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Scientists searching for a cause and cure for COVID-19 have discovered a new, more contagious strain of the virus that has dominated countries worldwide. The strain, which appeared in February in Europe, mutated from the early versions that spread throughout Wuhan, China at the beginning of the pandemic. Medical experts now believe that they were seeing at least two strains of the virus in the U.S., one prevalent on the East Coast and another on the West Coast.

The study, led by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, found that not only does the more vigilant strain spread faster, it may also make people more vulnerable to a second infection.

Researchers warn that if the pandemic fails to slow as the weather warms, the virus could mutate further, making any first vaccines less effective against the newest strain. This could also complicate efforts to bring the pandemic under control.

OUR COMMUNITY

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will participate in multiple virtual commencement celebrations for graduating seniors, families and educators in May and June.

Our former Commander-In-Chief Obama will share inspiring words at “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition” on May 16, a virtual commencement for historically black colleges and universities.

Also, on May 16, Obama will deliver the commencement address at the “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” event, headed by The LeBron James Family Foundation. On June 6, the Obamas will speak at YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” event.

THE PANDEMIC

A coronavirus model used by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of the coronavirus in the U.S. This is nearly double its prediction from Monday morning. The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, connects the sharp increase to relaxed social distancing and increased mobility across the country.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, nearly 1,300 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus throughout Texas prisons. At least 22 prisoners are presumed to have died from the virus and an additional 12 deaths are under investigation.

A Walmart in Quincy, Massachusetts, has closed after a surge of coronavirus cases among employees. One employee from the store has died. An investigation was launched after several employees and customers complained about overcrowding and lack of social distancing in the store. This is the second such closing of a Walmart store related to an outbreak among workers.

Doctors in New York are seeing an odd inflammatory syndrome in 15 children and believe there is a link to COVID-19. Several of the children, age 2 to 15, tested positive for the virus and experienced symptoms of Kawasaki disease, an illness that causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries and can limit blood flow to the heart. Similar cases have also been reported in Italy and Spain.

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Senior White House Economic Adviser Kevin Hassett warns lawmakers and states that the April unemployment rate could hit 20%. “We are looking at probably the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. It’s a tremendous negative shock,” he said.

Last week, Hassett had estimated a 20% unemployment rate for June but he said the latest data received on claims is “worse than expected.”

Frontier Airlines is rolling out a discount program for passengers. For an additional $39 fee, passengers can pick a “More Room” option when booking a flight, and get a confirmed empty middle seat next to them. The program runs through August 31 and could be extended beyond that. Several airlines have also announced that all customers must wear a face mask during flights to slow the spread of the virus.

Tyson Fresh Meats announced today that it will resume operations at its Pasco, Washington, beef processing plant. The plant halted production at the facility on April 23 after it was linked to an outbreak of Covid-19. Leadership at the plant announced that deep cleaning and sanitization was performed while the facility was closed.

— 2020 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists – The Pulitzer Prizes

What we need to know:

African-Americans were big winners in this week’s announcement of 2020 Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award presented to the best in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature and music composition. The annual awards, named after newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, provided in his will over 100 years ago, is administered by Columbia University. Pulitzer Prize Administrator Dana Canedy announced the winners this week.

Congratulations to:

Commentary to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her brilliant essay for the NYTimes “The 1619 Project,” which provided a historic and personal look at the legacy of slavery in the U.S. on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans to the shores of Virginia. It’s not lost on Nikole fans that the Pulitzer Committee also awarded a special posthumous citation to Journalist Ida B. Wells for her investigative journalism into lynchings in the late 1800’s into the 1900’s. Perhaps combining a personal and professional hero with new school media, the Twitter handle for Ms. Hannah-Jones is @IdaBaeWells

Fiction-A second Pulitzer Fiction win for Colson Whitehead author of “The Nickel Boys.”

Drama-Michael R. Jackson, “A Strange Loop, “the story of a gay, Black musical-theater writer writing a musical about a gay, Black musical theater writer.

Music-Composer Anthony Davis for his “Jazz-Infused” Opera, “The Central Park Five.”

Poetry-Jericho Brown for “The Tradition.” This collection of poetry ranges from the Trojan War to Police Violence against African Americans.