Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATORS SHOULD FOCUS ON HUGE VOTER TURNOUT, NOT PARTISAN ADVANTAGE: Our state – for nearly a decade – has been ground-zero for just about every effort to sway election outcomes. It has been in: Hyper-partisan gerrymandering that courts have repeatedly criticized and rejected as unconstitutional and denied millions of North Carolinians a fair voice in Congress and the General Assembly. Cutting access to the ballot by efforts to limit polling places and moving them from places easily accessible to large number of voters, particularly on college campuses. Mid-election changes to the order of candidates on ballots. The elimination of non-partisan and publicly funded judicial elections. Baseless challenges to local board of elections voter rolls. Reckless allegations that some voters who cast ballots may have been ineligible. It is an indisputable record of the current legislative leadership’s relentless pursuit to enshrine GOP domination – regardless of the will of the voters.

COVID 19 BURNS THROUGH NURSING HOMES. MY MOTHER IS IN ONE OF THEM: My mother is 92 and lives in a New Jersey nursing home. COVID-19 is there, too; 27 confirmed cases in her home. So far, she is well, but she is in what amounts to a burning building and her children are helpless to get her out. She can’t walk, has memory problems and needs an aide to bathe and dress her. She can’t go anywhere and no one can visit her. She’s quarantined in her room. Now we wait and hope. In New Jersey, nearly 40 percent of the state’s more than 3,800 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. But my mother still has a strong immune system. She rarely gets a cold. The home says it has taken measures to protect residents and the manager reassured us that the COVID-19 cases were not in my mother’s wing. So we hold on to that. I reached her by phone. She’s scared and confused, but she still had her dry perspective. “Everybody is thinking of you,” I said, and she replied, “A lot of good that will do.” She was right in one sense, but wrong in a larger one. Concentrated thinking by everybody about how most elderly Americans spend the last years of their lives could do a lot of good. For the truth is that we as a society don’t give it enough thought even though, for many of us, a nursing home will be our last residence.

IN COVID 19 TIMES, RASH ACTIONS HAVE LIFE-AND-DEATH COSTS: North Carolinians are eager to get back to work. We’re itching to get back to our lives: Going to concerts and shows; Hitting the gym; Attending athletic events; Watching our kids play sports, dance at proms, graduate. Just doing the normal stuff. But today we know, as we’ve never had to think about, there’s a cost. It is no overstatement, in these times of COVID-19, that cost very well is life or death. That is what politicians need to keep in mind before they say, as state Sen. Bob Steinberg of Chowan County recently did, that continuing Gov. Roy Cooper’s “stay-at-home” order past April 30 would be far more devastating than the virus “at its worst.” Protesters in Raleigh Tuesday echoed that sentiment. "The economic disaster that's going to happen if they make us stay home over and over is going to be worse than any COVID-19 problems that we've had," said rally participant David Engstrom. Every day we see what “at its worst” is: Grandparents who will never hug a grandchild; parents who won’t see a child’s milestone achievements; and even children who will be denied the joys of youth because of this deadly virus.

TRUMP'S GUIDANCE FOR REOPENING MISSES TESTING AND CONTACT TRACING: President Trump’s coronavirus task force unveiled guidance Thursday for when states can reopen and relax social-distancing measures that was silent on key matters. Until three questions are addressed, this guidance is more lip service than reliable planning. The No. 1 question: What about testing? Public health experts, business leaders and elected officials all agree that widespread testing is needed on a scale many orders of magnitude greater than what is being done. Testing can’t be limited to patients with symptoms; surveillance testing of people without symptoms is necessary to detect the true spread of covid-19 in communities. Tracing could require a workforce of as many as 300,000 people. The guidelines do not outline a federal role, but a national program to recruit, train and deploy these workers makes infinitely more sense than 50 state programs with differing protocols and procedures. As things stand, it’s unclear whether the federal government intends to invoke any enforcement authority over states that do not abide by the guidance. Although the president initially said that the decision to reopen was entirely under his authority, this new guidance was framed as a voluntary measure. The spread of infections illustrates that diseases do not respect state or national borders. Premature reopening of one state affects neighboring states and could spark a second wave of infections that affect the entire country. It should be clear whether the federal government would exert authority if states make decisions that run counter to the guidance.

TRUMP IS ASKING US TO PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH OUR LIVES: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” With these three short tweets last week, President Trump attempted to kick off the post-lockdown phase of America’s coronavirus crisis. It should be called: “American Russian roulette: The Covid-19 version.’’ What Trump was saying with those tweets was: Everybody just go back to work. From now on, each of us individually, and our society collectively, is going to play Russian roulette. We’re going to bet that we can spin through our daily lives — work, shopping, school, travel — without the coronavirus landing on us. And if it does, we’ll also bet that it won’t kill us. More specifically: As a society, we will be betting that as large numbers of people stop sheltering in place, the number of people who will still get infected with Covid-19 and require hospitalization will be less than the number of hospital beds, intensive care units, respirators, doctors, nurses and protective gear needed to take care of them. “Liberate”? Think about the use of that word. We were not in jail! We were not doing something wrong! We were doing what our president, governor, mayor, and national epidemic experts told us to do: behave responsibly and shelter in place to break the transmission of this virus. Trump was cynically trying to curry favor with his base by implying that the Democratic governors, following his own national guidelines, were unfairly locking people up, depriving them of their livelihoods. Is there anything more irresponsible that this president could do, after weeks of complimenting the American people for how they pulled together and sacrificed to shelter in place — patriotically doing their part to bend the curve of this virus?


JANICE HORNER: A DARE FOR REOPENNC PROTESTERS: To all you “brave” protesters marching in near the governor’s mansion, I dare you to instead protest outside your local hospital, grocery store, fire department, nursing home, or bus station – anywhere there are people putting their lives at risk every day because they can’t stay home. You don’t think this virus is as bad as the experts say? I dare you to make that argument face-to-face with family members of the more than 10,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in New York City alone. None of us disagree with your desire to lift restrictions and have things back to normal, but most of us want to be alive to enjoy that day when it happens.

YEVONNE BRANNON: OUR STUDENTS NEED FREE, HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ACCESS: As we’ve watched school districts across North Carolina and the nation struggle to provide virtual learning, one thing is crystal clear: We need free, high-speed internet for all students. Too many students don’t have internet at home or any device other than cellphones. Even when school districts provide students with computers, the lack of reliable internet undermines the virtual learning opportunity. The digital divide exists in low-and-medium income families. We need a permanent long-term solution to ensure educational equity, not just for virtual learning but to allow students access to homework help, research, and to help families stay in touch with schools. Providing free internet at every opportunity in our public places, in low-income neighborhoods, and homes of all public school students will require partnerships between private companies and government at all levels. Our students will need all the help they can get to catch up over the next year.

WILMA LIVERPOOL: "WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER" LEAVES OUT AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY: My community, the African-American community, has always had to deal with pandemics, mainly financial, with no rescue. COVID-19 is just another destroyer. We have the highest rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, unmet basic needs, poverty and eviction. Crumbs and Band-Aid offerings have cured nothing. How quickly $2.2 trillion appears to rescue small businesses, along with a bunch of talk that “we’re all in this together.” When were “we” ever together through 350 years of racism and slavery? We’re told “America will get back to normal,” but whose normal will my community return to? Longstanding racism is causing my community to die from this virus at almost twice the rate of whites. Does 350 years of withheld reparations and health care have anything to do with that? Let’s get to the root causes! I am waiting for psychologists and spiritual leaders to get spines and vocally name the racist root causes of what was and continues to destroy my community.



From the dark side

This week's loser is Charlotte Republican Kenny Smith:

The country is so polarized we can’t even find agreement on how to react to a pandemic. Sentiment on TV/social media seems to be hysteria or hoax and tends to fall along political lines. Left-leaning commentators appear to be more accepting of restrictions while conservatives are ready to reopen the country. How about a middle ground, based upon data?

"Hey, look at me, I'm Mister Neutral! You can trust what I say because I just falsely claimed I was non-partisan!"

Thus far I have accepted government actions to protect citizens. I have assumed the government has powers in crisis that we would never normally allow and would certainly question. But after examining the data, my patience is running thin. It’s time for county and state leaders to chart a path forward that gets us back to work.

So much for the middle ground. Also, you'll have to pardon my skepticism, but that BA in Communications doesn't give me a warm fuzzy about your "data examination" of our current epidemiological nightmare. I have no doubt you've been examining your bank account statements, but, you know. That ain't the same thing.

After 15 years in commercial real estate, I was surprised to learn my occupation is deemed non-essential. Commercial real estate touches all areas of the economy: retail, manufacturing, distribution, office, healthcare, etc. We help small businesses grow and expand. My family is losing much-needed income during my mandated exile from work. While small businesses are failing and unemployment is skyrocketing, those who impose the stay at home orders are still getting paid.

Okay, first of all, I can see the need to relax restrictions on residential real estate. People need a place to shelter "in" during this pandemic. But commercial? The pandemic and subsequent "work from home" efforts have already proven that the old model of massive office buildings was costly and pointless, and you can expect telework to become the new normal. It was already growing strong before COVID 19, but now all the naysayers are telling us (from their homes) that it is more than just viable, it is common sense.

And I would speculate that Kenny Smith is more worried about that paradigmatic shift than he is the overall economy.

Data has been scarce, which makes it difficult to create models that are anywhere near close to reality. Hospital utilization is nowhere near early estimates. In fact, our local hospitals altogether have abandoned plans for a field hospital. At one point it was suggested as many as 2.0 million Americans could die. Recent projections have dropped to 60,000. And even that new, lower, estimate is suspect.

Oh, it's suspect all right. But not in the way you're implying. New York has shown us that thousands will likely die at home without ever being tested for COVID 19. Just like the reported number of infections is much lower than the reality, so goes the fatalities.

It is time to balance the well-being of the vulnerable with our need to work. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one, but it also aches for those losing their livelihoods. Americans are reasonable people by nature and willing to make sacrifices when necessary. A simple cost/benefit analysis will tell you the 951 cases in the county and 5,113 statewide don’t justify continued shutdown. I can hang in there awhile longer, but we need to get back to work by May 15. Unfortunately, for many it will be too late.

Believe it or not, this man could have become the Mayor of Charlotte. A city with close to 20% of the entire state's COVID 19 cases, and he thinks that's just fine. Because those elderly, African-American, and homeless victims weren't going to buy any of his properties anyway.