News Headlines 3/30/21

BIDEN, CDC DIRECTOR WARN OF POSSIBLE CORONAVIRUS FOURTH WAVE: President Biden and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned yesterday (March 29th) about a possible fourth wave of the coronavirus, saying that many are viewing the pandemic as over too soon. Even as he announced expansion of coronavirus vaccinations, with all adults to be eligible over the next five weeks, Biden urged governors and city and local leaders to reinstate mask requirements and other Covid-19 restrictions that some have been easing, and to pause removing more requirements, saying, “This is deadly serious.” Earlier yesterday, Walensky, who’s been warning about another surge, become emotional during a virtual briefing as she spoke about treating Covid patients who are alone as they died. She said, “[R]ight now, I’m scared. I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.” She said cases are up about 10 percent from the previous week, with hospitalizations and deaths both starting to rise again too. She also urged, “Please limit travel to essential travel for the time being.”

In other developments:

Real-World Study Finds Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Highly Effective: The CDC said yesterday that a real-world study of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines show they are highly effective and performed nearly as well as they did in the previous controlled studies. Both vaccines were 90 percent effective after two doses, compared to about 95 percent in the earlier testing. The study also found the vaccines were 80 percent effective two weeks after a first dose. The CDC’s Mark Thompson called it “very reassuring news.”

Ban on Eviction of Renters Extended: The federal moratorium on evicted tenants who’ve fallen behind on their rent during the pandemic is being extended by the Biden administration through the end of June, it was announced yesterday. The moratorium had been set to expire on Wednesday.

Canada Pauses AstraZeneca Vaccine Use for Those Under 55 Over Blood Clot Concerns: Canada suspended the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people under age 55 yesterday because of concerns it miight be linked to rare blood clots. Officials said the pause decision was made due to new data from Europe that suggests the blood clot risk is potentially as high as one in 100,000, much higher than the previously believed one in one million risk. Most of those in Europe who developed a blood clot were women under age 55, and the fatality among those who did develop clots was as high as 40 percent.

TRIAL OF OFFICER IN DEATH OF FLOYD BEGINS, VIDEO SHOWN TO JURORS ON FIRST DAY: The murder and manslaughter trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd got underway yesterday (March 29th). The video seen around the world of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck was shown to jurors on the first day of the trial, which is being livestreamed, with proseuctor Jerry Blackwell presenting it during his opening statement. Although the length of time Chauvin kneeled of Floyd’s neck had originally been said to be eight minutes and 46 seconds, Blackwell said it was really nine minutes and 29 seconds, stating, “He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath . . . until the very life was squeezed out of him.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Eric Nelson said Floyd had been fighting officers as they tried to put him in the police car, and that the crowd around them became larger and increasingly hostile. He stated, “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.” Nelson also disputed that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, saying that he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, and that, combined with heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline in his body caused a fatal heart rhythm disturbance. He said, “[T]he evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”

Jurors also heard testimony from Donald Williams, a witness to the incident. Williams, who said he was trained in mixed martial arts, said Chauvin appeared to increase the pressure on Floyd’s neck several times with a shimmying motion, and said he yelled that he was cutting off Floyd’s blood supply. He spoke about Floyd’s breathing becoming more labored and how he eventually stopped moving, saying he saw hime, quote, “slowly fade away.” Minneapolis police dispatcher Jena Scurry testified that she the incident on a city surveillance camera, and became so concerned she called a duty sergeant, saying, “my instincts were telling me that something is wrong.”

SUEZ CANAL REOPENS AFTER CONTAINER SHIP FREED: The Suez Canal finally opened on Monday (March 29th) after a massive container ship that had been stuck sideways in the waterway for nearly a week was freed. A group of tugboats, aided by high tide, and after days of removing earth from around where the ship was embedded finally allowed the container Ever Given to be freed. The Suez Canal Authorioty said the navigation through the canal resumed at 6 p.m. local time. More than 420 ships had been halted waiting for the canal to reopen, and at least of 113 of them are expected to cross the canal by Tuesday morning. Analysts said it could take at least another 10 days for all the backlogged ships to go through.

SEX TRAFFICKING CHARGES ADDED AGAINST FORMER EPSTEIN ASSOCIATE MAXWELL: Federal prosecutors added sex trafficking charges yesterday (March 29th) against Ghislaine Maxwell, former associate of the late Jeffrey Epstein, alleging she recruited and groomed a 14-year-old girl to engage in sex acts with Epstein. They alleged Maxwell and Epstein paid the girl hundreds of dollars for each encounter. Maxwell, who has been held without bail since last July, was previously charged with conspiracy and enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts from 1994 through 1997. The new charges allege she engaged in sex trafficking of a minor more recently, from 2001 to 2004. Epstein fatally hung himself in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges involving underage girls.