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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Suspected Chinese spy targeted local politicians… Nashville’s top health official resigns after investigation into sexism allegations … Fewer people are flushing toilets in Des Moines.
Pfizer began shipping vaccines on Sunday, with the expectation that some health care workers—the first recipients—would get shots on Monday. Michigan residents showed up early in the morning outside the Pfizer facility in Portage to cheer the progress. "It's history, and it's hope," said 76-year-old Joyce Hutcheson, who added she missed seeing her great grandchildren. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state is ready to dispense its 76,000 doses from the first delivery, but cautioned that people need to maintain protective measures against getting Covid-19, especially given that cases are surging. “For all the good news, the light at the end of the tunnel—and the vaccine exemplifies that as much as anything—the next number of weeks are going to be hell, I fear,” he said. The first vaccine deployed in the U.S. was developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech, which the Food and Drug Administration approved on Friday. The agency will review a similar vaccine by Moderna this week. A group of scientists who reviewed the Pfizer vaccine for Western state governors also gave its approval of the drug on Sunday. “Having looked personally at all the data and reviews … I’m looking forward to being vaccinated as soon as I’m eligible,” said Dr. John Dunn with Kaiser Permanente Washington. Some state leaders are raising concerns that they don’t have enough federal monetary support to ensure that getting vaccines to people will be a smooth process. While the vaccine and supplies are paid for, states are still going to need to set up clinics and hire workers to ensure people can get shots. [Detroit Free Press; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; Seattle Times]
CHINESE SPY | Axios reports on a suspected Chinese intelligence operative who targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the San Francisco area and across the country. Christine Fang, or Fang Fang, was enrolled as a student at a Bay Area university and very active in student politics, which allowed her to gain access to political gatherings, campaign rallies, and conferences that helped her connect with a slew of elected officials from across the country between 2011 and 2015. The report indicates she attended regional conferences for U.S. mayors and had sexual or romantic relationships with at least two mayors of Midwestern cities before leaving the United States abruptly in 2015. [Axios]
NEW HAMPSHIRE SPEAKER | New Hampshire Speaker of the house Richard “Dick” Hinch, 71, died of coronavirus last week. The 71-year old was just starting his seventh term as a representative from Merrimack and had previously served as the House majority leader. Hinch’s death alarmed local lawmakers and has called into question how the state legislature plans to meet next year and why some lawmakers have refused to wear face masks amid the pandemic. Hinch spoke at an outdoor Organization Day ceremony the week before his death but dozens of lawmakers skipped the event after learning that some GOP officials had tested positive for Covid-19. [WBTS-TV, Concord Monitor]
SEXISM INVESTIGATION | Nashville's top health official, hired at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, resigned Thursday to avoid being fired after a city investigation substantiated allegations of discrimination against female employees. Health Director Michael Caldwell resigned immediately from the Metro Public Health Department, which employs about 80% women. Complaints lodged against Caldwell accused him of being frequently dismissive of female employees and attempting to reorganize the agency in a way that demoted several women he had argued with. Following one dispute, Caldwell told the agency’s human resources director he wanted one woman fired and remarked that her “emotional stability” may have been impacted by her pregnancy. [Tennessean]
FLUSHING CASH | The city of Des Moines has discovered an unexpected budget shortfall attributable to the decline of office bathroom breaks during the coronavirus pandemic. The sewage fees collected by the city this year are projected to drop by $2.2 million. Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders said that’s because workers who would normally use and flush office toilets are now working at home. But many of those people live outside the city limits. “What we believe is that with office buildings shut down and some portion of those workers working from home, they are actually out in the suburbs,” he said. [Des Moines Register]
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent at Route Fifty and Laura Maggi is the managing editor.
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