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WABE’s Week In Review: Local Reps React From Inside The Capitol, Georgia’s Two New Senators, And Covid-19 Still Surging

As the violent insurrection, spurred on by President Donald Trump, was occurring at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., WABE spoke with U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams of  Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, who was in a secure location at the Capitol.

“Even now, I can, like, hear movement from outside of where we are,” said Williams. “And I don’t know if it someone trying to come in here because our building is not yet secured, and we have not gotten the all clear yet.”

“How are we going to get out of here?” recalled U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, of Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, a day after the event in speaking with WABE about what he was thinking at the time. “We need to get the hell out of here.”

Members of Congress were told to grab the gas masks under their chairs and start making their way to the secure location, according to Johnson.

Five people, including one police officer, died in the armed insurrection at the Capitol.

Earlier in the day, at a rally in D.C., President Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his son Donald Trump Jr. called on demonstrators to march to the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden as the next President.

After rousing some in the crowd to storm the Capitol, members of Congress called on the immediate removal of Trump as President using the 25th Amendment.

“I believe, at the end of the day, President Trump is completely unfit for this role,” said U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of the 6th Congressional District. “I believe that making this decision invoking the 25th Amendment is something I believe will help expedite removing him from office.”

Vice President Mike Pence would have to start the process to invoke the 25th Amendment, and Trump’s cabinet would have to sign on. Pence has not given an indication that he would start that process.

” I don’t take joy in saying this,” said McBath. “But our democracy has been completely under siege.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said she would start impeachment proceedings if there was no movement on the 25th Amendment.

“This [the insurrection at the Capitol] culminated in a loss of life,” said McBath. “It literally is life or death. Our democracy is truly on the line.”

Georgia’s New Senators… 

Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are seen here. (Michael M. Santiago/GETTY Images)

Georgia Democrat and U.S. Senator-elect Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections. Warnock becomes the first Black Senator in Georgia’s history. WABE spoke to Warnock right after his election win early Wednesday morning. 

Not long after Warnock was announced the winner of his race, media outlets called Democrat Jon Ossoff the winner in his race. Incumbent David Perdue conceded the race on Friday.

Georgia changed the balance of power in Washington, D.C. by handing Joe Biden the first Democratic win here since 1992 and sending two Democrats –a Black pastor and a young Jewish businessman– to the U.S. Senate.

Black voters turnout… 

One of the reasons for Warnock and Ossoff’s victories was the number of Black voters in and outside metro Atlanta, who showed up in record numbers to vote. The attack ads against Warnock may have played a role in energizing Black churchgoers in South Georgia.

“You are calling us out of our name,” said Pastor Michael Ephraim Sr. of  Bethel AME Church in Albany. ” It’s almost on the schoolyard where somebody talks about your momma…  ‘Don’t talk about my momma!'”

The ads against Warnock, the reverend of Ebenezer Baptist Church, were an attack on the Black church, according to Ephraim.

The Black church has always fought for racial and social justice, said Ephraim. And painting the Black church as radical is a perennial double standard, especially compared to predominately white religious institutions that may advocate for the same issues.

‘Full Pandemic Resurgence’ In Georgia… 

Georgia trails nearly every other state in the number of vaccines administered for every 100,000 people, according to data obtained from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

COVID-19 was not the top story this week, but we can’t forget how bad this pandemic is. In Georgia, we are continuing to see elevated levels of confirmed cases as we have also seen at least one known case of the more infectious COVID-19 variant B117.

The situation in Georgia is showing signs of a “full pandemic resurgence,” according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The latest Task Force report, obtained by WABE, shows Georgia had the ninth highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the country in the week leading up to Jan. 3.

Georgia’s post-holiday COVID-19 figures “raise significant concerns” and suggest a “resurgence of community spread,” according to the report, which calls for “aggressive mitigation” efforts and a “substantial acceleration of vaccinations.”

Gov. Brian Kemp has continually declined to put new coronavirus restrictions in place.

Meantime, Georgia trails nearly every other state in the number of vaccines administered for every 100,000 people, according to data obtained from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We need to do a better job of reporting,” Kemp said Friday. “We need to do a better job of making sure we’re communicating with the public and answering the phones and that the folks at the local level are getting the appointments set up. And that we’re transparent with people and all that messaging. I’m committed to continuing to do that.”

Kemp blamed bad data reporting for Georgia’s low spot on the federal rankings of states’ COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Public health departments are being inundated with calls from people hoping to get vaccinated, according to Kemp,  who says the state plans to begin offering shots to people over 65 next week.

Civil Rights leaders blazing a new trail… 

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron waits to receive his COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron waits to receive his COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. (Ron Harris/Associated Press)

As infection rates of COVID-19 continue to stay elevated and spike across Georgia and the country, some of Atlanta’s most well-known Civil Rights activists took the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to urge African Americans to do the same when doses become widely available.

The Black community has been disproportionately impacted by the virus and is rightfully skeptical of such programs after abuse in similar projects throughout history.

Ambassador Andrew Young, Xernona Clayton, former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, and Atlanta Braves’ former home run king Hank Aaron all stopped by Morehouse School of Medicine, Tuesday, to get the vaccine.

All four are over the age of 75, so they’re in the first group of people eligible for vaccines.

“What we said is, ‘If we have Civil Rights leaders and leaders who are community leaders to come, then we can encourage other people to want to get vaccinated.’ said Dr. Michelle Nichols with Morehouse Healthcare. ” And so far, the response has been overwhelming. Our phones are ringing off the hook.”

Morehouse School of Medicine will offer free vaccinations to the public in the coming weeks.