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Crises converge: The pandemic may have made childhood obesity worse

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.

Children tend to gain weight in the summer when schools are out, studies show, and a letter in medical journal Obesity already estimated an increased obesity rate in children of more than 4% if they remained out of school for five months.

What's happening: School meals are a critical source of calories and nutrition for children across the U.S. Without schools meals, gym classes or commuting, the sedentary virtual learning environment has given children an extended summer, The Counter reports.

  • "It's certainly very likely that these two crises, the childhood obesity epidemic and the COVID pandemic, are intersecting in many ways," said Jamie Bussel, senior program officer for children's health at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The big picture: During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide give some flexibility in allowing children and families to still obtain free meals through the National School Lunch Program and summer program, regardless of income or address.

  • But most schools and food insecurity programs were preoccupied with the logistics on how to safely deliver food and pick-up sites to families and fresh foods were sometimes not possible. The USDA allowed more processed and frozen foods in meals for convenience and to free up supply chains.
  • Due to staffing shortage of cooks and cafeteria workers, schools have been handing out more frozen and shelf-stable foods, according to a survey from the School Nutrition Association. This change has also made it easier for less deliveries.

The bottom line: Childhood obesity is a strong indicator for obesity into adulthood, which increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and puts them at greater risk for severe consequences from COVID-19.

  • "We have way more families facing way deeper challenges now and whether because of income or concerns around safety and health, it can be a lot harder for families these days to access affordable healthy foods right now," Bussel says.

U.S. grants temporary protected status to thousands of Venezuelans

Venezuelans living in the United States will be eligible to receive temporary protected status for 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to the U.S. amid economic, political and social turmoil back home. Former President Trump, on his last full day in office, granted some protections to Venezuelans through the U.S. Deferred Enforced Departure program, but advocates and lawmakers said the move didn't go far enough.

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Zuckerberg floated possibility of remote work in January 2020. Sandberg thought he was "nuts"

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thought Mark Zuckerberg was "nuts" when he raised the possibility in January 2020 that 50,000 Facebook employees might have to work from home. By March 6, they were.

Why it matters: In an interview Monday with Axios Re:Cap, Sandberg explained how Facebook moved quickly to respond to the pandemic with grants for small businesses and work-from-home stipends for its employees, and how the company has been watching the unfolding crisis for women in the workforce.

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Supreme Court declines to hear case on qualified immunity for police officers

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal for a lawsuit brought against Cleveland police officers that challenges the scope of qualified immunity, the legal doctrine which has been used to shield officers from lawsuits alleging excessive force, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The doctrine has been the subject of scrutiny from civil rights advocates. Eliminating qualified immunity was one of the key demands of demonstrators during nationwide protests in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

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CDC: Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: The report cites early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

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Ripple CEO calls for clearer crypto regulations following SEC lawsuit

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by the SEC, it would put the U.S. cryptocurrency industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Why it matters: Garlinghouse's comments may seem self-serving, but his call for clearer crypto rules is consistent with longstanding entreaties from other industry players.

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Republican Sen. Roy Blunt will not seek re-election in 2022

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will not run for re-election in 2022, he announced on Twitter Monday.

Why it matters: The 71-year-old senator is the No. 4-ranking Republican in the Senate, and the fifth GOP senator to announce he will not run for re-election in 2022 as the party faces questions about its post-Trump future.

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COVID Tracking Project officially ends daily updates, citing improved government transparency

The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer group of data analysts, researchers, and journalists brought together by The Atlantic, published its final daily update on Monday — the one-year anniversary of its founding.

Why it matters: The project quickly became a vital resource for news media, academic researchers, and everyday Americans to track COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the absence of reliable and public data from the federal government.

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As Congress eyes massive infrastructure bill, energy and climate move closer to center stage

The imminent enactment of Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package creates space for lawmakers and the White House to craft infrastructure plans with big climate and energy-related provisions.

Why it matters: President Biden, during the campaign, vowed to make low-carbon energy, climate-resilient infrastructure and transportation projects a big focus of an economic recovery package. And the Texas power crisis could give fresh momentum to investments in grid modernization.

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