Coronavirus 2: The Variant

The world is strategizing its defense against COVID-19 mutations. A sitting member of Congress has died after contracting coronavirus. And I watched a semi-naked man streak across the Super Bowl field (and other top moments) so you didn’t have to.

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What are we going to do about this South African variant?

So far, only six cases of a South African variant of the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., but concern among experts is growing, as emerging data suggests available vaccines may not protect as well against it. On Sunday, South Africa suspended its rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after preliminary data found it provided only “minimal protection” against the new variant, Adrianna Rodriguez reports. The results were a big reality check, but keep in mind: We still don’t know if it’s more transmissible and if so by how much, or whether the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine prevents severe disease from the variant as some scientists expect.

  • Mouth ulcers? Fatigue, fever and losing the sense of taste or smellare commonly known symptoms of COVID-19. A British researcher has documented other maladies linked to the coronavirus, and they’re not pleasant.
As the United States gets hit with mutations of COVID-19 that have entered the country from South Africa, Brazil and the United Kingdom, the race to vaccinate America has become even more essential.

Rep. Ron Wright of Texas dies after COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, died Sunday after being hospitalized weeks earlier with COVID-19, his campaign announced in a statement Monday. He was 67. Wright, a second-term congressman from a district sprawling from Arlington to rural areas south of Dallas, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 21. He had also been undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19. Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana, died in December of complications of COVID-19, days before being sworn in.

Rep. Ron Wright, a Texas Republican who had battled health challenges over the past year including lung cancer treatment died Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, more than two weeks after contracting COVID-19, his office said Monday, Feb. 8.  He was 67.

What everyone’s talking about

  • A 26-year-old Michigan man died after a small cannon exploded during a baby shower.
  • JoJo Siwa shared new photos with her girlfriend: “I’ve been the happiest I have ever been.”
  • Climate change is worsening and lengthening pollen season in the U.S.
  • Does invasive Asian carp sound appetizing? It’s getting a new name and a public makeover to draw more eaters.
  • A child smelled smoke during remote class. Her teacher may have saved the house.

In a shocking twist, Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl 👑

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday led the Bucs to their first Super Bowl title in 18 years — and Brady’s seventh career Lombardi Trophy. Brady also was named the game’s MVP, an award he has now earned five times. Has any of this surprised you?

But the Super Bowl is so much more than a football game. Here are a few other big moments everyone is talking about:

  • 🎤 The halftime show was a can-miss: The Weeknd delivered a charismatic (and slightly strange) Super Bowl halftime show, but let’s be honest: He was no JLo, Shakira, Prince, or Beyoncé.
  • 📺 Which ad reigned supreme? Rocket Mortgage’s commercials earned the top two spots in USA TODAY’s Ad Meter. Both spots starred comedian Tracy Morgan, who illustrated the difference between “pretty sure” and “certain.”
  • 🏈 “He called me something I won’t repeat”: Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, in a since-deleted tweet, accused Tom Brady of spewing some controversial trash talk during the game. They’ve apparently made up.
  • 😷 A maskless affair: Florida on Sunday became the first state to report 200 cases of coronavirus variants. The news comes as videos after the game showed revelers in Tampa, many maskless and ignoring social distancing guidance, celebrating in the streets.
  • 👙 A nearly-naked Florida man on the loose: Play was briefly halted during the Super Bowl when a fan wearing a pink one-piece ran onto the field before being tackled. He’s facing a misdemeanor trespassing charge for the escapade.
A fan that ran onto the field is tackled by a law enforcement officer.

Flooding in India leaves 26 dead and 165 missing

At least 26 people are dead and 165 are missing after a flood caused by a glacier burst hit northern India on Sunday. The flood was caused when part of a Himalayan glacier broke off and sent a wall of water and debris down a mountain, sweeping away everything in its path. Rescuers on Monday were trying to rescue 37 power plant workers who remained trapped in a tunnel. More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been taking part in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state of Uttarakhand. Experts said the disaster could be linked to global warming.

This frame grab from video provided by KK Productions shows a massive flood of water, mud and debris flowing at Chamoli District after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in the Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand, India, on Feb.7, 2021.

Real quick

  • “Swarms of mosquitoes”: How a secret military experiment left Black Georgians wary of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • $15 minimum wage would boost pay for millions but would cost 1.4 million jobs, report says.
  • Ousted Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones dropped a lawsuit over the police raid on her home, at least for now.
  • A massive Black Lives Matter mural has been dedicated to George Floyd in front of his high school.
  • A man was killed in Tennessee after a robbery “prank” for a YouTube channel went wrong.

Mark your calendars: Trump’s Senate impeachment trial begins tomorrow

On the eve of Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats replied Monday to the former president’s written argument, calling it “wholly without merit.” Trump’s defense team had argued that the trial was unconstitutional because he is no longer in office, and argued that his speech on Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment. The House reply called Trump’s reliance on the First Amendment “baseless,” citing Trump’s statement to a crowd – “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” – before the mob siege. Trump’s team said the House’s article of impeachment was flawed because it contained multiple allegations behind a single charge. But House Democrats said they described a “single course of conduct” that constituted incitement.

Then-President Donald Trump speaks following a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021.

A break from the news

  • 💰 So you made a bundle on GameStop?Get ready to pay the taxes.
  • 🏞 America’s most-visited national parks: Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and more.
  • ☕️ You can get tons of K-Cups from Starbucks, Dunkin’ and more at up to 50% off.

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.

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