Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine passed a critical milestone yesterday when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccine Advisory Panel – which is composed of independent scientific experts, infectious disease doctors, and statisticians – voted 17 to 4 in favor of emergency vaccine authorization for people 16 and older. The FDA is expected to grant an emergency use authorization on Saturday, according to people familiar with the agency’s planning, and an initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave warehouses within 24 hours of authorization.
President-elect Joe Biden has continued making announcements for who will fill Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions this week. The NUNA team is continuing to track staffing announcements as they are made, and we are maintaining a comprehensive list of nominee’s Twitter accounts here.
See below for a full list of the nominees and staff that were announced this week:
- Secretary of Defense: Retired Four-Star General Lloyd Austin
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough
- Secretary of Health and Human Services: Xavier Becerra
- Secretary of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Marcia Fudge
- Surgeon General: Vivek Murthy
- White House Press Secretary: Jennifer Psaki
- Top White House Economic Adviser: Brian Deese
- U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director: Rochelle Walensky
- Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President: Jeff Zients
- Chief Medical Adviser on COVID-19: Dr. Anthony Fauci
While several prominent Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions still do not have nominees, President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he would like to have all of his selections announced before Christmas.
With the Electoral College set to meet on Monday to officially cast their votes in the 2020 Presidential Election, three of Arizona’s 11 electors will be tribal leaders. Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. will join eight other Democrats to cast the state’s votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
In Connecticut, leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe issued a joint statement announcing the will temporarily set aside plans to open the long-delayed, jointly-owned Tribal Winds casino in East Windsor. The tribes said they need to focus their efforts “for the foreseeable future” on Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, which have faced “unprecedented challenges” over the past seven months. Both casinos were shuttered for nearly three months earlier this year and are now operating at 25% capacity to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Keep reading for a full news update.
F.D.A. Advisory Panel Gives Green Light To Pfizer Vaccine
New York Times, Katie Thomas, Noah Weilan, Sharon LaFraniere, December 10
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine passed a critical milestone on Thursday when a panel of experts formally recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the vaccine. The agency is likely to do so within days, giving health care workers and nursing home residents first priority to begin receiving the first shots early next week.
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Expected To Arrive On The Navajo Nation Next Week As Death Toll Nears 700
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, December 10
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows the recommendation of its advisory panel’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of the weekend and gives the green-light to the distribution, the Navajo Nation is expected to receive its first dosages sometime next week. The news is welcomed on the nation’s largest Indian reservation where another 347 new COVID-19 cases were reported with a total number of positive COVID-19 cases now at 18,943.
Study: COVID-19 Mortality Twice As High Among Native Americans
US News, Chelsea Cirruzzo, December 10
American Indian and Alaska Native people have died in connection with COVID-19 at nearly twice the rate of white people in a sample of 14 states, according to a new analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data out Thursday comes as federal officials appear on the cusp of approving a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S., and as officials prepare to distribute limited doses.
A Hospital’s Secret COVID-19 Policy Separated Native American Mothers From Their Newborns
Native News Online, Bryant Furlow, December 10
A prominent women’s hospital here has separated some Native American women from their newly born babies, the result of a practice designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 that clinicians and health care ethicists described as racial profiling. Hospital staff would compare the expectant mother’s ZIP code against a list of Indian reservation ZIP codes maintained by the hospital, known informally as the “Pueblos List.” If the pregnant woman’s ZIP code matched one on the list, she was designated as a “person under investigation” for COVID-19.
‘Level Of Suffering Is Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen Before’
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, December 10
Initially the death and suffering driven by the COVID-19 virus seemed far away from the Plains of South Dakota. Now, however, the virus has arrived on South Dakota’s eight reservations, in a state that in recent weeks routinely tops the list of COVID-19 hotspots. And it has hit hard, overwhelming hospitals and requiring some patients to be flown out of state, often with limited means for returning home.
Navajo Nation President Spoke With Pfizer CEO About Vaccine On Wednesday
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, December 9
One day before the expected approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s vaccine for Covid-19 Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim spoke with Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla on Wednesday. According to the Navajo Nation officials, the conversation centered on the pending approval of Pfizer’s vaccine for COVID-19.
All Of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet Nominees
New York Magazine, December 10
Biden Hopes To Complete Cabinet Picks By Christmas
CNN, Kate Sullivan and Jeff Zeleny, December 10
President-elect Joe Biden’s goal is to have his remaining Cabinet selections announced before Christmas, a transition official told CNN, with no plans of delaying any decisions until the outcome of the Georgia runoffs determines control of the Senate.
Arizona Tribe Proposes Law To Lease Its Water Rights
AP News, December 11
The Colorado River Indian Tribes is proposing a federal law to allow it to lease water rights in Arizona, a move that could aid the state’s response to the drought. The tribe said in public hearings this week that it would use the money raised from leasing Colorado River water to bolster services to its members, including for health care, education, elder programs and law enforcement.
Gun Lake Casino Has Shared $150 Million With Michigan And Local Governments Over The Past 10 Years
Native News Online, December 10
Since opening its Gun Lake Casino almost 10 years ago, the Gun Lake Tribe has shared more than $150 million with the state of Michigan and local governments. The state of Michigan received $3,293,020 and the local revenue sharing board received $1,475,308. GLIMI, an economic development entity, received $987,906. The figures are calculated from electronic gaming revenues reported from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020. The fall revenue sharing distribution total of $5,756,234 is the lowest ever for Gun Lake Casino in a six-month period due to the pandemic closure.
Connecticut Tribes Say They’re Holding Off On Planned Casino
AP News, Susan Haigh, December 9
Leaders of Connecticut’s two federally recognized Native American tribes announced Wednesday they’ve decided to temporarily set aside plans to open the long-delayed, jointly-owned Tribal Winds casino in East Windsor. In a joint statement, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe said they need to focus their efforts “for the foreseeable future” on Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, which have faced “unprecedented challenges” over the past seven months. Both casinos were shuttered for nearly three months earlier this year and are now operating at 25% capacity to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Three Arizona Tribal Leaders On Diverse Slate Of 11 Electoral Voters
Cronkite News, Calah Schlabach, December 10
In what a former Arizona elector called “a sweet irony,” the slate of 11 Democratic presidential electors who will cast Arizona’s Electoral College votes Monday includes three tribal leaders.
Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. will join eight other Democrats to cast the state’s votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Feds Detail Work To Address Crisis Of Missing Native People
AP News, Michael Balsamo, December 10
The Justice Department has hired 11 specialized coordinators to help develop national standards to address the crisis of missing and slain Native American women as concerns mount over the level of violence they face. The Trump administration released a report outlining the work of a task force created under an executive order. The group, which has met with tribal leaders, helped set the groundwork for the standards that will apply to new and unsolved cases of missing or murdered people in Native American communities.
Millions Of Americans In Poverty As Black, Native American Wages Stagnate
The Hill, Reid Wilson, December 10
More than 42 million Americans live below the federal poverty line, a figure that is virtually equal to the number of people living in poverty a decade ago even as the economy has boomed, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The figures also show that the median income of Black households has increased only slightly in the same timeframe, while households headed by Native Americans and Alaska Natives remain virtually unchanged.