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South Dakota attorney general charged with reckless driving in death of man

The South Dakota Attorney General has been charged with reckless driving but has avoided more serious felony charges like manslaughter in connection with an accident in which he hit and killed a man with his car last September, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican, was also charged with using a mobile electronic device and not staying in his lane on the night of September 12, said Emily Sovell, deputy county attorney for Hyde, at a press conference. .

The three charges against Mr Ravnsborg are misdemeanors, each punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a fine of $ 500, Ms Sovell said.

Mr Ravnsborg, 44, was traveling 67 miles per hour when the Ford Taurus he was driving struck Joe Boever on the shoulder of US Highway 14 outside Highmore, SD, authorities said. Mr Ravnsborg told authorities at the scene of the accident that he believed he had struck a large animal such as a deer. It was not until the next day, authorities said, that Mr Ravnsborg returned to the scene of the crash and found Mr Boever’s body.

Prosecutors insisted that their criminal investigation into the actions of Mr Ravnsborg, elected in 2018, was impartial. They noted that South Dakota does not have a negligent homicide law, which they say makes it more difficult for prosecutors to lay charges of manslaughter in traffic accidents.

“Mr. Ravnsborg was not treated any differently than any other person would have been treated under these circumstances,” Ms. Sovell said.

Although the evidence showed that Mr Ravnsborg had used a cell phone more than a minute before the accident, the two phones he had with him were locked at the time of the accident and he was not talking to them , prosecutors said.

Mr Ravnsborg’s chief of staff on Thursday sent requests for comment to a personal spokesperson for Mr Ravnsborg, who did not immediately respond to a phone message.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Mr Ravnsborg said: “I appreciate more than ever that the presumption of innocence placed in our legal system continues to operate.”

He added that he could not imagine the “pain and loss” of Mr Boever’s family.

The family of Mr Boever, 55, whose van was broken down in a nearby ditch, criticized the outcome of the investigation.

“I think he received preferential treatment,” Victor Nemec, a first cousin of Mr Boever, said on Thursday of Mr Ravnsborg. “This state has a long tradition of being kind to its elected officials when they commit wrongdoing. There’s a network of good old boys here in the running of the state. “

Mr Nemec said Mr Boever’s widow should take legal action against Mr Ravnsborg. Mr Boever had worked as a nurse’s aide and in a grocery store, but had recently been employed to help his cousin transport hay to his cattle ranch.

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Republican, said on twitter that it was taking steps to ensure greater transparency on the details of the investigation.

“My heart goes out to the family of Joseph Boever,” Ms. Noem said. “I will not comment on the details of Ms. Sovell’s decision. I ask the Department of Public Safety to share further details of the investigation with the public over the next week.

Prosecutors said Thursday that Mr Ravnsborg had cooperated with investigators since the day after the collision, from calling 911 to providing a blood sample the next day for toxicology testing. He also gave investigators access to his cell phones, prosecutors said.

The toxicology results showed no signs that Mr Ravnsborg was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prosecutors said. The victim’s family asked why Mr Ravnsborg was not tested the night of the crash.

“I know that for every prosecutor there is probably a very visceral reaction to road accidents that result in death,” Ms. Sovell said. “The job of prosecutors, however, is to examine the facts, examine the evidence, apply the laws and standards they provide, and that is exactly what was done in this case.

Michael Moore, the state attorney for Beadle County, told the press conference that prosecutors could only lay more serious charges if a person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and was driving the vehicle recklessly.

“The investigation was second to none,” said Mr. Moore, who informed Mr. Boever’s family earlier Thursday. “They obviously don’t like our decision in this case. As we all know, victims don’t make this decision.

Marie Fazio contributed reporting.

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Travel News

Winter conditions have paralyzed the air, travel on the road in much of the south

The massive winter storm that swept through the southern and central states on Monday crippled air, rail and road transport in the region, with severe travel disruptions that are sure to continue through Tuesday as the storm heads towards the North.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport canceled 196 flights on Monday, representing almost all flights to and from the transportation hub, according to the FlightAware tracking website. Austin Airport tweeted on Monday that the teams would remain in place, “mitigating the effects of this historic weather”.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 934 flights were canceled Monday night and nearly 300 more were delayed, according to FlightAware. Airport said on Twitter that further delays and cancellations were expected Tuesday, and urged the public to check their flight status with their airline before heading to the airport.

All rail operations operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit will be suspended until Thursday, and bus services in the city will be suspended from Monday evening, to resume Tuesday with what will likely be further delays, the system said. public transport. In Houston, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport said the airfield would be closed at least until early Tuesday afternoon.

Nashville International Airport canceled 278 flights on Monday, according to FlightAware, and the airport declared additional delays and cancellations seemed certain on Tuesday. There were fewer flight disruptions at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the country’s busiest hubs, with just 213 cancellations.

The storm forced road closures in parts of Louisiana, including the Lafayette and Baton Rouge areas, while in Tennessee, authorities closed about 20 roads just south of Nashville, County. of Williamson, due to slippery conditions, according to the Tennessean.

Several Amtrak trains providing service across the country were canceled on Monday, including trains departing from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Saint-Louis to San Antonio and Los Angeles to Chicago.

Authorities in many states have asked people to avoid driving except for absolutely essential trips. “We all see the current situation, I’m not going to calm her down. The next few days are going to be very difficult, ”Justice Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”

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Travel News

Vaccination ‘race’ after South African variant detected in South Carolina

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – South Carolina was already experiencing one of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks when officials learned of an alarming development this week: a new and more worrying variant of the virus, originally identified in South Africa, had been detected in the state.

Shortly after, a second case was discovered with no known link to the first, state officials said Thursday.

Neither patient had a travel history, officials said, suggesting that what many public health experts feared had happened: The new variant of the virus had taken root in the United States.

The arrival of the variant – considered highly contagious and less susceptible to vaccines – underlines the precarious progress the country has made in its fight against the virus. Even as millions of people have been vaccinated and the country slopes downward from more than 150,000 new coronavirus cases a day, new mutations in the virus threaten to undermine what little progress the country has made .

“This is a pivotal moment,” said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California, who studies immunity against infectious diseases. “It’s a race with the new variants to get a lot of people vaccinated before these variants spread.”

Pat Kearns, 87, sat in her car in a crowded parking lot clinic in North Charleston on Friday, after receiving her own coronavirus vaccine amid news of the new variant’s appearance.

“This virus is much faster than us,” said Ms. Kearns, a retired radiology nurse, who said that even after receiving her two shots, she had few plans to venture out immediately. “I’ll stay where I am,” she said. “Stay safe.”

The South African variant, known as B.1.351, is one of many mutations that have emerged as the pandemic has continued. Others include a variant from Brazil, which was detected in Minnesota this week, and one from Britain, which is spreading more widely in the United States.

The variants are believed to be more contagious, and the one from South Africa is among the most concerning as preliminary research suggests vaccines may be less effective against it.

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – the companies making the two vaccines currently on the U.S. market – have said their vaccines are slightly less protective against the South African variant, and the companies are considering creating either a booster or a new version to avoid . the variant.

Likewise, Johnson & Johnson, the only major drugmaker developing a single-dose coronavirus vaccine, announced on Friday that its injection would offer strong protection against Covid-19 if approved, with an effectiveness rate of 72% in the United States. But it is less effective against the new variant – falling to 57% in South Africa.

Although this variant appears to partially escape the antibodies created against Covid-19, experts have said that the vaccines, on the whole, should still be effective. Research suggests that even when a vaccinated person gets sick, vaccines can help reduce the severity of Covid-19.

“Vaccines are not an all-or-nothing thing,” said Dr Crotty, who compared being vaccinated against the virus to hitting the brakes in a car accident, to the extent that even a partial braking – or the effectiveness of the vaccine – is much better than none.

But in a troubling development, the variant may also follow a less sharp pattern than the traditional version of Covid-19, which is said to have offered at least short-term immunity to people who have fallen ill. Novavax, a fourth company developing a vaccine, reported that in a small trial in South Africa, around a third of participants had already been infected with Covid-19, but the results suggested that their previous illnesses did not protect them against the new one. variant.

Even though President Biden has banned travel from South Africa from Saturday, the variant could spread significantly in the United States, potentially constituting a large portion of his infections by April.

The developments have landed with a thud in South Carolina, which is experiencing one of the nation’s worst epidemics, behind only Arizona. “The fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” South Carolina interim director of public health Dr. Brannon Traxler said at a press conference announcing the new cases. “We all need to be more vigilant.”

Vaccines against covid19>

Answers to your questions about vaccines

Currently, more than 150 million people – almost half of the population – can be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision as to who goes first. The country’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open eligibility to all people 65 and older and adults of all ages with health conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill. or die from Covid-19. The adults of the general population are at the back of the pack. If federal and state health authorities can remove the bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It can take months for a vaccine to be available to anyone under the age of 16. Visit your state’s website for up-to-date information on immunization policies in your area.

You shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still get the vaccine at no cost. Congress passed a law this spring that prohibits insurers from enforcing any cost sharing, such as a copayment or deductible. It was based on additional protections prohibiting pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts fear that patients will stumble upon loopholes that expose them to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor’s visit fee with their vaccine, or to Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor or emergency care clinic, tell them about any hidden costs. To make sure you don’t get a surprise bill, your best bet is to get vaccinated at a health service vaccination site or local pharmacy once vaccines become more widely available.

This remains to be determined. It is possible that the Covid-19 vaccination will become an annual event, just like the flu vaccine. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine last for more than a year. We have to wait and see how long the protection against vaccines is. To determine this, researchers will follow vaccinated people looking for “revolutionary cases” – those people who contract Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine will last. They will also monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of people who have been vaccinated to determine if and when a booster injection might be needed. It’s conceivable that people would need boosters every few months, once a year, or just every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

Although new infections have slowed from a peak this month, South Carolina is now reporting more new cases and has more people in hospitals than at any time last year. It also reports the highest number of deaths of the entire pandemic.

It is unclear what role the new variant could play in the spread in South Carolina, where officials have warned of panic and said contact tracing did not indicate “widespread widespread transmission.”

But the new variant only increased the stakes for the state, where Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, has taken a largely hands-off approach to viral restrictions, keeping restaurants and bars open and avoiding a statewide mask order in a strategy he characterized as also good for the economy. Unemployment in South Carolina fell to 4.6%, below the national average.

But experts believe controlling the spread of the virus is critical to stopping any new variant before a potential explosion of cases leads to even more hospitalizations and deaths.

“We need to get the pandemic under control,” said Dr Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor of medicine and infectious disease physician at the University of Medicine of South Carolina, who often leaves a shift to treat Covid patients. 19 at the hospital only to see bars crowded with people on the way home.

“I don’t want to be here next year to talk about an even tougher virus,” she said, adding: “We have to find a renewed resolution to come together and reach the finish line.”

At Roper St. Francis Healthcare, which has four hospitals in the southeastern part of the state, 17% of beds were filled with Covid-19 patients on Friday, and others were getting off at a drive-thru clinic run by the hospital system. . Dozens of people lined up in cars on a blustery Friday morning to receive the first of two Pfizer vaccines, filling a large parking lot at the North Charleston Performing Arts and Convention Center.

“The demand was not there,” said James Bowron, Roper St. Francis operations manager. “We are inundated with requests.”

Charles Bauman, 75, was relieved to get the shot on Friday, but said he had no plans to change his routine. “We still have to wear our masks and wash our hands,” he said. “It’s going to be like that for a while.”

As a sign of the country’s difficult progress, many people who call now for an appointment in South Carolina may have to wait weeks to get their shots. At the North Charleston clinic, appointments are not available until mid-March, when new variants of the virus are expected to be much more prevalent.

Chris Dixon reported from North Charleston, and Sarah Mervosh from New York.

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Impacting Travel

Biden to impose travel ban on South Africa to combat COVID-19 variant

A senior US public health official revealed to Reuters today that President Joe Biden will ban nearly all non-US citizens who have visited South Africa from entering the United States as of January 30.

The source also said that on January 25, Biden will re-impose entry bans on most non-US citizens from the UK, Ireland, a bloc of 26 European countries and Brazil. Most of these restrictions were initially imposed in mid-March 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, although arrivals from Brazil were not banned until May 2020. Just before leaving office, Trump ordered those bans lifted, but President Biden’s proclamation will be reversed. that decision.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

The restrictions prohibit most non-US citizens who have been in any of the specified countries in the last 14 days from entering the US There are provisions that allow permanent US residents and their family members, and some other non-US citizens, return to the United States under the order.

In an interview today, CDC Senior Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat explained, “We are adding South Africa to the shortlist due to the current worrying variant that has already spread beyond South Africa.” He said the agency was “putting this set of measures in place to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk that these variants will spread and worsen the current pandemic.”

Some health officials are reportedly concerned that current COVID-19 vaccines may not be effective against the South African strain, known as the 501Y.V2 variant, which is 50 percent more infectious than previous ones and has already been detected. in at least 20 countries. While the South African variant has not been found so far in the United States, another highly infectious variant originating from the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7., Has been detected in at least 20 US states.

On the other hand, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, will sign an order on January 25 that will require all people over the age of two to wear masks on all planes, ferries, trains, buses, subways, taxis. and carpooling vehicles. Officials could only say that the rules would take effect in the next few days, with the possibility of removing the masks briefly while eating or drinking.

New CDC regulations that require all international travelers age two and older to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel, or proof that they have already had the illness and are covered, will also enter. effective January 26. CDC officials noted that 120 other nations already have mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements for entry and said it would not grant the waivers requested by airlines to exempt travelers coming from countries with limited testing capacity.

“With the pandemic worsening and the emergence of these more contagious variants, this is not the time to lift restrictions on international travel,” said Schuchat.

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Travel News

Novavax vaccine works well – except for variant first discovered in South Africa

Novavax, a little-known company backed by the US federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, first said on Thursday that its Covid-19 vaccine offered robust protection against the virus. But he also found that the vaccine was not as effective against the rapidly spreading variant first discovered in South Africa, another setback in the global race to end a pandemic that has already killed more than 2 , 1 million people.

The news was problematic for the United States, which had reported its first known cases of the contagious variant hours earlier in two unrelated people in South Carolina. And it came just days after Moderna and Pfizer said their vaccines were also less effective against the same variant.

Novavax, which is making one of six vaccine candidates supported by Operation Warp Speed ​​last summer, has conducted trials in Britain, South Africa, the United States and Mexico. He said on Thursday that an initial analysis of his trial of 15,000 people in Britain found the two-dose vaccine to have an effectiveness rate of almost 90% in that country. But in a small trial in South Africa, the effectiveness rate fell to just under 50%. Almost all of the cases scientists have analyzed so far have been caused by the variant, known as B.1.351. The data also showed that many trial participants were infected with the variant even after having previously had Covid.

“We have the first trial – we are the first to conduct an efficacy trial – in an evolving virus,” said Stanley Erck, president and CEO of Novavax. He said the researchers expected the variants to alter the test results, but “the magnitude of the change came as a bit of a surprise to everyone.”

The trial in South Africa was relatively small – with only 4,400 volunteers – and was not designed to provide an accurate estimate of the protection offered by the vaccine. Still, the results were striking enough that the company announced that it would soon begin testing a new vaccine designed to protect against the South African variant. “You’re going to have to make new vaccines,” Erck said.

While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on newer mRNA technology that has not been used in previous vaccines, the Novavax candidate uses an older and more established method that relies on the injection of coronavirus proteins to elicit an immune response.

The fact that three vaccines all appear to show reduced efficacy against the South African variant is not encouraging, and the results announced by Novavax on Thursday were the first to occur outside of a lab, testing efficacy a vaccine in people infected with a new variant. . Johnson & Johnson is also set to announce the results of its Covid-19 vaccine trials and has also tested its candidate in South Africa.

Novavax’s announcement raises the stakes for Johnson & Johnson. The company was due to announce its results as early as last weekend, and the delay has sparked speculation among scientists that the company has also discovered that its vaccine is working less well in South African volunteers infected with the variant. During a results call on Tuesday, Alex Gorsky, the company’s CEO, said he was eager to share the results of his late trial early next week.

The emergence of several highly contagious variants has complicated efforts to bring the pandemic under control, leading world leaders to halt travel to places like Britain and South Africa even as the variants appear to have already made the rounds. of the globe. In the United States, researchers have warned that the variant first identified in Britain, which is believed to be more contagious, could become the dominant form of the virus in that country by March.

The United States lags far behind other countries in testing these variants, and that of South Africa has been found in around 30 countries.

But experts also said there was reason for optimism, noting that the vaccines remain effective. The best way to fight the new contagious variants is to continue vaccination and other public health measures, which will slow the ability of the virus to infect new people and mutate further. Drug manufacturers could update their vaccines and come up with new vaccines at regular intervals, such as the flu shot.

Vaccines against covid19>

Answers to your questions about vaccines

Currently, more than 150 million people – almost half of the population – can be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision as to who goes first. The country’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open eligibility to all people 65 and older and adults of all ages with health conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill. or die from Covid-19. The adults of the general population are at the back of the pack. If federal and state health authorities can remove the bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 years and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It can take months for a vaccine to be available to anyone under the age of 16. Visit your state’s website for up-to-date information on immunization policies in your area.

You shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still get the vaccine at no cost. Congress passed a law this spring that prohibits insurers from enforcing any cost sharing, such as a copayment or deductible. It relied on additional protections preventing pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts fear that patients will stumble upon loopholes that expose them to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are billed a doctor’s visit fee with their vaccine, or to Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor or emergency care clinic, tell them about any hidden costs. To make sure you don’t receive a surprise bill, your best bet is to get vaccinated at a health service vaccination site or local pharmacy once the vaccines become more widely available.

This remains to be determined. It is possible that Covid-19 vaccinations will become an annual event, just like the flu shot. Or the benefits of the vaccine may last for more than a year. We have to wait and see how durable the protection against vaccines is. To determine this, researchers will follow vaccinated people looking for “revolutionary cases” – those people who contract Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine will last. They will also monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of those vaccinated to determine if and when a booster injection might be needed. It’s conceivable that people will need boosters every few months, once a year, or just every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

The Novavax trial in Britain tested how many volunteers developed symptoms of Covid-19 a week after receiving a second dose. The company said Thursday that its initial analysis showed that of 62 participants who developed the disease, 56 had received a placebo and 6 had received the vaccine. The newer, more contagious variant first identified in Britain was responsible for around 50% of the cases in the trial, Novavax said.

If these results were to be confirmed in the larger clinical trial in the United States and Mexico, which recruited around 16,000 people out of a target of 30,000, then the vaccine would be on par with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which were found to be around 95% effective.

But the news in South Africa was not so encouraging. The smallest trial of Novavax found the vaccine to have an overall efficacy of 49.4%. (The company reported that about 6% of the trial participants were HIV positive, and for those who were not HIV positive, the vaccine was 60% effective.) The company said the trial had started recording Covid-19 cases from September to mid-month, when the most contagious variant was circulating widely. Novavax said 44 trial participants developed Covid-19 and sequenced the genetic lineage of 27 cases. Of these, 25 cases were caused by the most contagious version of the virus.

The company also said that about a third of trial participants in South Africa had previously developed Covid-19 after being infected with the original form of the virus, and their results showed that these previous infections did not protect them. against the new variant. The company said its vaccine offered some protection to those who had previously contracted the disease, but did not include this group in its analysis.

Novavax started work on a new version of the vaccine this month to treat variants that are more contagious, which could serve as a booster or which could be given at the same time as their original vaccine.

Variant B.1.351 was first brought to the attention of scientists in December. It contains a number of mutations, some of which alter the shape of the virus surface and weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.

Looking at older samples, South African scientists found the first evidence of B.1.351 dating from October. But by December, it had swept the country, becoming the dominant lineage of the coronavirus in many areas.

That alone would make B.1.351 a worrying development. In Britain, researchers found another fast-spreading variant known as B.1.1.7. In Brazil and California, other scientists have found variants that may be more contagious than previous forms of the coronavirus.

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Travel News

The variant that appeared in South Africa is reported in the United States for the first time.

Health officials in South Carolina said Thursday they had detected two cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa. This was the first report of this variant detected in the United States.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it had identified one case on Wednesday and was notified of a second case the same day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant, known as B.1.351, was originally identified in South Africa and has since been found in around 30 countries.

The United States does very little of the genomic sequencing needed to track the spread of new variants that have raised concerns. They include B.1.1.7, first found in Britain and since seen in more than 46 countries and 24 US states, and the P.1 variant, first found in Brazil, which US officials have found. reported being detected this week in Minnesota.

While the coronavirus vaccines currently in use in the United States, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, appear to be protective against the newer variants, they may be somewhat less effective against the one found in South Africa than against the others. The newer variants are also believed to spread more easily than other versions of the virus, and the one found in Britain can lead to more serious illness.

The South Carolina Department of Health statement said the cases involved no known travel to South Africa and no connection between the two patients, both adults, suggesting the variant is circulating in the community. One patient was in the southern Lowcountry region of the state and the other in the Pee Dee area in the northeast.

“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr Brannon Traxler, director of the Acting Public Health of the Declaration Department. “Although more Covid-19 vaccines are on the way, stocks are still limited. Each of us must re-engage in the struggle recognizing that we are all on the front lines now.

The CDC said in a statement Thursday that it was aware of the South Carolina discovery and would work to increase genomic sequencing across the country to track variants of the virus. The agency reiterated its travel warning for now.

Mr Biden’s coronavirus czar Jeffrey D. Zients said on Wednesday the United States was woefully behind other countries in tracking variants, and he used the White House’s first public health briefing to issue a stern warning that Americans will remain vulnerable to the deadly pandemic unless Congress acts.

President Biden on Monday banned non-citizens from entering the United States if they were in South Africa within 14 days, due to concern over the variant. It will come into effect on Saturday. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not affected, officials said.

The B.1.351 variant is now predominant in South Africa and is pushing new cases to record levels there and across sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The variant has been found in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia and 24 non-African countries, as well as on the French island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

“The variant, which was first detected in South Africa, has quickly spread beyond Africa, and what keeps me awake at night right now is that it is circulating very probably in a number of African countries, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional service. director for Africa, said at a briefing.

Marc Santora contribution to reports.

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Travel News

The White House extends Covid-19-related travel bans to Brazil and much of Europe and adds South Africa.

Travel by non-citizens to the United States from South Africa will be banned due to concerns about the spread of a variant of the coronavirus in that country. And the bans put in place last year on travel from Brazil, 27 European countries and Britain will be extended, the Biden administration said on Monday.

The move comes as officials in the new administration try to get their hands on a rapidly evolving pandemic, with public health officials rushing to vaccinate the public – and expand vaccine supply – as more contagious variants of the coronavirus are spreading.

Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease specialist, said the variant of the virus in South Africa appears to be more highly contagious.

Moderna said his vaccine was effective against new variants of the coronavirus that have emerged in Britain and South Africa. But the immune response is slightly weaker against the South African variant, so the company is developing a new form of vaccine that could be used as a booster shot against this virus.

The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, predicted that the vaccine supply would not increase until the end of March. Federal health officials and business executives have said it would be impossible to increase the immediate supply of vaccines until April due to a lack of manufacturing capacity. But a third vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, is set to release its clinical trial results soon; if approved, this vaccine would also help support production.

Mr Biden’s travel ban will take effect on Saturday and will apply to non-U.S. Citizens who have spent time in South Africa in the past 14 days. The new policy will not affect U.S. citizens or permanent residents, officials said.

On his last full day in office, President Donald J. Trump attempted to lift the Covid-19 travel ban from Britain, Ireland, 26 countries in Europe and Brazil , claiming that this was no longer necessary. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that the ban would remain in place.

“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, now is not the time to lift restrictions on international travel,” she said.

Ms Psaki also said the Biden administration intended to hold regular public health briefings three times a week, starting Wednesday.

The first confirmed case of the Brazilian variant in the United States has been identified in Minnesota, the state health department said on Monday. It was found in a resident of Minnesota who had recently visited Brazil.

The variant that is now spreading in South Africa does not seem to have reached the United States yet. More than two dozen countries have now reported cases of the variant.

In addition to travel bans, Mr Biden issued an executive order last week requiring all international travelers to show negative coronavirus tests before traveling to the United States. The move extended a CDC requirement for testing that was released by the Trump administration but was due to expire on Tuesday.

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Travel News

For the impeachment trial, Trump chooses a South Carolina lawyer arranged by Lindsey Graham.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s new impeachment lawyer Butch Bowers is a South Carolina-based attorney who was arranged by Senator Lindsey Graham and has a long history of representing politicians in his home state .

Mr. Bowers will lead Mr. Trump’s defense in the possible trial for his second indictment, Mr. Graham and Jason Miller, an adviser to Mr. Trump, have confirmed.

The search capped weeks of a frantic search for a lawyer willing to represent Mr. Trump in the wake of the January 6 riot by his supporters on Capitol Hill. Lawyers for the former president in the first impeachment trial had made it clear that they did not want to be part of the impending trial. And despite the desire for the involvement of Mr. Trump’s longtime friend and personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president has made it clear that he will not be.

Mr. Bowers is well known in the insular South Carolina political world, where he represented two former governors, Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley.

Mr Graham announced on a Republican Senate conference call that Mr Bowers would represent the president in the trial and had been detained on Wednesday night, a person on the call confirmed. Mr. Graham’s announcement was first reported by Punchbowl News.

Mr. Bowers and Mr. Graham did not respond to requests for comment.

South Carolina agents have generally said Mr Bowers would be a good candidate for president and that he has a profile that would be useful with some of the senators.

“He’s not a MAGA Republican, so this will help establishment Republicans,” said Bakari Sellers, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist.

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Tom Lankford, 85, dies; Journalist from the South with divided loyalties

On one occasion, these ties probably saved his life. During the assault on the Freedom Riders in Birmingham, a group of Klansmen, seeing Mr Lankford taking pictures, dragged him into an alley. But before they could hit him, another Klansman said not to touch him because he was ‘Bull’s boy’. They left him alone but took the film from his camera; one of them offered him a dollar in compensation, according to Diane McWhorter, who interviewed Mr. Lankford for the 2013 edition of her book “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution” .

At the same time, as he told Ms McWhorter, Mr Lankford worked as a one-person intelligence unit for Vincent Townsend, the powerful assistant editor of The Birmingham News. Mr. Townsend was a racial moderate and no fan of Mr. Connor, but he especially wanted to keep an eye out for anyone who might disrupt the city’s business community. Mr. Lankford was happy to help and used an expense account provided by Mr. Townsend to purchase equipment to spy on civil rights leaders.

Sometimes Mr. Lankford’s allegiances clashed. In 1961, as part of a plan by Mr. Connor to undermine Tom King, a relatively progressive mayoral candidate backed by Mr. Townsend, Mr. Connor arranged for a black man to shake Mr. King unexpectedly. Mr Lankford, standing nearby, took a photo, of which copies of Mr Connor’s forces scattered around the town, hinting Mr King was against segregation. He lost decisively.

Then, a year later, in a vote on whether to cut town commissioner posts – including Mr Connor – Mr Lankford bugged a meeting between Mr Connor and the leaders. from the local firefighters union, a story he told for TK Thorne, a former Birmingham police officer and author of the upcoming book ‘Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies and Little-Known White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days’. On the tape, Mr. Connor promised the firefighters a raise in return for their support. Mr. Lankford gave the tape to Mr. Townsend, who used it in a radio commercial which helped to sink Mr. Connor’s campaign. He left office in 1963, near the end of Martin Luther King’s campaign to desegregate Birmingham’s lunch counters and department stores.

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America in 2021: Racial Progress in the South, White Crowd on Capitol Hill

ATLANTA – The day after Georgia elected a black descendant of sharecroppers and a young Jewish filmmaker as U.S. senators, highlighting the growing political power of racial and religious minorities, the forces of white grievance politics fought back.

At the “People’s House” in Washington, a predominantly white crowd supporting President Trump’s attempts to overthrow the election passed the Capitol building with brutal force. Confederate flags fluttered at the headquarters of American democracy. A noose was found. It was as stark a contrast as any, on a day that exemplified the nation’s original paradox: a commitment to democracy in a country with a legacy of racial exclusion.

The seeds that led to the insurgency were hidden in plain sight. At Mr. Trump’s rallies, where his supporters have set up outdoor markets of hate and conspiracy, selling Confederate flags and t-shirts that mock his opponents and the media. In the conservative media, where the language of revolution and civil war is commonplace. On Mr. Trump’s Twitter thread, which amplified white supremacists, anti-Semites and anti-Muslim extremists.

On Thursday night, he again used that Twitter thread – which had been suspended by the company after the unrest – to post a video message condemning the crowd without taking responsibility for inviting them to Washington or inspiring their actions. “You do not represent our country,” he told the rioters, before nodding to “all our wonderful supporters”.

Whether the violent mob represents a segment of the American political spectrum or a growing movement increasingly opposed to democratic norms is a critical question at the end of the Trump era, when it is clear that progress for some is seen as an affront to others.

“It is not surprising to see insurgents invading the Capitol as the federal government is led by people who made it the Republican Party’s project to dismantle the federal government,” said Representative Mondaire Jones, a newly Democrat. sworn in New York. He added that these leaders “have articulated this false narrative of a federal government seeking to oppress the rights of the American people.”

Like other lawmakers on Thursday, Mr Jones conceded that it was easier to diagnose the causes of the chaos than to find solutions. The forces that helped Democrats send Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala Harris to the White House are real. The same is true of a growing divide between liberal and conservative movements, and the fact that the United States has increasingly integrated black Americans, people of color, immigrants and Native Americans into the democratic fabric. came at a cost.

Biden spoke of the fallout when introducing his delegates to the Justice Department on Thursday afternoon.

He presented it as a wake-up call to a country that has at times feigned ignorance of this reality: the more ardent parts of Mr. Trump’s white base are engulfed in a toxic mix of conspiracy theories and racism. .

“No one can tell me that if it was a bunch of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated much differently from the crowd that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said.

His administration, he promised, would take up the moment as a political challenge. “More than anything, we must restore the honor, integrity and independence of the Ministry of Justice of this country,” he said.

But the crowd tested more than politics or ideology. The intentions of the president’s supporters struck an idea at the heart of the American experience – that, over time, the country’s commitment to democracy will surpass its history of intolerance.

Mr. Biden has made it clear that he believes the Republican Party, from its base to its top elected officials, will break with Mr. Trump’s tough posture and work with the Democrats and his cabinet. He selected experienced chiefs of staff with this mission in mind, intended to restore confidence in American institutions through familiar faces and ideological moderation.

In emergency remarks from Delaware on the Day of the Troubles Wednesday, Mr. Biden repeated his familiar refrain: “The scenes of chaos on Capitol Hill do not reflect a real America, do not represent who we are.”

Some civil rights leaders said they took the opposite message – that it was time to recognize the scale of the challenges facing the country, not dismiss them as marginal. It was a message to Mr. Biden, both to the most powerful political parties and businesses in the country.

Representative Maxine Waters of California, a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the footage should be a shocking reminder of the country’s bloody struggle against injustice.

“This Confederate flag evoked, for me, the many blacks who died as a result of racism,” she said in a telephone interview.

In a way, the week brings the political era defined by Mr. Trump back to where it began. Years before announcing his presidential election at Trump Tower in New York City, he spearheaded the spread of “Birtherism,” a potent blend of conspiracy theory and racism that sought to delegitimize President Barack Obama.

His 2016 presidential race was full of misinformation and similar prejudices. He refused to denounce the approval of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; insinuated that a Mexican-American judge could not rule fairly; and allowed a speaker from New Hampshire to say, without question, that Mr. Obama was a Muslim who was “not even an American”.

During his tenure, supporters of Mr. Trump acted as tacit endorsement and began to organize online, outside of the eyes of the mainstream media and with the encouragement of some Republican officials.

“Death of a Nation,” a documentary made by conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, compared the Democratic Party to Nazi Germany and urged the public to resist by any means necessary. He had a star-studded red carpet reception in Washington with appearances by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, and Housing Secretary Ben Carson. Members of the Republican House have held watch nights to raise campaign funds, as have some local Republican Party groups.

In Arizona, a battleground state where Republicans rely on the participation of rural white conservatives to dominate Democratic votes in urban centers, State Party Chairman Kelli Ward and Representative Paul Gosar appeared during the ‘events such as a rally and a rally “Patriotism against Socialism”. called “Trumpstock,” which paired public figures associated with the president with speakers including outspoken white nationalists who threatened violence if Mr. Trump lost re-election. In Trumpstock, supporters of the president spoke casually and openly about the violence and insisted that they were not white supremacists, despite their racist language. They were patriots.

Mr. Trump and his allies did not condemn such sentiments, but praised them. When speaking this week with protesters in Washington, many of whom had traveled to the capital after witnessing similar local events, the president framed their actions in the same apocalyptic terms used in Mr. D’Souza – the country was at a crossroads. and need savings.

“You will never take back our country with weakness,” Mr. Trump told the crowd. “You have to be strong and you have to be strong.”

With Mr. Trump on the verge of exiting, however, the Republican Party has a choice. Its ranks in Congress include more moderate figures who have denounced the president and his message, but also embers who have become favorites of the party’s base.

Sen. Mitt Romney, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate and outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, was harassed on a plane this week by people flying to attend Wednesday’s rally. Figures like Representative Mo Brooks from Alabama have doubled down – claiming without evidence that leftist groups like Antifa have infiltrated the crowds in Washington to sow discord.

Rashad Robinson, chairman of civil rights group Color of Change, said Mr Biden must be emboldened by the presidential results in November and, perhaps, by disgust at the events in Washington. He said the new Democratic administration should make racial justice a government priority, and not just something to be complained about on the trail.

“In 2020, for the first time ever, racial justice became a majority issue at the ballot box,” said Robinson. “Now we have to do the work to ensure that what is a majority issue does indeed become a ruling majority. Because that’s how you make a democracy work – when the will of the people is actually implemented.

He added, “We are not getting racial justice from a true democracy. We get a true democracy of racial justice. “

This admission clashes with the country’s long-held racial myths and requires acknowledging that full-fledged American democracy is not centuries old and static, but fragile and relatively new.

The road to civil rights law has been paved with black death, such as the murders of Virgil Lamar Ware, 13, and Emmett Till, 14. And for every Raphael Warnock, who will become the first black Georgian to sit in the Senate, there are descendants of black sharecroppers who are still mired in poverty, stuck in the generational cycle of inequality that runs from political to social and economic.

Ms. Waters, the congresswoman, was a teacher in Watts, Calif., In the 1960s. She played a central role in restoring order to Los Angeles after the 1991 rebellion, after the town police beat Rodney King.

Still, she said, seeing the hate symbols on display on Wednesday made her fear for her life. And while some are surprised that so few of the people who forcibly entered the Capitol have been arrested or shot, they shouldn’t be. The crowd was white.

“When I looked at this crowd, I didn’t see any black people – all I saw were determined and angry white faces,” Ms. Waters said. “The whites of this country are going to have to take responsibility, and it is they who will have to help change the way of thinking.