Bars Open, Fair’s On, More Vaccines Coming

Catch up in 8 minutes: Coop relaxes COVID rules as NC crosses 11,000 deaths + a BOG member scored a sweet gig + RTP lost a major HQ + what’s tanking Neera Tanden

Thurs., Feb. 25, 2021 

Howdy, friends. We’ve got some good news on the COVID front, and today looks to like one of the better weather days we’re going to have for a while. A weak cold front will move through in the morning, bringing clouds and a high of about 62. No rain, though. We’ll have enough of that on Friday, maybe Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday … (WRAL)

Today’s Number: 66

Effectiveness, in percent, of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine, which the FDA’s staff recommended approving yesterday. 

  • OK news: The vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe disease — less than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — and only 42% effective in preventing moderate to severe illness among those over 60 with medical risk factors. 

  • Better news: The clinical trial showed no deaths or cases requiring medical intervention a month after vaccination; there were seven deaths among the unlucky folks in the placebo group. 

  • “The review found vaccine efficacy against severe covid-19 ‘was similarly high across the United States, South Africa, and Brazil.’”

  • “‘We know this vaccine prevents 85 percent of the severe disease … It was 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths, and that’s really what’s important,’” said Nancy M. Bennett, a professor of medicine and public health sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.” (WaPo)


1. After 11 Months, You Can Drink Inside a Bar Again

As expected, Governor Cooper announced that he’s easing COVID restrictions starting Friday afternoon. New rules: 

  • The 10 p.m.–5 a.m. curfew is gone. 

  • 25 people can gather indoors, rather than 10. (The outdoor limit remains 50.)

  • The curfew for onsite alcohol consumption is pushed back from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

  • Bars and amusement parks can open indoor areas at 30% capacity, with a max of 250 people. 

  • Indoor events venues with more than 5,000-person capacity can go up to 15% of capacity even if that exceeds 250 people.

  • Restaurants, breweries, gyms, pools, museums, salons, etc. can increase their capacity to 50% of the normal limit. 

  • You still have to wear a mask. 

  • Here’s the new executive order

At a presser yesterday, Cooper said the metrics were moving in the right direction. 

  • “Hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest point since before Thanksgiving. The percent of tests returning positive continues to decline. This is encouraging.” (ABC 11)

  • “We are going to continue to watch the data. If we can move some more in the future, we hope that that will happen as more people get vaccinated and we continue following the rules. But we’re going to put the health and safety of people first.”

  • Cooper reiterated that he doesn’t plan to sign the school reopening bill the legislature passed earlier this month, saying he wants to preserve local authority. His deadline is Friday. By mid-March, he added, 95 of the state’s 115 school districts will have in-person instruction anyway. (N&O)

Yesterday, teachers — prioritized members of Group 3 — became eligible for COVID vaccines, and 400 Wake County school and childcare workers got their shots. The regular members of Group 3 — other kinds of essential frontline workers, and no, this isn’t confusing at all — become eligible on March 10.

Related: At his annual State of Agriculture Address (how was that not on my calendar?), Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler guaranteed that we’ll have a State Fair. So we’ll all have weird fried foods, screaming children, dudes in Confederate regalia, and an impassable Blue Ridge Road to forward to this October. (Just kidding.) (N&O)

Curb your enthusiasm: North Carolina surpassed 11,000 COVID deaths

2. How a UNC BOG Member Got a Choice Chancellorship

At Policy Watch, Joe Killian has yet a banger about the always-entertaining UNC Board of Governors, which awarded Darrell Allison the chancellorship of Fayetteville State despite — it seems — Allison being woefully underqualified. Coincidentally, he was a board member until he applied for the job. Imagine that. 

Read the whole story. Here are a few highlights:

  • Allison didn’t make the list of finalists. He was added at the last minute. 

  • As one FSU trustee put it: “It would be fair to say that he was no one’s first choice in the selection process. But it was obvious that he would be the first choice of [UNC System President] Peter Hans and the board and he has support from the General Assembly.”

  • Previous FSU chancellor James Anderson distrusted NCGA Republicans and initially refused to go along with NC Promise, which offered $500-a-semester tuition at the HBCU. 

  • Allison seems more amenable to the BOG’s will. After all, he was the only Black BOG member to lend his name to the blatantly false op-ed about the Silent Sam deal. As Durham lawyer and former BOG member Greg Doucette pointed out at the time, he gave the board cover. 

  • This is how it will work now, Doucette told Killian: “You’re going to have qualified candidates who look at these openings and say, ‘I don’t have those North Carolina political connections. I’m not buddy-buddy with the Speaker of the House or Peter Hans, so I’m not going to bother to apply.’”


3. The Long History of NC’s Health Inequities

In collaboration with UNC journalism students, NC Health News published a cool project that traces modern health inequities in the state to the carceral system established after the Civil War. 

  • “As of 2017, 22 percent of North Carolina’s population is Black, but 52 percent of its incarcerated population is Black, according to a report by the N.C. Institute of Medicine. ‘Communities with high rates of incarceration are affected by damage to social networks and family ties, increased poverty and crime, and reduced life expectancy,’ the report reads. ‘High rates of incarceration weaken communities and contribute to adverse health outcomes.’”


  • Durham activist Paul Scott asked legislators to oppose an otherwise uncontroversial bill requiring students to be taught about the Holocaust unless it also requires schools to teach about the suffering of Black people. (N&O)

Share PRIMER | North Carolina

4. RTP Loses Major HQ in Merger

An Irish company called ICON announced that it is purchasing the Raleigh-based PRA Health Sciences — the sixth-largest contract research organization in the region — for $12 billion and relocating its headquarters to Dublin. The TBJ story (sub. required) quotes extensively from the press release, so there’s a bunch of happy gibberish about delivering “differentiated decentralized and hybrid trial solutions to meet growing customer needs,” etc. 

  • PRA has about 600 employees in the region — of its 19,000 globally — and it’s not clear if any or all of them are losing their jobs. 

  • The deal is supposed to close in the third quarter. 

5. Rochester Cops Won’t Be Charged for Killing Black Man

It’s sad to say, but no surprise here: A New York grand jury declined to indict the Rochester police officers who placed a mesh hood over the head of Daniel Prude, a Black man suffering from a psychotic episode, pressed his head into the pavement until he lost consciousness, and tried to cover up the circumstances of his death, falsely telling the public that he died of a drug overdose. 

  • “On Tuesday, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, announced that none of the officers who arrested Mr. Prude would face charges in connection with his death. A grand jury convened by Ms. James to investigate the case declined to charge any of the seven officers on the scene that night with a crime.”

  • “Ms. James was blunt in acknowledging that she had hoped for a different outcome. ‘The criminal justice system has demonstrated an unwillingness to hold law enforcement officers accountable in the unjustified killing of unarmed African-Americans,’ Ms. James said, her voice growing emotional at a news conference at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester.” (NYT)

  • The federal Justice Department is reviewing the case and may launch its own civil-rights investigation. 

6. About Neera Tanden

Progressives have always been a little wary of Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget. A former Hillary Clinton aide, she’d been on the frontlines of the Bernie Twitter Wars, after all, and the think tank she helmed was often more center than left. She’s also faced accusations of union-busting (which she denied). But early on, they made clear this wasn’t the hill they wanted to die on. Tanden was smart, qualified, and she wasn’t a deficit hawk. Biden could have done worse. 

This isn’t hard. McConnell wants a scalp. Manchin wants to prove his independence to the folks back home in West Virginia — if it’s an outspoken woman of color, so much the better. Washington is inured to the hypocrisy of people who defended Donald Trump — who still defend him, who got Very Mad that Twitter deplatformed him — clutching their pearls that Tanden called McConnell “Moscow Mitch” on the internet. And at some point soon, Biden is going to decide that Tanden isn’t worth expending political capital to save. 

  • It’s hard for me to have strong feelings about an OMB director. But no one deserves to go down for this kind of crap. 


  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a North Carolina resident and Trump lackey who doesn’t have the good sense to quit while he’s behind — told a congressional committee that he plans to further slow mail service. Democrats, meanwhile, urged President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Service board so they can oust DeJoy — which he did yesterday afternoon. (WaPo)