COVID 19 POSITIVITY RATES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS ARE DOWN IN NC: At least 858,548 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 11,212 have died since March, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported 2,643 new COVID-19 cases, down from 2,924 reported the day before. At least 1,414 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Saturday, down from 1,465 on Friday. Saturday’s total is the lowest reported since mid-November. As of Thursday, the latest date for which data are available, 5.4% of COVID-19 tests came back positive, up from 4.7% on Wednesday. Wednesday was second day in a row the rate was below 5%, which health officials have said is the target rate to control the spread of the virus.
NORTH CAROLINA LEADS THE NATION IN VACCINATING 65 AND OLDER: Of the 33 states and DC in our analysis, 22 states and the District of Columbia have vaccinated at least one-third of older adults, but no state has reported crossing the 50% threshold (Figure 2). Among the 21 states and DC reporting data for people 65 and older, 4 states report vaccinating a larger share of their 65 and older population than the national average, which is 41% (North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina). The share of adults 65 and older who have received at least one dose of the vaccine ranges from 49% in North Carolina to 27% in Pennsylvania. The relatively low rate in Pennsylvania may be partly explained by data not included from Philadelphia county. Two states – Florida and Texas – included people ages 65 and older in the initial prioritization group (that is, before the federal government advised including them) and report vaccination rates by age. (A third state, Georgia, also vaccinated older adults from the outset but does not report vaccination rates among older adults.) As of February 23, Florida has a higher vaccination rate among older adults than Texas (45% vs. 38%). The lower rate in Texas may be due in part to delays resulting from the recent winter storm that wreaked havoc on the state.
FLOOR COLLAPSES DURING WAKE FOREST COVID PARTY, STUDENT GROUP SUSPENDED: Wake Forest University suspended a student organization after the floor partially collapsed during an off-campus gathering at a private residence, according to a school statement. The group, which wasn't named, was placed under an interim suspension while the incident from Saturday is investigated. University spokesperson Cheryl Walker said in the statement no serious injuries were reported. The school was investigating violations of the university's COVID-19 protocols. Winston-Salem Fire Capt. Brian Lowe told the Winston-Salem Journal that part of the first floor collapsed into the basement. The call came in shortly after midnight and almost everyone, except for the people renting the residence, were gone by the time firefighters arrived. Fire officials said it wasn't a safe place for the renters to stay. “We are following up with those involved to provide support and resources, including assistance with housing,” Walker said.
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL RUN AGAIN IN 2024, ON THE REPUBLICAN TICKET: Former president Donald Trump declared Sunday that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement. “We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over,” Trump said of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious, and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.” Trump’s speech came as he has been putting the finishing touches on a new political structure that he intends to use to cement his dominance over the GOP. “We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.” Trump also launched an expected attack on President Biden, echoing many of the themes of the Republican’s winning 2016 presidential campaign and its losing sequel in 2020. He alleged that Biden had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” before attacking the president for his position on border security policy, his erasure of Trump executive orders and his energy policies. Trump took the stage immediately after the release of a 2024 presidential straw poll of conference attendees, conducted by Trump campaign pollster Jim McLaughlin. It found that 68 percent of attendees wanted Trump to run again, and 55 percent supported Trump’s election in 2024, if he ran, with 21 percent supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. No other contender hit double digits.
THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT IS IN FRONT OF THE SUPREME COURT AGAIN: As Republican state lawmakers around the nation are working furiously to enact laws making it harder to vote, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear its most important election case in almost a decade, one that will determine what sort of judicial scrutiny those restrictions will face. The case centers on a crucial remaining provision of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race. Civil rights groups are nervous that the court, now with a six-justice conservative majority, will use the opportunity to render that provision, Section 2, toothless. The provision has taken on greater importance in election disputes since 2013, when the court effectively struck down the heart of the 1965 law, its Section 5, which required prior federal approval of changes to voting procedures in parts of the country with a history of racial and other discrimination. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that both Arizona restrictions violated Section 2 because they disproportionately disadvantaged minority voters. In 2016, Black, Latino and Native American voters were about twice as likely to cast ballots in the wrong precinct as were white voters, Judge William A. Fletcher wrote for the majority in the 7-to-4 decision. Among the reasons for this, he said, were “frequent changes in polling locations; confusing placement of polling locations; and high rates of residential mobility.” Similarly, he wrote, the ban on ballot collectors had an outsize effect on minority voters, who use ballot collection services far more than white voters because they are more likely to be poor, older, homebound or disabled; to lack reliable transportation, child care and mail service; and to need help understanding voting rules. In dissent, four judges wrote that the state’s restrictions were commonplace, supported by common sense and applied neutrally to all voters.