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Saturday News: 6,000+ infected


172 NC FATALITIES ASSOCIATED WITH CORONAVIRUS COMPLICATIONS: North Carolina has at least 6,031 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Saturday morning, and 172 people have died, according to state and county health departments. The state health department reported 394 new cases on Friday, the second-highest jump since the outbreak began. At least 429 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 Friday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s down from Thursday’s all-time high of 452. Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, has the most reported cases in the state, with 1,136. The county has reported 24 deaths. Wake County, which includes Raleigh, has 574 reported cases and three deaths. Durham County has 338 reported cases and four deaths.

Friday News: Better than nothing?


TIM MOORE WILLING TO EXPAND MEDICAID TO CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS: House budget writers voiced support for rural hospital funding and taxpayer-covered COVID-19 treatment costs Thursday as they ticked through a laundry list of funding and policy requests. They also made it clear: Not everything will get done during the coming legislative session focused on coronavirus response. There won't be enough state money for everything, nor is there an appetite to tackle long-standing policy issues that may be relevant to the crisis but don't have enough political support to move. That includes full-blown Medicaid expansion, long a top ask for North Carolina Democrats and a measure that has some support among the House Republican majority but little, at least publicly, in the state Senate. But House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday morning, during a video conference with a House working group, that he supports a temporary, and limited, expansion of Medicaid to pay for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Thursday News: Dangerous delusions


UNC-CH RESEARCHERS TARGETED BY CONSPIRACY THEORISTS OVER VIRUS: By March, Kari Debbink, a professor at Bowie State University who holds a doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill, had received her first death threat. The reason: She was being accused of helping create the novel coronavirus, which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down much of the world, in a lab in North Carolina. One unfounded theory that many internet users have latched onto and that has been amplified by right wing news channels has placed its sights on North Carolina. It claims — falsely — that COVID-19 was created at UNC-Chapel Hill, specifically in the lab of Ralph Baric, where Debbink once worked. Baric is one of the world’s preeminent researchers of coronaviruses — having studied the family of viruses known for their crown-like shape for 30 years. His lab on the UNC campus was one of the first places in the U.S. to receive a sample of the novel coronavirus earlier this year to begin conducting tests.

Wednesday News: The cost of neglect

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MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS BREWING IN NC DUE TO LACK OF RESOURCES: Dr. Sy Saeed, chairman of the psychiatry department at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, said the state's mental health system "was already in crisis before COVID-19," adding that demand for mental health care is likely to increase due to the virus. According to Saeed, 31 counties in North Carolina have no psychiatrist. Thirteen counties have no behavioral health providers at all, and 90 out of the state's 100 counties would qualify as shortage areas for mental health providers. Saeed is director of the state's telepsychiatry program, NCStep, which began in 2013. He said the state is "ahead of the curve" because the program is already providing services to dozens of underserved locations across the state.

Tuesday News: Move over, Solar Bee


BERGER PUSHES RANDOM TESTING BOONDOGGLE FOR CORONAVIRUS: A new study based at Wake Forest Baptist Health will mail coronavirus antibody tests to 1,000 North Carolinians, legislative leaders announced Monday. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has been calling for weeks for random sample testing to better gauge the extent of the outbreak, and now the legislature will put up $100,000 to mount the project itself, sending people tests through the mail. People will use the kits to prick their fingers once a month for a year, and the test is meant to determine whether their blood contains COVID-19 antibodies. "Much like a political opinion poll, researchers will use the proportion of people in the representative sample who have antibodies to extrapolate the prevalence of immunity to the larger population," Berger's office said Monday.

Monday News: You can't fix stupid


FACEBOOK GROUP DECRIES "COMMUNISTIC" COVID 19 RESTRICTIONS: Ashley Smith, listed as one of ReopenNC’s Facebook page administrators, posted a two-minute video on her personal Facebook page on Thursday urging North Carolina officials to relax social restrictions and allow businesses to reopen. She called the current orders Cooper has in place a “draconian, communistic government move.” The group encourages its members to contact state officials as well as their local sheriffs to demand a return to normal operating procedures. ReopenNC calls Cooper’s executive orders unconstitutional and says curtailing citizens’ civil liberties and damaging the economy is doing more harm than COVID-19 is inflicting. The group’s Facebook page, started last Tuesday, grew to include more than 15,000 members by Sunday.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC'S NEGLECTED UNEMPLOYED NEED AND DESERVE BETTER, NOW: That lack of concern and preparedness has left nearly half a million hard working North Carolinians, who never dreamt of being out of a job, applying for unemployment benefits as a result of policy orders relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. They may be victims of a legislature that too often sought to comfort the wealthy at the expense of the state’s working families, children and the disadvantaged. The 2013 reforms to the state’s system, in reality “was an ideologically inspired effort to effectively eliminate unemployment insurance.” It appears to have been working. At the end of 2007 about 38 percent of North Carolina’s unemployed received unemployment insurance payments for as many as 26 weeks. By the end of last year, that was down to 10 percent who received benefits for no more than 12 weeks. This is simple – either you care about our unemployed and our uninsured, or you don’t.

Saturday News: Harassment is not "essential"

TED CRUZ DEFENDS NC ANTI-ABORTION PROTESTERS ARRESTED FOR COVID 19 VIOLATIONS: In the last week, police in multiple North Carolina cities have arrested anti-abortion protesters who were charged with violating the coronavirus-related order that bans mass gatherings. Arrests of abortion protesters in Greensboro led to the protesters suing city officials there. A few days later, several protesters were arrested at an abortion protest in Charlotte, too. After the Charlotte arrests made national news, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he thought the protesters’ rights had been violated, The Charlotte Observer reported. “This is an unconstitutional arrest,” Cruz tweeted. He added that they have a First Amendment right to protest, and that they were being “fully consistent (with) public safety.” “IF providing abortions is essential, then peacefully giving pregnant women counseling on alternatives to abortion is ALSO ‘essential,’” Cruz tweeted.

Friday News: Here we go again


RIGHT-WING GROUP SUES NC COUNTIES IN EFFORT TO PURGE VOTER ROLLS: According to Judicial Watch, Mecklenburg is lagging in updating its voter list. It claims the state’s biggest county removed an average of 11,000 voters per year during the last reporting period. Dickerson says the county actually removed almost 59,000 names in 2019 alone. He also disputed Judicial Watch’s claim that Mecklenburg has more registered voters than voting-age residents. Based on 2018 Census estimate, Mecklenburg had almost 1.1 million residents, of which some 835,000 were 18 and older. About 88 percent, or 732,000 residents, are registered to vote — not the 107 percent alleged by the complaint, he said. Judicial Watch has long aligned itself with Trump on wide range of issues including immigration and Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Thursday News: Show me the money


SCV MUST RETURN $2.5 MILLION TO UNC-CH, MINUS LAWYER FEES: The judge approved those costs, saying they are “reasonable” and “necessary” and would be distributed within 10 days, according to court documents. The remaining balance in the trust, which is just under $2.42 million, will be returned to the UNC System within 10 days and then to UNC-Chapel Hill, which initially transferred the funds for the settlement. At that point, the trust will be dissolved. The judge also extended the time for the SCV to return the Silent Sam statue to the UNC System to May 5 because of the “situation with COVID-19.” UNC System Interim President Bill Roper and Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey have said the statue will not be their primary focus. But they, along with UNC-Chapel Hill leaders, have made clear that the statue will not return to campus.


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