Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

June 21st, 2022:

COVID vaccines for kids under 5 are now available

It’s been a long wait.

On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on Covid vaccines for the youngest Americans. Her endorsement means shots can begin immediately, finally ending the two-and-a-half year wait on the part of parents of children under 5.

Walenksy accepted the recommendation within hours after the CDC advisory committee voted unanimously in favor of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children as young as 6 months. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee on Saturday endorsed Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines for the youngest children, the last step before CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky could issue her final sign-off.

The unanimous recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices followed the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the shots on Friday.

President Biden responded to the announcement Saturday hailing it as a “monumental step forward.”

“For parents all over the country, this is a day of relief and celebration,” Biden said. “As the first country to protect our youngest children with COVID-19 vaccines, my Administration has been planning and preparing for this moment for months, effectively securing doses and offering safe and highly effective mRNA vaccines for all children as young as six months old.”

Shortly before Saturday’s votes — one for Moderna and a separate one for Pfizer — many panel members celebrated the milestone, noting that parents will soon have two effective tools to protect their youngest children from Covid after more than two years of living with the virus.

“We want to say today that if you’re not going to immunize your children, we think that’s a misplaced concern and that you should immunize your children to save their lives,” said committee member Dr. Sarah Long, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

While young children are generally less likely than adults to experience the most serious outcomes of the virus, some do. Among children 6 months old through age 4, there have been more than 2 million confirmed cases of Covid, more than 20,000 hospitalizations and more than 200 deaths, according to CDC data. Covid is the fifth most common cause of death in children younger than 5.

“This is an opportunity, which one doesn’t get very often, to participate in preventing the death of young children,” said committee member Dr. Beth Bell, a clinical professor in the department of global health at the University of Washington. “A death of a young child is an incredible tragedy, and we know that this disease is killing children.”

It’s a function of where we are now in this pandemic that this isn’t bigger and more exciting news than it is. The vaccination rate for kids in the 5 to 11 year old range remains disappointingly low, and the estimates I’ve seen suggest that maybe 20% of the under-five crowd will get their shots. We could of course mandate COVID vaccines for enrollment in schools, but, well, I think you know what would happen then. The best way forward, as even a modest number of kids getting their shots will help save lives, is for those of us who have kids in that age range to get them vaccinated, and for the rest of us to help persuade our family and friends who do to do the same. Your Local Epidemiologist, who has two young kids of her own, has some ideas on that front. COVID is still out there killing people, y’all. We should try to remember that.

What were Uvalde police actually doing at Robb Elementary?

I’ll say it again: The more we learn about the law enforcement response to the Uvalde massacre, the worse it looks.

Surveillance footage shows that police never tried to open a door to two classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in the 77 minutes between the time a gunman entered the rooms and massacred 21 people and officers finally breached the door and killed him, according to a law enforcement source close to the investigation.

Investigators believe the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at the school on May 24 could not have locked the door to the connected classrooms from the inside, according to the source.

All classroom doors at Robb Elementary are designed to lock automatically when they close and can only be locked or unlocked from the outside with a key, the source said. Police might have assumed the door was locked. Yet the surveillance footage suggests gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, was able to open the door to classroom 111 and enter with assault-style rifle — perhaps because the door malfunctioned, the source said.

Another door led to classroom 112.

Ramos entered Robb Elementary at 11:33 a.m. that day through an exterior door that a teacher had pulled shut but that didn’t lock automatically as it was supposed to, indicating another malfunction in door locks at the school.

Police finally breached the door to classroom 111 and killed Ramos at 12:50 p.m. Whether the door was unlocked the entire time remains under investigation.

Regardless, officers had access the entire time to a “halligan” — a crowbar-like tool that could have opened the door to the classrooms even if it was locked, the source said.

[…]

Days after the massacre, Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference that “each door can lock from the inside” and that when Ramos went in, “he locked the door.” That information was preliminary, the source said, and further investigation has yielded new revelations about the door.

That’s the last paragraph of the story, which was published on Saturday with a note at the end that it’s developing and will be updated. Late yesterday, the Trib published this:

For this article, the Tribune reviewed a timeline of events compiled by law enforcement, plus surveillance footage and transcripts of radio traffic and phone calls from the day of the shooting. The details were confirmed by a senior official at the Department of Public Safety. The investigation is still in the early stages, and the understanding of what happened could still change as video records are synched and enhanced. But current records and footage show a well-equipped group of local officers entered the school almost immediately that day and then pulled back once the shooter began firing from inside the classroom. Then they waited for more than an hour to reengage.

“They had the tools,” said Terry Nichols, a former Seguin police chief and active-shooter expert. “Tactically, there’s lots of different ways you could tackle this. … But it takes someone in charge, in front, making and executing decisions, and that simply did not happen.”

Here are some key findings from these records and materials:

  • No security footage from inside the school showed police officers attempting to open the doors to classrooms 111 and 112, which were connected by an adjoining door. Arredondo told the Tribune that he tried to open one door and another group of officers tried to open another, but that the door was reinforced and impenetrable. Those attempts were not caught in the footage reviewed by the Tribune. Some law enforcement officials are skeptical that the doors were ever locked.
  • Within the first minutes of the law enforcement response, an officer said the Halligan (a firefighting tool that is also sometimes spelled hooligan) was on site. It wasn’t brought into the school until an hour after the first officers entered the building. Authorities didn’t use it and instead waited for keys.
  • Officers had access to four ballistic shields inside the school during the standoff with the gunman, according to a law enforcement transcript. The first arrived 58 minutes before officers stormed the classrooms. The last arrived 30 minutes before.
  • Multiple Department of Public Safety officers — up to eight, at one point — entered the building at various times while the shooter was holed up. Many quickly left to pursue other duties, including evacuating children, after seeing the number of officers already there. At least one of the officers expressed confusion and frustration about why the officers weren’t breaching the classroom, but was told that no order to do so had been given.
  • At least some officers on the scene seemed to believe that Arredondo was in charge inside the school, and at times Arredondo seemed to be issuing orders such as directing officers to evacuate students from other classrooms. That contradicts Arredondo’s assertion that he did not believe he was running the law enforcement response. Arredondo’s lawyer, George E. Hyde, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

You can read the rest and get mad all over again. It seems clear why there’s such a wave of resistance to releasing official information about what happened in Uvalde. We can at least be glad that there are plenty of people who will leak info to the press, because otherwise we’d still be talking about what a bunch of damn heroes these guys were supposed to have been.

“We all marched into Stuckey’s, one hundred thousand strong”

I wish her all the best.

[Stephanie] Stuckey, 56, is in the third year of a turnaround for Stuckey’s, which, at its 1960s peak, boasted 368 travel centers along highways in 40 states. Their teal, steeply arched roofs were visible from afar, and their pecan log rolls were a staple of family vacations.

The company also owned a manufacturing plant, a trucking division and some 4,000 billboards that beckoned drivers with the cheesy come-ons for clean restrooms, Texaco gasoline and souvenirs for the kids. A sort of Buc-ee’s before Buc-ee’s.

That heyday was well in the rearview mirror by the time Stephanie Stuckey bought the company in 2019. The few branded stores remaining were owned by licensees. The handful of original buildings that weren’t torn down exist today mostly as “ghost stores,” still recognizable by the roofs but repurposed as everything from a quilt shop in Pennsylvania to a strip club in Florida.

An observant traveler can spot one just off the Gulf Freeway in La Marque and another at the northwest corner of Interstate 45 and Texas 21 in Madisonville, catty-corner from a bustling Buc-ee’s.

Stuckey paid $500,000 for the company, which by the time she took over had been reduced to two employees in the corporate office, three sales reps and a handful of workers in a rented warehouse. It closed the year $133,000 in the red.

Stuckey quickly set a new course, focusing on pecan treats and the nostalgic power of her family name rather than on building new brick-and-mortar convenience stores. She revved up online candy sales, which have grown by 850 percent. The roster of retail clients has swelled to 5,000 locations, including truck stops and grocery stores.

In the summer of 2020, Stuckey’s acquired the snack company Front Porch Pecans and brought on its founder, a third-generation pecan farmer with more business experience, as president of the combined company. The following January, it purchased a candy factory in Wrens, Ga., to bring production of pecan log rolls, divinity and other candies back in house.

Stuckey, who remains as chief executive officer, revived the original recipes developed by her grandmother and boasts that most artificial ingredients are gone, replaced by real chocolate and vanilla.

“We produce the best pecan snacks you will taste, period,” she said.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever stopped at a Stuckey’s. The main road trip I used to take as a young single dude was between Houston and San Antonio, and the place I usually stopped was what was then called Grumpy’s in Flatonia; it had a McDonald’s, which meant it had clean bathrooms, plus a big gas station and a hotel attached if for some reason you couldn’t make it the hundred more miles to whichever big city you were aiming for. There was also a small no-name place on the westbound side that had dirtier bathrooms but were a quicker in and out when I was going that direction. The McDonald’s and the gas station and the hotels (two now) are still there, but the Grumpy’s iconography is long gone, while the smaller place is now somewhat bigger. I usually aim for the Buc-ee’s in Luling now anyway.

But I had heard of Stuckey’s, perhaps mostly from the Austin Lounge Lizards song “The War Between The States” (from which this post title comes), and I’m sure I drove past a few back in the day. That also led me to this bit of linguistic controversy from the article:

After wrapping up her tour of the Beer Can House, Stephanie Stuckey popped into the gift shop and emerged wearing a turquoise ball cap she’d bought.

“I love swag,” she said, beaming.

About 90 minutes later at the Omni Houston, smartly attired in a cream-colored dress, she addressed a crowd of accountants and blue-blazered students from a charter school supported by the luncheon’s host, GLO Certified Public Accountants. The firm bought 500 shrink-wrapped tins of Stuckey’s treats to get her there.

Her delivery was crisp, with a touch of Southern humor as she instructed the audience on the preferred pronunciation of “pecan.” (PEE-can, not puh-CON)

As I said on Twitter, I pronounced it PEE-can coming from New York, but was firmly told I was wrong after arriving in Houston. I’ll leave it to you to fight it out in the comments.