Bumpy vaccine drive: As statewide deaths surpass 30,000, California plans to use Dodger Stadium, Disneyland Resort, Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres), and the state fairgrounds in Sacramento as mass vaccination sites, The New York Times reports. The first to open will be Disneyland, Matthew Ormseth writes for the Los Angeles Times, where health officials are expected to begin vaccinating people this week. Eligibility is limited to those with top priority.
In New York, rigidly sticking to a healthcare-workers-first plan resulted in horrifying stories of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses languishing in freezers—or worse, thrown out because they weren’t administered quickly enough, Joseph Goldstein reports for The New York Times. Hospital administrators who received more doses than they needed to inoculate their staffs worried that using the extra doses on older patients would run afoul of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strict rules, so they just sat there. As criticism and pressure from the city mounted, the governor has now said the city can begin inoculating people 75 or older, but that it could still be slow-going. “This is a very large group of people: It can’t be just show up at the pharmacy,” Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, elite medical institutions like Harvard, Columbia, and Vanderbilt are putting young researchers, graduate students, technicians, and other staff with limited or no patient interactions first in line for the coronavirus vaccine, even ahead of older and high-risk patients, Apoorva Mandavilli reports for The New York Times. While officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have looked at the glacial pace of vaccinations and suggested loosening restrictions so as to vaccinate as many people as possible, they never expected this.
- Also: President-elect Joe Biden is feeling the pressure to deliver on his promise to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days, Adam Cancryn and Tyler Pager report for Politico, and has admonished his coronavirus response team for underperforming. According to the AP, roughly 9 million Americans have received the first vaccine shot.
Global toll: With deaths topping 1,950,000, the worldwide toll of the coronavirus pandemic is inching close to 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 378,000 of those deaths have been in the U.S., where the pandemic has sickened 22.7 million people. In September, Reuters reported that the World Health Organization estimated the death toll could surpass 2 million before a successful vaccine was in wide use. “Unless we do it all, (2 million deaths) … is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely,” Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said at the time.
Riot fever: Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, warned that the riot at the Capitol last week would likely be a surge event in the coronavirus pandemic, with public health consequences stretching nationwide, Michael Wilner reports for McClatchy. Many of the rioters were unmasked, in close quarters, screaming and shouting, all of which could have contributed to the spread of the virus. And since the vast majority of rioters were not detained, they’ve since returned to their homes across the country, potentially taking Covid germs with them.
Three Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois, have tested positive for Covid. They blame having to spend time in cramped quarters while the Capitol was being overrun by Trump supporters with Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks, according to The New York Times. Several Republican lawmakers have also tested positive for coronavirus, including Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Rep. Jake LaTurner of Kansas.
- Also: Simone Gold, a doctor who promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid, was at the storming of the capitol, which she told The Washington Post was “incredibly peaceful.”
Finger-pointing: The now-former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund says he asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be on standby for the pro-Trump rally and election protest that quickly devolved into a mob attack, The Washington Post reports. They said no. According to The Post, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving said he didn’t like the “optics”; Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger said he should go through informal channels to put the Guard on alert. (Stenger and Irving have also since resigned.) Even on Wednesday afternoon, as Sund’s forces were quickly overwhelmed, Pentagon officials denied Sund’s request for National Guard help. “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff. The Pentagon has blamed the Capitol Police for not requesting backup in advance. Now, Sund says there could be a repeat disaster on or around Inauguration Day. “My concern is if they don’t get their act together with physical security, it’s going to happen again,” he told The Post.
- Also: The FBI has put out a bulletin warning of armed protests being planned in all 50 state capitols, ABC News reports.
Women of color lose out: According to the latest jobs report, the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs in December—with women hit hardest, Annalyn Kurtz reports for CNN. Women actually lost 156,000 jobs, but men gained 16,000, offsetting the net loss. A separate survey that includes self-employed workers showed white women made gains while Black and Latina women did not. Women are down 5.4 million jobs since February 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, while men have lost 4.4 million jobs.
Climate change before SCOTUS: In 2018, the city of Baltimore filed a lawsuit arguing that fossil fuel companies like Chevron and BP that have externalized the environmental cost of extracting and burning fossil fuels should pay for the damage that rising sea levels and other climate impacts are having on the city, Jennifer Hijazi reports for E&E News. Now, in a challenge on where cases like this should be argued—brought by lawyers for the companies, which would rather see these cases in federal courts where they might be more likely to fail—is headed for the Supreme Court. If the Court sides with industry, it could deal a blow not only for Baltimore’s case, but for similar cases across the nation.
In the pipeline: The Trump administration has finalized a rule that will ease requirements for oil and gas companies to report leaks, fires, explosions and other incidents, Mike Lee writes for E&E News. Under current regulations, companies need to report accidents if they cause a death, serious injury, or more than $50,000 in property damages; now that last threshold to $122,000, indexed to inflation. While the rule change is scheduled to take effect March 12, the Biden administration may seek to overturn it.
- Also: The EPA has proposed a rule making it easier to construct pipelines, bridges, and roads by creating a new category of “non-major” federal projects that would be exempt from undergoing environmental review, Katelyn Burns writes for Vox. The proposed rule would be the biggest deregulatory change to the National Environmental Policy Act in almost three decades.
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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