Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Georgia’s Republican senators blast secretary of state, also a Republican, over election … New York state suspends liquor license of country club that held superspreader event … Boston eyes transit cuts.
A Covid-19 vaccine developed by drug maker Pfizer is very effective at preventing healthy people from getting the disease, a preliminary analysis of trial subjects concluded. The company’s clinical trial estimated it was more than 90% effective at preventing people from getting sick with Covid, a success rate much higher than scientists had hoped for. But the company still has not released data from the trial and said on Monday it needs to collect more before asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization to begin producing the two-dose vaccine. The news came on Monday, the same day President-Elect Joe Biden announced the scientists who will head up his coronavirus task force. The technology used by Pfizer is similar to what drug company Moderna is using. Unlike Moderna, Pfizer did not take money from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed to develop its vaccine with German company BioNTech. But, like with other vaccine makers, the company will participate in the vaccine rollout under Warp Speed. State and local governments are expected by many to be key participants in that effort, which could be complicated as both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require they be stored in very cold storage. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday complained that the lame duck Trump administration could still be responsible for the initial deployment of the vaccine, saying initial plans are too private sector focused and could leave out poor communities. [New York Times; Stat; WABC]
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION | Both of Georgia's U.S. Senators, Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are demanding the resignation of the state's top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is also a Republican. The senators are citing unspecified "failures" with last week's election. The move comes as President Trump and many of his supporters have refused to accept that he was defeated in the presidential contest and have been lodging baseless claims of fraud. Both Loeffler and Perdue are on track to face runoff elections in January that could decide which party controls the Senate. Georgia proved to be a key battleground state in the presidential election. Democrat president-elect Joe Biden led Trump in Georgia by over 11,500 votes on Monday. Raffensperger pushed back against the calls for his resignation. “My job is to follow Georgia law and see to it that all legal votes, and no illegal votes, are counted properly and accurately,” he said. “As secretary of state, that is my duty, and I will continue to do my duty. As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.” [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
SUPERSPREADER PUNISHMENT | New York state suspended the liquor license of a country club that last month hosted a wedding with 113 guests, in violation of the state's 50-person gatherings limit. At least 34 people tested positive for coronavirus as a result of the "superspreader" event in Long Island, and 160 were required to quarantine. Area schools also had to suspend in-person learning. “Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible--not to mention illegal,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. [Bloomberg Business]
TRANSIT CUTS | Reduced public transit ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic is likely forcing changes in Boston. A proposed plan, which is expected to be approved in December, would cut all weekend commuter rail service, 25 bus routes, ferry service, and any rapid transit after midnight. The cuts total about $255 million in savings. The city's transit authority said there are only 330,000 trips on an average weekday compared to 1.26 million daily trips pre-Covid. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority General Manager Steve Poftak said that the changes are needed to "adjust to the realities created by COVID-19, while protecting service for those who depend on it most." The changes are not expected to be permanent and would be debuted in spring or summer of next year. [Boston Globe]
PUBLIC LANDS | The Trump administration failed to meet a deadline last week to provide Congress with a list of public lands projects to receive federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. A bipartisan bill President Trump signed into law over the summer provided mandatory funding for the conservation fund at $900 million annually. Past legislation has left the fund short-changed. The delay with the list casts uncertainty over land acquisitions and other land protection efforts. Some Democrats and environmental activists were suspicious that the bill was meant as an "election year gift" to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Colorado Republican, who lost in his reelection bid last week, and Montana GOP Senator Steve Daines, who won his reelection race. [Colorado Newsline, Missoula Current]
Managing editor Laura Maggi contributed to this report.
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter at Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is an assistant editor.