By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Happy Friday, Charlotte residents! Vice President Kamala Harris came to town yesterday, and she brought a new electric bus with her. Today's Roundup will tell you what the VP said about how the Biden administration's recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill's impacts Charlotte and how body language experts interpret her interaction with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Also in Queen City, the Charlotte-based StarMed Healthcare system announced on Thursday that it would soon offer the first antiviral pill designed to treat COVID-19 after it gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. New data shows the average price of rent has risen in the Hornet's Nest over 15% since last year, and we'll tell you some of the city's least expensive neighborhoods to avoid the $1,400 average monthly rent price. And with the weekend almost upon us, today's Roundup will end with a brief weather report and a few articles to keep you reading until the next QCR.
It is Friday, Dec. 3, and here's what every Queen City resident needs to know.
1. VP Kamala Harris talks infrastructure act, unveils new electric bus in Charlotte alongside Pete Buttigieg
What happened: As you've probably heard, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Charlotte yesterday to talk about the merits of the Biden administration's $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It was the VP's first time in Charlotte since her inauguration in January, and she was flanked by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC).
"America is moving again because ultimately that's what infrastructure is all about - getting people moving," Harris told reporters after walking through a new Charlotte Are Transport System hybrid bus garage. A new electric bus appeared behind Harris while she spoke, and the Charlotte Observer reports CATS hopes to transition its entire 320-bus fleet to the gasless vehicles, starting with 18 buses that will hit the streets in 2022 and between 30 and 35 more in the years to come.
There is money in the bill to buy those buses, Harris said, as well as to equip residents with broadband internet connections and repair roadways.
Why it matters: During her visit, Harris also sat down for an interview with WBTV, in which she said the infrastructure bill could help Charlottean's get to work faster and more safely. North Carolina has over 1,400 bridges and 3,100 miles of highway that are in need of repair, and Harris said the nearly $1 billion heading North Carolina's way can improve them, adding the following:
This is the bipartisan infrastructure law and Republicans supported it because we know that the way that Americans live, when they’re driving that car on that road or bridge, it’s falling apart, they could care less about who is their elected official, what party they’re registered to vote with. What they know, they want this stuff fixed and that’s how we’re going to approach this as we move forward.
Body talk: A bus may have appeared behind Harris, but a body language specialist focused more on who was standing next to her at the CATS facility. Harris swore Buttigieg into office in February, but since then the two have made few public appearances together. According to body language expert Scott Rouse, whose clients include the FBI and U.S. Secret Service, the federal transportation secretary appeared to be deferential towards the Vice President in Charlotte.
Rouse said the hug the two exchanged before boarding Air Force Two was awkward, as was their exchange on one of the electric buses, in which Harris told Buttigieg the "wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round."
What happened: A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel gave a tentative OK to Merck's new antiviral pill that is designed to treat COVID-19 on Tuesday, and StarMed Healthcare in Charlotte is ready to distribute them as soon as the FDA recommends the drug for emergency use.
Unlike the coronavirus vaccines, the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company's Molnupiravir pill is most effective when taken after an individual has tested positive for COVID-19. StarMed said the COVID-19 vaccine is still the "best defense against the virus" but clinical trials have found the pill to reduce coronavirus patients' risk of hospitalization and death by 30%.
Readers should be able to register for a virtual appointment to get the pill after the FDA recommends it at this link.
Why it matters: The drug's approval came the same day that medical officials reported the first case of the recently discovered omicron variant of COVID-19 in the U.S. Since Tuesday, Minnesota, Colorado, New York and Hawaii have joined California in seeing cases, prompting a spike in vaccinations and causing the Biden administration to introduce new travel restrictions.
While scientists are yet unsure of whether the new, heavily mutated variant is more deadly than the coronavirus or the delta variant, drug manufacturers say they're confident that their antivial pills will be helpful against omicron. Pfizer has its own pill, called Paxlovid, in the works, but it still needs FDA approval.
3. The average monthly price of rent in Charlotte is $1,400. Is there anywhere cheaper in the city?
What happened: Data compiled by RentCafe shows that the average Charlotte renter pays $1,472 per month for a 942-square-foot apartment, showing a price increase of 16% over last year's averages. Some areas of the city, like Eastover or Uptown, have average rent prices over $2,100 and $1,800, respectively, while others are much cheaper. Renters can find lower average prices of $1,051 in the city's Avensong, Bradfield Farms, Cedarbrook Acres, Hickory Grove and Lakeland Hills neighborhoods.
Why it matters: Expensive living options appear to be popping up or changing hands in Charlotte constantly, but more affordable dwellings are hard to find. Construction recently finished in Hickory Grove on a new solution for low-income residents, who will be able to live in the 80-unit Parkside housing complex in east Charlotte for as low as $500 per month. A low-income housing tax credit brought the project to fruition. according to FOX46.
“We have 120 people moving into our city every single day. And there are so many residents that work two to three jobs just to be able to afford to pay rent," Charlotte City Council member Dimple Ajmera said at Parkside's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "So we certainly have a horrible housing crisis that our city is facing.”
4. Charlotte Weather Forecast, Dec. 3 to 9
The unseasonably warm weather Charlotte has been seeing lately is set to taper off slightly as we move into next week. Per WBTV, forecasts show a record-setting high temperature of 76 degrees for today, one point higher than the previous record high of 75, set in 1998.
Weekend reading list
As usual, there won't be a Roundup on Saturday and Sunday, so here are a few articles to peruse to stay informed through the weekend. For more on tomorrow's ACC Championship Game, check out yesterday's Roundup.
- What to know about FanFest, ACC title game in uptown Charlotte
- Day 6: Pilot Mountain fire 90% contained after destroying more than 1,000 acres
- Duke Energy adds new storm recovery charge to customer bills
- NC judges weigh attempts to block elections under new maps
- Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes bill that would require absentee ballots to be filed by election day