EFFORT TO BRING EQUITY TO COUNTY VACCINE DISTRIBUTION HAS SLOWED NC ROLLOUT: As the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services ramped up its vaccine distribution, Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen put an emphasis on equity. She wanted to make sure at least some doses got to all 100 counties in the state. But not all health departments have the same capacity to carry out the final step. As a result, some counties told DHHS they would be OK taking smaller shipments, while other counties will see their allotments increase. Cohen acknowledged the emphasis on geographic equity contributed to the delay. Now, the state will push for speed. “There is a tension between speed and equity,” Cohen said. “And we were trying to find that right middle ground.” State health officials announced this week they were setting up 10 “high-throughput” sites around the state which will receive a combined allocation of 45,000 doses.
GOVERNOR COOPER IS PUSHING FOR BILLIONS IN INFRASTRUCTURE BONDS: Cooper spoke to county commissioners gathered Thursday morning for a virtual meeting of their statewide association. He said the state recently borrowed money for road construction at 1.48 percent interest, feeding his desire for a multibillion-dollar bond package along the lines of one he proposed last summer. "You’re never going to find better interest rates," Cooper told commissioners. "This is the time.” Cooper has pitched two major bond packages. The first totals $4.3 billion, which voters would have to approve after the legislature puts it on a statewide ballot. Nearly half of that would go toward building and renovating public schools, with the rest for water and sewer projects, university and community college system projects and $500 million for affordable housing. The governor also wants to borrow $250 million, which wouldn't necessarily take voter approval, to expand broadband access, particularly in rural areas.
NC INSURRECTIONISTS WON'T GO TO COURT IN WASHINGTON UNTIL JUNE: Three of the seven North Carolina men arrested last week during and after the riot of President Donald Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol won’t be in court again until June 10, according to court records. “It’s an extremely long time,” said Washington criminal defense lawyer Joseph Fay, who represents North Carolina defendant Earl Atwell Glosser of Matthews. Glosser faces misdemeanor charges of unlawful entry into public property and violating curfew, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department reported. In addition to Glosser, Jere Dement Brower of Sanford and Lance Edward Grames are also charged with unlawful entry into public property and violating curfew. Grames’ is listed in police and court records as living in “Sarfield,” but there does not appear to be a community by that name in North Carolina and it could be a spelling error. On Jan. 5, the Police Department said, it arrested Thomas Alexander Gronek and Timothy Keller, both of Asheville. Keller was charged with driving the bus without a permit, and Gronek was charged with illegally having fireworks, a pistol, a rifle, ammunition and an illegally large ammunition feeding device, records say. These were found on the bus.
LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MONITORING INCREASED ONLINE "CHATTER" ABOUT MORE VIOLENCE FROM RIGHT-WING: FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told reporters that officials were monitoring “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter” about events surrounding the inauguration. “Right now, we’re tracking calls for potential armed protests and activity leading up to the inauguration,” Wray said, noting that it was a challenge “to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional.” Some officials said they aren’t taking any chances and were braced for the likelihood of attacks. After the Capitol siege, “what we’ve already seen and experienced is the depths and lengths people are willing to go in furtherance of their cause,” said Andrew Walsh, a deputy chief with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, who participated in a call with the FBI and local law enforcement officials on Wednesday. The organizer of the “Million Militia March” appears to have abandoned an Inauguration Day demonstration in Washington, warning followers on his personal website to “STAY FAR AWAY FROM DC & ALL STATE CAPITALS . . . IT IS A TRAP.” Social media platforms and Web hosting services have removed accounts and chat apps that Trump supporters used to coordinate the Jan. 6 assault. But that also has made it harder for law enforcement officials to monitor those who might be planning violence. Telegram has cracked down on its own sizable number of white-supremacist and neo-Nazi users, experts said. On Telegram, some users have called on followers to abandon plans for a second protest in Washington in favor of surprise attacks nationwide.
ZIP-TIE MAN IS A RETIRED AIR FORCE OFFICER WHO WANTED TO TAKE HOSTAGES: The retired officer, Larry Rendell Brock, was arrested in Texas on Sunday on one count of unlawfully entering a restricted building and another of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, the Justice Department said at the time. “He means to take hostages,” the Texas prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer, said on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. “He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government.” The Justice Department has said that images from the Capitol siege appeared to show Mr. Brock wearing a green helmet, a tactical vest, a camouflage jacket and trousers holding zip ties that are used by law enforcement officers to “restrain and/or detain subjects.” But the A.P. quoted Mr. Brock’s attorney, Brook Antonio II, as saying on Thursday that there was no direct evidence of him breaking into the Capitol or doing anything violent inside. The top federal prosecutor in Washington said this week that he expected the number of people charged with crimes tied to the Capitol riot to rise into the hundreds. The F.B.I. has received more than 126,000 photographic and video tips and as agents have scrubbed airline passenger manifests and video of air travelers to and from Washington to find potential suspects. The man who was photographed holding a Confederate battle flag inside the U.S. Capitol during the riot was arrested on Thursday in Delaware, two law enforcement officials said. The man, Kevin Seefried, was wanted by the F.B.I., which had sought help from the public to identify him and had widely circulated a dispatch plastered with images of him.