REP. DARREN JACKSON IS HEADED TO THE COURT OF APPEALS: Jackson will resign his seat at the legislature and has been appointed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday. “Darren Jackson has spent his legal career fighting for a more fair and just North Carolina,” Cooper said in a press release announcing the news. “His decades of experience as a lawyer and elected public servant have prepared him for the bench, and I’m grateful for his willingness to continue serving our state with honor.” Cooper is appointing Jackson to fill the empty Court of Appeals seat vacated by Phil Berger Jr., the son of Republican Senate leader Phil Berger Sr. The younger Berger won a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court in November’s election.
RALEIGH POLICE CHIEF IS STEPPING DOWN AFTER NEARLY 8 YEARS AS TOP COP: North Carolina’s capital city is set to get a new chief of police. Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said in a statement Wednesday that she plans to retire at the start of April. She is the first African-American woman to ever lead the department. Deck-Brown joined the department in 1987. She rose through the ranks and was promoted to deputy chief in June 2011. She was picked to be the chief in 2013, winning the job over two other candidates. “To the women and men of the Raleigh Police Department – sworn and civilian, volunteers and part-time – I say thank you for all that you do and continue to do to make a difference in the great capital city of Raleigh,” she said in a statement.
NC'S COVID POSITIVITY RATE HITS 14% AS VACCINE ROLLOUT CONTINUES: Out of more than 35,000 coronavirus tests administered Saturday, 14.6% were positive, the state’s third-highest rate since the pandemic began. Health officials fear cases could spike after the holidays, much as they did in the weeks after Thanksgiving. Addressing the post-Thanksgiving case bump at a briefing earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper said, “the Christmas holidays could be even worse.” The virus has now killed 6,561 people in the state. Yet, more help is on the way. This week, the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be sent to 53 hospitals across the state that started administering the vaccine two weeks ago. The two Pfizer vaccine shots are to be given 21 days apart. On Monday, CVS and Walgreens began administering nearly 100,000 Moderna vaccine doses to North Carolina nursing home residents, an important step for the congregate living communities ravaged by the virus.
MCCONNELL IS STONEWALLING $2,000 STIMULUS CHECKS, REFUSING TO ALLOW VOTE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to deliver a political death blow to a last-minute push to authorize $2,000 stimulus checks for most Americans, arguing he would not be “bullied” into action despite pressure from President Trump, congressional Democrats and even some Republicans for the more generous payments. With only days left on the legislative calendar — and significant business still pending on the Senate floor — McConnell said Wednesday that the chamber would not vote on a House-passed stimulus bill, a move that threatened to render it impossible for lawmakers to broker a compromise before the end of the year. In addition to Trump and most Democrats, a growing number of Senate Republicans had called for the larger payments. That includes Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the two Georgia Republicans who face reelection votes next week. McConnell’s move could be one of his last as majority leader, pending the outcome of the Georgia runoffs next week. If Democrats capture both seats, they will seize control of the Senate. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who supports sending the $2,000 checks, said Tuesday that there were at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass the measure, though the number of lawmakers who have publicly backed the idea appears to be slightly less than that.
ONLY 15% OF VACCINES SHIPPED OUT HAVE BEEN ADMINISTERED SO FAR: As of Wednesday, more than 14 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been sent out across the United States, up from 11.4 million doses on Monday morning. But just 2.1 million people had received their first dose as of Monday morning, according to a dashboard maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We agree that that number is lower than what we hoped for,” said Moncef Slaoui, scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development and distribution. He added, “We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better.” The 2.1 million administered doses reported by the C.D.C. is an underestimate of the true number because of lags in reporting. And a C.D.C. official said in a separate news conference on Wednesday that 2.6 million people had received their first dose. Whatever the number, it falls far short of the goal that federal officials put forward as recently as this month to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of this year. In a tweet on Tuesday, President Trump seemed to lay the blame on governors, saying that it was “up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government.” But several governors have recently said their states have struggled because they had not received enough money from the federal government. So far, most vaccines administered have been given out at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Dr. Slaoui and General Perna both said they expected the pace of the rollout to accelerate significantly once pharmacies begin offering vaccines in their stores. The federal government has reached agreements with a number of pharmacy chains — including Costco, Walmart and CVS — to administer vaccines in their stores and other locations once vaccines become more widely available. So far, 40,000 pharmacy locations have enrolled in that program, General Perna said.