COVID-19 stimulus relief bill, Chris Harrison addresses ‘Bachelor’ controversy, SpaceX launches Starlink: 5 things to know Thursday

Editors, USA TODAY Published 3:35 a.m. ET March 4, 2021 | Updated 6:37 a.m. ET March 4, 2021


Senate set to begin debate on COVID-19 stimulus bill

Awaiting an estimate for the total cost of the bill, the Senate’s consideration of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill was pushed back a day and will begin Thursday, according to a senior Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity. Under the special rules used to pass the bill, the total cost must come in under the $1.9 trillion authorized in previous legislation. The version of the bill passed by the House went billions of dollars over, so Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would have to introduce a Senate version of the bill bringing it in line. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said on a Wisconsin radio station he would threaten to hold up Senate passage of Biden’s bill by forcing Democrats to read the nearly 700-page bill in its entirety and would offer more amendments to the bill following debate, potentially prolonging final passage of the legislation through the weekend.


The House passed the latest stimulus bill, but what’s in the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package? What happens next and when will people see any money? USA TODAY

Prefer to listen? Check out the 5 things podcast

Mask mandates rolling back in some states, but Biden’s not on board

Four states have now announced rolling back mask mandates in major recalls of COVID-19 safety measures over the last month. But some of the nation’s largest retailers including Kroger, Best Buy, Macy’s, Starbucks and Target are not rolling back theirs. Cities, businesses, and families are often making their own choices of whether to wear masks or go to restaurants, despite governors in Mississippi, Texas, Montana and Iowa urging their residents to go back to a carefree life.  President Joe Biden slammed decisions to reopen, the day after the Texas and Mississippi governors said they’re discarding masking mandates, and said they’re “a big mistake.” “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it,” Biden said. “It still matters.” Some businesses say they will continue to abide by guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shield their frontline workers from exposure to COVID-19. 


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Chris Harrison breaks silence after stepping away from ‘The Bachelor’

Chris Harrison is speaking out for the first time since stepping down from “The Bachelor,” which he has hosted for nearly two decades since its 2002 debut. During an interview with “Good Morning America”co-anchor Michael Strahan, Harrison admitted it was “a mistake” to defend current “Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racially insensitive behavior. Kirkconnell is one of the finalists on the current season of “The Bachelor,” which stars the franchise’s first male Black lead, Matt James. “I made a mistake,” Harrison said during a sneak peek of the interview, which airs in full on ABC Thursday morning (7 a.m. ET). “I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that.” 


Week 7 of “The Bachelor” was hard to watch without thinking of the racism controversy with front-runner Rachael Kirkconnell and host Chris Harrison. USA TODAY

SUV in deadly California crash entered through hole in border fence

An investigation into “smuggling events” related to a crash near the US-Mexico border that left 13 people dead will resume Thursday, as national attention focuses on immigration and border issues surrounding the tragedy. The crash involved an SUV packed with dozens of passengers that collided with a semi-truck in California on Tuesday, according to California Highway Patrol officials. The people who died in the crash were among 44 who entered the United States through a 10-foot hole cut into Southern California’s border fence, officials say. “All are suspected to have entered the U.S. illegally,” Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. “Border Patrol is investigating the smuggling events.”

SpaceX launched Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center

SpaceX launched its 20th mission for the Starlink internet constellation from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A early Thursday.  Starlink is an effort by SpaceX to create a whole new option for high-speed internet access anywhere in the world with the goal to offer service comparable to mid to high-speed options that exist in most urban and suburban areas. Starlink’s key difference is that it will be utilizing thousands of low-orbit small table-size satellites, which will provide faster transmission rates over the older high-orbit satellite networks. Consumers interested in signing up can pre-order on Starlink’s website. Orders are delivered on a first-come, first-serve basis, and limited to a select number of users per coverage area. 

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