CORONAVIRUS DETECTED ON FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IN DURHAM: Durham Public Schools will close three classrooms at Southwest Elementary School after two students tested positive for COVID-19, the district reported. The students in the classrooms, as well as students who rode Bus 185 Monday afternoon, will need to stay home for remote learning for 10 days. DPS is working with the Durham County Department of Public Health and will reach out to any individuals who may have come in close contact with the students, according to a district news release. DPS is offering four days of in-person instruction to elementary students, and will soon offer four days of in-person classes to middle and high school students under new legislation.
JOHNSTON COUNTY REPORTS QUARANTINES AT MULTIPLE SCHOOLS: Dozens of students are in quarantine after a COVID-19 cluster was reported in a Johnston County elementary school. According to the school system's dashboard, 83 students and three staff members are under active quarantine at Cleveland Elementary School. Dozens of active quarantine cases were also reported at Benson Elementary, Corinth Holders High School and Dixon Road Elementary. Active quarantines are defined as people who are symptomatic, live with someone who is symptomatic or who have close contact to a positive case of COVID-19. Forty-three students in the county currently test positive for COVID-19. A cluster is defined by at least five COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period and a link between cases. Currently, elementary students in the county are learning in person four days a week, while older grades remain on a Plan B rotation.
MVP SOUTHGATE MOVES TO EMINENT DOMAIN (TAKE) LAND FROM OVER 100 PIEDMONT LANDOWNERS: The company behind a controversial proposed natural-gas pipeline has filed dozens of federal lawsuits against local landowners, even though there are serious doubts it will ever carry gas. The MVP Southgate would carry Marcellus and Utica Shale gas from the MVP terminus in Pittsylvania County, Va., to the Dominion Energy distribution system south of Graham. The collaboration of five energy companies behind the project filed more than 35 condemnation suits in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in January against more than 100 landowners in North Carolina including 38 in Alamance County, according to a letter District 63 state Rep. Ricky Hurtado wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month. The mainline MVP pipeline has been under construction in Virginia for several years, but so mired in regulatory and legal challenges, Lollar said, that it’s pointless to start taking land and digging trenches in North Carolina until it is clear there will be a mainline to feed it gas. Lollar says the pipeline company really wants to dig those trenches now so courts and regulators will be more inclined to let the company finish construction just to get things cleaned up. To do that, it needs to take easements on the properties along the route. “That’s why they always go for immediate possession,” Lollar said.
CDC REVEALS POLITICAL MANIPULATION OF AGENCY BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DURING PANDEMIC: Federal health officials have identified several controversial pandemic recommendations released during the Donald Trump administration that they say were “not primarily authored” by staff and don’t reflect the best scientific evidence, based on a review ordered by its new director. The review identified three documents that had already been removed from the agency’s website: One, released in July, delivered a strong argument for school reopenings and downplayed health risks. A second set of guidelines about the country’s reopening was released in April by the White House and was far less detailed than what had been drafted by the CDC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A third guidance issued in August discouraged the testing of people without covid-19 symptoms even when they had contact with infected individuals. That was replaced in September after experts inside and outside the agency raised alarms. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky ordered the review as part of her pledge to restore public trust in the beleaguered agency, which had seen its recommendations watered down or ignored during the Trump administration to align with the former president’s efforts to downplay the severity of the pandemic. The review was done “to ensure that all of CDC’s existing covid-19 guidance is evidence-based and free of politics,” according to a memo from the agency’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat. Schuchat conducted the review, which was posted on the agency’s website Monday. Officials said they are revamping all pandemic-related guidance to ensure that science and transparency are paramount.
DEB HAALAND BECOMES FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN TO LEAD INTERIOR DEPARTMENT: Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico made history on Monday when the Senate confirmed her as President Biden’s secretary of the interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency. Ms. Haaland became one of the first two Native American women elected to the House in 2018. But her new position is particularly meaningful because the department she now leads has spent much of its history abusing or neglecting America’s Indigenous people. Beyond the Interior Department’s responsibility for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million Native people, it oversees about 500 million acres of public land, federal waters off the United States coastline, a huge system of dams and reservoirs across the Western United States, and the protection of thousands of endangered species. Republican opposition to Ms. Haaland’s confirmation centered on her history of fighting against oil and gas exploration, and the deliberations around her nomination highlighted her emerging role in public debates on climate change, energy policy and racial equity. Four Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, voted for Ms. Haaland’s confirmation. The new interior secretary will be charged with essentially reversing the agency’s mission over the past four years. Led by David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, the Interior Department played a central role in the Trump administration’s systematic rollback of environmental regulations and the opening of the nation’s lands and waters to drilling and mining. Ms. Haaland is expected to quickly halt new drilling, reinstate wildlife conservation rules, expand wind and solar power on public lands and waters, and place the Interior Department at the center of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda. At the same time, she will quite likely assume a central role in realizing Mr. Biden’s promise to make racial equity a theme in his administration.