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Woman killed after pushed onto NYC subway tracks in unprovoked attack, police say

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A woman died after she was pushed onto the New York City subway tracks and struck by an oncoming train, police said.

The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Times Square-42nd Street subway station while she was standing on the southbound R-Q train platform.

A man "suddenly pushed" the victim while she was waiting -- an unprovoked attack -- New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a press briefing Saturday, calling the attack an "absolute senseless act of violence."

Police found the woman under the train with "severe trauma" to her body and she was pronounced dead at the scene, Sewell added.

Authorities identified the victim as a 40-year-old Asian woman and New York City resident. Her name is being withheld pending family notification.

The suspect, who is believed to be homeless and known to authorities, fled the scene but turned himself in a short while later, police said.

NYPD Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox said detectives are working with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to determine the charges.

Sewell said they are "investigating all avenues" when asked if hate crime charges were being considered amid increased violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic. Police believe the suspect may have approached another person on the platform who is not Asian right before attacking the victim, she noted.

John "Janno" Lieber, acting chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, called the incident "unacceptable."

"This is a sad day," he said at the briefing, held in the train station where the woman died. "A New Yorker was going about her business right in the heart of our city, in the heart of our subway system in Times Square, and she lost her life. This is unconscionable."

"New Yorkers need a safe system," he added.

Mayor Eric Adams said the attack highlights the importance of those in crisis receiving mental health services to ensure that the city's streets "above ground and below ground" are safe.

"We're going to continue to do everything that's possible to make our subway system safe," he said at the briefing, "but again, we're calling on all of our partners, from lawmakers to law enforcement, VAs to judges, to ensure those who need mental health assistance receive that."

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Armed man takes hostages at Texas synagogue, source says

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(COLLEYVILLE, Texas) -- A hostage situation is underway at a synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Saturday, several sources told ABC News.

An armed suspect claiming to have bombs in unknown locations took a rabbi and three others hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel, a source familiar with the situation told ABC News. It is unclear to what extent the hostage-taker is armed.

A U.S. official briefed on the matter told ABC News the hostage-taker is claiming to be the brother of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, but authorities have not yet confirmed his identity. The suspect is demanding to have the sister freed, the official said.

Siddiqui is incarcerated at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, according to the source. She had alleged ties to al-Qaida and was convicted of assault and attempted murder of a U.S. soldier in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison.

There is believed to be one suspect at this time, the source said. The FBI has responded to the scene, along with local authorities and hostage negotiators. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also responding to the situation, according to an agency spokesperson.

A White House official confirmed to ABC News that the White House is "closely monitoring" the hostage situation. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has also been briefed on the situation, according to a DHS spokesperson.

The Colleyville Police Department's SWAT team responded to the area midday Saturday and evacuated residents in the immediate area.

As of 2:20 p.m. local time, the situation "remains ongoing," the department said on social media. "We ask that you continue to avoid the area."

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

75 million Americans under alert for winter storm, chilling temperatures

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Some 75 million Americans in 33 states, from the Dakotas to Georgia to Maine, are under alert Saturday through Monday for a massive winter storm and chilling temperatures.

At least 11 winter weather alerts and advisories are in effect, including a wind chill advisory for much of the Northeast, where wind chills -- what temperature it feels like -- were as low as minus 40 degrees F early Saturday.

A winter storm watch also is in effect from Arkansas to Pennsylvania for a much-anticipated winter storm that's already dumped more than a foot of snow across North Dakota and Iowa.

As the storm heads southeast toward the mid-Mississippi states Saturday into Sunday, and then toward the Northeast Sunday into Monday, more snow, ice and rain is expected.

Three to 6 inches of snow is possible in parts of the South, with Atlanta having the potential to see its first measurable snowfall in four years. Six to 18 inches of snow is possible in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The interior Northeast up through New England is expected to get hit with 6 to 18 inches of snow. Coastal areas of the Northeast, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, could see up to 3 inches of snow, though that will likely get washed away as the snow changes to rain by early Monday.

Dangerous road conditions, as well as power outages, are expected throughout the holiday weekend. The Interstate 95 corridor will likely see a wintry mix of rain, snow and ice Sunday into Monday.

Four states -- Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia -- declared states of emergency Friday ahead of the storm, while West Virginia declared a statewide "state of preparedness."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to gather essentials Saturday and stay off the roads Sunday and Monday as "significant impacts" are expected statewide.

"This storm's a menace," the governor said during a press briefing Saturday. "As much as a foot of snow's expected to fall in the mountains and foothills. And in central North Carolina, freezing rain and sleet on top of some snow will fall. The eastern part of our state expects heavy rain and flash flooding, plus high winds and gust."

In preparation, 10,000 workers from Duke Energy are being activated to help restore power. The state has also activated 200 National Guard members to assist with the transportation needs in western and central counties.

More than 1,200 state Department of Transportation employees and contractors have spread 2.5 million gallons of brine on roads since Thursday and prepared over 400 trucks ready to respond after the storm hits, North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said.

Boyette warned of likely delays in response times due to the widespread impact of the storm across the state, as well as labor shortages due to COVID-19.

"Travel could be greatly impacted for several days after the storm," he said, urging people to stay off the roads. "We will do everything we can to reopen roads as quickly as possible."

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said agencies are preparing to mobilize and deploy resources as needed in the state, as well as to aid neighboring states if needed.

Atlanta also is preparing for snow, with Mayor Andre Dickens telling Ellen Lopez of "Good Morning America": "We have 40 pieces of equipment that's ready to go. We have 300 employees. Gallons and gallons of brine. So we're trying to stay ahead of it."

ABC News' Hilda Estevez and Melissa Griffin contributed to this report.

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FAA to change how some planes land in effort to cut emissions

Aaron Foster/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- In an effort to cut emissions, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it's changing the way some planes land at U.S. airports.

Currently, most planes that land at airports descend in a stair-step method, where aircraft repeatedly level off and power up the engines during the descent. Under the agency's new 42 Optimized Profile Descents, or OPDs, planes will instead descend from cruising altitude to the runway in a smoother, continuous path with engines set at near idle.

"If you just think about what takes more energy, walking down the stairs or sliding down a slide, that's basically what the plane is doing," FAA spokesperson Matthew Lehner said in an interview with ABC News.

The move is part of the agency's work to achieve a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions aviation sector by 2050 -- part of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference last November.

"There's less fuel burn as you're sliding down toward the approach to the airport," Lehner said. "It also means with less fuel burning you get less emissions in the air."

In 2013, researchers with the FAA and the Georgia Institute of Technology found OPDs cut about 41 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 2 million gallons of jet fuel at Los Angeles International Airport in one year, which is equivalent to cutting 1,300 flights from Atlanta to Dallas, the FAA said.

The FAA implemented OPDs at various airports across the country in 2021, including Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Miami International Airport and Florida's Orlando International Airport. This year, it plans to implement the descents at New York's LaGuardia Airport, Missouri's Kansas City International Airport and Omaha, Nebraska's Eppley Airfield. It is also adding additional routes at Orlando International Airport.

In addition to cutting emissions, the agency said passengers might notice a smoother, quieter approach with the engine not revving throughout its descent. The continuous landing technique is also quieter for areas surrounding airports.

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6 hospitalized, 1 in critical condition, after shooting at Oregon concert

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(EUGENE, Ore.) -- Six people were transported to hospitals after a shooting at a concert hall in Eugene, Oregon, police said.

At 9:29 p.m. Friday, there were reports of multiple shots fired outside WOW Hall, where Lil Bean and Zay Bang were performing.

The Eugene Police Department and multiple law enforcement agencies responded, along with Eugene Springfield Fire.

Of the six victims that were shot, one is in critical condition, Eugene Police Department Chief Chris Skinner said during a press conference early Saturday.

Police don't yet know if the shooting was random or targeted, but Skinner said it was "one of the highest profile shootings we've had in the city of Eugene."

There are no reported fatalities at this time.

Police are looking for a single suspect, thought to be a male in a hoodie who was last seen running westbound away from the scene, Skinner said. The police chief added that he does not believe there is a broader safety risk to the community, but emphasized the suspect is still likely armed and dangerous.

"You may have heard that there was a shooting outside the WOW Hall tonight at the 'Lil Bean + Zay Bang'* concert," WOW Hall's Board Chair Jaci Guerena and Interim Executive Director Deb Maher said in a statement on the venue's website. "There is not much information currently available however we heard gunshots in the back parking lot. The motives are not yet known. We do know that some people were injured, but we do not know the extent of the injuries, and we do not want to speculate."

All classes held at the WOW Hall are canceled until further notice, they said.

"We at the WOW Hall want to thank all first responders who came so quickly to ensure everyone’s safety and administer first aid. We believe all staff and volunteers are safe and accounted for. This is unprecedented at the WOW Hall. The police are investigating. If we receive additional information, we will try to make it available," Guerena and Maher added.

The shooting is under active investigation.

Police are asking that anyone with information regarding the incident (case 22-00850) call 541-682-5111.

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A tsunami advisory has been issued for the US West Coast and Alaska

Tonga Geological Services

(NEW YORK) -- The National Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami advisory for the entire West Coast and Alaska in the wake of an undersea volcanic eruption near Tonga.

Nearly all coastal areas in California, Oregon, Washington, Southeast Alaska, South Alaska, the Alaskan Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands are under a tsunami advisory. British Columbia is also under advisory.

Japan's Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for the southern Amami island and Tokara island chain in Kagoshima Prefecture and a tsunami advisory for all coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean. Tsunami waves as high as 1.2 meters were reported near those islands around 11:30 a.m. eastern time.

A tsunami advisory means that a tsunami could produce strong currents or waves near the coastline. However, a tsunami advisory does not indicate a major tsunami event where water is actively entering coastal communities. In this circumstance, the tsunami is only dangerous to those in the water, or on the immediate beach -- like swimmers and boaters.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

ABC News' Daniel Manzo contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story's headline has been updated to report that a tsunami advisory, not a warning, was issued.

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Virginia, North Carolina issue states of emergency as snow takes aim on East Coast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Southern states have declared states of emergency as snow targets the East Coast this weekend.

The storm first hits the Midwest Friday night into Saturday. Roads will be dangerous in southern Minnesota and Iowa, where up to 10 inches of snow and gusty winds could cause whiteout conditions. The Midwest could see 6 to 12 inches of snow in some areas.

Saturday night into Sunday, the snow turns to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

A wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain could make roads extremely dangerous.

Three to 6 inches of snow is possible in parts of the South, with 6 to 18 inches possible in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. This storm has the potential to give Atlanta its first measurable snow in four years.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam have issued states of emergency as the storm approaches.

"This storm will bring significant impacts from snow, sleet and freezing rain in different parts of the state, with likely power outages and travel disruptions," Cooper warned.

Northam said, "I urge Virginians to take this storm seriously and make preparations now."

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has also declared a statewide "state of preparedness."

The storm will reach the mid-Atlantic later in the day on Sunday and may bring snow and a wintry mix to Washington, D.C., by Sunday evening. The Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey coastline will see rain and possibly strong winds.

For Monday morning, forecast models are showing heavy snow for the interior Northeast and light snow followed by rain for the major cities along the coast, like Boston, New York City and Philadelphia. But it is possible the storm shifts east, dropping heavy snow on the Interstate 95 corridor.

One to 3 inches of snow is possible for D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston before it's quickly washed away by Monday's rain. Six to 18 inches of snow is forecast for the interior Northeast and New England.

For those in the Northeast, make sure to bundle up as you await the snow: temperatures in the Northeast are plunging to their lowest levels in three years this weekend.

Saturday morning the wind chill -- what temperature it feels like -- will be 2 degrees in New York, minus 12 in Boston and minus 28 in Burlington, Vermont.

ABC News' Hilda Estevez contributed to this report.

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Students walk out over COVID-19 in-person learning conditions in schools

Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CHICAGO) -- Students are walking out of their classes in Boston, Chicago and other cities across the country in protest of in-person learning conditions as COVID-19 rages on.

Public school students in Boston left their classrooms at 10:30 a.m. Friday to demand that local leaders take more initiative in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools and implement a two-week period for remote learning.

"We will then stand there for exactly 10 minutes, one minute for every hundred thousand new COVID-19 cases found on the 2nd of January," according to a post from the student-run Massachusetts COVID Walkout Instagram page.

Following the walk-out, students held a webinar to discuss their fears about the handling of the pandemic in schools. Students at the virtual event recounted their urge to take action and keep their fellow students, teachers and staff safe.

They are demanding a two-week remote learning period, proper Personal Protective Equipment for teachers, adequate technology for remote learning and the cancellation of some standardized testing.

In a statement to ABC News, Boston Public Schools said it "believes deeply in students advocating for what they believe in."

"We further believe it is critically important that we encourage and support them in expressing their concerns, beliefs and positions to their leaders," the statement said. "We will continue to listen to our students and families as we navigate this latest surge and the impacts it has on our ability to remain in person and deliver a quality education."

In spring 2021, Massachusetts officials said remote learning would no longer count toward required learning hours. Any school-wide remote learning days must be made up by students and teachers at the end of the year.

Boston Public Schools has reported 3,483 COVID cases as of Jan. 5, according to the district website.

Students in Chicago also walked out of their classes Friday and chanted demands that schools address COVID-19 safety concerns.

As they walked en masse on the streets and toward the administrative offices of the Chicago Public School district, students yelled, "Si se puede," or "Yes, we can," as well as "No more oppression, change is now in session!"

Chicago Public Schools' Radical Youth Alliance, a student-run advocacy group, also sent a letter of demands to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CEO of Chicago Public Schools Pedro Martinez, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.

The students asked for transparency and accuracy in the school's COVID-19 data, youth participation in decision-making and accountability for "mistakes."

"As you consistently prove yourself and your leadership to be incompetent, we as Black and Brown young people are the common denominator of being the most harmed and impacted," the letter read. "We are tired, exhausted, and frustrated."

The group also backed the Chicago Teachers Union, which narrowly accepted a new agreement on COVID-19 safety precautions.

Chicago Public Schools had 10,928 cases among its students and staff since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the district website.

In a statement, Chicago Public Schools said it "remains committed to fostering learning environments that allow students to respectfully deliberate issues with evidence and an open mind – and safely participate in civic action."

According to the CPS website, students are required to wear masks in schools and answer a self-screener symptom questionnaire before school. Testing is optional.

Protests in New York, California and other states have highlighted the growing concerns that school leaders are failing to address COVID-19 and its impact on education and health in schools.

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Wordle takes the internet by storm

Michael Dobuski/ABC News

(NEW YORK) – The first big viral trend of 2022 is here, and it’s a colorful word game called Wordle.

Players who visit Wordle's website have six chances to guess a five-letter word, which has been randomly selected from a database. With each try, the game tells you how close your letters are to the "word of the day.” If the letters you pick are in the word but in the wrong order, Wordle highlights them in yellow. If the letters are in the word and placed correctly, they get highlighted in green. Gray-highlighted letters means they don’t appear in the word of the day.

“It's a good, fun game,” says Gizmodo Executive Editor Andrew Couts. “It only takes a couple of minutes, and it's something to talk about with your friends.” 

Wordle was created by New York software engineer Josh Wardle this past fall, but Couts says the game really became popular in late December and early January, and now boasts more than three hundred thousand daily players.

“It seemed after the holidays, everybody seemed to be playing this game and sharing it on Twitter, sharing it all over social media,” says Couts, adding that Wordle’s distinct visual style is key to its success. 

“It creates kind of a cool little pattern that the game makes it really easy to share on social media…so you can show people how well you did on the word of the day. And I think that's one of the big things that has made this game take off.”

Maryland prosecutor Marilyn Mosby indicted for allegedly lying on loan application spent on vacation home

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(BALTIMORE) -- A federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney for Baltimore City, on two counts of perjury and making false statements on mortgage applications that she allegedly used toward the purchase of two vacation properties in Florida, according to a case unsealed Thursday.

Mosby gained national prominence after filing charges against the six officers who arrested 25-year-old Freddie Gray in 2015. His death while in police custody led to several days of protests and at times violent unrest in Baltimore. None of the officers were eventually convicted on the charges.

The indictment alleges Mosby lied on federal loan applications, including one where she asserted she experienced "adverse financial consequences" in her position as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while prosecutors say her gross salary of nearly $250,000 was never reduced in 2020. In fact, the indictment says Mosby's gross salary increased by nearly $10,000 between 2019 and 2020.

As a result of her relief application, Mosby received $36,000, which she used "toward a down payment for a vacation home in Kissimmee Florida" that she purchased in September 2020.

The indictment accuses Mosby of making false statements on applications for a mortgages of nearly $500,000 for the Kissimmee, Florida, home and a nearly $430,000 mortgage for a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida.

If convicted of the charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland said Mosby faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each of the two counts of perjury and a maximum of 30 years for each of the two counts of making false mortgage applications, though actual sentences for such crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.

Mosby has not entered a plea to any of the charges and has not had her initial appearance scheduled as of Thursday evening.

A spokesperson for Mosby did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

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1 woman dead, 2 children injured in car crash with deputy chasing robbery suspect


(HOUSTON) -- A woman was killed and two children injured when a deputy collided with their vehicle while chasing a robbery suspect. Now, multiple authorities are investigating.

The incident occurred Wednesday night in Houston, after a Harris County Sheriff's deputy picked up a call about a nearby robbery where the suspect had fled the scene, police said.

Once in the area, the deputy saw a man leave a CVS and get into a car matching the description of the one involved in the robbery, according to Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Chandra Hatcher.

"The deputy at that point in time decided to stop the vehicle on a traffic stop. The suspect did not comply and a vehicle pursuit ensued," Hatcher told reporters during a late-night press briefing.

As the deputy entered an intersection with his lights and sirens on traveling eastbound, he collided with a black Kia Borrego traveling northbound, resulting in a "major crash," Hatcher said.

Police are still determining which was the "striking" vehicle, and how fast the deputy was driving, the chief said.

The impact of the collision caused the Kia to roll over and strike two other cars. The deputy's car caught fire and crashed into a nearby parking lot, striking several cars in the lot. Seven cars total were involved in the collision, police said.

The woman driving the Kia was pronounced dead at the scene. She has not been identified pending notification to family members by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Two children in the car were also transported to an area hospital. A 5-year-old boy is in critical condition, while a 2-year-old girl is in stable condition, said police, who have not provided details about the kids' relationship to the driver.

The deputy, who was pulled out of his burning patrol car by several citizens, was also hospitalized and is in stable condition, the sheriff's office said. He has not been identified.

Three people were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries after their cars were struck, Hatcher said.

"Our deepest condolences go out [to] the family of the female that was pronounced deceased at last night's pursuit crash at Laura Koppe & Lockwood," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement. "We pray for the recovery of the injured children and our deputy."

The suspect fled the scene in what authorities believe to be a gray Lincoln Town Car, according to Gonzalez.

Surveillance footage showed that an armed robbery occurred at the CVS, Hatcher said. The sheriff's office is investigating that incident and the first reported robbery.

The Houston Police Department is leading the ongoing investigation into the deadly crash.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office is also investigating the crash, Hatcher said. ABC News has reached out to the office for more information on its investigation.

Surveillance footage obtained by ABC Houston station KTRK captured the deputy's flaming car crashing into the parking lot.

Authorities commended the citizens who helped rescue the deputy from his burning car.

"We are very thankful that the citizens out here immediately jumped into action to help keep the deputy as safe as possible," Hatcher said.

Gonzalez said he was "very grateful for the heroic actions."

A good Samaritan, Johnny Walker, told KTRK in an emotional interview that he was finishing a job and ran outside when he heard the "boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom" of the crash.

"I ran out here to see what it is and I saw a lot of cars, but I paid attention to the fire," he told the station. "My instincts were to go to that car and help him out, because he was crushed in on both sides."

He said the deputy came to after they brought him inside a store, and they checked his pulse.

"I kept talking to him, 'Stay with us. Help is on the way,'" Walker told KTRK.

Walker believes he was "at the right place at the right time," though said through tears he was disappointed they weren't able to help the woman who died.

According to local reports, Walker, who is homeless, was reunited with his family after they saw him in news reports about the crash.

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What to know about Biden’s plan to ship Americans 1 billion free at-home COVID tests

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(WASHINGTON) -- Last month, President Joe Biden announced that 500 million free at-home rapid tests for COVID would be mailed out to American homes. On Thursday, Biden announced that he was doubling that promise and would now ship out another 500 million -- to make 1 billion in total.

That's on top of 50 million free at-home tests already sent to community health centers around the country, 20,000 free testing sites and an insurance reimbursement plan that goes into effect on Saturday to allow Americans to get tests covered if they find and buy them at retailers.

Taken together, it all signifies a clear effort on behalf of the administration to increase the testing supply after the omicron variant surge caught the government off guard.

But a timeline for when the 1 billion free tests will reach American households remains elusive. From obtaining the kits to packaging and mailing them to some 160 million households, the plan could take months to complete – well beyond what experts project will be the peak of the Omicron surge.

When will you see your free tests from the government?

Biden first announced the plan to ship out free tests to all Americans when it was nearly impossible to find any on pharmacy shelves and lines for testing sites were hours long. The free tests were welcome news.

But by mid-January, the Biden administration still hadn’t shipped out a single free test.

Details on the website Americans will use to request these tests will be revealed on Friday, along with information on when and how many tests each American can order, and the White House has said the first tests will be delivered by the end of the month.

Tens of millions of tests could go out in January, according to recently released contracts between the White House and testing companies, while more are expected to be delivered in February.

But interviews with the majority of the biggest at-home testing companies suggested that it will be months before all 500 million tests could reach American doorsteps, meaning it's unlikely the average American will get free tests delivered in time for the January peak of omicron cases predicted by most models.

And on Tuesday, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services gave a clearer timeline to Congress, telling senators that the remaining 500 million tests would go out "over the next 60 days."

So how long will it take for all 1 billion to reach Americans?

Biden’s announcement on Thursday that an extra 500 million tests would be added to the plan didn’t include any details on delivery.

If they’re sent out after the initial batch of 500 million, it will be at least mid-March before they reach Americans.

How hard will it be to deliver all of these tests?

It’s been increasingly difficult for testing companies to distribute their at-home rapid tests in the last few weeks.

"The supply chain challenges have been an issue for tests as they are with so many other goods and services," said Mara Aspinall, the head of the National Testing Action Program at the Rockefeller Foundation, which connects testing companies with state governments.

Some of it is general supply issues, like getting individual parts required to make the tests, but more and more Aspinall said she’s hearing that companies are seeing breakdowns in their shipping process because so many people are out with COVID.

And as more testing companies are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, there’s more competition for the shipping companies that help get these tests out.

But for Biden’s plan, the government will use the U.S. Post Office to get tests out -- hopefully bypassing distribution issues that testing companies face when they have to figure it out for themselves by using a massive government institution that successfully delivered over 13 billion pieces of mail and packages for the holidays with an average delivery time of less than 3 days.

Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, said Thursday that the Postal Service will retain up to 7,000 seasonal workers at 43 sites across the country to help package and label the tests, “and then from there, it will go into the regular mail stream,” a process that typically takes 2-5 days.

“This is absolutely feasible … as fast as the orders come in, the Postal Service should be able to handle it,” Dimondstein said. “Of course, the Biden administration needs to do its part for us to be able to do our part.”

As for the testing companies, Biden’s latest plan shows a commitment to avoiding the mistakes revealed by omicron.

Fast action requires manufacturing capabilities that the U.S. wasn't prepared for, in part because of the unpredictability of the virus but also due to the country's vaccine-focused approach over the past year, which drove down demand for tests and left the country with fewer tests when it needed them most.

"It is important for the U.S. to maintain the testing manufacturing capacity and supply during periods of low demand so we can respond to future variants and surges," John Koval, a spokesperson for the at-home testing company Abbott, told ABC News last week.

"We're on the right path now, but we can't be complacent or think that testing won't play a critical role in our ability to gather safely," he said.

ABC News' Mark Abdelmalek contributed to this report.

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COVID-19 live updates: Top scientists, doctors support Fauci after 'partisan' attacks

Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 843,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 62.6% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 14, 7:13 pm
Over $2B in contracts awarded in White House's at-home testing plan

The White House has awarded over $2 billion in contracts so far as part of its plan to ship millions of free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to Americans.

Among the most recent, three companies -- IHealth Labs, Roche Diagnostics Corp. and Abbott -- were selected out of 20 bids to manufacture a combined 380 million tests, with completion dates by March 14, according to a Pentagon advisory released Friday.

IHealth was awarded a $1.27 billion contract, Roche a $340 million contract and Abbott a $306 million contract, with all funds coming from the American Rescue Act, the Pentagon said.

The federal government had previously announced contracts for 48.3 million tests worth a combined $341 million.

Altogether, that amounts to about $2.2 billion for 428 million at-home rapid tests, which are part of a batch of 500 million the White House said it plans to ship out over the course of the next 60 days.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that the White House would also ship out another 500 million at-home tests, bringing the total to 1 billion. A timeline for the second batch of tests hasn't been announced yet.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez and Cheyenne Haslett

Jan 14, 5:54 pm
Cloth masks provide 'least protection,' CDC says

In newly updated COVID-19 guidance on its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that loosely woven cloth masks provide the "least protection", while masks like N95 respirators offer the highest level.

In some cases, Americans might want to opt for higher-quality masks like KN95 and N95 respirators, the agency said.

"Wearing a highly protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain higher risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for severe disease," the CDC stated.

The CDC recommendation stops short of calling on Americans to choose one mask over the other, maintaining that any mask is better than no mask.

The updated guidance comes after weeks of health experts urging Americans to upgrade their masks in the face of omicron.

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Jan 14, 2:50 pm
Free test website to launch Wednesday

The White House will launch a new website on Wednesday to distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests that'll be mailed to Americans' doorsteps, senior administration officials said on a Friday call with reporters.

People will be able to order four tests per household at from this first batch of 500 million. The White House will also launch a call line for people who don't have computer access.

The tests will take seven to 12 days to arrive, the senior officials said.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden also pledged a second 500 million tests, bringing the total free tests that will eventually be offered to Americans up to 1 billion.

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett

Jan 14, 2:32 pm
New York 'turning the corner,' governor says

New York is "turning the corner" following record-breaking COVID-19 cases over the holidays, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

She said the seven-day case average and positivity rate are heading down.

One week ago there were over 90,000 daily cases, and now just 49,027 daily cases, the governor said Friday.

However, state numbers may be skewed due to the increased demand in testing during the holidays.

New York state is seeing a slight decline in hospitalizations, but at 12,000 patients, that number "is still very high," the governor noted.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams said Friday “it really appears” hospitalization numbers are “stabilizing.”

"Based on our optimistic views, we appear to be moving in the right direction," he said.

-ABC News' Joshua Hoyos, Matt Foster

Jan 14, 2:00 pm
Hospitalizations and pediatric hospitalizations at all-time highs

Nationwide, more than 157,000 COVID-19-positive patients are currently receiving care -- a pandemic high, according to federal data.

More than 5,200 children are currently hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 – also a record high.

On average, over 20,000 Americans are being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 each day, a figure that's more than doubled over the last month, according to federal data.

It's still not clear how many of these patients were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 and how many people coincidentally tested positive after they were admitted for other reasons.

About 83% of staffed adult ICU beds are occupied (by COVID and non-COVID patients) -- the highest ICU capacity in one year, according to federal data.

On average, the U.S. is now reporting a record high of more than 782,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, according to federal data.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 14, 12:12 pm
Utah urges symptomatic people not to take up tests

Utah health officials on Friday announced a change to testing guidelines due to a shortage of test availability in the state.

Symptomatic individuals in the general public are urged not to test and just isolate for five days and the "Test To Stay" program at schools is being suspended.

Since Christmas Day, daily tests in Utah have jumped from about 19,000 to nearly 48,000.

State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said Utah must use its test supply where it has the biggest impact, and right now that's not in the general community or schools.

Utah officials say you should still get tested if: you have underlying conditions; you're visiting a vulnerable individual; you work in a health care setting and are symptomatic or have been exposed; you’re seeking confirmation that the infection has passed so you can end isolation.

-ABC News' Matt Fuhrman

Jan 13, 8:39 pm
Report shows omicron's rapid spread in NYC

Omicron became the dominant variant in New York City within five weeks after it was first detected, according to a new report released Thursday by the city's health department.

By comparison, it took 20 weeks for the delta variant to become dominant.

The report, which details preliminary findings on the city's omicron wave, found that there have been lower hospitalization rates but more total hospitalizations compared to the delta wave due to "significantly greater case numbers."

Unvaccinated New Yorkers were more than eight times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were fully vaccinated early in the omicron wave, the report found. Black New Yorkers and people ages 75 and older also were more likely to be hospitalized.

Jan 13, 7:56 pm
Study finds higher risk of COVID-19 complications for unvaccinated pregnant women

Unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID-19 and their newborn babies have a higher risk of complications from the disease compared with those who are vaccinated, a new study found.

In the study, published Thursday in Nature Medicine, researchers from Public Health Scotland looked at vaccination rates and COVID-19 outcomes in 131,875 pregnant women in Scotland between Dec. 8, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021, when the delta variant was dominant.

They found that 90.9% of COVID-19 hospital admissions, 98% of intensive care admissions and all 450 newborn deaths were in unvaccinated pregnant women.

The study reiterates the importance of pregnant women getting vaccinated against the virus due to a greater risk of dangerous health complications from COVID-19. A growing body of research has shown the vaccines to be safe and effective for pregnant women.

-ABC News' Dr. Siobhan Deshauer, Sony Salzman and Dr. Alexis Carrington

Jan 13, 6:58 pm
Over 200 scientists, doctors sign letter in support of Fauci

Following heated exchanges between Dr. Anthony Fauci and several Republican senators at a Congressional hearing Tuesday, more than 200 prominent science and public health leaders have now penned an open letter voicing their support of the White House chief medical adviser's service and leadership -- and condemning attacks against him.

"We deplore the personal attacks on Dr. Fauci," the letter says. "The criticism is inaccurate, unscientific, ill-founded in the facts and, increasingly, motivated by partisan politics. It is a distraction from what should be the national focus -- working together to finally overcome a pandemic that is killing about 500,000 people a year."

Signatories include former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a Republican; Rich Besser, former acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; members of President Joe Biden's transition COVID-19 task force; and several Nobel laureates.

The letter comes two days after a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing, during which Fauci publicly accused Republican Sen. Rand Paul of fomenting the violent threats and harassment that he and his family have had to contend with during the pandemic's politicized climate.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Jan 13, 4:23 pm
Inside an Ohio children's hospital facing a COVID surge

More than 300 children with COVID-19 are in Ohio hospitals, including Dayton Children's Hospital, where workers are seeing a significant increase in pediatric COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Dr. Vipul Patel, chief of pediatric intensive care at Dayton Children's, told ABC News the ICU is now busier than at any other point in the pandemic.

COVID-19 is only exacerbating previously existing health issues for many children, Patel explained, adding that many parents are shocked to see their children become so sick, and some families have even expressed regret for not vaccinating their kids. Nationwide, about 35% of eligible children (ages 5 to 17) are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

Dayton Children's respiratory therapist Hillary O’Neil said it's been particularly difficult to see children who are too young to understand what is happening sick and scared.

“You can see it in the faces of kids that can’t talk -- their eyes get really big and they, we watch them struggle to breathe,” O’Neil said. “Then on top of that we watch their parents struggle to watch their child, and that is sometimes just as hard as watching the kids.”

Jackie Kerby, whose baby, Enaeshya, is hospitalized with COVID-19, told ABC News, "She’s getting these fevers in the night, and they’re not coming down. … I am terribly scared."

Across the U.S. more than 5,000 children are currently hospitalized with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, according to federal data. On average, hospital admissions among children have quadrupled over the last month.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos, Kayna Whitworth

Jan 13, 3:20 pm
New York COVID-19 cases falling

New York state's COVID-19 cases are falling after experiencing a major surge over the holidays, according to state data.

New York recorded 60,374 new cases in the last 24 hours -- an improvement from New Year's Day when 85,476 daily cases were reporting during a spike in testing demands.

Jan 13, 3:00 pm
Supreme Court issues stay of vaccine-or-test requirement on private businesses

The Supreme Court has issued a stay of the vaccine-or-test requirement imposed on private businesses with at least 100 employees by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a 6-3 ruling, with the three liberal justices dissenting, the court finds likelihood the challengers will prevail and that OSHA exceeds its authority.

At the same time, the justices voted 5-4 to allow the Biden administration to require health care workers at facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients to be vaccinated, subject to religious or medical exemptions.

-ABC News' Devin Dwyer

Jan 13, 11:22 am
8,000 Delta employees test positive within 4 weeks

About 8,000 of Delta Air Lines' 75,000 employees had COVID-19 over the last four weeks, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC.

"Good news is that they were all fine. There's been no significant issues," he said.

"But it's knocked them out of the operation" amid the busiest travel season in two years, he said.

United CEO Scott Kirby said Tuesday that around 3,000 of United workers have COVID-19 right now.

Across the U.S., 3,783 TSA employees are currently at home with COVID-19, the agency said.

-ABC News' Mina Kaji, Sam Sweeney

Jan 13, 10:53 am
Biden: White House now trying to acquire 1 billion tests

President Joe Biden said he’s directing his team to procure 500 million additional tests to meet future demand -- bringing the total to 1 billion.

Biden said the White House is on track to roll out a website next week allowing Americans to order tests shipped to their homes.

The administration will also announce next week how it's making high-quality masks available for free, Biden said.

Biden also made a plea to social media companies and media outlets.

"Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows -- it has to stop," he said. "COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We’ve got to work together."

Jan 13, 10:27 am
US death toll up 50% since Christmas

The U.S. is now reporting an average of 1,650 new COVID-19-related deaths each day -- up by about 50% since Christmas, according to federal data.

Indiana currently has the highest death rate, followed by Delaware and New York City.

Twenty-six states are now averaging more daily cases than at any point in the pandemic, according to federal data.

Surging national case numbers, however, may not be indicative of what is happening in every region of the country. Some areas could see a decline or a plateau in cases, according to some experts.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 13, 5:02 am
Biden sending medical teams to hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19

President Joe Biden will deploy military medical teams to hospitals in six states where COVID-19 infections are surging.

Teams of doctors, nurses and clinical personnel will be sent as early as next week to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico, Biden is expected to announce on Thursday alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

Biden in December directed the defense secretary to ready 1,000 military medical personnel to deploy to hospitals across the country as needed in January and February. The teams now being readied will be the first to start arriving at hospitals.

They'll be sent to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Henry Ford Hospital near Detroit, University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Biden, Austin and Criswell on Thursday will also "be briefed on the administration’s efforts to send resources and personnel to hard-hit communities across the country that are experiencing a surge in hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant,” according to a White House official.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Jan 12, 7:24 pm
Testing labs now struggling with their own staffing shortages due to virus

The labs shouldering much of the nation's PCR COVID-19 testing are getting slammed with demand again during omicron's surge, and now they're grappling with a new challenge: their workforces are getting hit by the virus they've been tasked with tracking.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association, the national trade association representing some of the leading clinical labs responsible for COVID diagnostics, is warning that their members' workforce is strained as more workers call out sick.

"Labs are now facing a wave of new issues brought on by a fast-spreading variant that has not spared the laboratory care work force," an ACLA spokesperson told ABC News.

COVID-19 infections have increased laboratory staff sick leave -- a "significant factor in determining overall capacity" at an industry-wide level, the spokesperson said.

"We have been pressured to get our capacity where we believe it can be because of the labor problems we see," Quest Diagnostics CEO Steve Rusckowski said Wednesday at the JPM Healthcare Conference. "Some of this is just getting the labor to do our work, but secondly, is because of callouts because of the virus have been considerable over the last two weeks."

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Jan 12, 7:00 pm
Chicago teachers accept deal to reopen classes

Chicago teachers voted Wednesday to accept the deal made by the union and city to re start in-person classes.

The deal ended the five-day standoff after the union voted to switch to remote learning due to the omicron surge.

Union leaders made a tentative agreement on Monday and urged teachers to back the deal despite frustration that the district wouldn't grant demands for widespread coronavirus testing or commit to districtwide remote learning during a COVID-19 surge.

The final agreement will expand COVID-19 testing and create standards to switch schools to remote learning.

The deal also resulted in the purchase of KN95 masks for students and teachers and bigger incentives to attract substitute teachers. The city also agreed to give teachers unpaid leave related to the pandemic.

Jan 12, 6:07 pm
96% of Army members fully vaccinated

The U.S. Army released an update on the vaccine status of its members.

As of Jan. 11, 96% of members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 97% have at least one dose, according to the Army.

All armed service members are mandated to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Around 18,000 members remain unvaccinated, the data showed.

The Army has chosen not to discharge unvaccinated soldiers but instead "flag" them so they’re not promoted and are not allowed to re-enlist.

"To date, Army commanders have relieved a total of six active-duty leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 2,994 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order," the Army said in a news release.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Navient agrees to $1.7 billion student loan settlement

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Navient, one of the nation's largest student loan services, agreed Thursday to pay nearly $2 billion to settle claims by 38 states and the District of Columbia it deceived thousands of borrows into costly, long-term, forbearance plans that caused students to pay more than they should have.

"They ran a multi-billion dollar scam," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said during a news conference announcing the settlement agreement.

Navient, formerly known as Sally Mae, burdened struggling students with debt, the attorneys general said, by pushing them into subprime, private loans they knew most would be unable to repay.

"So many people are trapped in unaffordable student loan debt," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said. "These loans were doomed to fail from the start and Navient knew it."

Navient also steered students into forbearances instead of counseling them about a more affordable repayment plan.

"What Navient did was deceive them," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. "All they got was a push into a bad plan, this forbearance plan."

When students stopped making payments, as forbearance allows, the debt piled up. The agreement cancels nearly $1.7 billion dollars in balances owed by 66,000 borrowers nationwide.

Borrowers receiving private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient, along with refunds of any payments made on the cancelled private loans after June 30, 2021. Federal loan borrowers who are eligible for a restitution payment of approximately $260 will receive a postcard in the mail from the settlement administrator later this spring.

Navient has denied any violation of the law. "The company's decision to resolve these matters, which were based on unfounded claims, allows us to avoid the additional burden, expense, time and distraction to prevail in court," said Navient's chief legal officer Mark Heleen in a statement.

The settlement includes the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

"Today's billion-dollar agreement will bring relief to thousands of borrowers in New York and across the nation and help them get back on their feet. Navient will no longer be able to line its pockets at the expense of students who are trying to earn a college degree," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Thursday.

"Americans across the nation are struggling with their student loan debt," Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said, adding Navient "buried students into debt" with private loans they could never repay. "Today's settlement provides substantial student loan relief."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

2 boys 'robbed of their futures,' gunned down in separate Chicago slayings hours apart


(CHICAGO) -- The head of the Chicago Police Department is speaking out after two 14-year-old boys were gunned down in separate slayings within hours Wednesday.

Just before 4 p.m., a 14-year-old boy was on a street on Chicago's West Side when he was shot in the abdomen, according to Chicago police. The teen was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Around 8:22 p.m., another 14-year-old boy was standing on a sidewalk in the South Side of the city when he was shot in the head by someone in a passing car, police said. He was hospitalized in critical condition and later pronounced dead.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown offered his condolences to the families of the 14-year-olds at a news conference Thursday.

"I think about those two young boys and I think about their potential. They are two of Chicago's children, robbed of their futures, and it is unacceptable," Brown said.

A young woman was also among those shot in Chicago Wednesday. The 29-year-old was sitting in a parked car when two suspects approached and shot her multiple times, police said. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Police have not made any arrests in these three slayings.

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