Laurel Wamsley

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

Wamsley got her start at NPR as an intern for Weekend Edition Saturday in January 2007 and stayed on as a production assistant for NPR's flagship news programs, before joining the Washington Desk for the 2008 election.

She then left NPR, doing freelance writing and editing in Austin, Texas, and then working in various marketing roles for technology companies in Austin and Chicago.

In November 2015, Wamsley returned to NPR as an associate producer for the National Desk, where she covered stories including Hurricane Matthew in coastal Georgia. She became a Newsdesk reporter in March 2017, and has since covered subjects including climate change, possibilities for social networks beyond Facebook, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and joke theft.

In 2010, Wamsley was a Journalism and Women Symposium Fellow and participated in the German-American Fulbright Commission's Berlin Capital Program, and was a 2016 Voqal Foundation Fellow. She will spend two months reporting from Germany as a 2019 Arthur F. Burns Fellow, a program of the International Center for Journalists.

Wamsley earned a B.A. with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. Wamsley holds a master's degree from Ohio University, where she was a Public Media Fellow and worked at NPR Member station WOUB. A native of Athens, Ohio, she now lives and bikes in Washington, DC.

Racism is a scourge in American society. It's also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence.

Vaccine "passports" are making headlines and eliciting emergency measures by governors in a handful of states.

So what are these credentials, exactly, and what are they used for?

What is a vaccine passport?

It's a credential that can be used to show that a person has been vaccinated. The same technology can be used to show a person's coronavirus test results. It's a way to demonstrate a person's health status, generally through a smartphone app or a QR code that has been printed.

Updated April 6, 2021 at 4:49 PM ET

Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the medical support coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department, was the third witness called on Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin is facing charges of murder and manslaughter in George Floyd's death last May.

Mackenzie, who trains officers in medical support, was asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson about "agonal breathing," which can occur in people in distress such as a medical emergency.

When President Biden unveiled his major new infrastructure plan last week, the proposal included much more than fixing crumbling bridges. And for those who wish America had a more robust passenger train network, it gave them something new: hope.

Two bystanders, testifying for the prosecution, described what they witnessed in the fatal interaction between George Floyd and Minneapolis Police in testimony Wednesday during the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd.

Charles McMillian, 61, lives in Minneapolis near Cup Foods.

Updated March 31, 2021 at 5:09 PM ET

The Pentagon announced new policies on Wednesday that undo the Trump-era rules that effectively banned transgender people from serving in the military.

As more Americans get vaccinated, the desire to get back out into the world and enjoy activities again is strong. The idea of so-called vaccine passports is increasingly discussed as a way for those who are vaccinated or negative for the coronavirus to prove they are virus-free, and return to something approaching normalcy.

But there is skepticism in some circles, particularly on the right, about the use of such tools, even though they largely don't exist yet in the United States.

Amid growing optimism about the rising pace of vaccinations in the U.S., the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has one request for the American people: Don't act as if the pandemic is over – it's not.

In an emotional plea during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday, the CDC chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, described a feeling of "impending doom."

"We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," Walensky said. "But right now, I'm scared."

When New York was hit hard in the early days of the pandemic last March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration gave his family members preferential access to coronavirus testing, according to several news reports.

The allegations were first reported in Albany, N.Y.'s Times Union and later in The Washington Post and The New York Times. The reports, which NPR has not independently confirmed, cited unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter.

Updated March 24, 2021 at 1:32 PM ET

A gunman shot and killed 10 people at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on Monday afternoon.

The victims ranged from age 20 to 65. Some of them were shopping at the store; some worked there. One was a police officer who arrived to help.

Here's what we know about the lives that they lived. We will update this story as we learn more.

Eric Talley, 51

Regal Cinemas will reopen its theaters in the U.S. in April, six months after they closed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Updated March 23, 2021 at 10:51 AM ET

In a year when so much about schooling has changed, add this to the list: A significant increase in the number of households where students were homeschooled.

That's according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, an online survey that asks questions about how the pandemic is changing life in U.S. homes.

As the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off in Indiana, some of the players want to remind everyone of the control that the NCAA exerts over their lives — including their names, images and likenesses.

Under the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty, a protest was launched Wednesday by Rutgers basketball player Geo Baker, Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon and Michigan basketball player Isaiah Livers, all upperclassmen on Big Ten teams.

The European Medicines Agency said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, after several EU member states, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, suspended its use over reports of blood clots in a small number of people who received it.

Updated March 17, 2021 at 7:10 PM ET

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died at age 61. The news was announced Wednesday on state television by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who said the cause of death was heart failure.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will spend $10 billion to expand testing for schools, to aid in the president's goal to get schools open once again.

The funds will come from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package President Biden signed last week.

As Europe struggles to get enough vaccine and to contain a third wave of the coronavirus, the European Commission has created a plan for a digital certificate to facilitate travel across its 27 member states.

The proposal from the European Union's executive body will be discussed next week at a summit of EU leaders.

One aspect of the plan is important to note: it does not require vaccination as a pre-condition to travel.

Many people coped with the pandemic year, in part, by welcoming a dog into their home. The surge in adoptions left some shelters low on dogs to take home.

But some people were very particular about what kind of dogs they chose. The American Kennel Club has released its rankings of the most popular dog breeds of 2020.

The most popular? The Labrador Retriever – for the 30th straight year.

As President Biden pushes to get students back in schools, there's one crucial question: How much social distance is necessary in the classroom?

The answer (to that question) has huge consequences for how many students can safely fit into classrooms. Public schools in particular are finding it difficult to accommodate a full return if 6 feet of social distancing is required — a key factor behind many schools offering hybrid schedules that bring students back to the classroom just a few days a week.

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the enormous changes in our lives have become unremarkable: The collection of fabric masks. Visits with friends or family only in small outdoor gatherings. Working or learning from home. Downtowns deserted at noon on a weekday.

While some changes happened gradually, there was one day that marked the beginning of the new normal.

March 11, 2020.

On that day in the United States, the pandemic future arrived all at once.

A historic day begins with other news

Kate Ray and her husband, David, had just moved into a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Denver last March.

"It was brilliant for about two days," she recalls. The high-rise building offered floor-to-ceiling windows, a gorgeous roof deck and an outdoor pool.

Then the pandemic arrived, and their jobs went remote. "The pool closed within like 48 hours of us moving in," says Ray, 34. "The gym closed. All of the amenities closed."

Can gambling profits support the newspaper business? The company that owns the Toronto Star is betting on it.

Torstar Corporation announced Tuesday that it would launch an online casino brand later this year, pending approval by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is lifting the state's mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100%. Abbott, a Republican, said the mandates are no longer needed due to advancements of vaccines and therapeutics to protect against COVID-19.

The average U.S. life expectancy dropped by a year in the first half of 2020, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population was 77.8 years – a decline of 1 year from 78.8 in 2019. For males, the life expectancy at birth was 75.1 – a decline of 1.2 years from 2019. For females, life expectancy declined to 80.5 years, a 0.9 year decrease from 2019.

The White House plans to increase testing capacity in the U.S. through multiple channels, officials said in a media briefing on Wednesday.

The administration says it will spend $650 million to expand testing for K-8 schools and settings where people congregate such as homeless shelters, via new "hubs" created by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. Regional coordinating centers will work to increase testing capacity, partnering with labs and universities to collect specimens, perform tests and report results to public health agencies.

Updated at 5:09 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in office three weeks. He arrives at a challenging time: the U.S. must figure out how to deal with China, Russia and Iran, the coronavirus pandemic rages on, and the State Department must rise from the morale slump it suffered during the Trump administration.

In an interview Tuesday with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Blinken said that "there is no doubt" that the ability of American diplomats to promote democracy and human rights has been "tarnished by recent events."

Fifty years ago Monday, the U.K. and Ireland put an end to a system of currency that had been used for hundreds of years, and made a switch to decimalization — the system where currency is based on multiples of 10 and 100.

Before Feb. 15, 1971, Britain's currency was 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound — or 240 pence to a pound.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research on Wednesday that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. Those findings prompted new guidance on how to improve mask fit at a time of concern over fast-spreading variants of the virus.

Amid turmoil from the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and political infighting, the man known for leading Europe's economy from crisis has been tapped to assemble a new government for Italy.

Mario Draghi, known as "Super Mario" from his time as the president of the European Central Bank, has agreed to form a new government at the request of Italian president Sergio Mattarella. This followed the collapse of the ruling coalition after the resignation of Giuseppe Conte as prime minister last week amid disagreements among its parties over the handling of the pandemic.

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