5 things for Houstonians to know for Monday, Jan. 4

FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, respiratory therapist Babu Paramban talks on the phone next to hospital beds while taking a break in the COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday, Dec. 14, just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, respiratory therapist Babu Paramban talks on the phone next to hospital beds while taking a break in the COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday, Dec. 14, just as the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the outbreak. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Here are things to know for Monday, Jan. 4:

1. US virus death toll hits 350,000; surge feared

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States has surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and those over 80 but the rollout of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.

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2. COVID-19 dominates annual list of banished words, terms

Even as vaccines are being rolled out to battle the coronavirus, wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula say they want to kick any trace of it from the English language.

“COVID-19” and “social distancing” are thrown in with “we’re all in this together,” “in an abundance of caution” and “in these uncertain times” on the school’s light-hearted list of banned words and phrases for 2021.

Out of more than 1,450 nominations sent to the school, about 250 words and terms suggested for banishment due to overuse, misuse or uselessness had something to do with the virus.

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3. Trump, on tape, presses Ga. official to ‘find’ him votes

President Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election, repeatedly citing disproven claims of fraud and raising the prospect of “criminal offense” if officials did not change the vote count, according to a recording of the conversation.

The phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The president, who has refused to accept his loss to Democratic president-elect Biden, repeatedly argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”

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4. Biden inauguration to feature virtual, nationwide parade

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will include a “virtual parade across America” consistent with crowd limits during the coronavirus era, organizers announced Sunday.

Following the swearing-in ceremony on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, will join Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband in participating in a socially distanced Pass in Review on the Capitol’s opposite front side. Those are military traditions where Biden will review the readiness of military troops.

Biden will also receive a traditional presidential escort with representatives from every branch of the military from 15th Street in Washington to the White House. That, the Presidential Inaugural Committee says, will be socially distanced too, while “providing the American people and world with historic images of the President-elect proceeding to the White House without attracting large crowds.”

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5. JJ Watt speaks on the possibility of last Texans game

Whether or not J.J. Watt will return to the Texans has been a major topic this season. With no knowledge of who the team will hire as general manager, Watt has been candid that he’s not sure where he stands.

After Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, Watt reiterated that there are too many “unknowns.” But he added that he hopes Texans fans know how he feels about them.

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