Fed to signal interest rate hike, free N95 masks, California fire: 5 things to know Wednesday

·4 min read

Fed walks economic tightrope as it weighs raising interest rates

Amid a surge inflation that threatens to damage the economy, the Federal Reserve is expected to signal Wednesday that it is ready to raise interest rates as soon as March. The Fed's short-term rate has been locked near zero since the pandemic began in 2020, which has fueled borrowing and spending by consumers and businesses – but also inflation, now rising at the fastest pace in nearly four decades. In the hope of curbing inflation, the Fed last month signaled a turnabout on rates, forecasting three increases for 2022. The Fed now faces a delicate balancing act as it aims to curtail inflation without stalling the recovery.

Prefer to listen? Check out the 5 Things podcast:

Rescuers search for 39 missing after boat capsizes off Florida coast

Rescue crews are continuing to search Wednesday for 39 people missing for several days after the boat they were in capsized off the Florida coast. The Coast Guard got a call from a "good Samaritan" early Tuesday who rescued a man clinging to the capsized vessel about 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, the agency tweeted. The survivor said he left Bimini, Bahamas with 39 other people Saturday night. The survivor said the group ran into severe weather, causing the boat to capsize, according to a Coast Guard statement. The survivor also said no one aboard was wearing life jackets. A cold front late Saturday brought rough weather to the Bimini area. The Coast Guard is calling it a suspected human smuggling case. Officials said on Twitter that they are searching by both air and sea over a roughly 135-mile area extending from Bimini to the Fort Pierce Inlet.

Hy-Vee pharmacies in Midwest will have free N95 masks

On Wednesday, all 275 Hy-Vee pharmacies in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin will have free N95 masks to distribute, according to Christina Gayman, a spokesperson for the company. Mask distribution has also started at Meijer stores and is expected at Walgreens later in the week. Four hundred million free N95 masks will be available to pick up at "tens of thousands" of pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Specific dates for all stores and locations are not yet available. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday it was the "largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.”

Two years after Kobe Bryant's death, Vanessa Bryant wages court battle over photos

Two years ago, nine people perished in a helicopter crash in the hills northwest of Los Angeles, including the NBA legend Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old daughter Gianna. His widow, Vanessa Bryant and her three other daughters are among those who have been trying to cope ever since. Vanessa Bryant is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy and negligence, accusing county fire and sheriff’s department employees of improperly taking and sharing photos of her dead husband and daughter from the crash scene. She says she has suffered emotional distress because of those actions and is seeking millions of dollars in damages. Her trial against Los Angeles County is scheduled for Feb. 22. "Would you say you've been getting better or getting worse, you know?" an attorney asked her in a legal proceeding Oct. 12. "Grief isn't linear," Vanessa Bryant replied, according a partial transcript of it filed in court last week. "It's – every day is different, and I try to my best to put a smile on my face for my little girls. I want them to live in the love and not in the loss."

Ralstin Delgado has a snapshot taken in front of a mural of Kobe Bryant in an alley near Staples Center on Jan 26, 2021. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan 26, 2020.
Ralstin Delgado has a snapshot taken in front of a mural of Kobe Bryant in an alley near Staples Center on Jan 26, 2021. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan 26, 2020.

Firefighters make progress in controlling wildfire along Big Sur coastline

Fire crews were making progress against a wildfire along California's picturesque Big Sur coastline. The fire, which erupted Friday evening as strong, dry, offshore winds raked California with damaging gusts, was 50% contained as of Tuesday night, officials said. Investigators determined that the blaze, named the Colorado Fire for its starting point in Palo Colorado Canyon, was caused by the winds blowing hot embers from a pile burning operation into nearby vegetation, Cal Fire said Tuesday. The operation, which involved burning a pile of brush or debris, apparently began on a homeowner's property, authorities said. Highway 1 from Palo Colorado Road to the Bixby Creek Bridge remains closed. An evacuation order that prompted 500 residents to leave also remains in effect.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Interest rates, free N95 masks, Big Sur fire: 5 things to know Wednesday