Laurel Wamsley | New Hampshire Public Radio

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.

Updated April 15, 2021 at 12:48 PM ET

Testimony ended Thursday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The defendant said he will not testify in his defense in the trial and would invoke his Fifth Amendment right.

Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd's death after he held his knee on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds on Memorial Day last year.

An expert advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided Wednesday it needed more time to consider whether to recommend to resume administering the COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

The defense called on Officer Peter Chang of the Minneapolis Park Police to testify in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is on trial on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.

Chang was stationed at a nearby park last May 25 when he heard a dispatch on his radio asking for assistance. He was one of the closer officers to Cup Foods, so he went to the scene.

It's common for park police to assist Minneapolis city police, Chang said, and explained that officers in both forces attend the same police academy.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's attorney called on Shawanda Hill to testify on Tuesday morning. Chauvin is on trial on murder and manslaughter charges in George Floyd's death.

Hill told the court she was at the Cup Foods store last May 25 when she ran into Floyd, whom she knew. She described his behavior as "happy, normal, talking, alert."

She said Floyd offered to give her a ride to her house, and she went with him to the car he was driving.

Updated April 13, 2021 at 12:52 PM ET

The defense of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began presenting its case on Tuesday over the killing of George Floyd.

The first witness for the defense was former Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton. The defense showed Creighton's bodycam footage from a traffic stop in May 2019, in which the passenger of the car was Floyd.

Updated April 12, 2021 at 4:12 PM ET

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's younger brother, took the witness stand on Monday to testify in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Philonise Floyd, 39, lives in Houston, where he is married with two children.

Testifying for the prosecution, he reflected on a childhood in Houston with his oldest brother George as the two played Tecmo Bowl and Double Dribble on Nintendo.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

New Zealand's Parliament has approved legislation that will provide three days of paid leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth, without needing to use sick leave.

"The bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave," said member of Parliament Ginny Andersen, according to Reuters. "Because their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss. And loss takes time."

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.

The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The vote is a history-making one: Levine is the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.

The vote was 52-48 in favor of her confirmation.

Levine was previously Pennsylvania's secretary of health, where she led the commonwealth's COVID-19 response.

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.

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.

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

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.

New York's attorney general is proceeding with an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor's office authorized the probe, clearing the way for the hiring of an independent law firm to conduct the inquiry.

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."

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