GameStop. That's what's up.

Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY
·6 min read

People are absolutely fired up about a GameStop trading freeze. And on the COVID-19 front, we've got some good news (a promising vaccine!) and not-so-good news (another variant in America).

And with that, it's Ashley. Let's talk news.

But first, American heroes: Thirty-five years ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded a little more than a minute after liftoff, killing all seven crewmembers. Today, the nation remembers Christa McAuliffe – the first U.S. civilian to lift off.

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Everything you wanted to know about the great GameStop surge of 2021

Before this week, GameStop was a struggling retailer doing its best to sell video games. This week, it’s become a battleground where swarms of smaller investors took a stand against the 1%. Small investors on Reddit, under the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, banded together to help drive GameStop shares up. It worked. The action pushed GameStop’s stock as high as $480 a share Thursday, up from $17.25 a few weeks ago. It's not just GameStop. Shares of AMC Entertainment jumped more than 230% Wednesday as the Twitter trend #SaveAMC spread. There’s a lot to unpack here, and since I’m no stock expert, I asked our brilliant money reporter Brett Molina for some insight:

  • Why are Reddit users suddenly taking on Wall Street? Brett Molina: "It's really about ~ sticking it ~ to hedge funds and big investors who they feel trample over the smaller investors. It's like David vs. Goliath, but with a lot more money."

  • Are there “good guys” and “bad guys”? BM: "Judging by reactions on social media, it appears ‘the good guys’ are this group of Reddit investors taking on Wall Street. Who doesn't love an underdog? But Wall Street investors weren't necessarily doing anything illegal to start this, just betting against stocks (a short sale)."

  • Explain that bit, a short sale. How does that work? BM: "Investors were betting for a stock price to drop. It works like this: A hedge fund borrows shares from an investor. They sell them right away. To make money, they buy the shares back then return them when the stock price drops. But if it doesn't drop? Uh-oh."

  • Why is everyone upset at Robinhood, the stock trading platform? And what rights do Robinhood users have? BM: "They stopped people from buying stocks like GameStop and AMC, which many have interpreted as helping larger investors. One investor has filed a class-action lawsuit against Robinhood for the pause."

  • Is this going to change Wall Street as we know it? BM: "This could bring fresh scrutiny from lawmakers seeking to understand why this is happening. Whether we see fundamental shifts at Wall Street remains to be seen."

  • Is this a good thing for GameStop and AMC? BM: "Here's the problem: Their businesses in general still aren't doing that great. AMC just dodged bankruptcy, and GameStop is still fighting against the shift to online shopping."

  • Investing is a hot topic. Any advice for newbies? BM: "Speculating to stick it to the Hedge Fund Man may come with a hefty price tag. Be careful out there."

What everyone’s talking about, besides GameStop

Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine shown to be nearly 90% effective

Another COVID-19 candidate vaccine, Novavax, appears to be safe and roughly 90% effective against the virus that causes the disease. Interim results showed the vaccine provided strong immunity against the U.K. variant, but another interim study found limited effectiveness against the variant from South Africa. The U.S. government has spent $1.6 billion to buy 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which should be ready this year.

The South African COVID-19 variant is here

Speaking of the South Africa variant, it's in the USA. Two cases of the South Africa variant of COVID-19 were identified in South Carolina. Tho there's no evidence infections from the variant cause more severe disease, it appears to be about 50% more contagious. What are all the new COVID-19 variants and how dangerous are they? Here's everything you need to know.

Palm Desert resident Luther Wood, 82, celebrates his Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Eisenhower Health's clinic for patients age 75 and older on Jan. 26 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Palm Desert resident Luther Wood, 82, celebrates his Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Eisenhower Health's clinic for patients age 75 and older on Jan. 26 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Real quick

COVID-19 deaths at NY nursing homes undercounted by 50%

COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents in New York have been undercounted by about 50%, a probe by the state attorney general's office found. How'd this happen? The investigation asserts that the state Department of Health's controversial policy to publicly report only the COVID-19 deaths of residents inside nursing homes and exclude deaths of residents transferred to hospitals hindered attempts to improve conditions inside the facilities – such as poor infection control practices and understaffing. The true COVID-19 death toll of New York nursing home residents is closer to 13,000, as opposed to the 8,677 reported by the state Department of Health, according to the investigation's findings.

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GameStop stock, Reddit, COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax: Thursday's news