News Headlines 2/25/21

FDA SAYS JOHNSON & JOHNSON COVID VACCINE OFFERS STRONG PROTECTION: The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday (February 24th) that Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine offers strong protection against severe Covid-19. That clears another step to final approval of the vaccine, which unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are currently being used, is just one shot, instead of two several weeks apart. FDA scientists said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19, and about 85 percent effective against severe illness. The FDA’s independent advisers will debate Friday whether the evidence is strong enough to approve the new vaccine.

U.S. to Distribute Masks to Hard-Hit Communities: The White House said yesterday that the federal government will be distributing millions of face masks to Americans, but they won’t be sent to everyone and won’t go through the mail, ideas that had been considered. Instead, the administration will send more than 25 million cloth masks to underserved communities that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus, and they will be given out through Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and the nation’s food bank and food pantry systems.

NIH to Study ‘Long Covid,’ Now Named ‘PASC’: The National Institutes of Health announced this week that it’s launching an analysis of “long Covid,” what sufferers have been calling it when they have lingering symptoms for weeks or months after having Covid-19. The NIH will try to figure out what’s causing the range of symptoms, which some studies show can be experienced by as many as one-third of Covid patients. Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, said yesterday that “long Covid” now has an official name, “PASC,” which stands for “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

CHIEF: CAPITOL POLICE KNEW ABOUT VIOLENCE THREAT ON JANUARY 6TH, BUT ATTACK FAR WORSE THAN EXPECTED: U.S. Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said in remarks prepared ahead of her House testimony today (February 25th) that Capitol Police knew about the threat of violence on January 6th from armed extremists, but the attack on the U.S. Capitol that unfolded was still far worse than they’d expected, and they were unprepared to repel what amounted to an invasion. That seemed to differ somewhat from what Steven Sund, the former Capitol Police chief who resigned under pressure after the attack said in his testimony Tuesday. He said they had expected the day’s protests to be similar to two other pro-Trump events in late 2020 that were much less violent. Pittman said intelligence collected ahead of time led them to take measures they normally don’t, including giving officers assault rifles to use to protect members of Congress, intercepting radio frequencies used by the rioters, and sending spies to the rally earlier that day at which then-President Donald Trump and others spoke. Pittman also says there were, quote, “internal challenges” as Capitol Police responded to the attack, including that officers didn’t understand when they were allowed to use deadly force, and less-than-lethal weapons officers had weren’t as successful as they’d  expected.

BIDEN ORDERS REVIEW OF U.S. SUPPLY CHAINS, WANTS TO STRENGTHEN THEM: President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday (February 24th) reviewing U.S. supply chains with the goal of strengthening them for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors. The U.S. has become increasingly reliant on imports of those goods, which is a potential national security risk, and boosting supply chains in the U.S. is also intended to increase manufacturing jobs. Strengthening the supply chain has apparent bipartisan support, with Biden meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House yesterday before the signing. Biden said, “It was like the old days. People were actually on the same page.”

EX-CUOMO ADMIN. AIDE CHARGES HE KISSED HER WITHOUT CONSENT, OTHER HARASSMENT: A former member of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s administration gave more details yesterday (February 24th) after having accused him of sexual harassment more than two months ago. Lindsey Boylan said Cuomo once kissed her on the lips without consent, said to her and two others that they should play strip poker, and, quote, “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.” Boylan, now running for Manhattan borough president, made the allegations in a post on the website, Medium. A spokesperson for Cuomo said the, quote, “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.” Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, said the kiss happened at the end of a one-on-one meeting, writing, “As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.” Boylan also alleged that during an October 2017 flight, as she and Cuomo sat with a press aide and a state trooper, Cuomo said, “Let’s play strip poker.” She also claimed Cuomo created a culture of sexual harassment, including making unflattering comments about female colleagues’ weight, ridiculing their romantic relationships and having roses delivered to them on Valentine’s Day. The Associated Press obtained memos from 2018 indicating Boylan resigned after complaints that she belittled and yelled at her staff. Boylan said the records were leaked to “smear” her, and that she left because her relationship with Cuomo’s senior team, quote, “grew hostile after I started speaking up for myself.”