Friday News: Lead by example

SOME REPUBLICANS IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY STILL NOT WEARING MASKS: State health leaders have been urging people for weeks to exercise social distancing and wear masks in public, but many state lawmakers don't seem to be following that advice. Lawmakers and staff are almost on top of each other in some committee rooms, and in the House and Senate chambers, lawmakers sit only about 3 feet apart. "There’s no way to avoid being close to somebody eventually, but I think most people are being as cautious as they can and being as respectful as they can to someone else," said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow. Brown said that's more about the individual’s comfort level than about party. "I’ve got one in my pocket as well. If I’m in a big crowd, where I feel like, I’ll wear mine," he said. "So, I think it’s been left up to the individual." While kitchen and housekeeping staff wear masks, most legislative staffers and General Assembly Police officers don't.

NO DOCUMENTS THAT BACK UP MEADOWS' AIDE'S CLAIM HE PAID MONEY BACK: A $40,000 penalty by the House Ethics Committee against former U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows has been paid in full, a Meadows adviser said Thursday. The fine stemmed from Meadows’ handling of sexual harassment allegations against a former Congressional aide. Last Friday was the deadline for Meadows to have paid the money to the U.S. Treasury. The ethics committee investigation found he had overpaid the former staffer after he was no longer working out of the congressional offices. Williamson provided the statement after Tom Rust, the staff director and chief counsel for the committee, declined to comment on whether the fine was paid or the case had been closed. Rust also declined to produce records showing the status of the case and did not offer an explanation why the committee could not discuss it. Williamson also did not provide documents showing the outcome. Meadows, 60, who represented the 11th district in Western North Carolina for seven years before becoming President Donald Trump’s fourth chief of staff, declined to be interviewed about the payments.

UNC AND NC STATE WILL START FALL SEMESTER AUG 10 AND FINISH BY THANKSGIVING: The chancellors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University sent emails to students and faculty outlining the schedule. Both campuses will start Aug. 10, skip fall break and complete final exams before Thanksgiving to end the semester early. The measures are meant to eliminate travel related to fall break and guard against a possible second wave of coronavirus cases starting in late fall. “Many public health experts believe our nation and our state could face a second wave of COVID-19 sometime in late fall or early winter,” N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in his email regarding the Raleigh campus. “This guidance led us to start and finish the semester early in an effort to try and stay ahead of a potential second wave.” Last month, the leader of North Carolina’s public university system announced his intention for its 17 campuses to resume in-person classes in the fall, leaving details to individual chancellors and promising to accommodate those who aren't comfortable returning to campus.

OXFORD COVID 19 VACCINE MAY BE AVAILABLE BY OCTOBER: The United States has pledged to pay as much as $1.2 billion to get early access to 300 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed and tested in England. The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and licensed to British drugmaker AstraZeneca. It is expected to be delivered as early as October, though that only means the doses will be stored until the vaccine completes clinical trials ensuring it is safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 infection. The vaccine is in early clinical trials and being tested for safety, whether it produces antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and whether it protects the immunized from becoming infected with the virus. The first tests began in England on April 23. Phase 3 clinical studies will begin this summer in both the United Kingdom and the United States, where approximately 30,000 volunteers will take part, according to U.S. Health and Human Services.

MAN WHO FILMED AHMAUD ARBERY KILLING ARRESTED FOR MURDER: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., 50, who recorded the graphic cellphone video of Arbery’s death in February, which was leaked earlier this month. He is charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the GBI. Bryan’s arrest comes two weeks after the GBI apprehended Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, who confronted Arbery with firearms while he was running in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23. Both McMichaels were charged with murder and aggravated assault, and the GBI has confirmed that Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery during the encounter. Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Arbery’s family, has repeatedly called for Bryan’s arrest. Following the GBI’s announcement Thursday, he and other attorneys for the family said in a statement that Bryan’s involvement in the killing was “obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well.” According to a police report, Greg McMichael told police that he and his son pursued Arbery after McMichael recognized him from “several recent break-ins in the neighborhood.” He said that “Roddy” unsuccessfully tried to block Arbery’s path, and at that point, he and his son “jumped into the bed of the truck” and continued the chase.



The real question is...

if the Oxford vaccine is successful in its phase III trials, will it be licensed widely and will AstraZeneca be allowed to distribute it in the US as widely as we need. Given Trump's chauvinism, it's an open question whther a vaccine of non-US origin would get the backing of the government as it should. Of course, he'd be caught between that and his desire to re-open as quickly as possible, but it would mean he couldn't take credit for a vaccine that would appear just before the election, which would be the very last thing he'd want.