Test yourself before you wreck yourself

·5 min read

You can now order your free at-home coronavirus tests online. Because of the potential for big problems, wireless carriers will hold off on 5G rollout near airports. And a Texas grandma is lauded as a hero after she was killed defending her co-worker.

👋 It's Laura. It's Tuesday. Here's the news you need to know!

But first, meet baby Rose! 🐧 The Cincinnati Zoo named its month-old little blue penguin "Rose" after Betty White's "Golden Girls" character.

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COVID-19 test website launches a day early

Surprise! A website where Americans can order up to four free coronavirus testing kits per address is available online after launching a day earlier than expected. The tests, part of the Biden administration's purchase of 500 million last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, are available at COVIDTests.gov and will be mailed to homes within 7-12 days through the U.S. Postal Service. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the site is in its beta phase to allow troubleshooting. "We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two,” she said. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting records in the USA.

The White House wants to get coronavirus tests into the hands of Americans.
The White House wants to get coronavirus tests into the hands of Americans.

Volcanic ash coats Tonga, causing supply delivery issues

A thick layer of volcanic ash blanketed Tonga in images that showed the aftermath of Saturday's massive undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami that disrupted communication with the small island nation. New Zealand's military promised shipments of water and other supplies but announced Tuesday that the ash coating Tonga's runways would delay flights by at least another day. Thick ash and smoke from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano contaminated the rainwater many residents rely on to drink, prompting authorities to ask residents to wear masks and drink bottled water. Two deaths were reported, and tsunami waves rose about 2.7 feet, but Tonga avoided the widespread disaster many had feared. Concerns remain over the impact on two smaller islands as fractured communication continues.

Volcanic ash covers roofs and vegetation in an area of Tonga on Jan. 17. Thick ash on an airport runway delayed aid deliveries to the Pacific island nation, where damage was reported days after a huge undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami.
Volcanic ash covers roofs and vegetation in an area of Tonga on Jan. 17. Thick ash on an airport runway delayed aid deliveries to the Pacific island nation, where damage was reported days after a huge undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami.

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Hitting pause on 5G near airports

In a last-minute decision on a big rollout, AT&T and Verizon announced they will hold off on activating 5G within 2 miles of airports when the rest of their 5G networks go live Wednesday. President Joe Biden thanked the wireless carriers for their decision a day after CEOs of the nation's largest airlines and shipping carriers asked federal authorities for "immediate intervention" to block AT&T and Verizon from launching part of their highly anticipated 5G network. "The FAA and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries," a Verizon spokesperson said. AT&T expressed similar frustration. At issue is 5G's C-Band, in which carriers invested billions of dollars last year. Rollout is slated to begin for the rest of the nation Wednesday, but industry group Airlines for America warned the frequency could interfere with devices that measure airplane altitude and impact safety near airports.

An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner approaches for a landing at the Miami International Airport on December 10, 2021.
An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner approaches for a landing at the Miami International Airport on December 10, 2021.

Meteorologists have some snowstorm predictions

Don't put away those warm blankets just yet. While folks were cleaning up from a potent storm that walloped much of the central, southern and eastern USA with snow and ice over the holiday weekend, forecasters eyed additional wintry storms that could affect millions in the days ahead. "There could be a narrow, sneaky zone of 3 inches of snow from parts of the Tennessee Valley to the lower Mid-Atlantic coast in the Wednesday night to Thursday time frame," AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. After that storm exits the scene Thursday, the stage will be set for another, potentially more impactful winter storm on Friday and Saturday for the Southeast and East Coast. Forecasters warn there's potential for enough snow, or a mix of snow and ice, to cause all kinds of nasty travel problems. Click here for the latest weather updates.

Record-breaking snow is falling all over the country and it's causing problems for many drivers, especially in Kentucky.
Record-breaking snow is falling all over the country and it's causing problems for many drivers, especially in Kentucky.

Real quick

Heroic grandma killed while protecting Cracker Barrel co-worker

A nightmare turned into a tragedy when Robin Baucom, 59, a grandmother in Houston, was shot in the chest and killed while protecting a Cracker Barrel co-worker Saturday. According to the police report, Baucom, a manager and 34-year employee at Cracker Barrel, opened the door of the restaurant to let in an employee trying to get away from two men who wanted to steal her purse. Baucom pushed one of the men who tried to force his way in, and the man shot her in the chest. The employee she was protecting fled to safety. Baucom died at a hospital Sunday, according to Harris County Constable Mark Herman. No arrests have been made.

A break from the news

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID tests website, Tonga volcano, 5G near airports, snowstorm forecast. It's Tuesday's news.

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