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California’s Governor Was Tested by the COVID-19. Now a Recall Looms

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In California, both Republicans and Democrats say the threat of a recall election has shaped Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Things have been looking up in California. Vaccines will soon be available to everyone over 16. Los Angeles schools are about to bring hundreds of thousands of students back to classrooms. Disneyland, dark for a year, will throw open its gates in just a few weeks.

At the state capital, however, the coronavirus pandemic still clouds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s horizon. Soon, the secretary of state is expected to announce that a campaign to recall him has officially qualified for a special election.

Led by Trump stalwarts, amplified by Republican National Committee money and fueled during the pandemic by Mr. Newsom’s own political missteps, the recall initiative is widely regarded as a long shot. Putting it on the ballot requires roughly 1.5 million signatures from disgruntled voters, a drop in the Democrat-dominated bucket of 40 million residents.

But even if Mr. Newsom prevails, the pandemic has both tested and tarnished him politically.

Mr. Newsom presented the plan last month as proof of his determination to ensure that rich Californians did not crowd the poor out of access to scarce vaccinations. But the policy change also helped Mr. Newsom politically.

A new tweak in the system for determining health restrictions let a county move into a lower tier once a critical mass of vaccinations had been administered in disadvantaged ZIP codes. Many of those targeted ZIP codes were in Los Angeles, where teachers’ unions were refusing to return to classrooms until the county was out of the strictest level of health rules. Parent groups, meanwhile, were demanding in-person instruction.

Dr. Smith — whose Bay Area county has plenty of poor people but virtually none of the targeted ZIP codes — said the vaccine targets were part of a “fake equity plan,” based less on fairness than on Mr. Newsom’s desire to open up Los Angeles.

“What’s really going on has nothing to do with distribution,” said Dr. Smith, who serves in a nonpartisan position but said he identifies as a Democrat. “It has to do with the governor’s desire to buy himself out of the recall election by reopening Southern California as fast as he can.”

It is unclear how much voters will care about Mr. Newsom’s mix of motivations. Californians, who overwhelmingly opposed former President Donald J. Trump in the last election, are unlikely to replace a Democratic governor if their main alternatives are limited to the current challengers, who are Republican supporters of Mr. Trump.

The tall, telegenic heir to the “fifth-largest economy in the world,” as his predecessor Jerry Brown routinely boasted, Mr. Newsom has lost some of the benefit of California’s doubt. His approval rating has dropped by more than 10 points since May, when 65 percent of Californians trusted his handling of the pandemic. Critics even within his own party have questioned whether his recent decisions have been motivated by public health or the recall attempt.

The campaign against Mr. Newsom has highlighted the differences between the powerhouse California that elected him and the virus-battered California he now governs. Longtime political analysts see hidden weaknesses in his polling: The state may not want to recall him, they say, but his popularity has suffered, and his political fortunes are linked more closely than ever to the ebb and flow of the virus in his state.

“When you’re evaluating an executive — be it a mayor, a governor, a president, whatever — there are really only a couple of basic questions,” said Mike Madrid, a former political director of the state Republican Party and a co-founder of the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project.

“Are the lights on? Are the trains running on time? And in this case, how have you managed the global pandemic?”

At the moment, Mr. Newsom’s report card is mixed.

California has record budget reserves, one of the nation’s lowest rates of new virus cases and a vaccine rollout that, after a rocky start, has started to gain steam. But the state also has lagged behind the nation in school reopenings and has the third-highest unemployment rate.

The politicking to come is expected to be expensive, national and corrosive. Recall proponents and their allies say they have raised about $4.1 million, including large contributions from major Republican donors, the state Republican Party and potential candidates such as John Cox, a San Diego businessman who lost to Mr. Newsom in 2018.

The governor’s team has reported about $3 million in contributions, including about $400,000 from the state Democratic Party, $250,000 from a union representing state government engineers, $125,000 each from the agricultural magnates Stewart and Lynda Resnick and more than $500,000 in small-dollar online donations in the 48 hours after the governor started a website called Stop the Republican Recall.

Supporters of Mr. Newsom portray the initiative as the work of Republican extremists. The leader, the governor has said, believes that the government should “microchip migrants.”

Orrin Heatlie, the retired Northern California sheriff’s sergeant who is the recall’s lead proponent, wrote a 2019 Facebook post that read: “Microchip all illegal immigrants. It works! Just ask Animal control.”

Mr. Heatlie acknowledged in an interview that he wrote the post, but he said that it was not meant to be taken literally and that he intended it as a “conversation starter.”

He said Mr. Newsom brought the recall on himself by imposing too many restrictions early in the pandemic and dining at an elite wine country restaurant while asking Californians to quarantine last fall.

Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist, predicts that Mr. Newsom will survive the recall. But he added that the governor’s numbers indicate that his troubles with voters are not over.

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NYPD releases video of gunman firing into group in the Bronx

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New video tweeted by the NYPD Sunday shows a gunman wildly firing down a Bronx street into a group of people in Fordham Manor, leaving two men wounded, cops said.

“WANTED for ASSAULT: Do you know this guy?” the NYPD wrote on Twitter.

“On 6/25/21 at approx 11:10 PM, in front of 2710 Morris Ave in the Bronx, the suspect fired several rounds towards a group, striking a 26-year-old male and a 20-year-old. Any info? DM @NYPDTips, or anonymously call them at 800-577-TIPS.”

The suspect who shot at a group of people in the Bronx on June 25, 2021.
The suspect who shot at a group of people in the Bronx on June 25, 2021.
NYPD
The suspect firing the gun in the Bronx.
The suspect firing the gun in the Bronx.
NYPD
The shooting left two people injured, according to the NYPD.
The shooting left two people injured, according to the NYPD.
NYPD

The 26-year-old was shot in the buttocks and the 20-year-old was shot in the leg, police said. Both were expected to survive.

The victims said they were standing with a group of friends when the “guy just came up and started shooting,” a police spokesman said.

No words were exchanged, video shows. 

There were no immediate arrests.

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
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Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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