NC'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULATION ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE IN PANDEMIC: Where the state does know race and ethnicity, DHHS reports that 33% of confirmed cases are among African Americans and 29% are among Hispanics. Of N.C. deaths, 36% have been among African Americans, and 5% among Hispanics. According to U.S. Census estimates for July 2019, blacks make up 22% of the state’s population. Hispanics account for less than 10%. The incidence of COVID-19 in North Carolina tracks with national trends. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April found that blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented among hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the new coronavirus. National numbers from May show that where race and ethnicity are known, black Americans are 2.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Americans.
FOREST PUSHES PASTORS TO GET POLITICAL IN VIDEO CONFERENCE: "I think we are really preparing, as a church, for what's going to go down beyond this, when the next thing happens," he said. "Are we going to be prepared for this push that's going to come against religious freedom?" The lieutenant governor told the pastors that the best thing they can do is make sure their people are registered to vote and that they do so. He said COVID-19 shutdowns can be "the catalyst" to push back against years of culture war attacks but that, if they don't inspire Christians to act, nothing will. "This is your last chance," he said. "This is your last chance to motivate the church." The call was organized by the North Carolina Renewal Project and hosted by Pastor Neal Jackson of Beulah Baptist Church in Bennett. Jackson has written several books, including one titled "The Coming Destruction of America." American Renewal, a quasi-political Christian group whose founder is on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of extremists, put video of the call online.
BURR RELEASES RUSSIA REPORT IN FINAL ACT AS CHAIRMAN OF INTEL COMMITTEE: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr on Friday submitted the final report in the panel's three-year Russia investigation to the intelligence community for a declassification review. The move came hours before he was to temporarily step aside as chairman of the panel. The report on the panel’s counterintelligence findings – including whether President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia — marks the conclusion of its Russia probe, which it first launched in January 2017. But the panel did not immediately release any of the findings and instead asked the intelligence community to quickly allow the release of a declassified version of the report. Burr worked closely with the top Democrat on the panel, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, on a bipartisan basis to uncover Russia’s attempts to sow chaos in American elections. The committee had particular success in pushing social media companies to publicly reveal that Russia had used their platforms for misinformation and to make subsequent reforms to prevent such interference in the future. Committee members have remained quiet on the panel’s conclusion on whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia. But Burr has said several times that he has seen no evidence of such collusion, a conclusion that would be in line with the House Intelligence Committee’s own Russia report in 2018.
CORONAVIRUS IS RAVAGING RURAL COMMUNITIES WITH NO HOSPITALS: A similar trend can be seen in death counts: The tally of deaths rose fastest outside America’s major cities. And now, as the daily tally of new coronavirus cases starts to shrink in cities, it continues to grow in rural areas. For the week ending May 9, metropolitan counties announced 10% fewer new cases than the previous week. By comparison, rural counties announced 8% more cases than the previous week. For residents in those communities, including those in the highest risk categories for COVID-19 — poor, elderly and suffering from underlying health conditions — a spate of recent hospital closures means the nearest emergency room is sometimes hours away and plagued by staff shortages and financial deficits. At least 130 rural hospitals have closed nationally in the past decade, according to the University of North Carolina Sheps Center for Health Services Research. The majority were in states where lawmakers didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving already struggling hospitals the burden of millions in uncompensated costs from uninsured patients. In Texas alone, more than 20 rural hospitals closed. Tennessee lost 13. Nine closed in Oklahoma and seven in Georgia.
TRUMP FIRES ANOTHER WATCHDOG, THIS TIME AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT: State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was fired Friday in a late-night ouster that drew condemnations from Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning of an acceleration in a “dangerous pattern of retaliation” against federal watchdogs. Linick, a 2013 Obama appointee who has criticized department leadership for alleged retribution toward staffers, will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday. It was the latest in a string of weekend removals of oversight officials who have clashed with the Trump administration. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D.-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed the State Inspector General was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said the timing suggested “an unlawful act of retaliation.” The State Department did not explain Linick’s removal or address criticism, and the White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry Friday night. A Democratic congressional aide said that Linick was looking into Pompeo’s "misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.” The firing came weeks after Trump removed Christi Grimm as principal deputy Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, after Grimm’s office criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — detailing “severe shortages” of testing kits, delays in getting coronavirus results and “widespread shortages” of masks and other equipment at U.S. hospitals. Trump had lashed out publicly at Grimm.