Friday morning news – January 29, 2021

Biden reopens Obamacare sign-up window » President Biden signed another pair of executive orders in the Oval Office on Thursday. 

BIDEN: And the first one I’m going to be signing here is to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. 

With pen in hand, Biden said he wasn’t doing anything new on Thursday, but rather he was—quote—“restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president.”

Biden is directing federal agencies to review existing policies that may make it tougher to receive Medicaid, including work requirements. 

He’s also reopening the signup window for Obamacare. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters…

PSAKI: The Department of Health and Human Services will open for a special enrollment period from February 15th to May 15th. 

Biden rescinds Mexico City Policy, restores abortion funding » Also on Thursday, Biden took action to increase access to abortion, both at home and abroad. 

He rescinded the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bars the government from giving taxpayer dollars to organizations that use it to perform or promote abortion overseas.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio. 

RUBIO: That this occurs here is shameful enough—and I believe that is what history will regard it—that we use taxpayer money to promote it and export it abroad is outrageous. 

Former President Obama also rescinded the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy in the opening days of his first term. President Trump restored it in the first week of his presidency.

A new Marist poll of roughly 1,200 U.S. adults found that more that 77 percent oppose using tax dollars to support abortion overseas.

Government report details economic impact of pandemic » Even as COVID-19 cases spiked late last year, the U.S. economy actually grew at a 4 percent annual rate in the last three months of 2020. But of course, the numbers for the year overall told a different story. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Thursday’s government report on the U.S. economy in 2020 showed quite the roller coaster ride. 

The nation’s gross domestic product—its total output of goods and services—plunged at a record-shattering pace in the April-to-June quarter. It dropped at an annual rate of more than 31 percent.

Then in the July-to-September quarter, a record surge of more than 33 percent. 

But for the year as a whole, the pandemic dealt a crushing blow, inflicting the worst economic freeze since the end of World War II.

The economy overall contracted 3.5 percent.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Cases of South Africa coronavirus variant confirmed in U.S. » A new strain of the coronavirus identified in South Africa has spread to South Carolina

State health officials Thursday announced the first two confirmed cases of the variant on U.S. soil. 

The two patients live in different parts of the state and neither of them has traveled recently. 

Dr. Krutika Kuppalli is an infectious disease physician at the Medical University of South Carolina. She called the news “frightening,” because it means there are likely more undetected cases within the state. 

New strains of the virus appear to be more contagious. 

Liquid nitrogen mishap kills 6 in Georgia » Six people are dead in Georgia after a liquid nitrogen accident at a poultry plant. 

Fire crews responded to a chemical leak at Prime Pak Foods in Gainesville Thursday morning. Zach Brackett is Hall County Fire Division Chief.

BRACKETT: Once the units arrived, they found a large contingent of employees that had evacuated, along with multiple victims that were in that crowd that were also experiencing medical emergencies. 

Five people died at the plant, and one more died at a local hospital. 

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch asked the public to pray for the wounded and for the families of the victims.

COUCH: These folks that came into work today did not have any idea of what would happen, nor did their families. They’re not in a profession that you would expect something like this to happen, but here we are. 

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the accident. Refrigeration systems at poultry plants sometimes use liquid nitrogen.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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