News Wrap: Omicron variant drives spike in U.S. COVID-19 cases

In our news wrap Wednesday, COVID cases are spiking as federal health officials call for indoor mask mandates, Russia released video of Ukrainian soldiers abandoning the Azovstal steel plant, the U.S. embassy reopened in Kyiv, Finland and Sweden handed in their applications to join NATO, and a former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge in George Floyd's death.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Results are still rolling in from last night's primary elections in five states.

    In North Carolina, embattled incumbent Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn was ousted by state Senator Chuck Edwards. Meanwhile, the race has yet to be called in Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Senate contest. Celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz is locked in a dead heat with former hedge fund manager David McCormick. On the Democratic side, progressive John Fetterman easily defeated moderate U.S. Representative Conor Lamb.

    We will have more on all the primary results right after the news summary.

    Stocks took a plunge on Wall Street today over a disappointing earnings report from Target and lingering concerns about inflation. It is the biggest single day loss since 2020. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 1,100 points to close at 31490. The Nasdaq dropped 566 points, and the S&P 500 shed 165.

    COVID-19 cases are spiking in the U.S., and federal health officials are calling on the hardest-hit areas to consider reissuing indoor mask mandates. The influx is attributed to subvariants of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

    While the Northeast and the Midwest are currently recording the largest outbreaks, CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned it might not stop there.

  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director:

    What we have seen with prior increase in infections and in different waves of infection have demonstrated that this travels across the country and has the potential to travel across the country.

    So I think the important thing to recognize is that we actually have the tools to prevent it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Walensky also reported, U.S. COVID cases increased 26 percent in the past week alone, and hospitalizations are up 19 percent.

    The first Russian soldier to stand trial for war crimes in Ukraine pled guilty today to killing an unarmed civilian. The 21-year-old admitted to shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head. If convicted, he could spend life in prison.

    Meanwhile, Russian officials released video of Ukrainian soldiers abandoning the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. They estimate nearly 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered.

    Also today, the U.S. Embassy reopened in Kyiv three months after closing ahead of the Russian invasion. People gathered to watch his officials raise the American flag. A small number of staffers returned, but consular services have yet to fully resume.

    Finland and Sweden have now officially submitted their applications to join NATO. But NATO diplomats said that national envoys have not reached a consensus on starting membership talks. Meetings will continue at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the coming days.

    Meanwhile, in Washington, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. welcomes the membership bid.

  • Jake Sullivan, U.S. National Security Advisor:

    This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security. Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance, and they will bring with them strong capabilities and a proven track record as security partners.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Turkey, on the other hand, reiterated its opposition to the two Nordic countries joining the alliance.

    Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty today to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. His count of second-degree unintentional murder will be dismissed as part of his plea deal. Lane helped restrain Floyd alongside former officer Derek Chauvin, who is serving 22.5 years in prison for murder and manslaughter in the state case.

    And there is word of the Department of Homeland Security pausing its newly formed Disinformation Governance Board, and its director will resign. This followed weeks of criticism from Republicans and questions about whether the board would police free speech. Homeland Security officials will review the body and make recommendations in 75 days.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the Buffalo massacre highlights the issue of mass shooters obtaining their weapons legally; soccer players on the U.S. men's and women's national teams apparently have pay equity for the first time; a new exhibit chronicles the work of late painter Barkley Hendricks and his use of the camera; plus much more.

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