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More than 600,000 dead.

As America takes steps toward normalcy amid the pandemic, the toll of coronavirus remains ever present. And falling rates of COVID-19 across the country are masking a harsh reality: the overwhelming majority of those getting sick and being hospitalized today are unvaccinated, while vaccinated patients are becoming rare.

Can your job require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine? While most employers have shied away from mandates, a Houston hospital has become the epicenter of the debate.

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Now, the stories you can’t miss

‘Juneteenth is a way to drive the history home that there was slavery’

For the first time, Americans commemorated Juneteenth as a federal holiday after Congress swiftly passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act last week and President Joe Biden signed it into law.

HISTORY LESSON | On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed a reluctant community in Galveston, Texas, that President Abraham Lincoln had freed enslaved people in rebel states two and a half years earlier. Texas was the last Confederate state to have the proclamation announced.

The country as a whole took renewed interested in Juneteenth last year in the wake of 2020’s racial reckoning over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

But this year’s celebrations occurred amid a culture war on the teachings of Black history, writes USA TODAY’s Mabinty Quarshie, and as Congress struggles to pass sweeping legislation that would protect the rights of voters of color and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which bolsters police accountability. 

STORY EXCERPT | Juneteenth’s increasing popularity coincides with a concentrated effort to limit public relearning of precisely what it asks America to remember: how the nation’s early history of enslaving African Americans affects current legislation that restricts voter access and marginalizes voters of color.

“Talking about Juneteenth is a way to drive the history home that there was slavery. You had to have Juneteenth because of the way African American people were treated; at this time they were seen as chattel,” said Harvard law school professor Annette Gordon-Reed. “I certainly wish these efforts were not going on, but this is a way of being adamant about the institution of slavery and the role that it played in the development of Texas and in where we are now.”

Learn more about Juneteenth:

Stories we can’t get enough of

PANDEMIC | Want to signal you’re vaccinated for COVID-19? Try a wristband. For many Americans, how or whether to inquire about and convey to others one’s vaccination status has become a fraught issue. In a nation where mask-wearing quickly was politicized, the COVID-19 vaccine has stirred similar discordBy Marco della Cava. 

PRIDE | President Joe Biden’s evolution on LGBTQ rights has been filled with twists and turns, but activists now regard him as an unequivocal ally. But even as they celebrate what he has already done (namely reverse Trump-era policy), there’s still more to be done. On the to-do list: Pass the Equality Act, which Biden vowed during his Pride month video that he would fight to get it passed. By Michael Collins

SPORTS | When American middle distance runner Shelby Houlihan learned late last year that she had tested positive for an anabolic steroid called nandrolone, she said she had to run a Google search on the substance to learn what it was. In the world of sports doping, however, the substance is both common and well-knownBy Tom Schad.

Coming soon

Amazon’s massive Prime Day sale starts today! Want to make sure you’re getting a deal and not a dud? Reviewed’s friendly product nerds will share their expertise to make sure you’re saving money on something worthwhile.

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