โ„๏ธ Happy Tuesday! We hope you enjoyed yesterday's snow โ€” it won't be back for a while.

๐ŸŽ Thank you to our members who have given back to our newsroom! Before the year ends, consider joining them.

โ˜€๏ธ Today's weather: Sunny with a high of 35.

๐Ÿ•ฏ๏ธ Situational awareness: Our condolences go out to Gov. Eric Holcomb and First Lady Janet Holcomb as they mourn the loss of their dog, Henry. The 13-year-old miniature schnauzer died yesterday. He was a very good boy.

Today's newsletter is 942 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read. Edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Bill Kole.

1 big thing: ๐Ÿ“ˆ COVID is surging, again

Weekly COVID-19 activity in Indiana wastewater
Data: CDC; Note: Data for the two most recent weeks may be incomplete due to delays in reporting; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Indiana is a COVID-19 hot spot as we head into the holiday travel season, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

Why it matters: While many Americans have some combination of natural and vaccine-induced immunity, COVID still makes people sick and forces them to miss school, work and holiday activities.

Driving the news: As of early December, Indiana was among 22 states with "very high" COVID wastewater levels as defined by the CDC, which compares current rates to baseline measurements at sites nationwide.

  • Many states with "very high" levels are concentrated in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

Of note: Wastewater analysis is one of the best methods for tracking the spread of COVID these days, given how few people are testing and how few of those results are reported to local or state health officials.

COVID-19 activity in U.S. wastewater
Data: CDC; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Threat level: COVID remains a potentially fatal disease for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly and immunocompromised.

  • There have been nearly 67,200 deaths nationwide related to COVID so far this year, per provisional CDC data. That's down significantly from approximately 246,200 last year and 463,300 in 2021, but still a considerable toll.

Meanwhile, the CDC recently sounded the alarm on low levels of COVID, flu and RSV vaccinations so far this winter.

  • Only about 11% of Indiana residents have received the most recent COVID booster, the lowest rate among neighboring states, per the CDC.

๐Ÿ’ญ James' thought bubble: COVID entered my house two weeks ago via my daughter's day care, where at least half her class was infected.

  • After living through drive-up testing and stringent rules, it's fascinating to see how routine the illness has become.
  • No one at my daughter's doctor's office wore masks or minded touching her even after she tested positive.
  • Everyone just sort of expects to get COVID โ€” and, right now, everyone is getting it.

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2. ๐Ÿญ Gary namesake U.S. Steel to sell

A sign warning against trespassing is posted on a fence that surrounds U.S. Steel's Gary Works facility. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Japan's Nippon Steel yesterday announced it will buy U.S. Steel for $14.9 billion, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

Why it matters: U.S. Steel's rise and fall has carried (and dragged) Indiana for more than a century, with the decline of Rust Belt manufacturing leaving industrial ruins.

Flashback: U.S. Steel built Gary, Indiana, in the early 1900s, propelling it to a city of nearly 180,000 people in 1960.

  • Gary is named after Elbert Gary, a co-founder and longtime chairman of U.S. Steel.
  • The company has laid off nearly 30,000 employees in Gary since the 1970s, while the city's population has fallen to 68,000.
  • Gary Works remains U.S. Steel's largest plant, with more than 4,000 workers, per the company.

Of note: Along with Gary, other U.S. Steel co-founders included Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Charles M. Schwab.

The big picture: One of America's most iconic companies will be owned by a foreign entity, despite domestic interest earlier this year.

Details: The $55-per-share offer represents around a 40% premium to where Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel shares ended trading on Friday.

  • It's also substantially higher than the rebuffed bids from American rivals Cleveland Cliffs and Esmark.

What's next: Nippon says it will honor all of U.S. Steel's existing labor union agreements.

  • The deal will require regulatory approvals.

3. Pit stop: Taco Bell beef heads to court

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

๐Ÿ•ฏ๏ธ The racing community is mourning the loss of Jeanetta Holder, the "quilt lady" of the Indianapolis 500. Starting in 1976, Holder handmade a quilt for each race winner โ€” stitching a place for herself in the fabric and tradition of the track. (IndyStar)

๐Ÿ’ธ Indiana's revenue collections have missed the mark for two straight months โ€” after more than two years of exceeding expectations. The shortfall is small, so far, but legislative leaders said they'll proceed with caution as we move into the new year. (WFYI)

๐ŸŒฎ A battle line has been drawn down Washington Street by the operator of the Taco Bell restaurant inside Circle Centre Mall. The operator is seeking an injunction to block the opening of a Taco Bell Cantina, the restaurant's upscale concept that serves alcohol, across Washington Street from the mall. (IBJ)

4. Brews on Tues: Sun King's Krampus Claws

Last minute gift idea ๐Ÿ‘†. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

๐Ÿ‘‹ Arika here!

My favorite of Sun King's seasonal brews has little in common with its namesake โ€” described by some as a "horrific Christmas beast."

  • Krampus Claws is certainly no punishment, but I will be on my best behavior if it means getting another pint โ€” so perhaps it is serving the same purpose.

Brew of the week: Krampus Claws, a Brown Ale with coffee and chocolate notes.

  • 5.7% ABV, 20 IBU.
  • It has a light chocolate flavor โ€” sweet, smooth and a bit lighter than its similarly shaded porters and stouts.

The bottom line: Skip the milk and serve this with Santa's cookies to guarantee yourself a spot on the nice list.

A new career is waiting for you

๐Ÿ’ผ Check out who's hiring now.

  1. Vice President of Communications & Marketing at Early Learning Indiana.
  2. Director of Internal Communications at Strada.
  3. Chief People Officer at audiochuck.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

5. ๐Ÿพ New Year's Eve events for every vibe

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

We know you've probably got Christmas on your mind, but New Year's Eve is less than two weeks away, y'all.

Why it matters: If you want to ring in the New Year in style, it's time to make those plans, buy your tickets and check the dress code.

Here are our picks for whatever vibe you're looking for:

If you wantโ€ฆ

๐Ÿฅ‚ An open bar: Indianapolis Tito's NYE 2024 at the Roof, an all-inclusive party at one of the city's most unique venues, the Indiana Roof Ballroom. Tickets start at $160.

๐Ÿ˜ด To be home before the ball drops: 2023 Wrapped, a New Year's Eve cider pairing party from Ash & Elm. Revisit each of their 12 ciders of the month, paired with a bite of food โ€”ย all by 8pm. Tickets are $75.

๐Ÿ›ผ Fun for the whole family: The 2024 NYE Skate Party at Skateland includes skate rental, a slice of pizza and apple cider toast. Admission is $20.

Your vibe: Fancy AF? A sit-down dinner? Keep reading for more recs

Our picks:

๐Ÿช… Arika is ringing in the New Year in Mexico for a dear friend's wedding!

๐Ÿ“• James is planning to drive home from Alabama on New Year's Eve โ€” probably while listening to an audiobook, children willing.

๐ŸŽ๏ธ Lindsey wishes Indy still dropped an IndyCar at midnight downtown.