Omicron Update

January 2022 has been the month of omicron, with daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. reaching never-before-seen heights.

The CDC recorded a record-breaking 1,333,656 cases on Jan.10th, 2022.

And while numbers are beginning to decline, with many hoping a national peak has been reached, experts are still urging caution.

Low vaccination rates among U.S. citizens in comparison to other developed countries are still a concern. Hospitalizations and deaths are also often lagging indicators, so the worst may be yet to come in terms of the effects on America’s overwhelmed healthcare system.

The Biden administration has been making moves to lessen the current wave’s impacts, but for many, these policies are being considered too little too late.

On Jan. 19th, 2022, a government website was launched, allowing Americans to order rapid tests and have them shipped straight to their household. The administration also announced a plan to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at locations across the country.

Tensions Rise in Eastern Europe

Ukraine is at the center of escalating tensions between Russia and the West, as the former has deployed a force of over 100,000 soldiers to its border with Ukraine. Fears of a possible Russian attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv are central to the concerns.

Russian-Ukrainian pressure is not new due to a combination of short and long-term factors.

In 2014, Russia took military action in Ukraine, and parts of the country have been living under the threat of invasion and occupation for almost 8 years.

While Ukraine’s ties with the West have deepened since its separation from the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, still believes that deep cultural and political bonds remain between Ukraine and Russia.

The current military buildup may also have to do with America’s perceived failure in Afghanistan.

K.T. McFarland, former national security advisor to former president Donald Trump said, “Whatever happened in Afghanistan had a ripple effect on Ukraine ... they’ll 'think this is my time.' America’s weak. It’s disorganized.”

For the U.S.’s part, its leaders are in complete agreement with European leaders on Russia’s actions.

“If there is any further Russian aggression, in terms of sending Russian forces into Ukraine,” Anthony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State said. “There will be a swift, severe, and united response.”

Eight-thousand-and-five hundred US troops have been put on heightened alert and will deploy as Nato reinforcements in Europe if necessary.

SAT Goes Digital

The SAT is getting revamped! The new online exam is a move to boost the SAT’s relevancy as more colleges and universities begin to make standardized testing optional for admission.

In Dec. 2021, Harvard University dropped their standardized test requirement through 2026 due to the pandemic, and nearly 80% of all degree-granting institutions are not requiring them for fall 2022 students.

While the test is online, students will still be required to take it at a monitored testing site, rather than at home.

The format change will also bring the test from a length of three hours to a length of about two. Reading passages will be shorter and more reflective or works read by students in higher education, and calculators will be allowed during the entirety of the math section.

“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” Priscilla Rodriguez, Vice President of College Readiness Assessments for the College Board, said in a news release.

It will be available internationally in 2023 and in the U.S. in 2024.