Monday News: Twenty one thousand, ninety seven


ALMOST 2.5 MILLION NORTH CAROLINIANS HAVE CAUGHT COVID-19: At least 2,470,242 coronavirus cases have been reported in North Carolina, and at least 21,097 people have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, Feb. 4, reported 12,385 new COVID-19 cases, down from 14,966 the day before. At least 4,490 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Feb. 4, including 751 adults being treated in intensive care units. The total patient count was down from 4,556 the previous day, according to state health officials. Roughly 75% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 71% are fully vaccinated. 1/4 of the adult population still unvaccinated. Mind-boggling.

NC REPUBLICANS THREATEN FURTHER GERRYMANDERING AFTER THE 2022 ELECTION: Indeed, after the decision Friday, state Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican who co-led the map-drawing process said in a statement that liberals will not be happy with the precedent the high court’s justices set by intervening. “Democrats will come to regret it.” The six GOP lawmakers listed on the lawsuit—Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, state Rep. Destin Hall and state Sens. Warren Daniel, Paul Newton and Hise—didn’t provide additional comment when requested through their respective chambers’ offices. It remains to be seen whether state lawmakers could also retool state House and Senate maps ahead of the 2024 election and keep them in place for the remainder of the decade. Such an action is open to one’s interpretation of the state constitution and could depend on whether the legislative maps Republicans are expected to redraw will receive a trial court’s approval. Also complicating future state boundaries is the possibility of Republicans appealing voting maps to the U.S. Supreme Court—a pathway political observers believe is plausible but may be less likely to succeed. *sigh*

MARK WALKER'S WAFFLE HOUSE GAMBIT IS LAUGH-WORTHY: Some are calling it “Wafflegate”: A seemingly innocent tweet about breakfast food that led to a social media firestorm reminiscent of a past North Carolina Senate campaign dining controversy. It happened the moment Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Walker made the decision around 10 p.m. Thursday to walk into a Waffle House at an undisclosed location, order and take a photo. He was overdressed for the occasion, wearing a suit jacket. And he missed that many North Carolinians wouldn’t think to step into a Waffle House before midnight. But that wasn’t the part everyone focused on. No, it was his order: A plate of beige-colored food and a hamburger patty. Toast, hash browns and eggs. No one is quite sure what to make of the eggs. Was it an omelet with nothing in it? Did he forget to have them scrambled the way only Waffle House can do it? Where is the hot sauce? Or at least salt? Dammit. I knew this was going to make me hungry...

DELTA AIRLINES HAS HAD IT WITH YOU PEOPLE: Any person convicted of a disruption on board a flight should be added to the national “no fly” list, Delta Air Lines told the U.S. Department of Justice. In a letter to the Justice Department Attorney General Merrick Garland dated Thursday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said there should be “zero tolerance” for any behavior that affects flight safety. Bastian noted that while such incidents of bad behavior represent a small fraction of overall flights on Delta, the rate of incidents on the airline has increased nearly 100% since 2019. “This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft," Bastian wrote in the letter furnished to The Associated Press by Delta Air Lines. Delta has, along with its industry partner Airlines for America, been pushing since last year for heightened reporting, investigation and prosecution of those who interfere with on-board safety. The airlines, based in Atlanta, said it has put nearly 1,900 people on Delta’s “no-fly” list for refusing to comply with masking requirements and submitted more than 900 banned names to the Transportation Security Administration to pursue civil penalties. Oh yeah, I can get behind this 100%. Several flights have had to turn around and go back due to this nonsense, it's about time somebody cracked down.

NEW HIV STRAIN ATTACKS IMMUNE SYSTEM MUCH FASTER: A newfound variant of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been uncovered in the Netherlands and appears to cause faster disease progression compared with other versions of the virus. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects and destroys immune cells called CD4 cells in the body, causing the number of these cells to plummet. If left untreated, the infection then progresses to AIDS. In people infected with the newfound HIV variant, called the VB variant, the CD4 counts fall at about twice the rate as those of people infected with closely related HIV strains, meaning those of the same genetic subtype (B). Without treatment, infections with the VB variant would likely progress to AIDS, on average, within two to three years of a person's initial HIV diagnosis, researchers reported Thursday (Feb. 3) in the journal Science. With other versions of the virus, a similar degree of decline occurs about six to seven years after diagnosis, on average. "We found that on average, individuals with this variant would be expected to progress from diagnosis to 'advanced HIV' in nine months, if they do not start treatment and if diagnosed in their thirties," first author Chris Wymant, a senior researcher in statistical genetics and pathogen dynamics at the University of Oxford, told Live Science in an email. The disease's progression would be even faster in an older person, he said. Thankfully, in their study, the team found that antiretroviral drugs, the standard treatment for HIV, work just as well against the VB variant as they do against other versions of the virus. "For an individual on successful treatment, the deterioration of the immune system towards AIDS is stopped, and transmission of their virus to other individuals is stopped," Wymant said. :(