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Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Tuesday, December 21, 2021:


The Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of new Covid infections in the U.S., up from less than 1% at the start of the month. In places like New York, Omicron makes up 90% of new infections even though hospitalizations are only slightly higher than they were a couple weeks ago – suggesting that the variant is not leading to the worst outcomes in areas with high vaccine penetration. President Biden is expected to announce in an address to the nation tonight that the federal government will deploy medical personnel to overburdened hospitals and buy 500 million rapid tests to distribute to the public for free. AP


Former President Trump made his most pointed comments to date in support of the vaccines that were developed while he was in office. Trump was asked by Bill O’Reilly at an event in Dallas whether he had gotten his booster, and he replied that he had. That was met with a smattering of boos from the audience. Trump responded by telling his supporters that they are “playing right into their hands” by dismissing the effectiveness of the vaccines: WATCH


Sen. Joe Manchin has laid out a new path forward for President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda after the senator from West Virginia torpedoed the bill over the weekend. Speaking to a local radio station, Manchin signaled that he’s open to a new bill that goes through the Senate’s committee process, rather than on a party-line vote via budget reconciliation. Manchin also said that he was infuriated by White House staffers, who he indicated had pushed him to the “wit’s end” during the negotiations over the legislation. The White House is playing down the rift between Manchin and Biden in the hope that the president can salvage some of his agenda in the new year. NY TIMES


Three high-profile criminal cases are now in the hands of jurors. The jury in the Ghislaine Maxwell sex-trafficking trial got the case after the prosecution and defense clashed in closing arguments over Maxwell’s purported role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-abuse enterprise. Across the country in California, jurors are in the process of wading through months of testimony in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud case. And in Minneapolis, jurors are deliberating over whether Kim Potter, a former police officer, is criminally responsible for killing Daunte Wright during a traffic stop when she mixed up her Taser for her gun. TIME


Lumber prices are on the rise again, nearly doubling in the last five weeks. Prices are up from $540 per thousand board feet in mid-November to more than $1,000 today. That’s still down from the spring, when prices were above $1,700. Recent floods in British Columbia, where much of the U.S. lumber supply originates, have exacerbated a lumber market that was already tight because of strong homebuilding activity. The Biden administration also recently doubled tariffs on Canadian lumber, a move that was welcomed by American lumber companies but has had the effect of adding to rising prices. INSIDER


Car thieves and stalkers may be exploiting Apple’s AirTags to make their jobs easier. A Detroit man is the latest driver to say his iPhone alerted him that he was being tracked by an AirTag that didn’t belong to him. He then found one of the $100 tracking devices inside the drain pipe of his Dodge Charger after he had left it parked at a shopping mall. AirTags have been reportedly associated with criminals using the devices to “tag” and track cars they later want to steal, or to stalk the cars’ owners. Another woman said in a recent viral Twitter thread that she had discovered an AirTag under her wheel well. Apple has sent an update to the coin-sized devices, reducing the length of time that they need to be away from their owner before they ping the phones of users nearby. DIGITALTRENDS


The NHL is breaking for Christmas early as it tries to weather a growing Covid outbreak that’s put more than 15% of the league’s players in the protocol. All hockey facilities will close from tomorrow through Saturday, with the schedule set to restart on Dec. 27. NHL officials are expected to make a decision soon about whether players can participate in the Beijing Olympics. ESPN


If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple over the holidays, be advised that Broadway shows are being canceled left and right over the spike in Covid cases. Hamilton, Hadestown, Dear Evan Hansen, Harry Potter and the new Michael Jackson musical MJ are among the shows pausing performances at least until after Christmas. Jagged Little Pill, the rock musical based on the Alanis Morissette album, is closing for good: FULL LIST


…Pete Davidson, leaving Kim Kardashian’s hotel in NYC. The pair had been seen out and about around Staten Island over the weekend: SEE PICS

…Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, back together for the Harry Potter reunion special, coming to HBO Max on New Year’s Day: WATCH TRAILER


A new puppy has joined the First Family. The White House confirmed that President Biden was given a purebred German Shepherd puppy as a birthday gift from his brother last month. The pup, named Commander, moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday. A spokesperson also said that the family’s other dog, Major, will stay in Delaware in a “quieter environment with family friends” after several biting incidents earlier this year, and a cat will join the family next month. PEOPLE

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