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News brief: Virginia election, vaccines for kids, Supreme Court gun case

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Republicans had a big night in Virginia.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That's right. Glenn Youngkin, who is new to politics, beat the Democrat, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLENN YOUNGKIN: Together, together, we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth.

(CHEERING)

KING: Another governor's race in normally deep blue New Jersey is too close to call at this point.

INSKEEP: Let's talk more about Virginia and more with NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Steve.

INSKEEP: Thanks for being up early after what I assume was a rather late night, although not that late a night. It was pretty clear that Youngkin had won. What was your takeaway from that?

MONTANARO: Well, the Virginia result was an upset in a state that's trended Democratic over the past decade or so, but Democrats there were bracing for the possibility of a loss. New Jersey, though, in the razor-tight margin there with Jack Ciattarelli in the lead was not something they thought would happen. The two results really show that the Republican energy and anger over education, race, mask mandates was real and was enough to get conservative base voters out to the polls even without Trump on the ballot, which is a big thing. It's a real gut punch to the Democratic political establishment. It's had very little good news over the last few months and is a pretty bad sign for the party as it hopes to retain control of Congress heading into next year.

INSKEEP: I guess we should be clear. As you and I are talking, New Jersey is undecided but far, far closer than anybody expected it to be. And of course, we'll have the latest on NPR News as we learn more from that race. But in general, a big Republican night, especially in Virginia, where Republicans made education an important issue for them. Did it work for them?

MONTANARO: Well, Youngkin definitely campaigned on it. It's been where all the conservative energy has been throughout the summer. We've seen those school board meetings kind of overrun with angry, mostly white, conservative parents. And exit polls backed that up as the issue of education, which isn't traditionally high on the list of priorities when you ask about all of the issues in the country, really shot up. And Youngkin really did well with those who thought that parents, for example, should have a lot of say in their classrooms. And McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, got in trouble by saying that he didn't think that parents should have say, you know, to tell schools how they should teach. It was related to something a little bit different. But Republicans were able to, you know, latch on to that. McAuliffe had called this a racist dog whistle because what conservatives are accusing schools of teaching is an academic concept called critical race theory. It's not being taught in schools generally. It's a legal framework taught in law schools about how racism is embedded in society. But this culture war issue really caught on like wildfire.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about Donald Trump and how he factored into this because Glenn Youngkin, the Republican, was running knowing that he wanted Trump supporters but that they were not enough to win Virginia, based on the 2020 results anyway. How did he manage to run with Trump but away from Trump?

MONTANARO: Boy, he really walked a delicate line, did a real tightrope walk when it came to Trump because it suggests here that Republicans have figured out a way to run in this post-Trump era. He really created Youngkin a roadmap for Republicans to emulate. And I think you're going to see that in a lot of swing areas, a lot of suburban districts, where he was, you know, painted this image of himself as a non-offensive suburban dad and businessman. He had this fleece vest and a smile all the time, didn't appear on stage with Trump, though he accepted his endorsement. He certainly played into some of those issues that the Trump base cared about like we talked about education. And while he was going on conservative media with talking points that made the right happy, he was running ads in the state that played up his softer side. So expect this model to be emulated in race after race in swing areas over the next year for Republicans.

INSKEEP: Different messages for different constituencies in a divided and fragmented electorate. Domenico, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: We learned last night that kids between the ages of 5 and 11 are now authorized to get shots to protect them from COVID 19.

KING: That's right. Advisers to the CDC voted unanimously to recommend the vaccine for younger kids, and then the director of the CDC endorsed it last night.

INSKEEP: NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us as she so often does at moments like this, vital moments in the COVID pandemic. Allison, good morning.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so a unanimous vote in favor of recommending vaccinations. I guess that's what you'd like to see. What was the case that made this compelling for 5- to 11-year-olds?

AUBREY: You know, the advisers really brought to light that though many kids do get only mild symptoms from COVID, there are a lot of serious cases. More than 700 children have died from COVID. Among 5- to 11-year-olds, there have been 172 deaths, more than 8,300 hospitalizations. Here's one of the panel members, Dr. Oliver Brooks, explaining his vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OLIVER BROOKS: The bottom line is the data showed here today that the vaccine is safe and effective. So children are dying and we can reduce hospitalizations, cases and deaths with the safe and effective vaccine that will benefit the community.

AUBREY: Now, polls show that many parents are on the fence about this, but there are plenty of eager parents, too. I plan to get my 10-year-old daughter vaccinated at the first opportunity.

INSKEEP: Well, we may be right behind you in line or right in front of you. Who knows? We'll see how that goes.

AUBREY: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: But is it already possible like today to go out and get a shot if you are one of the parents who's eager?

AUBREY: Well, shots can start now, but it may be into early next week before the campaign is fully operational. Thousands of pediatricians have signed up to administer the vaccine. Pharmacies will administer it, too. But remember, this is a new product. It's a lower dose vaccine packaged separately from the one given to adults and older adolescents, so it's being shipped out and distributed. Here's Dr. Lee Savio Beers. She's president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

LEE SAVIO BEERS: We know that states are making their deliveries of the vaccine now, and so parents should reach out to their pediatrician or their local communities to find out where the vaccine will be available. It may take a few days. It may - you know, it maybe go into next week, but everyone's working as hard as they can.

AUBREY: Each state is handling distribution a little bit differently, Steve. So best to check in with your pediatrician or your local pharmacy and try to schedule an appointment.

INSKEEP: Allison, let's try to get some information on the table for parents who are still thinking this through. You mentioned that some kids do get sick. Some kids have died - certainly not the numbers that you see with older people, but there is a risk there. So that's one factor. And people have to weigh that against possible side effects. Did the advisers discuss the risk of side effects for kids in their deliberations?

AUBREY: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the most common side effect is a sore arm, not surprisingly. But turns out, fever, chills are pretty rare among 5- to 11-year-olds. That's what the clinical trial data showed. Regarding serious risks, the chief concern has been myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart. It's very rare in the range of about one case per 20,000 or so and seen mostly in adolescent boys and young men. But there have been no deaths from myocarditis following COVID vaccination, and most patients recover quickly. Here's one member of the committee, Dr. Matthew Daley, a practicing pediatrician in Colorado. He wanted parents to hear this message.

MATTHEW DALEY: It's understandable that you have questions and concerns, and this may be particularly true given what seems to be a deliberate campaign of disinformation out there. And so I would just encourage you to talk to your child's pediatrician or family physician. You know, ask your questions, tell them what your concerns are.

AUBREY: He says pediatricians will be standing by to talk to families.

INSKEEP: NPR's Allison Aubrey, thanks for standing by to talk to us.

AUBREY: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: OK. The Supreme Court hears a case today that could decide whether people are allowed to carry concealed weapons into airports, churches, schools and shopping centers without a special license.

KING: This case involves New York state, which is one of eight states that outlaws carrying guns outside of the home. And a decision on the scope of the Second Amendment, which is what this would be, may hinge on former President Donald Trump's three appointees.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Johnson is covering this case. Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So will you talk us through the legalities here on the Second Amendment?

JOHNSON: Sure. So remember in 2008, the Supreme Court declared that people have an individual right to bear arms for self-defense in their homes. And in 2010, the court applied that right to the states. Today, Steve, the open question is, does that Second Amendment right follow them outside their homes? A gun rights group and two New Yorkers want the right to carry concealed weapons outside and not just for things like target practice or hunting. The New York restrictions require them to demonstrate a special need for protection. But they say they should have a mostly unfettered right.

INSKEEP: So the New York state law is on the docket here, and, of course, New York is a big state. This would be a big case regardless. But might this apply to all states in different ways?

JOHNSON: Well, many states already allow concealed carry, but eight states - that includes New York, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland - do not. That's a small number of states but a big population, something like 80 million people in those areas, according to experts at Duke University who follow gun rights issues. Now, depending on how the Supreme Court rules and how it decides to write the decision, this case could have much wider impact.

INSKEEP: What do you know about the current makeup of the justices and their views of gun rights?

JOHNSON: Here's what we know. The National Rifle Association supported all three of President Trump's - former President Trump's Supreme Court nominees. Justice Neil Gorsuch is on record saying he would have taken up earlier gun rights challenges the court rejected. And while they were appeals court judges, both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett said they would have struck down some gun restrictions. Kavanaugh, for instance, has written about how the history matters to him, that any gun bans or restrictions need to be rooted in text, history and tradition. And Barrett said one of her most important writings on the lower courts was a dissenting opinion, where she traced the history to conclude in her view that felons who aren't dangerous should be able to own guns. That is not the case now.

INSKEEP: That's very interesting. So their presumption is that you do have a right to carry weapons anywhere is what I hear from some of that. Except they want to find if there has been in text or tradition a specific prohibition that they can base current regulations on. Does the news play into this at all, the fact that we're in a time where it seems to be increasing gun violence, certainly increasing prominence of mass shootings?

JOHNSON: Well, the Justice Department and local police around the country are very concerned about gun homicides. Remember, in the landmark Heller case back in 2008, the late Justice Scalia left plenty of room to uphold some reasonable gun restrictions in places like schools. And interestingly enough, in this case in New York, there's a divide among political conservatives, and they are a little bit at issue. We're going to have to hear in the argument today how the Supreme Court justices show their hands if they do.

INSKEEP: Carrie, thanks for your insights.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEST PESSIMIST'S "MY LONG GOODBYE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.