5 things to know Wednesday

New York could drop COVID-19 mask mandates

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and health officials are deciding whether to end or extend two COVID-19 mask mandates – one requiring face coverings in schools, the other mandating them in most other public indoor settings. Gov. Hochul, a Democrat, plans to announce Wednesday which rules will stay in place as the state emerges from a deadly wave of cases, fueled by the omicron variant. Hochul’s decision would come days after governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon all said they would end mandatory masking in schools by the end of February or March. Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is waging a court battle to keep his mask mandate for schools in the state alive. The state attorney general this week appealed a judge’s ruling that invalidated Pritzker’s mandate. Some medical experts believe it’s too soon to lift mask mandates, considering coronavirus infections nationwide reached their highest level only weeks ago and most of the country is still experiencing high transmission rates.

Lindsey Jacobellis wins first gold medal for US at Beijing Olympics, Nathan Chen and Chloe Kim aim to triumph

Lindsey Jacobellis sped to Team USA’s first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday, prevailing in the women’s snowboardcross. Jacobellis, 36, is one of the most successful snowboarders in her sport but most Americans remember her for the 2006 Olympic race in which she held the lead late before falling performing a method on the last jump. She settled for silver. After a record-setting performance in the men’s short program, figure skater Nathan Chen will look to continue his success in the long program and earn a gold medal Wednesday night. Although the competition is far from over, Chen is in a strong position to get his first Olympic gold medal after his brilliant showing Monday. Chen earned a score of 113.97 in the men’s short program, the highest score ever in the event. In addition to Chen, Chloe Kim will have the opportunity win a gold medal in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe final — and make history. With a win, Kim would be the first woman ever to win Olympic gold twice in the halfpipe.  

Will gas prices continue upward trajectory?

Gas prices may be on the rise again Wednesday, as the cost of fuel continues to surge with no signs of slowing down, according to the American Automobile Association. The national average for gas was $3.46 per gallon as of Tuesday, slightly up from Monday’s average of $3.44 and nearly a dollar more than last year’s average of $2.47 According to AAA, the reasons behind the higher gas prices are a combination of increased demand for heating oil in the winter months and the tension between Russia and Ukraine. Russia is a member of OPEC+, and any sanctions based on its actions toward Ukraine may cause it to withhold crude oil from the global market. The price of crude oil is a key determiner for prices at the pump. 

Fact check: No plans for fourth stimulus check

With tax season underway, some experts have warned that a fourth stimulus check will not be dispensed on Wednesday – contrary to a viral YouTube video claiming it will. An array of social media posts and videos claim a fourth round of stimulus checks are on the way, but none have followed through with any proof of an upcoming payment. Over three million people have signed a Change.org petition calling for recurring $2,000 payments for adults and $1,000 payments for children until the pandemic ends. But no such payment has yet been approved, IRS spokesperson Eric Smith told USA TODAY. This isn’t the first time people have posted misinformation about fourth stimulus checks. Similar posts also circulated in May and July of 2021. 

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