Omicron in the crosshairs

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A vaccine specifically made to target the omicron variant is in the works. We're living in the hottest years in Earth's history. Gen X is getting its own museum exhibit, and we suddenly feel old.

👋 It's Laura. It's Tuesday. It's Tuesday's news.

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Pfizer developing vaccine to target omicron

Developing a COVID-19 vaccine specifically designed to target the omicron variant is "the most likely scenario," Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said as new coronavirus cases exploded to over 700,000 a day on average in the U.S. Bourla said Pfizer is developing an omicron-targeted vaccine, in addition to a shot that includes both the previous vaccine as well the omicron-specific vaccine, or a "hybrid," as he described. Bourla said the pharmaceutical company will have the quantities to launch the vaccine in March. And while he said "no one has a crystal ball," the CEO said he believes the general population will have to receive an annual booster shot to keep COVID-19 at bay. The omicron variant appears to be causing milder illness than the delta variant, but COVID-19 remains a much more dangerous disease for the unvaccinated.

A family wearing face masks walks through Union Station in Los Angeles last Wednesday. With the omicron variant driving a surge of COVID-19 cases, California announced that a statewide indoor mask mandate, due to expire on Saturday, will be extended until at least Feb. 15.
A family wearing face masks walks through Union Station in Los Angeles last Wednesday. With the omicron variant driving a surge of COVID-19 cases, California announced that a statewide indoor mask mandate, due to expire on Saturday, will be extended until at least Feb. 15.

Could school have done more to stop teen shooter?

Nearly three weeks before Ethan Crumbley allegedly shot up Oxford High School, he brought a bird's head to school in a mason jar filled with yellow liquid and left it in a bathroom, according to new claims in a lawsuit. School officials knew the sophomore had done this, the suit states, but told students and parents there was nothing to worry about. On the day before the massacre, Crumbley brought bullets to class, which school officials knew about, the suit claims. "The school was on alert about Ethan," attorney Nora Hanna said. Eleven new counts against school officials were added to a lawsuit, alleging they knew multiple troubling details about Crumbley before the shooting, and that they accelerated the teen's "murderous rampage" through a series of missteps. Read more about the lawsuit here.

Flowers are attached to the fence outside of the tennis courts at Oxford High School as a memorial in memory of the four students fatally shot.
Flowers are attached to the fence outside of the tennis courts at Oxford High School as a memorial in memory of the four students fatally shot.

What everyone's talking about

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Biden backs filibuster change to pass voting rights

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for a limited exception to the Senate filibuster in order to pass federal voting rights legislation, yielding to demands from Democrats and civil rights advocates to take a more aggressive stance on preserving ballot access. In his most forceful plea yet for election reform, Biden endorsed altering the Senate rules "whichever way they need to be changed" to bypass Republican opposition to two voting rights bills in the Senate. The president had initially resisted the rules change even as Republican-led states enacted a spate of new voting restrictions. The speech in Georgia is part of a full-throated effort by Democrats to muscle the voting rights bills through Congress, as progressives and activists push the White House to be more aggressive on an issue they view as critical ahead of November's midterm elections.

President Joe Biden speaks on voting rights at Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta on Jan. 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks on voting rights at Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta on Jan. 11, 2022.

It's hot, and it's getting hotter

The past seven years were Earth's warmest on record "by a clear margin," according to new research released this week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a group affiliated with the European Union. Specifically, 2021 was the planet's fifth-warmest year on record, the group said. The two warmest years, according to the Copernicus group, were 2020 and 2016. And despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane – the main drivers of global warming – continued to increase in 2021. "Carbon dioxide and methane concentrations are continuing to increase year on year and without signs of slowing down," Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said. Check out more details from the report here.

A building burns in the suburb of Superior, Colo., as a wind-driven wildfire forced evacuations on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 30, 2021.
A building burns in the suburb of Superior, Colo., as a wind-driven wildfire forced evacuations on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 30, 2021.

Real quick

The nostalgia is strong with this one

Get ready to walk down memory lane, Gen X. Generation X may be perfectly happy being the "Forgotten Generation" as baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z call each other out on social media, but Illinois State Museum is turning the spotlight on Xers. The museum's Springfield facility will open an exhibition entitled “Growing Up X,” in October, dedicated to those born generally from 1965 to 1980, described by the museum as “the last generation to have had an analog childhood." Want to get involved? Dust off that Walkman and get the rollerblades out of the closet. Xers are invited to fill out a survey online about their experiences growing up and to loan the exhibition items from that era.

An employee of the music shop 'Record Collector' holds copies of Metallica's reissued 1982 demo tape 'No Life til Leather' on cassette, for 'Record Store Day', in Sheffield, Northern England on April 17, 2015.
An employee of the music shop 'Record Collector' holds copies of Metallica's reissued 1982 demo tape 'No Life til Leather' on cassette, for 'Record Store Day', in Sheffield, Northern England on April 17, 2015.

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Omicron variant, President Biden speech, climate change, Gen X museum. It's Tuesday's news.

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