Monday morning news – February 15, 2021

GOP rift remains after Trump acquittal » The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is finished. Once again the Senate voted to acquit him.

But Democrats and some Republicans maintain that he was responsible for the Jan. 6th siege on the Capitol. And on Sunday, GOP Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana defended his decision to vote “yes” on impeaching Trump. 

CASSIDY: I’m attempting to hold President Trump accountable. And that is the trust that I have from the people who elected me. And I am very confident that as time passes, people will move to that position. 

The state’s Republican party censured Cassidy for the vote, but he said he believes the majority of Louisiana voters stand with him.  

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he did not believe an impeachment trial of a former president was constitutional. But in a scathing criticism of Trump, he said that was the only reason he voted to acquit. 

MCCONNELL: This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said McConnell does not speak for most Republicans. 

GRAHAM: I thought the speech was not only unconstitutional. I condemn what happened on January the 6th, but the process they used to impeach this president was an affront to the rule of law.

On Friday, Sen. Graham said he plans to meet with former President Trump to discuss the future of the GOP and his role in the party.

‘Obamacare’ sign-ups reopen » Obamacare’s marketplace reopens today for a special three-month signup window. 

President Biden signed an executive order last month to re-open enrollment amid the pandemic. 

The exchange will accept applications through May 15th, a period about twice as long as the annual open enrollment.

At the same time, House Democrats are pushing for a temporary increase in subsidies for people with insurance plans through Obamacare. 

U.K. coronavirus variant appears to be more deadly » Researchers in the U.K. now say that the coronavirus variant that has forced the country into another large scale lockdown is likely more deadly. 

While the U.K. strain is more contagious, scientists first believed it was no more dangerous than the original coronavirus strain. But President Biden’s top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s This Week

FAUCI: The somewhat comforting news is that the vaccine that we are now currently distributing, the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine, clearly work against this variant. 

But the same cannot be said for the South African variant. Fauci called the data on that strain “quite sobering.” 

He said that variant can evade much of the protection that the vaccines provide. 

FAUCI: It doesn’t eliminate it, but it diminishes it by multiple fold. 

And scientists in South Africa report numerous instances of people who have recovered from COVID-19 being reinfected with the newer variant.

That means prior infection with earlier strains does not protect against the newer South African strain.

Positive cases of both variants have been identified in the United States.  

CDC issues guidance for reopening schools » The CDC has issued new guidance for safely reopening schools. 

Officials said there is strong evidence now that schools can reopen, especially at lower grade levels.

Recommended measures include hand washing, disinfection of school facilities, diagnostic testing, and contact tracing. It’s also more emphatic than past guidance on the need to wear masks in school.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday…

WALENSKY: Most disease transmission does not happen in the walls of the school. It comes in from the community. There’s very limited transmission between students, between students and staff. Really mostly between staff to staff when there are breaches in mask wearing. 

The agency’s guidance is just that—guidance. It cannot force schools to reopen, and CDC officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all schools immediately reopen.

Guinea declares Ebola epidemic » Health officials in Guinea on Sunday confirmed that at least three people have died there from Ebola. And four others are confirmed to be ill with the virus. 

The seven positive cases are the first since Guinea and two other West African nations fought the world’s deadliest Ebola epidemic five years ago.

The government has declared a new Ebola epidemic.

Guinea’s announcement comes one week after eastern Congo confirmed it also had cases, though the cases are not linked.

Health experts in Guinea say these latest cases could be a major setback for the impoverished nation, already battling COVID-19, and still recovering from the previous Ebola outbreak that killed 2,500 in that country.

(Senate Television via AP) In this image from video, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks after the Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. 

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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