Jan. 21 Weekly News Digest: Omicron spikes, Loy Norrix walkout and voting rights bills


Credit: Gigi Fox

Students protest KPS policies in front of Loy Norrix High School.

News Team

COVID Updates

Important Information

Starting on January 18th, the Biden-Harris administration will be allowing Americans to order 4 free at-home COVID tests, following the surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19. Within 7-12 days, your COVID-19 tests can be shipped right to your home. You can order your family’s tests here.

COVID Statistics

According to The New York Times’ COVID dashboard, there have been over 762 thousand new cases each day of COVID-19 in the United States, as of January 18th. Around 11 thousand cases are concentrated in Michigan and out of the new daily Michigan cases, roughly 342 are from Kalamazoo County. 


KPS News

Over the past week, 2 Kalamazoo students have passed away due to current COVID-19 conditions in Kalamazoo County: Kalamazoo Central senior Taigan Bradford died on January 11th, after her long fight with COVID and Cyasia Buchanon, and a 9-year-old student who attended Woods Edge Learning Center passed away on January 15th.

On January 17th, a group of approximately 35 Loy Norrix students walked out of the school in protest of the COVID-19 protocols and the current police presence in Norrix. Read the Knight Life brief on the protest here.


State News

The University of Michigan president, Mark Schlissel, was fired on January 15th due to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. Schlissel and the anonymous correspondent’s redacted emails were released after the UofM board of regents’ investigation into the matter. Previous UofM president Mary Sue Coleman will temporarily hold the presidency after Schlissel’s termination.

Former Michigan State Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield has been accused of sexual assualt and abuse towards his sister-in-law Rebekah Chatfield.  She claimed he took advantage of her while she was a student at the Christian academy where Lee Chatfield was teaching and he continued the alleged abuse until 2021.  In a statement on January 7th, Lee Chatfield’s lawyer stated that there had been a consensual affair between them but denied the allegations of rape and assualt. 


National News

On January 15th, a synagogue in Texas was attacked by an armed gunman who took four hostages. Due to the Sabbath services being live streamed, the gunman made his demands in front of the congregation online. According to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the hostages, the man was motivated by a conspiracy theory that “Jews control the world.” After 11 hours, the hostages escaped physically unharmed. 

According to the Red Cross, America is facing one of the worst blood shortages in a decade. As a result of the pandemic, many crucial blood drives have been canceled as well as a drop in donations leading to a detrimental lack of blood storage. In their official statement they claimed that there was “less than a one-day supply of critical blood types” in storages across the country. 


International News

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine´s capital to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday. They discussed U.S. support for Ukraine as the tensions between them and Russia continue to rise. According to BBC News, Blinken has called on Russia to take a “diplomatic and peaceful path.”. On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced that they will provide $200 million more dollars in financial aid towards Ukraine. On Friday, Blinken will meet with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, to ease tensions.

Australia hit a new record high temperature of 123.3 degrees Fahrenheit on January 13th.  This temperature was recorded in Onslow, Australia and is tied with the previous heat record in the Southern Hemisphere.  The heat wave grew throughout the week and continued until that Friday, losing intensity over time.  

A volcano erupted near the Polynesian archipelago Tonga, causing several islands to be coated in ash and triggering multiple tsunamis. According to NPR, the blast was equivalent to over five-hundred times the power of a nuclear bomb. The eruption could be heard as far as Alaska, and citizens of the West Coast were issued a tsunami warning following the eruption. 


Keeping up with Congress

There are two bills making their way through Congress this week that would enhance voter protections and rights for Americans; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a House bill proposed by Terri Sewell (D-AL), seeks to reverse the 2013 Supreme Court Decision regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965; “That law required that states with a history of voting rights discrimination, largely in the South, to get preclearance from the Department of Justice before making any changes to voting laws,” wrote Brian Naylor in “The Senate is set to debate voting rights. Here’s what the bills would do” from NPR. The Lewis Act aims to restore this provision and readjust the requirements states must have to need preclearance. The Freedom to Vote Act, a Senate bill sponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), is far more sweeping legislation that handles many legislation changes from making election day a national holiday to requiring that states replace out of date ballot machines. 

A significant Senate bill was proposed by Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Mark Kelly (R-AZ) and is called the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act. This act “requires all Members of Congress, and their spouses and dependent children, to put certain investments into a qualified blind trust or divest them within 120 days after the enactment of this legislation,” according the summary supplied by Senators Ossoff and Kelly. The bill comes on the heels of a Business Insider investigation which exposed 54 members of Congress who, in violation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012, incorrectly reported their stock trades and other financial dealings. 

With midterm elections approximately 10 months away, congressional seats are up for grabs as both parties vie for control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2022. There are currently 34 of 100 seats up for reelection in the Senate, fourteen of which are held by Democrats and twenty of which are held by Republicans. All House seats are up for grabs in the midterms, as the two year terms of each representative comes to an end. Thirty-eight representatives have announced their retirement at the end of this term (26 Democrats and 12 Republicans). Currently, Democrats hold a 232-197 advantage over Republicans.

In the ongoing Congressional investigation into the January 6 insurrection, important subpoenas have been issued for former president Donald Trump’s allies and for social media companies for records related to the attack. Congress’ Select Committee, appointed to investigate the attack, continues to seek information from those involved in events that directly followed the insurrection as well as the events prior to and during.