The Rundown for March 31, 2021

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 30,393,001 and the nation’s death toll stands at 550,967, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University… All 50 states now have announced when they plan to open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone eligible under U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced yesterday that his state has joined a dozen others in expanding vaccinations to include anyone 16 and over. Several other states that they are opening up vaccine eligibility at least a month ahead of schedule.

SENATORS SEEK RECURRING RELIEF PAYMENTS… A group of Senate Democrats wants President Joe Biden to include recurring relief payments and extended jobless benefits in his economic recovery plan. In a letter sent yesterday, lawmakers led by Senate finance committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon noted that the $300 weekly unemployment supplement expired on September 6. They also said the $1,400 one-time direct payment in the last coronavirus relief bill isn’t enough for Americans hardest hit by the pandemic.

MORE BACKLASH OVER GEORGIA VOTING LAW… Georgia is facing mounting resistance to its restrictive new voting law. The law, known as S.B. 202, bans mobile voting, limits secure drop boxes and even prohibits volunteers from giving out water and snacks to Georgians who are waiting in long voting lines. The ACLU announced yesterday that it has united with several other civil rights groups in a lawsuit that claims the law is meant to “diminish Black political power in Georgia.” The lawsuit addresses the law’s violation of the First, Second, and Fifteenth Amendments, and the Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, Atlanta-based corporations Delta Air Lines Inc and Coca-Cola Co continued to face boycott calls from activists seeking their support in opposing the law.

CONGRESSMAN GAETZ UNDER INVESTIGATION… The New York Times reported yesterday that the Justice Department is investigating whether Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws in a 2019 sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The investigation is reported to be part of a larger probe into Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector who was charged last year with 14 felony counts that included the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17. The investigation into Gaetz was launched near the end of President Donald Trump’s term, when William Barr was still attorney general, according to The Times.

NEW YORK PASSES MARIJUANA-LEGALIZATION MEASURE… New York state lawmakers yesterday passed a marijuana legalization measure that eliminates penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis and automatically expunges records for people with previous convictions for decriminalized activities. The measure commits 40 percent of tax revenue to communities disproportionately affected by the policing of marijuana sales and use including funding for schools and public education as well as drug treatment, prevention and education. It also creates equity programs to provide loans, grants and incubator programs for businesses. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the bill will bring “justice for long-marginalized communities.”

ENTERTAINMENT
ARIANA GRANDE JOINING ‘THE VOICE’
… Ariana Grande is replacing Nick Jonas as a coach on the competition show “The Voice.” The 27-year-old Grammy-winning pop singer joins a Season 21 cast that includes regular coaches Blake Shelton, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. Grande has performed her hit “Into You” on the 2016 series finale of the show but did not take part as a coach.

‘GAME OF THRONES’ HEADED TO STAGE… Author George R.R. Martin announced yesterday that that a stage version of “Game of Thrones” is on its way to Broadway and London’s West End. The play borrows from the popular HBO series that derived from Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series of novels. It is expected to debut in 2023 and will reportedly focus on the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, an event that took place more than a decade before the events of the “Game of Thrones” HBO series.

SPORTS
NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL FOUR COMPLETE
… Overall top seed Gonzaga and surprising UCLA advanced to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Final Four with wins in last night’s regional finals. Gonzaga rolled past sixth-seeded USC 85-66 to capture the West Region. UCLA, which had to play its way into the tournament as an 11th seed in the East, fought off top-seeded Michigan 51-49. Gonzaga and UCLA meet Saturday in the national semifinals. Baylor takes on Houston in the other semifinal. The men’s championship game is scheduled for Monday in Indianapolis.

NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL FOUR COMPLETE
A pair of top seeds are moving on to the women’s Final Four after winning their regional finals yesterday. South Carolina breezed past sixth-seeded Texas 62-34 to capture the Hemisfair Region and Stanford thrashed Louisville 78-63 in the Alamo Region. South Carolina and Stanford meet in the national semifinals on Friday. Connecticut and Arizona battle in the other semifinal. The women’s national championship game is scheduled for Sunday in San Antonio.

NBA SCOREBOARD
Charlotte 114 – WASHINGTON 104… The Hornets took control with a 16-2 second-quarter spurt and held off the Wizards. Terry Rozier scored a game-high 27 points. Gordon Hayward finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

DENVER 104 – Philadelphia 95… The Nuggets jumped out to a 44-22 lead after the first quarter and withstood a second half comeback to down the 76ers. Jamal Murray led all scorers with 30 points. Michael Porter Jr added 27 points.

Orlando 103 – L.A. CLIPPERS 96… The Magic rallied in the fourth quarter to hand the Clippers their first loss in seven games. Chuma Okeke’s 18 points led a balanced scoring attack.

PHOENIX 117 – Atlanta 110… The Suns held on at the end to down the Hawks. They got 21 points from Devin Booker and 20 from Dario Saric. Deandre Ayton grabbed 14 boards to go with his 13 points.

TODAY’S NBA SCHEDULE
Portland is at Detroit…
Indiana hosts Miami…
Dallas is at Boston…
Brooklyn hosts Houston…
Utah is at Memphis…
Minnesota hosts New York…
Toronto is at Oklahoma City…
San Antonio hosts Sacramento…
Milwaukee is at the L.A. Lakers…
Phoenix hosts Chicago

NHL SCOREBOARD
BOSTON 5 – New Jersey 4 (SO)… The Bruins came from two goals down in the third period to upend the Devils. David Pastrnak scored the winning goal in the shootout. Matt Grzelcyk netted a tying goal with 4 minutes left in regulation. Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist. David Krejci set up three goals.

N.Y. RANGERS 5 – Washington 2… The Rangers skated past the Capitals after spotting them a two-goal lead. Artemi Panarin scored a goal and assisted on two others. Goalie Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves.

Columbus 3 – TAMPA BAY 1… Oliver Bjorkstrand and David Savard scored second-period goals to provide the Blue Jackets with all the offense they needed in their win over the Lightning. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 37 shots at goal.

FLORIDA 4 – Detroit 1… Carter Verhaeghe found the net twice to lead the Panthers past the Red Wings. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 stops.

MONTREAL 4 – Edmonton 0… Goalie Carey Price stopped all 16 shots in his first shutout of the season and the Canadiens put away the Oilers early with three first-period goals. Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen each had a goal and an assist.

CHICAGO 2 – Carolina 1… Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat netted back-to-back goals early in the second period and the Blackhawks made them stand in edging the Hurricanes. Kevin Lankinen stopped 31 shots at goal.

NASHVILLE 3 – Dallas 2 (OT)… Eeli Tolvanen’s goal at 1:29 of overtime sent the Predators past the Stars. Calle Jarkrok scored the tying goal in the third period and had an assist.

TODAY’S NHL SCHEDULE
Philadelphia is at Buffalo…
Winnipeg hosts Toronto…
Arizona is at Colorado…
Vegas hosts Los Angeles…
Calgary is at Vancouver…
San Jose hosts Minnesota

MLB SPRING TRAINING SCORES (opening day is tomorrow)…
Cleveland, ARIZONA 3, Cleveland 2…
Pittsburgh 1, MINNESOTA 1 (tie)…
Tampa Bay 5, DETROIT 0…
Atlanta 5, BOSTON 3…
Milwaukee 6, TEXAS 3…
COLORADO 2, Chi. White Sox 1…
L.A. DODGERS 6, L.A. Angels 4

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