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.
GOVERNOR ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER ON RETAIL SHOPPING LIMITATIONS: The new executive order limits the number of people allowed inside stores at one time, which means fewer people crowding the aisles, but also, if you go at a busy time, you may have to wait in line outside. Some stores were already doing this — Target, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Harris Teeter were already placing limits on occupancy. But now there are concrete rules requiring the metering of occupants and guidelines for how occupancy must be calculated. The new executive order dictates that stores are limited to 20% of the stated fire capacity, or they can have 5 persons per 1,000 square feet. This is called Emergency Maximum Occupancy. Stores must have personnel at the door to limit access once the store has Emergency Maximum Occupancy. When Emergency Maximum Occupancy is reached and people are lined up outside stores, the store must clearly mark lines six feet apart where people can stand while waiting.
MEAT PROCESSING PLANTS ARE CLOSING, SHORTAGES WON'T BE FAR OFF: The virus has infected hundreds of workers at plants in Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and elsewhere. The capacity of plants that remain open has also been hurt by workers who are sick or staying home because of fears of illness — though it's not clear by how much. While company owners promise to deep clean their plants and resume operations as quickly as possible, it's difficult to keep workers healthy given how closely they work together. “There is no social distance that is possible when you are either working on the slaughter line or in a processing assignment,” said Paula Schelling, acting chairwoman for the food inspectors union in the American Federation of Government Employees. The reduced production so far has been offset by the significant amount of meat that was in cold storage, said Glynn Tonsor, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. Producers are also working to shift meat that would have gone to now-closed restaurants over to grocery stores.
APPEALS COURT BLOCKS TEXAS ABORTION BAN FOLDED INTO EMERGENCY PLAN: Medical abortions, which end a pregnancy with pills, may continue in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic after the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans blocked an antiabortion portion of Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency ban on nonessential medical procedures Monday evening. The decision by a three-judge panel may avoid an immediate Supreme Court battle over abortion access by mooting part of a petition already filed at the high court by lawyers for abortion providers. Abbott (R) has said the temporary ban on abortion is intended to preserve personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as gloves, masks and paper gowns worn by doctors. That gear has been in short supply in many hospitals inundated with patients suffering from severe cases of covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. In a concurrence, Dennis wrote that Texas’s “stated desire to enforce [the ban] against medication abortions despite the executive order’s apparent inapplicability is a strong indication that the enforcement is pretextual and does not bear a ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis we are experiencing.”
TRUMP HEADED TOWARD CONSTITUTIONAL BATTLE AGAINST STATE GOVERNORS: There once was a time when President Trump made clear that governors were the ones mainly responsible for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But that was Sunday. On Monday, he declared that he was really in charge and would make the decision about when and how to reopen the country. The president’s reversal raised profound constitutional questions about the real extent of his powers and set him once again on a potential collision course with the states. For weeks, he sought to shift blame to the governors for any failures in handling the virus, presenting himself as merely a supporting player. Now as the tide begins to turn, he is claiming the lead role. “The president of the United States calls the shots,” he said at his evening news briefing. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.” Asked what provisions of the Constitution gave him the power to override the states if they wanted to remain closed, he said, “Numerous provisions,” without naming any. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.” The tension with the governors over reopening comes at a critical moment in the crisis as national and state leaders facing the dual calamities of a deadly pandemic and a cratering economy try to calibrate when it would be safe to resume business and social life without resulting in a second wave of disease and death.