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Miguel Cardona confirmed as Biden Education secretary

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Miguel Cardona confirmed as Biden Education secretary

President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Education, Miguel Cardona, was confirmed on Monday, amid mounting pressure on the administration to stand up to the teachers unions and get kids back in class.

The Senate voted 64-33 to confirm Cardona, a former public school teacher and principal who went on to become Connecticut’s education chief.

Cardona, 45, has previously vowed to make getting kids back into classrooms a top priority.

At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, he said that there are “great examples throughout our country of schools that have been able to reopen safely” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While his position carries limited authority to force schools to reopen, Cardona will play a key role in achieving Biden’s stated goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools five days a week within his first 100 days in office.

He will be tasked with setting up reopening guidelines for local school districts and sharing best practices for how to teach during the pandemic.

Cardona will also be tasked with helping school address the damage that remote instruction has done on student learning.

He has previously called on schools to expand summer academic programs and hire more counselors to help students with mental health issues.

Biden has been under growing pressure to use his influence to get kids back to class, while also facing pushback from the powerful teacher’s unions that helped put him in the White House.

The president has said his goal is possible if Congress approves his massive relief bill, which includes $130 billion for the nation’s schools.

The administration has sought to downplay Biden’s role in both establishing federal guidelines for school reopening and in pressuring the teachers’ unions to get their members back into classrooms.

“The role the president can play is to work with Congress to get to the necessary funding. That is the role he can really play,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released a guide for the phased reopening of schools. The agency said mask-wearing and social distancing should be used, but that vaccinating teachers wasn’t a prerequisite.

With Post wires

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship including Bible studies and prayer meetings.

The order from the court late Friday is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.

Five conservative justices agreed that California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.

California has already, however, announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state.

The case before the justices involved California rules that in most of the state limit indoor social gatherings to no more than three households. Attendees are required to wear masks and physically distance from one another. Different restrictions apply to places including schools, grocery stores and churches.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” it said. 

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on gatherings will change next week but said the restrictions remain in place until then and that “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself and her liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that the court’s majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” she wrote. She added that “the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.”

The case before the justices involved two residents of Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, who want to host small, in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. California had defended its policy of restricting social gatherings as “entirely neutral.”

The court has dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions impacting worship services. While early in the pandemic the court sided with state officials over the objection of religious groups, that changed following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In November, the high court barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. And in February, the high court told California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, though it let stand for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

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Georgia is the fourth state to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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Georgia is the fourth state to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine

A coronavirus vaccine site in Georgia became the fourth US location this week to pause its administration of the Johnson & Johnson jab after concerns over possible adverse reactions, a report said.

Eight people experienced lightheadedness after getting the shot Wednesday at the Cumming Fairgrounds, though health officials believe that could have simply been caused by the hot weather, WSB-TV reported.

“It was a fainting issue,” Dave Palmer, North Georgia Health District spokesperson, told the outlet.

“We don’t think it’s anything to do with the vaccine. It’s probably more environmental factors,” Palmer said.

Adverse reactions were incurred by less than 2% of the 435 people who received the vaccine at the site, the report said.

“That facility is hard to cool, and we do have fans there, but it was a warmer day,” Palmer told the station. “I think the heat may have had some bearing on it. We’re not sure.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also halted in the past week at sites in Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa.

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Prince Phillip spent his last days in the sun and with the Queen

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Prince Phillip spent his last days in the sun and with the Queen

Prince Philip spent much his final days sleeping, according to a new report — but in his best waking hours, he soaked in the sun with a blanket on his lap and Queen Elizabeth at his side, according to a new report.

And she was at his bedside when his end came at Windsor Castle on Friday morning at age 99, the UK’s Telegraph reported of Philip.

The Duke of Edinburgh had insisted, according to the Telegraph, that he would die in his own bed.

“There were moments of great lucidity and joyful togetherness,” even toward the end, wrote Richard Kay, Editor-at-Large at the Daily Mail and a former top royal correspondent and gossip columnist there.

He could walk, though with difficulty and using a cane.

“Occasionally, he would allow himself to be pushed in a wheelchair, but staff were very wary of suggesting it,” Kay wrote.

“When it first appeared in the private rooms he shouted: ‘Get that bloody thing out of my sight,’ recalls an aide.

Philip ate little, Kay’s report said, and had discontinued the 7:30 a.m. tray of morning tea traditionally delivered to his bed by a valet or page. And he declined many of the other trays of food that would be brought up later in the day.

But on his best days, as recently as early this week, he still read and wrote letters.

And he’d dress in a shirt, pressed trousers and polished shoes, and ask for a chair to be brought outside.

There in the sunshine, overlooking the castle’s scenic grounds, he’d nod off “with a rug over his legs,” the report said.

At the very end, his last wish was fulfilled — to die in the comforts of home, instead of in the hospital, as a royal source told The Post.

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