BURR IN HOT SEAT AFTER SELLING OFF STOCKS IN EARLY FEBRUARY: U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold up to $1.5 million in stocks, including hotel chains, in mid-February weeks before he warned a private group that the coronavirus was “akin to the 1918 pandemic” and warned it to rethink European travel. The stock sales Feb. 13 were reflected on a financial disclosure form filed with the Senate on Feb. 27, the same day he spoke to members of the Tar Heel Circle, a high-dollar membership organization that is part of the North Carolina State Society of Washington, D.C. ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics first reported the stock sales. NPR first reported Burr’s comments. Burr was one of three senators to vote against the STOCK Act, a 2012 bill “that explicitly prevents members of Congress and their staffs from using nonpublic information for insider trading,” according to McClatchy reporting at the time. Burr called the bill “ludicrous” and said existing laws already covered it for all Americans, including members of Congress.
TEXTING SCAM TRIES TO GET VOTERS TO REGISTER TWICE: People have been getting unsolicited text messages about their registration status or asking them to register to vote, the board said in a news release. Numerous people reported the texts, which included an embedded link. Board staff said people should not click the link and suggested deleting the message. The link looks like a real website connecting to vote.org, but officials there confirmed they aren't sending the messages, board spokesman Patrick Gannon said. “We know these texts can be confusing to voters, and we take this situation very seriously,” State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said in an emailed release. “We urge all North Carolinians to get information about voting and voter registration from trusted, reliable sources, including your state and county boards of elections.”
NC HAS FIRST "COMMUNITY SPREAD" CASE OF COVID 19: Cooper said the state health lab confirmed the case of community spread of COVID-19 in Wilson County east of Raleigh, meaning that the person had not traveled to a coronavirus hot spot or been in contact with someone else already known to have the virus. “This is an expected, but still unfortunate benchmark in this new pandemic,” he said. Overall, the state has 97 positive cases as of Thursday, up from about 60 the previous day, he said. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of victims recover. Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Small Business Administration granted Cooper's request for a disaster declaration to help small businesses suffering from effects of the pandemic by giving them access low-interest loans.
TRUMP KEEPS CALLING IT THE "CHINESE VIRUS" TO DEFLECT BLAME: Trump’s use of the term has become a point of pride among some White House aides and supporters, and the president has used it more as his handling of the public health emergency has been increasingly faulted. A Washington Post photographer captured an image of a printed copy of Trump’s remarks that had the word “corona,” a medical term for a family of viruses, crossed out and the word “Chinese” put in its place with a black marker. Trump’s shift to more fully blame China coincides with widening devastation from the virus in the United States and increasing criticism that his administration missed opportunities to prepare and respond. For weeks in January and February, Trump publicly dismissed the outbreak as of very little risk to Americans, even as he banned air travel for non-U.S. citizens traveling from China. After appearing sobered by the scale of the crisis earlier in the week, Trump on Thursday bitterly attacked reporters and news organizations he said had failed to accurately report his accomplishments in confronting the virus. “We were very prepared. The only thing we weren’t prepared for was the, the media. The media has not treated it fairly. I’ll tell you how prepared I was. I called for a ban from people coming in from China long before anybody thought it was — in fact, it was your network, I believe, they called me a racist because I did that,” Trump told a reporter for NBC News. “It was many of the people in the room. They called me racist and other words because I did that, because I went so early.”
SENATE STIMULUS HAS (OF COURSE) TAX BREAKS FOR BUSINESS WHILE LIMITING PAID LEAVE FOR WORKERS: Senate Republicans, racing to put their imprint on the crisis response, unveiled a package that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to big corporations and small businesses, large corporate tax cuts and checks of up to $1,200 for taxpayers. The plan would also place limits on a paid-leave program enacted this week to respond to the crisis. But the 247-page measure, the product of a feverish round of negotiations among Republicans, was all but certain to face opposition from Democrats who have pressed for more generous paid-leave benefits and targeting help to workers and families rather than large corporations. The details emerged as Washington grappled with the dimensions of an extraordinary government rescue effort that is likely to last for many months. At the White House, President Trump said he would be open to having the government take equity stakes in companies that require federal help, a move that would be unpopular with shareholders and would give the government more oversight over businesses.On Capitol Hill, Republicans presented a bill that would offer bridge loans of up to $10 million each to small businesses, extend hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to large corporations in distressed industries and send checks as large as $1,200 per adult to individuals earning less than $99,000 per year. The payments would phase in for earners up to $75,000 — meaning lower earners would get smaller checks — and then phase out again at $99,000. Those who did not earn enough to pay income tax would receive much less: $600.