National News: New coronavirus variant emerges, sex trafficker faces trial, vaccines define 2021

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, listen Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This week, the United States and other countries prepared responses to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the trial of alleged sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell began and Merriam-Webster dictionary chose ‘vaccine’ as their word of the year. 

Coronavirus omicron variant; U.S. response  

The Associated Press reported on Biden’s expected response to the coronavirus omicron variant after restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries earlier last week.  

According to AP, Biden is not expected to push anymore travel restrictions or mandates, but rather will continue to push the American people to get fully vaccinated, as well as to get their booster shots. 

AP reported “roughly 80 million Americans aged 5 and up haven’t yet received a shot.”  

“But Biden was not expected to announce any new virus-related restrictions, beyond last week’s move to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region, effective Monday,” AP said.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, noted concerns of the omicron variant reaching the U.S., highlighting that this is inevitable.  

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s leading COVID-19 adviser, said Monday that there were as yet still no cases of the variant identified in the U.S. but that it was “inevitable” that it would make its way into the country eventually,” AP reported.  

Fauci added that epidemiologists will hopefully better understand the efficacy of the current COVID-19 vaccine against the variant in the coming weeks. As of right now, it is too early to note whether it is more dangerous than other strains, according to Fauci.  

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, seated far left, listens while Judge Alison Nathan, second from right, questions a prospective juror during the voire dire portion of the jury selection,Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in New York. Prospective jurors got their first glimpse of Maxwell, the British socialite charged with helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls and women, when a judge began questioning them individually Tuesday. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

Ghislaine Maxwell trial begins   

Ghislaine Maxwell is being charged with sex trafficking minors, and opening statements began on Monday, according to National Public Radio.  

Allegedly, Ghislaine Maxwell had helped sex traffic underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, who died in 2019 during his time in a federal detention center. Epstein’s death has been ruled a suicide.  

“Maxwell faces six federal charges of sex trafficking. She’s accused of grooming underage girls between the mid-’90s and early 2000s, offering them expensive trips and gifts and then exploiting them. She’s also accused of participating in the abuse in some instances,” NPR reported.  

If Maxwell is found guilty, she can face up to 70 years in prison, according to NPR.  

FILE – A medical staff member prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. on Jan. 21, 2021. Merriam-Webster has declared vaccine its 2021 word of the year. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Merriam-Webster announces ‘vaccine’ as their word of the year  

Merriam-Webster dictionary announced ‘vaccine’ as their word of the year after reporting a 601% increase in searches following 2020, according to NBC news.  

“Compared with 2019, when there was little urgency or chatter about vaccines, Merriam-Webster logged an increase of 1,048 percent in lookups this year,” NBC noted.  

According to NBC, the word ‘vaccine’ originated from the Latin word that means ‘of or from a cow,’ ‘vaccinus.’  

Interest in the word peaked this year following debates of booster safety, COVID-19 vaccine mandates and unequal distribution of the vaccine, according to Merriam-Webster.  

“Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster added to its online entry for “vaccine” to cover all the talk of mRNA vaccines, or messenger vaccines such as those for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna,” NBC reported.  

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