Local News

Hospital furloughed staff is back at work

07 cape fear valley med ctrCape Fear Valley Health System has ended the temporary furlough of staff, which began March 29, with the closure of nonessential surgeries, procedures and diagnostic testing because of COVID-19. Seven hundred eighty-three employees were furloughed. Employees covered by the system’s health plan kept their health insurance benefits during the leave time. Cape Fear Valley paid premiums during the furlough. There has been a resumption of surgeries, imaging tests and other procedures requiring staff members. Health Plex employees will return when Gov. Roy Cooper reopens fitness centers. All but 28 full-time and 33 part-time furloughed employees are returning. They will be offered priority placement within the health system, severance pay based on their length of employment, and comprehensive outplacement services.

First woman to command the Army Reserve

06 Jody DanielsLt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels is the ninth commanding general of the Army Reserve. Daniels will lead more than 200,000 soldiers and civilian employees located in 50 states, five U.S. territories and more than 30 countries. Her promotion to three-star general and assumption of command took place at Fort Bragg, where she will be headquartered. As the 34th Chief of Army Reserve, she will serve as an adviser to the Army Chief of Staff and Congress.
“I know my squad, my team has the flexibility, creativity, innovation and the will to adapt to prevail against all enemies — to tackle them head-on,” said Daniels, who succeeds Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey. She has over 36 years of active and reserve military service. Throughout her career, Daniels has commanded at every level, filled a variety of military intelligence positions and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cumberland County to begin remote schooling

05 N2008P25006CCumberland County Schools has outlined how students will be educated as they head back to school under a remote learning plan. School officials say that to establish consistent expectations and quality education from school to school, the plan provides answers to numerous questions. A daily learning schedule has been established for elementary, middle and high schools. It includes live time with teachers, independent work time for students, student breaks to manage attention span and time to visit the district’s meal sites for lunch. An online districtwide learning management system for instruction will provide interactive learning, align assignments, house lecture recordings and quizzes/exams and provide online grading. The district will use a uniform grading structure that assures student assignments, quizzes and assessments are balanced and will provide quality feedback. The distribution of devices and instructional materials is underway now. About 80 school buses are outfitted with internet connectivity to serve as hotspots and will be strategically placed in areas throughout the community to make sure students have access. School officials have also built into the remote learning plan ways that parents can share concerns about their child’s remote experience with teachers and principals. For detailed information about the plan, visit http://ccs.k12.nc.us/.

RTP company may have leg up on being first to market

13 trump azar fujfilm 1024x683If Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine gets approved, manufacturers in North Carolina hope to have millions of doses already prepared and immediately ready to immunize residents.

Fujifilm Diosynth, a Japanese contract drug manufacturer, is making the main component of Novavax’s potential coronavirus vaccine in Research Triangle Park. The manufacturer is stockpiling vaccine ingredients to prepare for the day the vaccine could be approved, says Marin Meeson, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth.

The federal government has invested $1.6 billion in the little-known Maryland company Novavax — the largest deal yet from Operation Warp Speed, the federal push to mass produce coronavirus vaccines. The operation aims to make 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available to the public by January. It has poured nearly $4 billion into six potential vaccines.

If Novavax’s vaccine proves successful, the federal government will own 100 million doses, enough to immunize at least 50 million U.S. residents.

“America will develop a vaccine very soon, we will defeat the virus. We’ll have it delivered in record time,” President Donald Trump said before touring Fujifilm Diosynth’s facilities in North Carolina on Monday, July 28.

According to the World Health Organization, Novavax is in an earlier phase of testing than at least seven of its competitors. Novavax’s vaccine candidate is about to finish the first of three clinical trial phases.

“We should have a considerable amount, multi millions of doses available by the time that the vaccine is proven effective,” Meeson told Carolina Journal about the manufacturing process. He says his staff are doing the work of months in just weeks.

In May, Novavax began testing the vaccine in 130 people, and researchers anticipate reporting the preliminary results by the end of July. They expect to advance to Phase 2 in August, and to begin the final Phase 3 sometime in the fall.
“This is being developed at warp speed,” Novavax said.

Across the world, researchers are chasing more than 164 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, but only 25 vaccines are being tested in humans. Five vaccine projects are in the final phase of testing. Two of those five projects are based in China, and another is tied to Britain and Sweden. An Australian company is also in the final stage of testing a tuberculosis vaccine to determine whether it can protect against the coronavirus.

So far, Moderna is one of two U.S. companies to reach the final trial.

Moderna this week launched its final trial to enroll 30,000 people across the county. The Trump administration has also struck an agreement with Pfizer, a company based in New York City working with companies based in Germany and China. Pfizer began its third trial Monday, July 27.

Experts hope Novavax offers a faster way to manufacture coronavirus vaccines. Moderna’s candidate relies on fragile RNA molecules, and it must be stored in sub-zero temperatures — complicating rollout in rural areas and scattered populations. Novavax declined to comment on the storage of its vaccine candidate.

Novavax hopes to provoke an immune response with coronavirus proteins.

Fujifilm Diosynth makes coronavirus proteins by using moth cells as factories. This offers a quicker way to mass produce vaccines than the mammal cells employed by normal vaccines.
This could save critical time in vaccine distribution, says Meeson.

“It is a few days shorter, the process. Once we start ramping up the manufacturing, it will be an advantage for us,” Meeson said. “You need to grow the cells, the virus, and that takes time. When that’s a little bit quicker, that means we can do more. … It’s not a massive difference, but it certainly will help.”

The federal investment marked a dramatic change in Novavax’s fortunes. A year ago, the company was fighting financial collapse. One of its major vaccine candidates failed twice in three years. The company sold off its manufacturing facilities, and its stock fell so low that it risked being taken off the NASDAQ electronic stock exchange, reported the New York Times.

After 33 years of business, Novavax has never brought a vaccine to market, the Times reported.

If researchers can develop a vaccine by the end of the year, or within a 12- to 18-month timeline, it will shatter the normal timeline to develop vaccines.
“It’s normally nine to 12 months before we’d start making products at this level, and we’ve started this process in a matter of weeks,” Meeson said.

Arts Council grants total more than half a million dollars

11 19 WATA Logo 011Eighteen local nonprofit organizations are recipients of Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County grants, totaling $571,500, for 2020-2021. Three large nonprofit agencies in Cumberland County, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden received substantial financial awards. Cape Fear Regional Theatre — $225,000; Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra — $121,500; Cape Fear Botanical Garden — $90,000.

“As we all navigate through this pandemic, it’s imperative that we lessen the economic fallout many organizations and nonprofits are currently experiencing,” said Bob Pinson, interim president of the Arts Council. “Now more than ever, the Arts Council will continue to support the arts community through our various granting programs as we adapt to our new environment.”

Grant funding is received from the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the Cumberland County Occupancy Tax. State funds are provided through a grant from the Grassroots Arts Program of the North Carolina Arts Council. Additional funds are provided through the support of individual donors.

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