Friday News: Lock him up


GREENVILLE RACIST WHO THREATENED BLACK FAMILY GETS TWO YEARS IN PRISON: A North Carolina man who pleaded guilty three months ago to charges that he threatened to shoot an African American family for renting a home has been sentenced to more than two years in prison. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the prison sentenced handed down to Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34, on Monday, is followed by three years of supervised release. No hometown was given for Gurkins, and officials didn't say where the incidents occurred. Court documents said Gurkins drove to the family’s home, yelled racial slurs at them and told them they didn’t belong in the home. According to the documents, Gurkins threatened to shoot the mother and four children and any other Black people who entered the property. He then threatened the family with a metal rod, prosecutors said. The family moved out a few days later.

WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS REPORT 53 CASES OF CORONAVIRUS ACROSS DOZENS OF SCHOOLS: The Wake County school system reported 53 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past week at a time when North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state is facing a “dire situation” due to the pandemic. The latest update to the school district’s COVID-19 metrics page shows that 43 schools reported new cases since last week, with several reporting multiple cases. The number of coronavirus cases statewide has reached such high levels that Cooper announced new stricter rules on wearing face masks that went into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The district has reported 146 cases since Oct. 26, when the first students began returning for in-person instruction. This week’s total is up from the 42 new cases reported last week and has risen every week. over the past month. Wake has nearly 160,000 students in more than 190 schools. Health experts have advised Wake that it’s reasonable to expect one new case per school each week.

NC WAS GROUND ZERO FOR POLITICAL ROBOCALLS ON ELECTION DAY: On the final day of the 2020 election, North Carolina residents received more political robocalls than any other state, says an analysis by Transaction Network Services, a company that helps cell phone companies and their customers detect and block spam phone calls. On Nov. 3, more than 972,000 political calls were made to North Carolinians, TNS said, out of about 8.25 million voter outreach calls made nationwide that day. North Carolina was flooded with such calls since late August, it said. North Carolina’s was a battleground state this year, in play primarily for the presidential election and in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Cal Cunningham and Republican incumbent. Sen. Thom Tillis. The Cunningham-Tillis Senate race is reported to be the most expensive in American history. While many of the automated calls (some pre-recorded, some with live callers) appear to be from political campaigns and pollsters, some had a message that told voters to “stay safe and stay home,” TNS said. The Department of Homeland Security said the “stay safe and stay home” calls looked like an attempt to intimidate voters into not voting.

TRUMP SAYS HE WILL LEAVE WHITE HOUSE IN JANUARY "IF HE DOESN'T WIN": President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave the White House if the electoral college voted for President-elect Joe Biden next month, though he vowed to keep fighting to overturn the election he lost and said he may never concede. “Certainly I will, and you know that,” he said when asked if he would leave the White House if the electoral college picked Biden. Though advisers have long said he would leave on Jan. 20, it was Trump’s first explicit commitment to vacate office if the vote did not go his way. Trump said he planned to continue to make claims of fraud about the results and said, without evidence, that Biden could not have won close to 80 million votes. His legal team has been widely mocked — and has lost almost every claim in every state, as officials certify results for Biden. Aides say Trump has begun discussing a 2024 presidential bid, but he said on Thursday that he was still focused on 2020. “I don’t think it’s right he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump said of Biden. Trump had blocked a presidential transition for several weeks but relented this week and allowed his team to go forward. Trump also glancingly addressed the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 262,000 people in the United States, though mainly to brag. “The vaccines — and by the way, don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccine. . . . Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines, because the vaccines were me,” he said.

MOST PEOPLE WILL NOT HAVE ACCESS TO COVID VACCINE UNTIL SPRING: The promising news that not just one but two coronavirus vaccines were more than 90 percent effective in early results has buoyed hopes that an end to the pandemic is in sight. But even if the vaccines are authorized soon by federal regulators — the companies developing them have said they expect to apply soon — only a sliver of the American public will be able to get one by the end of the year. The two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have estimated they will have 45 million doses, or enough to vaccinate 22.5 million Americans, by January. Industry analysts and company executives are optimistic that hundreds of millions of doses will be made by next spring. But the companies — backed with billions of dollars in federal money — will have to overcome hurdles they’ve encountered in the early days of making vaccines. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use new technology that has never been approved for widespread use. They are ramping up into the millions for the first time. Other challenges include promptly securing raw vaccine ingredients and mastering the art of creating consistent, high-quality batches. The more realistic timelines for manufacturing the vaccines are no surprise to those who closely follow the industry, even as these remarkable scientific and pharmaceutical feats have shattered speed records for vaccine development. Adding to the difficulty, Pfizer and Moderna are using a technology, involving genetic material known as messenger RNA, that allows scientists to quickly adapt the technique for new pathogens. But it has never been commercially manufactured.



"Ramping up manufacturing"

is one of those catch phrases that sounds a lot easier than it is. Most people envision only the production site itself, but the entire supply chain of machinery and raw materials are involved. And the fact most of this on-site ramping up happens in a "clean" environment makes it triply hard.

Personally, I'm not expecting to have access to a vaccine regimen until mid-Summer.

When most of us have access to a vaccine...

is all going to depend not only on the speed and difficulty of Pfizer's and Moderna's production, but also on what other vaccines become available. The Oxford vaccine (despite a couple of hiccups in their phase 3 trial) is looking like it could be approved not too long after the two mRNA vaccines and it uses a much more conventional manufacture technique. It's likely that AstraZeneca will be able to ramp up production of it very quickly, so they may well have more doses to the public faster than Pfizer or Moderna. Then there's the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still in phase 3 but is a very conventional type. They too may be in production by early in 2021. Overall, because there are so many potential vaccines out there, we may see widespread vaccination happening by the end of the first quarter of 2021, with high-risk groups more likely to get the mRNA vaccines (because they have the highest effectiveness) and everyone else getting the more conventional vaccines because they can be produced more quickly (i.e., with existing vaccine manufacturing capacity.) Still, you're probably right that we won't really see full vaccination until well into the second quarter. And that's assuming, of course, that we can get enough people to take the vaccine at all.

I hope you're right

I am missing my children (and grandson) a lot these days. My daughter dropped off a turkey care package for me yesterday, but they stayed in the car (except her, we had to hug or lose our minds).