Free COVID-19 tests, tax season begins, NASA telescope: 5 things you need to know Monday

·4 min read

USPS to begin shipping free COVID-19 tests

Free COVID-19 test kits for people who ordered them from COVIDtests.gov will begin shipping via the U.S. Postal Service this week, according to the government website. Americans are supposed to be able to order four kits per address under a federal program that launched last week. Tests are expected to be mailed within seven to 12 days from when they are ordered. Customers should receive email notifications with shipping updates, including estimated delivery date and a tracking number on USPS.com. “All tests distributed as part of this program are FDA-authorized at-home rapid antigen tests," the website says. The White House also announced last week that it will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers.

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Tax season is officially here

Early tax filers can file their 2021 tax returns online starting Monday. That's earlier than the delayed start of Feb. 12 last year, when the IRS needed extra time for many pandemic-related reasons, including new tax rules that were signed into law in late December 2020. The Jan. 24 kickoff puts the IRS back on a more normal track: In 2020, the IRS began processing 2019 tax returns on Jan. 27. Most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically if they choose direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax return, according to the IRS.

NASA's $10 billion space telescope to reach its final destination

The James Webb Space Telescope, the $10 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, on Monday reaches its final destination – nearly 1 million miles away from Earth. The telescope launched from South America on Christmas Day. Named after former NASA administrator James E. Webb, who oversaw the agency from 1961 to 1968, the Webb telescope is about 100 times more powerful than the Hubble. Scientists hope Webb can capture light streaming from stars and galaxies as far back as 13.7 billion years ago. "Webb will probably also reveal new questions for future generations of scientists to answer, some of whom may not even be born yet," said scientist Klaus Pontoppidan.

MLB's lockout talks resume

Locked-out MLB players plan to make a counteroffer to management Monday as the sides work toward a new collective bargaining agreement. Baseball's ninth work stoppage, its first since 1995, started Dec. 2 following the expiration of a five-year labor contract. Unhappy with a 4% drop in payrolls to 2015 levels, players have asked for significant change that includes more liberalized free agency and salary arbitration eligibility. Time is running out to reach a deal in time for spring training, scheduled to start Feb. 16. The March 31 opening day is also threatened, given the need for players to report, go through COVID-19 protocols and have at least three weeks of workouts that include a minimal number of exhibition games.

Families of US Embassy staff in Ukraine ordered to head home

The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion. The department also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense. The move came amid rising tensions about Russia's military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva. State Department officials stressed the embassy, in the capital of Kyiv, will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 tests, tax season, NASA telescope: 5 things to know Monday

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