COPING WITH COVID 19 REVEALS SERIOUS BROADBAND GAPS: But that absence of connection isn’t just about fiber. A notable portion of the state’s offline households are also in urban areas, cut off not by distance but by cost. More than 40% of North Carolina households where broadband is available don’t subscribe. Infrastructure isn’t helpful if you can’t afford to use it. “That’s an equity issue,” said Roberto Gallardo of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, speaking at last month’s Forum. “We’re leaving people behind through no fault of their own.” We’re also slowing the rollout of medical technologies that could be especially valuable in moments like this. Kim Schwartz, the CEO of the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, spoke at the forum about remote health monitoring that her center uses to track patients with chronic conditions. It allows doctors and nurses to see potential issues in real time, making it possible for them to intervene before a patient has to visit the office. As we all learn the phrase “self-quarantine at home,” that kind of distance monitoring is likely to prove valuable. Unfortunately, it only works for people with good internet and the ability to pay for it, and that leaves out many North Carolinians.
CORONAVIRUS IS MORE DANGEROUS WHEN POLITICIANS CRY "FAKE NEWS" CONSTANTLY: News organizations have done exceptional reporting on the crisis, even despite government efforts to shield information from the public. For example, White House officials prevented news organizations from recording audio or video of a March 3 press conference about the outbreak. And as Reuters reported on March 11, the White House classified high-level government meetings about the coronavirus, complicating the government’s response to the crisis and preventing administration officials from describing to journalists what happens in important meetings. The administration’s response: “This story is fake news,” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot wrote in an email to Reuters. When reporters are prevented from covering major crises, or when their reporting is dismissed by government leaders as fake, misinformation festers. And that’s exactly what’s been happening on a global level. Conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have exploded online, so much so that tech companies’ efforts to combat the misinformation are struggling to keep up. If we’re going to counter misinformation and truly confront this crisis, we need to stand up for journalists. The public can’t make responsible decisions in the midst of a pandemic without reliable facts. The reporters covering every angle of this crisis are telling consequential stories that help communities protect the vulnerable, employers support their workers and government leaders contain the virus.
IN CRAFTING COVID 19 BILLS, LEGISLATORS NEED TO HEED GOVERNOR COOPER'S LEAD: While there has been much talk of the emergence of true communication between the legislature and the governor’s administration, there was little evidence of it at the session Wednesday. The select committee and its working groups need to hear first-hand about what is going on and what’s being done. That way the legislators will be better positioned to draft the legislation that will support those efforts and not erect impediments. Has the habit of simply ignoring the administration become so reflexive that it doesn’t even come to mind to include cabinet secretaries and Gov. Roy Cooper’s key aides in discussion? Is the only time they’re called upon to testify is when they’re going to be called on the carpet? This isn’t about the legislature passively yielding to what the governor does or doesn’t want. It it is about going to the best source for information; making those people and their knowledge and experience available; hearing what they have to say; questioning their assumptions – and in the end working with the governor’s program to make it effective.
WHY "CHOOSING" BETWEEN THE ELDERLY AND THE ECONOMY IS A PHONY, BARBARIC CHOICE: The idea that Americans grappling with the coronavirus pandemic face a stark choice between reigniting the economy and hunkering down to save lives is increasingly posed as a brutal question: Why destroy the world as we know it to save some retirees? Or, as some have reframed it even more barbarically: Why not sacrifice a finite number of vulnerable, mainly elderly people, well past their prime, for the greater good of reviving a thriving economy? Here’s why not: It’s a phony choice, based on a false premise. President Trump has not quite defined the dilemma in those terms, though he edged close by warning Americans not to “let the cure be worse than the problem.” Some of his acolytes have chosen their words less delicately, notably Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, a Republican about to turn 70, who said he and other senior citizens are “willing to take a chance on [our] survival” to help return to normal daily life. “And if that is the exchange,” said Mr. Patrick, “I’m all in.” Let’s suppose Americans were to do what Mr. Patrick and Mr. Trump have suggested — get back to work in a few weeks and pack the churches on Easter Sunday because, as the two men evidently believe, the economy cannot remain indefinitely in a coma. Yes, many elderly Americans would get sick and die in the ensuing weeks and months — maybe hundreds of thousands, very likely millions. But so would countless other people. The quick and certain result of a damn-the-torpedoes approach would be to overwhelm and break the health-care system. Hospitals would fill to overflowing. Those in need of ventilators would be out of luck — not only covid-19 patients but also babies, children, tweens and anyone else in respiratory distress.
TRUMP CHOOSES DISASTER AS HIS RE-ELECTION STRATEGY: Here’s where the faulty American bailout helps the president in the most sinister way: Workers left without adequate protections could suffer more under a mass quarantine and might be more likely to resent medical experts and a mass media urging for social distancing. Mr. Trump can rail against the states’ decision to extend the quarantine and pretend, insincerely, to side with workers over the elites. After all, many of them can comfortably work from home and keep their jobs, he might argue. For the president, it might feel like a win-win. If states ignore Mr. Trump’s advice and beat back the virus successfully before Election Day, he can claim victory. In the very unlikely event the virus doesn’t cause destruction in other parts of the country similar to what it is causing in Seattle, New York City and New Orleans, he can claim fear-mongering on behalf of Democrats and the media. Meanwhile, the conversation around the virus shifts away from those needlessly suffering and the Trump administration’s woeful preparedness. The pandemic moves from Mr. Trump’s nightmare — a complex medical and logistical crisis requiring empathy and leadership — to Mr. Trump’s wheelhouse — an overly simplified, cynical political battle fought with cruelty and finger-pointing. Just as his coronavirus news conferences have become stand-ins for his rallies, the president’s politicization of the virus allows him to operate in a modified campaign mode. Without an official Democratic challenger to call out and a traditional election news cycle to cover the horse race, Mr. Trump is choosing to use the pandemic as a tool for his usual base-rallying division.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ROBERT PORRECA: YOU CAN'T FIGHT OFF A VIRUS WITH A GUN: I have taught firearms safety and marksmanship for over 40 years. Reading that people say that they are buying a gun because they fear getting in an argument in the supermarket makes me cringe. If I were selling guns and heard someone say that I would not sell them one because they are too unhinged. There is plenty of merchandise in the supply chain, including toilet paper. The problem is with those who buy in quantities they won’t use in a year or more. Deliveries cannot keep up, so it appears the product is in short supply. It’s not. What is in short supply is decency, fairness and common sense. Get a grip folks. Your stupidity is showing.
JOSEPH JORDAN: IT'S TIME TO LET NON-VIOLENT PRISONERS OUT OF JAIL: The coronavirus may very well do what politicians have failed to do: solve the overpopulation problem in our prisons. In America, “the land of the free,” we incarcerate more people (about 2 million) than any other country, including China which has four times the population. Enter the coronavirus. As it spreads through our overcrowded prisons, the result may be devastating. About 200,000 inmates nationwide are over the age of 55 and most of them are non-violent offenders who could have been released and punished in other less-costly — and more effective — ways, like community service and home confinement, which many Americans are now learning is not an easy punishment. Instead, many prisoners may die. (author is incarcerated at Butner)
ANDREW LEVIN: RICHARD BURR'S TEFLON COATING WILL PROTECT HIM AGAIN: Sen. Richard Burr requested an ethics investigation, but only because he is confident he can rationalize his stock sales by claiming he acted on public information. But he can’t rationalize his far more serious violation of public trust. As he privately gave dire, public health warnings to a group of wealthy donors, he never offered the same warnings to the people of North Carolina. This is just more evidence showing the Republican version of “draining the swamp” to be a giant con being perpetrated on the American public. Don’t expect Burr to resign. That would require a moral compass and his actions show that he has none. He no longer needs votes. He retires from the Senate in 2022, at which point he will most likely become a highly paid lobbyist within the swamp that has nurtured him for years.