Five national stories of the week

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at Veterans Memorial Park near the Delaware Memorial Bridge at an annual Memorial Day Service on May 30, 2021, in New Castle, Delaware. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at Veterans Memorial Park near the Delaware Memorial Bridge at an annual Memorial Day Service on May 30, 2021, in New Castle, Delaware. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Editor’s Note: This listicle is part of a series by The Ball State Daily News summarizing five stories from around the world. All summaries are based on stories published by The Associated Press.

The White House plans a 'independence from virus' bash, California reopens, US to transfer federal property for Hawaiian home lands, doctors warn of burns from asphalt as a heat wave hits the West and an Illinois chemical plant explosion makes up this week's five national stories.

White House to host July 4 'independence from virus' bash

President Joe Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption. Even as the U.S. is set to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus on Tuesday, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery. That’s even though the U.S. is not expected to quite reach its goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated by the holiday.

California reopens, says goodbye to most COVID-19 rules

California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. At the stroke of midnight, California is lifting most of its COVID-19 restrictions and ushering in what has been billed as the state’s “Grand Reopening.” Starting Tuesday, there will be no more state rules on social distancing, and no more limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums or anywhere else. And masks — one of the most symbolic and fraught symbols of the pandemic — will no longer be mandated for vaccinated people in most settings, though businesses and counties can still require them.

US to transfer property for Hawaiian home lands

The U.S. is giving Native Hawaiians surplus land as compensation for acres that were meant for homesteading but used instead by the federal government. The land transfer also attempts to help right wrongs against the Indigenous people of Hawaii, officials said Monday. The 80 acres (32 hectares) in Ewa Beach formerly used for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center will eventually provide up to 400 homes while helping fulfill terms of a settlement authorized by Congress in 1995 to compensate Native Hawaiians for 1,500 acres (607 hectares) that were set aside for homelands but subsequently acquired and used by the federal government for other purposes, officials said.

Doctors warn of burns from asphalt as heat wave hits US West

Doctors who work in Arizona and Nevada burn centers are warning of injuries from contact with super-heated roadways and other surfaces as the first extreme heat wave of the year extends across the U.S. West. A high pressure system is expected to push temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius) this week in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Health officials advised people to be mindful of hot asphalt, sidewalks and even desert sand. Elsewhere, heat warnings stretched from California’s central and inland valleys to as far north as Montana and Wyoming, where predicted highs of 109 degrees (43 Celsius) on Tuesday are expected to shatter records.

Illinois chemical plant explosion, fires prompt evacuations

An explosion at a northern Illinois chemical plant Monday morning sparked massive fires that sent flames and huge plumes of thick black smoke high into the air and debris raining onto the ground, prompting evacuations. After 7 a.m., emergency crews rushed to the scene of the fire near Rockton, northwest of Chicago, at Chemtool Inc., a company that manufactures lubricants, grease products and other fluids, and is, according to the company, the largest manufacturer of grease in the Americas. Rockton Fire Department Chief Kirk Wilson said about 70 employees were evacuated safely from the plant, and that one firefighter suffered a minor injury.

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