2021 Starts With An Attack On The U.S. Capitol: The Week In Review From WFAE
It was a grim week in the United States of America. It began with the revelation that President Trump had pushed a top Georgia official to overturn the state's presidential election results. By Wednesday, the president was riling up supporters at a rally outside the White House, scores of whom marched down the street and stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was in the process of certifying the election that Trump lost.
Five people died.
Now authorities have begun to file charges against insurrectionists as calls for Trump to leave office — by way of resignation, the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment — grow louder, even with just 10 days left in his term. Meanwhile, the president is becoming increasingly isolated, as tech giants limit his use of major social media platforms, fearing his words could incite more violence.
All the while, the coronavirus raged on. On Thursday, the U.S. saw more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in one day. North Carolina is no exception to the virus' toll.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Many Cohen says this is "the most worried (she has) been" since the pandemic began. Her words came as Gov. Roy Cooper extended the state's current level of COVID-19 safety restrictions through at least Jan. 29.
In fact, the state's hospitals are quickly filling up, though health systems are doing what they can to make room. Among the efforts to ensure capacity for patients is a field hospital in Lenoir, a mountain town about 75 miles from Charlotte. It's just the second such field hospital built by Samaritan's Purse in the U.S. — the other being in New York as that city was hit hard by the virus.
"To be deploying in the United States was a strange feeling for all of us," a spokesperson for the Boone-based international disaster relief organization told WFAE. "Now, to be in North Carolina, that's heightened even more. When it's in your backyard, you think, 'These are our friends. These are our family. These are the people whose kids go to school with our kids."
Speaking of school and kids: The virus is still having a major impact on learning. And when in-person classes resume at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, there will likely be racial differences in who chooses to go back or stay home. Roughly three-quarters of the district's white students plan to go back — a significantly higher percentage than other racial groups. WFAE dug into those numbers and what's behind them.
Circling back to the top: Despite everything, the election at the heart of this week's chaos was certified. After the mob was cleared from the Capitol, lawmakers went back to work that very night, leaving only after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were formally named president-elect and vice president-elect. And it happened a day after something that otherwise would have been the biggest story of the week: Democrats won a pair of runoff Senate elections in Georgia, giving them control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in a decade.
Most GOP leaders in the state publicly condemned Wednesday's violence, but North Carolina's congressional delegation was split when it came to certifying the results. The state's two Republican senators and its House Democrats were on board, but five Republican House members challenged the Electoral College votes for some states.
North Carolina itself wasn't one of the states that was challenged, because President Trump won here. But disputes over election results are nothing new for the state. After all, it's only been two years since the 9th U.S. House District race fell apart in front of the nation amid allegations of election fraud -- and only four years since then-Gov. Pat McCrory filed numerous challenges after losing to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by about 10,000 votes.
As Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer puts it:
"In North Carolina, we are used to a significant number of elections being in the news and in dispute."
Here's a closer look at some more of the week's biggest stories.
ATTACK ON THE CAPITOL
Wednesday will likely go down as one of the darkest days in American history. A mob egged on by President Trump violently stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol for hours, while staffers and lawmakers were evacuated or hid in fear. The vice president was also rushed from the floor of the Senate and taken to a secure location.
- Congress Certifies Biden Victory; Trump Says There Will Be 'Orderly Transition'
- PHOTOS: Mayhem Erupts In D.C. As Pro-Trump Extremists Storm U.S. Capitol
- Police Confirm Death Of Officer Injured During Attack On Capitol
- On Far-Right Websites, Plans To Storm Capitol Were Made In Plain Sight
- 'Now The World Gets To See The Difference': BLM Protesters On The Capitol Attack
- Trump Won't Attend Inauguration; Congress Pushes Ahead With Capitol Ceremony
- House Democrats Weigh Impeachment As They Urge Trump's Removal
- Pelosi Asks Military To Limit Trump's Nuclear Authority. Here's How That System Works
- Twitter Permanently Suspends Trump, Citing 'Risk Of Further Incitement Of Violence'
ICYMI: Local News
Atrium Health received its first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Since then, the hospital system has invited about 33,380 health care workers in Phase 1a to get the shot. But only about half have scheduled a vaccine appointment.
Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell says he will recuse himself from any votes involving R.J. Leeper Construction, where Mitchell will be a new owner. But state law says the city can't do any business with the company so long as Mitchell is an elected official.
How many homeless people vote is difficult to determine. The State Board of Elections doesn’t track the demographic. But, the number of homeless people who can vote is significant.
Thereasea Elder, the first Black public health nurse in Mecklenburg County, died Tuesday but leaves behind a powerful legacy. Her decades-long dedication to service continues to inspire those who knew her.
Democrats won the tiniest of majorities in the U.S. Senate this week, but that one-vote majority will have a large impact on health care.
Tommy Tomlinson had two columns this week: one about the new year and how one way to get back on track is to forget about the calendar, and another about how a danger of Donald Trump might be people who want to be like him.
BEST OF CHARLOTTE TALKS
Understanding what happened Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol and what must happen now is paramount — and Charlotte Talks took a first crack at that while sitting down with analysts and experts that included Susan Roberts from Davidson College, Michael Bitzer from Catawba College, Ruth Ben-Ghiat from New York University and WFAE's political reporter Steve Harrison.