As the new year approaches, USA TODAY is looking back on 2021.
This year, the USA TODAY Network covered triumphs and tragedies alike, from gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We tracked vaccines and booster shots, kept up with viral stories and brought you breaking news from the worlds of sports, politics, culture and more.
Millions of Americans received stimulus checks in 2021. An unprecedented storm hit the southern United States, and a skyscraper-sized ship blocked the Suez Canal for days.
As we head into 2022, here’s a look at some of USA TODAY’s most-read stories from 2021.
Americans receive third round of stimulus checksIn the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans across the country received stimulus payments in 2020 and 2021. This year saw a third round of payments amounting to $1,400 for a single person or $2,800 for a married couple filing jointly, but how much you may have received depended on your income and other factors.
Money: Where is my third stimulus check? IRS updates ‘Get My Payment’ tool with information on new COVID payments
Good news: From daring rescues to medical breakthroughs, here are 12 of the happiest stories of 2021
Rioters breach the CapitolOn Jan. 6, pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol building in hopes of blocking President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over former President Donald Trump. Federal prosecutors have charged more than 600 people in over 40 states with allegedly participating in the deadly riot.
DC updates: 4 dead, 52 arrested, 14 police officers injured after pro-Trump rioters breach US Capitol
Pence navigates break with TrumpFormer Vice President Mike Pence was excoriated by Trump at the end of their term in office for refusing to illegally intervene and prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, told USA TODAY in January that Pence was “very upset” over Trump’s criticism.
Politics: An ‘angry’ Pence navigates the fallout of his rupture with Trump over election, Capitol riots
Referee’s fall saves his lifeBert Smith, a college basketball official, passed out during the men’s NCAA Tournament regional final between Gonzaga and Southern California in March. He tried to reassure friends and fans after the scary moment, but after going to the hospital, doctors discovered that Smith had a blood clot in his lung.
Sports: Referee Bert Smith’s fall in men’s NCAA Tournament game didn’t kill him. It saved his life.
Lebron James has fans booted from gameLos Angeles Lakers star Lebron James had two fans ejected from their courtside seats during a game against the Indiana Pacers in November. James didn’t immediately elaborate on what the fans did or said, but he called their actions “outside the line with obscene gestures and words.”
NBA: Lakers star LeBron James has two fans ejected from courtside seats in Indiana
Popular flea collar alarms pet owners The Seresto flea and tick collar, one of the most popular collars of its kind in the country, garnered reports of thousands of adverse incidents, including pet deaths. While the company behind the collar has defended its safety, some are calling on federal regulators to ban it.
Investigations: Popular flea collar linked to almost 1,700 pet deaths. The EPA has issued no warning.
Stories of the Year: A look back at the biggest moments of 2021
John Krasinski makes a splash on ‘SNL’ Krasinski hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the show’s first episode of the year, making audiences across the country laugh after sharing a kiss with Pete Davidson and getting “arrested” for participating in the Capitol riot.
‘SNL’: Krasinski shares kiss with Pete Davidson, gets ‘arrested’ for participating in Capitol
Mom arrested for posing as 13-year-old daughter A 30-year-old mother was arrested in the spring after she posed as her daughter at a middle school in Texas. The woman, Casey Garcia, said she did it to push for better security.
“I exposed the dangers of our schools, and I am trying to protect my children and yours. If you want to come after me for that, there’s really nothing else I can say,” she said in a video shared on YouTube after the incident.
‘I did this to prove a point’: Mom arrested for posing as 13-year-old daughter at school
Biden administration cancels over $55 million in student loan debtThe Department of Education in July canceled $55.6 million in student loan debt for 1,800 students who were victims of for-profit college fraud. Biden announced in December that he is extending the freeze on federal student loan payments until May 1, 2022.
Student debt: Biden administration cancels additional $55.6 million
Tracking COVID-19 vaccinesMillions of Americans received their COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, a major milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. As of Dec. 21, about 72.6% of people in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, and about 61.6% of people are fully vaccinated.
Tracking COVID-19 vaccine distribution: How many people have been vaccinated in the US?