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Masks, Trucker Protests, Olympics: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Wednesday.

1. States across the U.S. moved to end mask mandates.

From Massachusetts to New York to Illinois, governors shifted their policies as case numbers plummeted and polling showed pandemic fatigue. New York’s move to end its mask-or-vaccination indoor mandate takes effect this week. Illinois’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted Feb. 28.

The Massachusetts school mask mandate will end on Feb. 28, and Rhode Island will follow suit on March 4.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have all announced plans to loosen certain restrictions, but all of them continue to require masks in some places, as do cities and towns within the New York area. Here’s where you still need to wear them.

The governors have gotten ahead of the Biden administration, which has been quietly meeting with health experts to plan a Covid exit strategy and a “new normal,” with relaxed rules.

The director of the C.D.C., Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that it is not yet time to lift mask mandates across the U.S. Health experts interviewed by The Times agree that schools should drop mask mandates —  but they did not agree on when.

2. Trucker protests blocked a third U.S.-Canada border crossing.

A blockade in protest of vaccine mandates prevented trucks from entering Canada between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, a critical link for the automobile industry. Windsor’s mayor said that he would ask the federal government to help in dealing with the blockade.

Truckers also blocked an expressway route in Sarnia, Ontario, which was being used as an alterative route to the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. Ford and Honda are facing production stoppages.

Protesters were also still interfering with a crossing between the Western province of Alberta and Montana.

The protests continued to echo: In France, dozens of trucks and vehicles from the south of the country were headed to Paris. Far-right and anti-vaccine groups around the world have amplified the protesters’ message on social media, raising millions of dollars.


3. Where’s Liz Cheney?

The congresswoman’s vote to impeach former president Donald Trump last January and her decision to take part in the House investigation of the Capitol riot have forced her into a kind of exile from Wyoming’s Republican Party apparatus.

She hasn’t attended a state party function in more than two years. Wyoming Republicans adopted a resolution to effectively disown her. Only one Republican in the state legislature has publicly supported her.

“I reject the notion that somehow we don’t have to abide by the rule of law,” she said. “And the people right now who are in the leadership of our state party, I’m not trying to get their support because they’ve abandoned the Constitution.”


4. Nancy Pelosi said that she would accept a stock ban on lawmakers and judges.

The House speaker had resisted a ban on the ownership and trading of individual stocks by members of Congress.

But her change of heart had a complicating twist: She said she wanted any stock-trading limitation to also apply to the judicial branch of government, especially the Supreme Court.

Striking an agreement could prove tricky. Multiple proposals for a trading ban already exist, but they differ on matters such as whether spouses and family members should be subject to the ban.


5. Two days of intense diplomacy have left the standoff with Russia over Ukraine frozen in place.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia now faces a stark choice: He can move militarily to control Ukraine or preserve economic links to Europe. But it will be difficult for him to do both, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe writes in an analysis.

Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas; even if sanctions are imposed, Europe would still need to continue buying Russian energy. But European officials have been more direct in recent days about penalties for Russian actions.

6. The electric vehicle maker Rivian is struggling with production, and its stock price.

The Tesla competitor raised nearly $14 billion with its initial public offering and briefly had a stock market value that was nearly twice that of Ford Motor. But three months after Rivian’s market debut, its stock is now well below its I.P.O. price.

Investors’ anxiety can be traced in part to Rivian’s failure to meet a modest goal of producing 1,200 vehicles for individual buyers in 2021. The company also appears to be struggling to provide delivery vans to Amazon, one of its largest investors.


7. After another heartbreaking fall, Mikaela Shiffrin searched for answers.

Shiffrin, a star U.S. skier, fell for the second time in three days, this time on the women’s slalom, her best event. Holding back tears, she didn’t have answers, but said that she had pushed her tactics to the limit — perhaps too hard.

8. Can MDMA save a marriage?

For some couples on the brink of divorce, taking the illegal psychedelic drug — which produces feelings of empathy, trust and compassion — was a last resort. But it ended up being the only thing that worked.

There is very little research on couples who use the drug, popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly.

Depending on the outcome of a Phase 3 trial currently underway, the Food and Drug Administration could approve MDMA for therapeutic use in people with PTSD. A lead author of a study on MDMA in couples therapy is seeking approval for a clinical trial with as many as 60 couples.


9. Bob Odenkirk was a comedian’s comedian, until he became Saul Goodman.

For much of his career, he was both legendary and obscure in the comedy world — behind the scenes at “Saturday Night Live” and in front of the camera on cult TV hits. He hadn’t seen “Breaking Bad” when he signed on to play the show’s oily lawyer; he needed the money.

He’s now the star of the show’s prequel, “Better Call Saul,” and the character has revealed him as a peerless portrayer of broken souls — a skill rooted in a difficult childhood.

In other entertainment news, John Williams, the composer of “Star Wars” and “Jaws” who turned 90 this week, says he will soon step away from film and focus instead on writing concert works. He has visions of another piece for the cellist Yo-Yo Ma.


10. And finally, it’s a fine time for fine china.

With more dining at home, the delicate, sometimes fussy tableware long associated with wedding registries and your grandmother’s cabinet has found a more relaxed place at the table.

Fans say using porcelain makes everyday meals far more celebratory than the minimalist earthenware popular in the past few years ever could.

“People want to be frivolous in small ways,” said Rachel Tashjian, a writer and fashion critic. “We’re beginning to put more of a premium on delight.”

Have a fine night.


Eve Edelheit compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

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