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.

REOPEN NC A MISHMASH OF ANTI-VAXXERS AND ANTI-COOPERS: “We are in violation of Comrade Cooper’s order,” said Leonard Harrison of Mebane, dressed in an American flag shirt. “If I get locked up today, I’m OK with that. As North Carolinians, we need to get back to work.” Tuesday’s protest reached its third round of honks at 11:45 a.m. as protesters vowed to continue for hours. But at roughly 12:30 p.m., police asked protesters to disperse. Those gathered Tuesday said they doubt the extent of the virus’ danger, describing testing as inaccurate and causes of death suspicious. One of the group’s founders is Ashley Smith, a Morganton mother of four who has previously posted on social media about her opposition to vaccinations for any diseases. “I am against mandatory vaccination,” Smith said in an email to The News & Observer on Monday. “That is a personal right and as a sovereign citizen I have the right to choose what medical procedures I and my children receive. Pandemic status/state of emergency doesn’t change that.”

5,000 INFECTED, 108 DEATHS IN NC DUE TO COVID 19: Deaths in North Carolina linked to COVID-19 have soared above 100, state officials said Tuesday, even as the increase in the number of positive cases may be slowing. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 108 related deaths statewide, a more than 25% jump compared to Monday. The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations also grew by a third to about 420. But the number of laboratory-confirmed cases since the outbreak began grew day-over-day by just 4% to a little over 5,000. State DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen spoke somberly of the milestone in deaths on Tuesday. She said while she didn't see a peak in deaths and hospitalizations at this time, "it doesn't mean I see a surge, either." But Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper said this week that social-distancing directives, in particular the stay-at-home order starting March 30, have helped blunt the spread of the virus and prevented hospitals from being overrun. For example, Cohen said, the number of days that it takes to double the number of cases is increasing.

YES, TRUMP'S NAME IS GOING TO BE PRINTED ON COVID 19 STIMULUS CHECKS: The Treasury Department has ordered President Trump’s name be printed on stimulus checks the Internal Revenue Service is rushing to send to tens of millions of Americans, a process that could slow their delivery by a few days, senior IRS officials said. The unprecedented decision, finalized late Monday, means that when recipients open the $1,200 paper checks the IRS is scheduled to begin sending to 70 million Americans in coming days, “President Donald J. Trump” will appear on the left side of the payment. It will be the first time a president’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, whether a routine refund or one of the handful of checks the government has issued to taxpayers in recent decades either to stimulate a down economy or share the dividends of a strong one. About six months before he faces reelection, with his campaign on pause because the virus has prevented him from holding the rallies that are popular with his base, the checks provide Trump with a new form of retail politics. A check provides a touchable, bread-and-butter symbol to taxpayers right in their mailboxes. But to critics and some IRS employees, many of whom started to learn of the decision on Tuesday, the presence of Trump’s name on the checks reeks of partisanship in a corner of the government that touches all Americans and has, since the Nixon era, steadfastly steered clear of politics. After President Richard Nixon targeted a wide range of “enemy” groups for tax audits, including civil rights groups, reporters and prominent Democrats, Congress enacted laws to ensure that the agency conducts itself apolitically.

TRUMP CUTS OFF FUNDING FOR THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization in the midst of a global health crisis of unparalleled scale was met with shock and indignation around the world. “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has donated the vast bulk of his fortune to supporting initiatives to bolster public health, wrote on Twitter. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.” Mr. Trump’s attack on the W.H.O., which was founded after World War II as part of the United Nations “to promote and protect the health of all peoples,” was the latest example of the president’s attempt to shift the blame for the handling of the crisis. “So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing. He said the W.H.O. “willingly took China’s assurances to face value” and “pushed China’s misinformation.” Patrice A. Harris, the president of the American Medical Association, said that the move was “a dangerous step in the wrong direction.” “Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data,” Ms. Harris wrote in a statement. “Cutting funding to the W.H.O. — rather than focusing on solutions — is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world.” António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, defended the World Health Organization, saying it “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”



Like a bad dystopian novel

There is no low that Trump won't go. This is even worse than him signing the damn checks, because the location of his name makes it seem like the damn money is coming directly from him. Congress needs to step in right now and hold hearings with the IRS and Treasury, but of course Trump would then claim Democrats are slowing the money down. Grrr.

This will backfire

Really, when it comes down to it, the people who already support Trump won't care. The larger group of voters that have been appalled at the man will be even more appalled and this might be one of many little things that gets them pissed off enough to go to the polls.

When your group is being run by...

sovereign citizens, there's just no hiding the crazy. Then you throw in the anti-vaxxer angle and you have a grade-A loon on your hands. If these are the kind of people that Reopen NC is putting forward, you can bet that there are some real nut-jobs lurking in the background.

The odd mix of ReopenNC nutcases makes sense now

Mother Jones just published a piece that explains the strange union of evangelicals, anti-vaxxers, and right-wing "Don't Tread on Me" types that were in the ReopenNC Facebook group when I was looking at it. I found that combination of oddballs just strange.

"Wellness Influencers Are Spreading QAnon Conspiracies About the Coronavirus"

Azadeh Ghafari, a licensed psychotherapist who runs the Instagram account the.wellness.therapist, has long tracked the alternative medicine and pseudo-science community on the platform. She says the wellness influencers who have been pushing snake oil coronavirus cures are a bizarre turn from what she’s used to seeing.

“It’s unlike what I’ve looked at before. You would assume these hippies are progressives,” she said. “There is this faction of ultra-conservative, some Christian, mixed in with anti-vaxxers, mixed in with health and lifestyle folks.”

“These folks have latched onto these wellness, holistic, spaces. They use scientific language, and then they layer pseudoscience on top if it. It sounds like they know what they’re talking about, because they use certain expressions that make sense, but then add false things to that,” Gharafi continued.

The article notes how wellness gurus are looking at QAnon followers to build their audience. On their Facebook page, I spotted some ReopenNC admins who were involved in promoting multi-level marketing quack health scams.

“Wellness bloggers are generally anti-establishment and anti-mainstream narrative and distrustful of authority, which lines up with QAnon’s populist message,” View explained on the phone. “The thing about QAnon is that it is a fairly large online audience of people who are looking for validation. If you are in the business of building an audience, QAnon followers can be a valuable pool to draw from.”

Remember when Dubya did this stunt with tax refund checks?

The name wasn't on the actual check, but there was a letter attached. From 2001:

The tax-refund checks will go out soon based on a mailing schedule tied to the last two digits of your Social Security number – and President Bush will be making sure that he gets the credit.

The rebate checks will be up to $300 for singles, $500 for single parents, and $600 for couples.

Just in case anyone forgot, the president will take the opportunity to remind voters that he’s the one who got them the extra bucks.

Bush’s name will be up front and center on the letters telling millions of Americans how big a tax refund they’ll get from Uncle Sam.

From the article I posted

on Facebook:

She recalled that when the Bush administration delivered economic rebate checks of $300 to $600 to taxpayers in 2001 to share the benefits of a strong economy, the White House asked the IRS to include in a letter to taxpayers a sentence that took credit for “giving you your money back.”

The IRS commissioner at the time refused, Olson recalled, because the move was perceived as too political.

Apparently the integrity of the IRS has deteriorated since then.

p.s. I decided to get a check

instead of direct deposit, because I want to scan that motherf**ker for future reference. I'm also not comfortable with giving the Trump administration my banking info...

To be fair...

it's the IRS you gave your banking info to if you used direct deposit for last year's tax return. I'm not sure if that applies if you used direct debit for tax payments, but it probably does. My wife and I paid the IRS last year (as we often do) so I guess we'll find out if it works that way when we either get a deposit or we get a check. But regardless, it's not the Trumpites you're giving your info to, so they won't have any line into your back account (thank goodness.)