The House of Representatives passed an important bill to help expand voting rights called the For the People Act, also known as H.R. 1, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Some of the changes this bill would make include expanding the voting pool, mandating independent redistricting, ensuring voting rights, requiring presidential tax returns, and increasing election security. All of this comes after the mass amounts of voter suppression in the 2020 election, especially in states like Georgia and Arizona.
H.R. 1 will expand the access to mail-in voting and absentee voting, which were some of the ways to vote during the 2020 election. During the 2020 election, there was much controversy about mail-in voting due to misinformation and several statements made by former President Donald Trump and his campaign. Despite the misinformation, many Americans made the decision to vote from home, largely because of the pandemic. 2020 was the year with the most mail-in voting, having about 46% of voters voting from home, according to Pew Research. By making mail-in and absentee voting more accessible to Americans, it would give many people with disabilities and people out of the country the ability to vote without having to present themselves at a polling place.
H.R. 1 will also expand the voter pool, which means that it would make voting more accessible to people over the age of 18. It also includes things like automatic voter registration, restoring voting rights to people with completed felony sentences, and a reversal of state voter ID laws that would allow citizens to make a sworn statement affirming their identity if they were unable to produce an ID. With automatic voter registration, the struggle and almost endless process of applying to vote will become much simpler and quicker.
Gerrymandering is a tactic used by politicians to favor one party or the other. By doing this, the politicians are able to gain more votes in their districts and win elections much easier. While “mandating independent redistricting,” may sound crazy, it would just require states to redraw their congressional districts every 10 years. By doing this, it would lessen the influence of gerrymandering, which has long been a political tactic on both sides. While a great addition to the bill, if passed, it would not take effect until 2030 due to decennial census.
It is no secret that during Donald Trump’s presidency he hid his tax returns, never releasing them and fighting legal battles to keep them hidden. Well, H.R. 1 would require the president, vice president and candidates to the White House to release their annual tax returns. It would also require the president and vice president to fill out a financial disclosure form within 30 days of taking office. This would prevent presidents from having a financial conflict of interest like the ones with Donald Trump. This clearly seems to be the motive in adding this section to the bill.
By adding more security at the ballots it would crack down on voter intimidation tactics and the spread of misinformation. This would also hopefully make voters feel safer on their way to vote and while at the ballot. This was also a big story during the 2020 election, where many Trump supporters would stand outside polling places to prevent many people of color from entering.
H.R. 1 will also take aim at “dark money,” which would require organizations to disclose their large donors and also creates a system for small donations.
On the importance of H.R. 1, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “Our democracy is in a state of deep disrepair. During the 2020 election, Americans had to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering, and a torrent of special interest dark money just to exercise their right to vote. Across the country, people of all political persuasions — including Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — are profoundly frustrated with the chaos, corruption and inaction that plague much of our politics.”
Lastly, to ensure voting rights, H.R. 1 would, “improve voting protections that civil rights groups say have been eroded, notably by a 2013 Supreme Court decision.” The court decision mentioned is Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s decisions threw out a section of the 1965 Voting Right Act which stated that states with a history of voter discrimination would have to obtain “pre-clearance” from federal officials before making election changes. By making this change, the Supreme Court has allowed many states and districts to get away with voter discrimination for years now, which this bill is trying to eradicate.
Although passing this bill would be a huge win for voters everywhere, many Democrats believe that this bill will not get past the Senate due to the very slim majority Democrats hold. Many Republicans continue to fight the simplification of the voting process, even passing laws in some states to make it more difficult to vote–the state of Georgia, for example–as well as passing several laws that would discriminate against many voters and make the application process more difficult for new voters.
Here are the facts on the amazing science behind the quickest vaccine ever produced
By Andrea Arias
In April 2020, amidst the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the question “When will the vaccine be ready?” first arose, the New York Times released an article where they projected that the vaccine could take until 2033, even though health professionals were aiming to get it done by August 2021. Little did they know that in a little over eight months, the first vaccine for COVID-19 would be approved. Remarkable.
Before the COVID-19 vaccine was created, the quickest vaccine was for the mumps in the 1960s, and that vaccine took 4 years. So, why was the COVID vaccine projected to take so long, and how were we able to get it done so quickly?
–Vaccine Development Process–
Vaccines have always been projected to take years, this is due to the process that takes place to create a vaccine. The process of creating a vaccine is done by using a deactivated version of the virus or a “live but mild version” of the virus that has grown to be less severe. This is then injected into someone, which allows our B cells to create and synthesize antibodies to fight the virus if we are ever to come in contact with a live version.
While this is the traditional and most common vaccine (flu vaccines were created using this method), due to the severity and need for a Covid vaccine as quickly as possible, some companies decided to use a new method this time. Since SARS-CoV-2 was a new virus (SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus and COVID-19 stands for the disease, Coronavirus Disease 2019), with no previous research or understanding of the virus it would be difficult for a vaccine to be created.
The new method used to create the COVID-19 vaccine is called an mRNA vaccine. mRNA is messenger RNA, and its job is to produce proteins. So, how does an mRNA vaccine work? Well, by encoding mRNA with the information needed to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, this allows the body to then realize that this protein is an invader and produces antibodies to fight it. Essentially, it is the same process as a traditional vaccine, but instead of using a version of the virus, a synthetic mRNA is injected and binds to human cells and then creates a “spike” protein (which is what allows coronavirus to infect other cells).
Only two companies decided to take the approach of using an mRNA vaccine, these two were Moderna and Pfizer. The latter is a company under a German government program that is pushing for a vaccine, and the former is a company under the Operation Warp Speed started by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. With the press release from Moderna and Pfizer, we are able to learn how Phase 1/3 went, and how quickly these two companies were able to come up with a solution and vaccine in just 8 short months. According to BioSpace, by Phase I both Moderna and Pfizer achieved outstanding results in non-human models that produced sufficient CD4+ T cells against the virus (see graphic, below). CD4+ cells are “helper” cells that trigger the body’s response to infections.
This is being attached to T cells which are the key white blood cells for the immune system. Along with this, within the first phase both Moderna and Pfizer realized the importance and essential need for a two-dose vaccine. This was discovered because it was found that 43 days or two weeks after the second dose participants had the same level of antibodies as people who had recovered from the virus. While during Phase I Moderna only managed to create a protein, mRNA-1273, that could protect against replication in the lungs of SARS-CoV-2, in a later phase they found how to also prevent infection from the virus.
–Other Promising Vaccines–
While the mRNA vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer have been the quickest to be created and released, they are not the only vaccines being created. There are three other types of vaccines being used by other companies to help put a stop to this pandemic. Novaxax is creating a protein-based vaccine, which uses related versions of the spike protein and injects this into a person. By doing this, the protein tutors the immune system in how to fight the virus. This, in turn, allows cells to be pushed into the frontlines, dedicated to fighting the virus. Protein vaccines have been around much longer and have been proven to be highly effective, but they are slower to produce than mRNA vaccines.
Research on the Novavax vaccine has found that it has the highest neutralizing antibodies reported yet. Another type of vaccine is the adenovirus-based vaccine; Johnson & Johnson as well as AstraZeneca have been trying to create this type of vaccine, and it appears that Johnson & Johnson has succeeded. Adenovirus-based vaccines are prepared by inserting a transgene cassette into the adenoviral backbone by homologous recombination, which is an exchange of genetic information from similar or identical molecules or DNA or RNA. According to the CDC, this is a vaccine that is taken orally and is only used in the military, and none exist for public or general use in the U.S. Similarly to the protein vaccine, adenovirus vaccine technology has existed for several years but has not been used to create a general vaccine for public use.
–Timeline of Historic Vaccines–
•December 31, 2020 The first case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 was reported in Wuhan, China.
•January 29, 2020 The first lab-grown 2019-nCov was created. This at the time was the first step for a traditional version of a vaccine for COVID-19 to be created.
•February 13, 2020 A radiologist from Wuhan published findings of a chest CT scan which suggested four evolutionary stages of COVID-19, these four stages being the early stage (0–4 days), progressive stage (5–8 days), peak stage (9–13 days), and absorption stage (≥14 days). Within this time, researchers found that there was an abnormality within the patient’s lungs.
•February 17, 2020 Just a few days later, it was revealed that warmer weather and humidity might not affect the spread of COVID-19 like many had suggested. This posed a problem as, unlike the flu, a person is likely to contract the disease at any point and time of the year.
•February 24, 2020 With shocking speed, Moderna, one of the companies to later release a well-developed vaccine, sent a vaccine to phase 1 testing in the U.S.
•February 26, 2020 Novaxax announces possible candidate against the Coronavirus.
•March 16, 2020 Moderna vaccine testing begins.
•March 30, 2020 Johnson & Johnson announced a lead candidate for their version of the COVID-19 virus. The Janssen vaccine is not a mRNA vaccine but an adenovirus based vaccine.
•April 29, 2020 The first group for Phase I testing is injected with the Pfizer vaccine.
•May 15, 2020 The Trump administration announces ‘Operation Warp Speed.’ This is done to speed up the process of the vaccines currently being tested, which at the time were Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
•May 25, 2020 Novavax initiates the start of Phase 1/2 testing in Australia, for their NVX-CoV2373, protein-based vaccine.
•May 29, 2020 Moderna starts their evaluation of the vaccine in Phase II. They ran a placebo-controlled experiment to confirm the dose and evaluate the safety of the vaccine.
•May – July 2020 Seven pharmaceutical companies were approved into ‘Operation Warp Speed.’ These were: Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Moderna Inc., University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca Plc, and Novavax, Pfizer Inc. *Note: Pfizer was not initially involved but a deal was made for 100 million doses of their vaccine in mid-July*
•June 5, 2020 The BBC announced for AstraZeneca that they will begin producing potential Covid vaccines. Around this time, AstraZeneca’s vaccine also passed to Phase I. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine but instead a double-stranded DNA vaccination rather than a single-stranded mRNA. The vaccine is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222.
•July 27, 2020 Moderna begins Phase III testing of their mRNA-1273 vaccine. On this day, Pfizer also chose their lead mRNA vaccine to advance into Phase II.
•August 24, 2020 Novavax advances to Phase II of Phase 1/2 clinical trial of their NVX-CoV2373 vaccine.
•August 31, 2020 AstraZeneca’s advances to Phase III clinical trials in the U.S. for all adult groups.
•September 2, 2020 AstraZeneca temporarily pauses clinical trials of their Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, due to an unexplained illness that occured in the UK during their Phase III testing there. The clinical trials have to be stopped to ensure the safety of all participants.
•November 8, 2020 Pfizer conducted their Phase III trail revealing an efficiency rate above 90%
•December 8, 2020 The first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine is a 90-year-old woman in the United Kingdom.
•December 10, 2020 Pfizer publicized the results of the Phase III clinical trial. There were 43,448 participants, 21,720 of which received BNT162b2, the vaccine, and 21,728 received a placebo, using the two-dose regimen of BNT162b2, which was given 21 days apart. This demonstrated the vaccine to be 95% effective against COVID-19.
•December 11, 2020 The U.S. FDA approved the first Covid vaccine for emergency use in the U.S., the Pfizer vaccine.
•December 18, 2020 The FDA approved the Moderna vaccine to be the second vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S.
•December 20, 2020 The U.K. authorized the use of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine.
•December 28, 2020 Novavax announces the start of their PREVENT-19 Phase III trial in the U.S. and Mexico.
•January 8, 2021 A Pfizer press release announced that their Covid-19 vaccine is effective against the multiple mutations recently discovered.
•January 28, 2021 In a press release by Novavax, they stated that in their Phase III trials in the UK proved their vaccine is 89.3% effective against Covid-19. (This test was conducted against the new variant in the UK as well as during a time of high infectious rate, meaning they are looking to create a strong vaccine to stop the multiple mutations of Covid-19, including the one in South Africa.)
•February 3, 2021 AstraZeneca announces that their vaccine is 100% effective against severe cases of Covid-19, making it likely the most effective vaccine to be released.*
*Note: this is only against severe cases, hospitalizations, and death; it is still likely to get coronavirus but the likelihood of being hospitalized is very slim from these results.
•February 4, 2021 Johnson & Johnson requested emergency authorization from the FDA for their COVID-19, vaccine which has been found to be 72% effective, less than both Moderna and Pfizer but large nonetheless for such a short period of time. The J&J vaccine was also able to test against the new variant of the virus present in the U.S., South Africa and Latin America at this time.
•February 7, 2021 Africa suspends the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to minimal protection it provided for the variant identified there.
For more constant updates on new vaccines and other vaccines not listed above check out the New York Times Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker which is updated constantly. They also do a great job in breaking down all the vaccines and their purposes.
The CIF organization made two important announcements about the future of high school sports in the 2020-2021 school year. On January 19, 2021, they announced that fall sports will no longer have a playoffs. This will give these sports a larger window to have a regular season, meaning the likelihood of playing more games overall but also having no postseason to look forward to. Instead, student-athletes will have to wait ideally for the possibility of playing this year, as it is still each individual district’s decision if sports will resume at their schools.
Just two days later, on January 21, CIF released another document stating the regulations and guidelines for sports as their seasons approach and begin. The general consensus from these documents is that all athletes would be required to wear masks, benches will not switch sides, electronic whistles will be used by referees, and more health and safety protocols. All of these regulations are done to help reduce the spread and keep the athletes safe while still giving them the opportunity to compete.
*Note: COVID Regulations differ for each sport due to differences in rules and method of playing*
On November 9, 2020, John Glenn High School volleyball returned to campus to start conditioning. Volleyball was one of the four sports set to return in November to hopefully have a season starting in December. These included football, volleyball, cross country, and cheerleading.
The school put in strict restrictions on athletic activity, such as maintaining 6-foot distance, temperature checks, grouping to contact trace anyone that gets sick, no carpooling, etc.
While these are adequate rules to hopefully prevent someone from getting sick, it does not assure anyone that they won’t get sick or even that students won’t go out with friends or family on the weekends. Also there are a bunch of teenage girls and guys working out together. How are 3 coaches going to be able to maintain that each student keeps their distance and keeps their mask on?
While many girls have signed to be able to return to these practices, so many more have decided not to go, which means that they do not agree with the school’s decision. I am one of these students. While at first I wanted to return to see my friends and escape my home, I could not bring myself to put my family and friends at risk. Having had my mom already get sick with COVID-19, how could I put them at risk as well as my teammates?
There just seems no way that this was actually going to work.
While I do understand why schools want to start athletics, do they understand the risk that they are putting their students in just by asking them to go back onto campus? The reasons people have been getting sick with COVID-19 is by simply coming into contact with someone who is sick, and the risk of this is that some people are asymptomatic (don’t show any symptoms of Covid), which is why COVID-19 is such a dangerous disease.
Aside from this decision about sports, the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District has still not yet decided if students will have to return to campus for the second semester. From what I’ve gathered, many students and families are worried about returning. Maybe, just like gathering for athletics, it is not going to work right now.
Andrea Arias is a student at John Glenn High School. She has been part of the volleyball team for 4 years, this being her final year. She is a member of Key Club as well. She spends most of her time at home stressing about homework as well as working out. In her free time, she likes to draw and play her guitar, and spend time with her family. Her favorite news sources are the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
Due to the current pandemic, CIF, the organization in charge of high school sports, has postponed all fall sports until winter. Due to this, many students have had to turn to different forms of exercising until they are able to meet up with their teams and coaches.
In his junior year, basketball player Hector Herrera had this to say about the postponement of sports activities: “It was a somber moment when me and my teammates realized that what we had constantly practiced for so long would cease to occur. Ever since then, staying active is the most important thing we can do as athletes. In a time like this, it is so easy to neglect what our bodies had known. However, like the saying goes, ‘To be ready, you have to stay ready.’ The season now seems like a distant dream. Whether it is working out at the house, finding parks to go and play basketball with each other [his teammates], we must make the time.”
Lady Eagle athletes Flor Castillo and Karina Flores are both in volleyball and basketball, and they are also both seniors. Since the announcement of their activities having to begin later on, they have both continued to work out while staying hopeful to return this winter to their sport teams. Flor and Karina have both made an effort to go outside for runs, whether that be around their block or at a park near their home, they have also continued to practice their sports by passing or hitting a volleyball on a wall or going to a nearby basketball court to shoot around. Although these are not the only two sports struggling to maintain an active lifestyle during a worldwide pandemic, these are some perspectives from student athletes at John Glenn High School.
John Glenn High School has several clubs that help students in adding to their college applications and volunteering in their community and Key Club is one of these clubs. Key Club is an international service organization, it is student-led and provides services and volunteerism. They participate at several community events throughout the district and some at the international level.
Common volunteer events include tree planting, beach clean ups, park clean ups, and charity drives, as well as participating in the Rose Parade, but due to the current pandemic many events are being held virtually. Many of the past years their events were hosted in Long Beach and they would have a convention in San Francisco at the end of the year.
According to the JGHS Key Club president, Valery Montinola, the club helps students to “give back to your community, build your college resumé and leadership skills.” While Natalie Luna, the treasurer, stated that: “One of my favorite memories was when we were helping for the Rose Parade,” which happened last year when the club members got to help organize the beautiful flowers you see during the parade while others got to help with painting.
Being at home during the pandemic means that we have way too much time to spend on delivery and food.
According to UberEats.com, the most popular deliveries in Norwalk are pizza, sushi, bbq and alcohol. I guess we know what the people of Norwalk are prioritizing.
Both on UberEats and DoorDash, Chick-fil-a is one of the most popular places to order delivery, along with Starbucks and McDonald’s; but if you’re looking for a good place to get takeout Chinese or delivery there is a small restaurant on Alondra Blvd. called Golden Pho. It’s rated highly and is actually really delicious in my opinion. It is my top recommendation if you’ve never been.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a side of wings there are two places in Norwalk that are quite popular. WingStop, of course, and The Buffalo Spot; they have amazing fries with chicken (that is their most popular item). Both places are available to order on DoorDash and UberEats.