National Guard troops likely to be deployed for DC trucker convoys; COVID infections drop by 21% worldwide: Latest updates – USA TODAY

Truck drivers planning to block roads around Washington, D.C., beginning this week may find an unexpected obstacle: National Guard troops.
The D.C. government and the U.S. Capitol Police have requested National Guard assistance in dealing with trucker convoys heading for the nation’s capital, and the Pentagon is expected to approve the deployment of 700 to 800 unarmed troops, a U.S. official told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
The National Guard personnel would be used mostly to help control traffic, although Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said their presence was also requested to stand ready in case of “possible disruptions at key traffic arteries.” No formal decision on the requests had been made, he said.
Trucker convoys protesting pandemic measures blockaded U.S.-Canada border crossings and brought chaos to the Canadian capital of Ottawa in recent weeks, and similar groups now have their eyes on the area around the U.S. capital.
Bob Bolus says he’s leading the Freedom Convoy of trucks from Pennsylvania to Washington on Wednesday, telling Fox News he plans for a Friday shutdown of the Capital Beltway, a 64-mile roadway through Virginia and Maryland that circles Washington, D.C. His grievances include vaccine mandates, pandemic-related restrictions and other issues.
“I’ll give you an analogy of that of a giant boa constrictor that basically squeezes you, chokes you and then swallows you,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do to D.C.”
Another band of truckers, calling themselves the People’s Convoy, will start out from California on Wednesday with plans to pick up other truckers as they roll toward a March 5 arrival on the Capital Beltway. The group said it does not intend to enter D.C. proper.
“The message of The People’s Convoy is simple,” the organization says on its website. “The last 23 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a rough road for all Americans to travel: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and – not least – financially. With the advent of the vaccine and workable therapeutic agents … it is now time to re-open the country.”
Also in the news:
►Chicago is doing away with mask and vaccine mandates for indoor public spaces while retaining the masking requirement for public transit as well as health care and congregate settings.
► The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear arguments in a challenge to Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers.
► The European Council recommended Tuesday that EU nations next month lift all testing and quarantine requirements for people who received vaccines authorized in the EU or approved by the World Health Organization.
►The Massachusetts Statehouse opened to the public Tuesday for the first time in nearly two years. The building has been largely closed to all but lawmakers, Statehouse staffers and reporters since March 2020.
►A judge denied bail Tuesday to one of the leading organizers behind mandate protests that brought chaos across Canada. Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois said she believed there was a substantial likelihood Tamara Lich would reoffend if released.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 78.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 939,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 427.4 million cases and over 5.9 million deaths. More than 215 million Americans – 64.8% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: Here’s how to find a hotel with COVID testing and quarantine facilities wherever you travel.
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.
New coronavirus infections dropped globally for the third consecutive week, falling by 21%, as the surge fueled by the omicron variant continues to recede, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
The number of COVID-19 deaths, which typically lag behind new cases by about three weeks, decreased 8% to about 67,000 worldwide, the first time weekly fatalities have fallen since early January, the WHO said. The Western Pacific was the only region that saw an increase in COVID-19 cases, with a 29% jump, while the number of infections elsewhere dropped significantly. Omicron accounts for 99% of the cases worldwide.
In its weekly pandemic report, the WHO acknowledged for the first time that booster shots play an important role in fending off the omicron assault, even when the variant is more capable of producing breakthrough infections, which tend to be milder. However, more research is still needed on how long protection from boosters lasts, the WHO said.
Hong Kong, struggling with its worst COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic, will test every one of its 7.5 million people for the coronavirus three times next month, the city’s leader said Tuesday.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said testing capacity will be boosted to 1 million a day or more with the hope of ultimately allowing for the entire city to be tested in one week.
Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections since Feb. 15, imperiling its health care system. Since the current, omicron-driven surge began at the beginning of the year, the city has recorded nearly 54,000 cases and 145 deaths.
A federal survey released Tuesday of public and private teachers and principals in all 50 states reflects how K-12 education shifted dramatically in early 2020 when COVID-19 shuttered buildings and confined families to homes. The results may reflect socioeconomic trends: 58% of private school principals said all their students had home Internet access in spring 2020; 4% of public school principals said the same. Private school teachers interacted with their students live more than their counterparts in public schools. teachers.
According to the report, 61% said they had real-time interactions with more than three-quarters of their students in early 2020, compared with 32% of public school teachers.
Charter schools, which are public schools that operate with more autonomy, pivoted more nimbly to real-time video lessons. About 55% of charter school teachers reported using live video lessons that allowed students to ask questions in spring 2020, compared with 46% of public school teachers.
Erin Richards, USA TODAY
America’s health care workers report significant levels of burnout after two years toiling in a pandemic, and even anger about the complications of politics and rising incidents of abuse from patients and their families. But three-fourths of them still say they love their jobs, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll of doctors, nurses, paramedics, therapists and others finds. It is a show of resilience, not without some costs, among those who have been on the front lines of fighting COVID-19. 
“The pandemic has actually made me realize how important this career is, and how I really do make a difference,” said Christina Rosa, 33, a mental health counselor from central Massachusetts who has had to close her office and see patients remotely. “I still love it.” Read more here.
Susan Page and Cady Stanton, USA TODAY
The number of people screened at airports Friday reached its highest level since the Thanksgiving holiday as more countries ease COVID-related restrictions on travel. 
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 2,241,123 people Friday – the most since the Sunday after last Thanksgiving, when 2,451,300 were screened. That remains the highest level during the pandemic.
The agency screened an additional 1,826,392 people Saturday and 2,067,788 Sunday. The three-day total was nearly double the number of people screened during the same period last year but still fell short of 2019 figures.
It’s also the first time screenings topped 2 million since Jan. 2.
– Brett Molina, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press

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