RESTRICTIONS ON ELECTIVE SURGERY FINANCIALLY SQUEEZE RURAL HOSPITALS: Preparing for coronavirus patients is increasing the financial strain on rural hospitals, some already struggling to stay open. Many smaller rural hospitals in North Carolina mirror their larger, metro-area counterparts in preparing for coronavirus patients: making plans to add ICU beds, examining staffing requirements, and preserving gloves, masks and gowns. But the official government request to restrict elective surgeries during the pandemic could add to rural hospitals’ financial pain, said Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Hoke Healthcare. “Immediate funding is needed given the request from [the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services] to suspend elective surgeries,” she said in an email Tuesday. “In many instances, a rural hospital’s bottom line is inextricably tied to the ability to perform elective surgeries.” Pressures of responding to the pandemic could force more rural hospitals to close, she wrote.
GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATURE ARE WORKING TOGETHER ON COVID 19 ISSUES: “Between federal and state resources, families and businesses that need financial help due to this crisis can’t get it soon enough," Tuesday's statement said in part. “Legislative leaders and the governor agree that state leaders must work together to deliver additional assistance following federal action. Our Constitution requires the state to maintain a balanced budget, and while the state has built up substantial reserves, we must use them wisely." Berger, R-Rockingham, Cooper and Moore all say they're disappointed that the federal government hasn't yet passed a relief package. They say they'll need to wait and see what that will include before acting at the state level. In the meantime, Moore said, the task force is likely to look at waiving unemployment taxes for businesses that have had to close their doors and waiving interest and penalties for late tax payments. He said it's also likely they'll discuss whether unemployment benefits should be extended to contract workers, self-employed people and small-business owners, none of whom are currently eligible for assistance.
DURHAM TO ISSUE "STAY AT HOME" ORDER SOMETIME TODAY: Durham Mayor Steve Schewel tells us a stay-at-home order is coming to his city on Wednesday. Schewel said a few days ago that he would consider a stay at home order if the state did not set one. He also said he thought it would be easier to enforce if the state did it. At this point, the state hasn't done it so he is making the change for Durham. Several states already have stay-at-home orders, while some call them shelter-in-place orders. The rules differ depending on the area, but in most places it means you can only leave your home for something essential like doctor's appointments or to go to the grocery store. We spoke with Schewel Tuesday night and he said he will answer questions about specifics Wednesday morning. Either way the streets of Durham are about to get much quieter than they are already. Mecklenburg County officials have issued a stay-at-home proclamation for Charlotte-area residents, according to NBC affiliate WCNC. The order takes effect at 8 a.m. Thursday and runs through April 15.
U.S. SENATE APPEARS READY TO APPROVE COVID 19 RELIEF/STIMULUS PACKAGE: “After sleep-deprived nights and marathon negotiating sessions, we have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” Schumer said. “This is not a moment of celebration but one of necessity. The anguish of the American people – wondering about the future of their health, the health of their loved ones and the economy – necessitates us to do all we can to help them and help our country.” Schumer said while “like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect” it was a significant improvement over the previous version and urged his fellow Democrats to vote for it. The final language is still being crafted but the package includes one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, $367 billion for small businesses, $500 billion for loans to larger industries, money for hospitals, $600 more per week in unemployment benefits for those out of work. For days, both sides had agreed on the basics of the package: direct payments to Americans, help for small business, a lifeline to large industries, such as airlines, considered vital to the nation’s swift recovery from a shutdown that had paralyzed the world’s largest economy and upended the country’s daily routines.
TRUMP TRIES TO TURN SCIENTISTS INTO TRUMPBOTS; IT DOESN'T WORK: On Monday, during the daily coronavirus news conference, President Trump tried to drag White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx into bashing the media with him — an entreaty she deftly sidestepped with a smile and talk of how much she had recently learned about “social distancing and respiratory diseases.” Then on Tuesday, during a Fox News virtual town hall with virus task force members, Trump tried to prod Birx into criticizing New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) for the rapidly growing outbreak of coronavirus cases in his state. “Do you blame the governor for that?” Trump asked Birx — a question she simply ignored as she continued on with her answer. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he spoke with Fauci on Monday morning, shortly after a new string of tweets by the president echoing a similar sentiment, and that Fauci disagreed with Trump’s assessment of the crisis. “He believes we should be doing more, not less,” Graham said. This portrait of mounting tensions between the president and the scientific community is the result of interviews with 15 senior administration officials, aides, outside advisers and others briefed on internal deliberations, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments.