It took six months for the United States to report its first 4 million cases of COVID-19. It took just seven days to report its last 4 million, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The country reported 4.02 million cases in the seven-day period ending Wednesday, up 89% from the previous week. Twenty-nine states set weekly records. The U.S. is now averaging about 575,000 cases reported per day, or 400 every minute. With limited access to testing, asymptomatic cases and people home testing, the real number would be far higher.

More than 121,000 people were in hospital beds with COVID-19, up nearly 30% from a week earlier, Department of Health and Human Services data show.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Americans can ill-afford to become complacent, urging vaccination and booster shots. He said preliminary studies indicating the omicron variant now sweeping the nation is less severe in many patients than previous versions of the disease should not encourage complacency.

“A certain proportion of a large volume of cases, no matter what, are going to be severe,” Fauci said. “So don’t take this as a signal that we can pull back from the recommendations… for vaccination, for boostering, for wearing masks and all the other CDC recommendations.”

Mike Stucka

Chicago again cancels classes for city’s 330,000 public school students

Chicago public schools closed for a second straight day Thursday as a deadlock between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the school district over COVID-19 safety dragged on. The CTU’s 25,000 members voted late Tuesday to shift to remote learning until Jan. 18, or when cases fall. In response, Chicago Public Schools announced it would cancel classes Wednesday for the district’s 330,000 students – with no remote instruction. On Wednesday evening, it announced that classes would again be canceled Thursday because there aren’t enough teachers to staff classrooms.

Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said students may be able to start returning to schools on Friday for services such as tutoring or counseling if enough staff members show up. Buildings stayed open Wednesday for meal pickup in the largely low-income and Black and Latino school district.

Christine Fernando and Alia Wong

Those vaccinated with J&J await green light for third dose

The 16 million people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine  find themselves in a gray zone. While health officials encourage those who’ve gotten the double-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna series to get a third shot, J&J recipients are limited to their original one and a single booster. About 3.5 million of them have gotten boosted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But they can’t go beyond that.

“I suspect there are thousands of J&J recipients in my situation who are questioning our protection,” said Donna Alston, 61, of Philadelphia. “I went to my pharmacy last week to see if I could sign up and they said no.” Read more here.

Elizabeth Weise

If you aren’t boosted you are not ‘up to date,’ CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its recommendations for vaccinated Americans, now saying that “up to date” on COVID-19 shots means getting a booster shot. 

“CDC surveillance data and other studies from around the world have demonstrated the benefit of a booster dose after receiving only a primary series, including decreased risk of infection, severe disease and death,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House news briefing. More than 71 million Americans have received a booster dose, according to CDC data.

However, health officials also said Wednesday that they are not changing the qualifications for being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19. The decision to keep the initial definition, established more than a year ago when the vaccines first rolled out, means that federal vaccination mandates for travel or employment won’t require a booster dose.

CDC chief endorses plan for youths age 12-15 to get booster shot

Walensky cleared the way Wednesday for extra booster doses to be given right away to people ages 12 to 15. A CDC advisory panel earlier in the day had voted 13-1  in favor of recommending that 12- to 15-year-olds get a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and Walensky quickly endorsed the suggestion. The extra shot may be given at least five months after conclusion of the original two-dose regimen.

The committee also strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds also should get a booster. Previous guidance said that age group “may” get a shot.

“It is critical that we protect our children and teens from COVID-19 infection and the complications of severe disease,” Walensky said. “This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the omicron variant.” 

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the booster earlier this week, basing its decision largely on data from Israel that found no new safety concerns when 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds got a Pfizer booster five months after their second dose.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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