Laurel Wamsley | Michigan Radio
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Laurel Wamsley

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

Wamsley got her start at NPR as an intern for Weekend Edition Saturday in January 2007 and stayed on as a production assistant for NPR's flagship news programs, before joining the Washington Desk for the 2008 election.

She then left NPR, doing freelance writing and editing in Austin, Texas, and then working in various marketing roles for technology companies in Austin and Chicago.

In November 2015, Wamsley returned to NPR as an associate producer for the National Desk, where she covered stories including Hurricane Matthew in coastal Georgia. She became a Newsdesk reporter in March 2017, and has since covered subjects including climate change, possibilities for social networks beyond Facebook, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and joke theft.

In 2010, Wamsley was a Journalism and Women Symposium Fellow and participated in the German-American Fulbright Commission's Berlin Capital Program, and was a 2016 Voqal Foundation Fellow. She will spend two months reporting from Germany as a 2019 Arthur F. Burns Fellow, a program of the International Center for Journalists.

Wamsley earned a B.A. with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. Wamsley holds a master's degree from Ohio University, where she was a Public Media Fellow and worked at NPR Member station WOUB. A native of Athens, Ohio, she now lives and bikes in Washington, DC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that fully vaccinated adults can safely resume activities indoors or outdoors without masks or distancing, in gatherings large or small. The announcement marks a major milestone in the effort to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the new guidance Thursday.

"You can do things you stopped doing because of the pandemic," Walensky said.

Updated May 12, 2021 at 7:20 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine be given to adolescents ages 12-15.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky issued a statement saying, "The CDC now recommends the vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away."

Updated April 23, 2021 at 7:16 PM ET

Use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is allowed again now that a panel of experts has voted to put it back in distribution despite rare blood clotting problems.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday after the panel voted that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, and its benefits outweigh the known risks.

The potential lasting effects of COVID-19 infection are many — and people with more severe initial infections are at greater risk for long-term complications, according to a study published Thursday in Nature.

The study, thought to be the largest post-acute COVID-19 study to date, sheds more light on the lingering effects of COVID-19 known as "long COVID."

Peeling paint. Cracked buckets. Employees dragging unsealed bags of medical waste. Procedures ignored. Inadequately trained staff.

Updated April 20, 2021 at 5:37 PM ET

The jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all the counts he faced over the death of George Floyd. The trial has been one of the most closely watched cases in recent memory, setting off a national reckoning on police violence and systemic racism even before the trial commenced.

Chauvin, 45, has been found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

An expert advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided Wednesday it needed more time to consider whether to recommend to resume administering the COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

Racism is a scourge in American society. It's also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence.

Vaccine "passports" are making headlines and eliciting emergency measures by governors in a handful of states.

So what are these credentials, exactly, and what are they used for?

What is a vaccine passport?

It's a credential that can be used to show that a person has been vaccinated. The same technology can be used to show a person's coronavirus test results. It's a way to demonstrate a person's health status, generally through a smartphone app or a QR code that has been printed.

As more Americans get vaccinated, the desire to get back out into the world and enjoy activities again is strong. The idea of so-called vaccine passports is increasingly discussed as a way for those who are vaccinated or negative for the coronavirus to prove they are virus-free, and return to something approaching normalcy.

But there is skepticism in some circles, particularly on the right, about the use of such tools, even though they largely don't exist yet in the United States.

Amid growing optimism about the rising pace of vaccinations in the U.S., the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has one request for the American people: Don't act as if the pandemic is over – it's not.

In an emotional plea during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday, the CDC chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, described a feeling of "impending doom."

"We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," Walensky said. "But right now, I'm scared."

Updated March 23, 2021 at 10:51 AM ET

In a year when so much about schooling has changed, add this to the list: A significant increase in the number of households where students were homeschooled.

That's according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, an online survey that asks questions about how the pandemic is changing life in U.S. homes.

The European Medicines Agency said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, after several EU member states, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, suspended its use over reports of blood clots in a small number of people who received it.

Updated March 17, 2021 at 7:10 PM ET

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died at age 61. The news was announced Wednesday on state television by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who said the cause of death was heart failure.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will spend $10 billion to expand testing for schools, to aid in the president's goal to get schools open once again.

The funds will come from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package President Biden signed last week.

As Europe struggles to get enough vaccine and to contain a third wave of the coronavirus, the European Commission has created a plan for a digital certificate to facilitate travel across its 27 member states.

The proposal from the European Union's executive body will be discussed next week at a summit of EU leaders.

One aspect of the plan is important to note: it does not require vaccination as a pre-condition to travel.

As President Biden pushes to get students back in schools, there's one crucial question: How much social distance is necessary in the classroom?

The answer (to that question) has huge consequences for how many students can safely fit into classrooms. Public schools in particular are finding it difficult to accommodate a full return if 6 feet of social distancing is required — a key factor behind many schools offering hybrid schedules that bring students back to the classroom just a few days a week.

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the enormous changes in our lives have become unremarkable: The collection of fabric masks. Visits with friends or family only in small outdoor gatherings. Working or learning from home. Downtowns deserted at noon on a weekday.

While some changes happened gradually, there was one day that marked the beginning of the new normal.

March 11, 2020.

On that day in the United States, the pandemic future arrived all at once.

A historic day begins with other news

Kate Ray and her husband, David, had just moved into a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Denver last March.

"It was brilliant for about two days," she recalls. The high-rise building offered floor-to-ceiling windows, a gorgeous roof deck and an outdoor pool.

Then the pandemic arrived, and their jobs went remote. "The pool closed within like 48 hours of us moving in," says Ray, 34. "The gym closed. All of the amenities closed."

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is lifting the state's mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100%. Abbott, a Republican, said the mandates are no longer needed due to advancements of vaccines and therapeutics to protect against COVID-19.

The average U.S. life expectancy dropped by a year in the first half of 2020, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population was 77.8 years – a decline of 1 year from 78.8 in 2019. For males, the life expectancy at birth was 75.1 – a decline of 1.2 years from 2019. For females, life expectancy declined to 80.5 years, a 0.9 year decrease from 2019.

The White House plans to increase testing capacity in the U.S. through multiple channels, officials said in a media briefing on Wednesday.

The administration says it will spend $650 million to expand testing for K-8 schools and settings where people congregate such as homeless shelters, via new "hubs" created by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. Regional coordinating centers will work to increase testing capacity, partnering with labs and universities to collect specimens, perform tests and report results to public health agencies.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research on Wednesday that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. Those findings prompted new guidance on how to improve mask fit at a time of concern over fast-spreading variants of the virus.

Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET

At the first briefing by the Biden administration's COVID-19 response team on Wednesday, the message was clear: Science and scientists will lead the response. And the team has inherited a fractured and lagging strategy.

The briefing was led by Jeffrey Zients, a businessman who was a top economic adviser in the Obama administration. Asked how the Defense Production Act might be used to produce more vaccine doses faster, Zients said nothing has been ruled out.

A number of European countries have announced new mask recommendations and requirements, pushing aside fabric masks in favor of surgical masks or medical-grade respirators.

Updated at 4:33 p.m. ET

Teachers at Chicago Public Schools were slated to return to the classroom on Monday, in preparation for the return of students to the district's K-8 schools next week.

But on Sunday, a majority of the Chicago Teachers Union's membership voted in favor of a resolution to continue to work remotely. The union said 71% of its voting members had voted to conduct remote work only, with 86% voter participation.

To a world upended by the coronavirus, Pope Francis offered a timeless message during a Christmas Eve Mass that was itself shaped by the ongoing pandemic.

The Mass was celebrated in a smaller rear section of St. Peter's Basilica, and only 100 or so people were present, Reuters reported. In normal times without a pandemic, the Mass is celebrated in the main part of the basilica before some 10,000 people.

All in attendance wore masks except for the pontiff and a small choir. Those in the pews sat at a distance from one another.

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in California has surpassed 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the virus has spread with startling speed in the state.

It's the first state to pass that number. In the last day, according to Johns Hopkins, California saw 43,986 new cases and 319 deaths.

The Vatican says that it's "morally acceptable" to receive a vaccination for COVID-19, even if the vaccine's research or production involved using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses, given the "grave danger" of the pandemic.

Stanford Medicine apologized on Friday for its vaccine distribution plan – a plan that came under fire for leaving out nearly all of its medical residents and fellows, many whom regularly treat COVID-19 patients.

The residents waged a protest on Friday morning, holding signs and demanding answers from Stanford's leadership about why just seven of more than 1,300 residents at Stanford were selected to receive the vaccine in the first round of 5,000 doses.

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