Friday News: Not nearly enough


LEGISLATURE BUDGETS $600 MILLION, HOSPITALS LOSING $1 BILLION A MONTH: Lawmakers in the state House backed a bill Thursday with more than $600 million in it for COVID-19 research, medical care, hospital bailouts and a slew of other programs. A key budget writer called it "phase one." The North Carolina Healthcare Association says hospitals around the state are out about $1 billion a month because of the elimination of profitable non-essential procedures and spending on COVID-19 preparations. The House working group, laying out priorities ahead of next week's legislative session, also approved a bill that details long-term plans for a new state stockpile of personal protective equipment – the PPE considered so crucial to protect hospital and other front-line workers from the new coronavirus.

REPUBLICAN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS GO AFTER COOPER OVER STAY-AT-HOME EXTENSION: Cooper extended the order from April 29 to May 8. He also announced a plan to phase in a return to more normal life that could last into June or July. “The data in Gaston County, the capacity at our hospital and the information from our health department does not support the continued shutting down of our businesses and our churches,” commissioners Chairman Tracy Philbeck told the Observer. “I cannot justify what the governor is doing to our citizens.” Union County commissioners struck a similar note in a letter to Cooper on Thursday. “Every community is different; every business is different; every family is different,” they wrote. “The people of North Carolina will suffer needless health and economic harm if the State continues to treat its diverse population with a one-size-fits-all approach.” The letter is part of a reaction against the governor’s almost month-long stay at home order, which also closed “non-essential” businesses, essentially shut restaurants and bars and enacted social distancing and other steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which through Thursday had killed 253 people in North Carolina.

STATE (AND FEDERAL) STOCKPILES OF PPE WERE LIMITED AND OUTDATED BEFORE COVID 19: An Associated Press review of more than 20 states found that before the coronavirus outbreak many had at least a modest supply of N95 masks, gowns, gloves and other medical equipment. But those were often well past their expiration dates — left over from the H1N1 influenza outbreak a decade ago. The supply shortage stemmed from a variety of factors — a decline in public health funding, a cost-saving dependence on having inventory on hand only for immediate use and a belief that the federal government could come to the rescue with its Strategic National Stockpile. In hindsight, the federal stockpile proved insufficient for a nationwide viral outbreak, and a worldwide competition for scarce supplies revealed the folly of counting on rapid deliveries. “You could see it in almost every state, in every locality, and the federal government level: depleting the resources, depleting the inventory, and hoping when you need them they will be available,” said Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked coronarivus cases and deaths across the world. The crisis spawned a political blame game over the shortage of protective gear for medical workers and the hunt for ventilators.

YES, TRUMP ACTUALLY PROPOSED INJECTING CLOROX INTO THE BODY TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS: After a presentation Thursday that touched on the disinfectants that can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, President Trump pondered whether those chemicals could be used to fight the virus inside the human body. “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” The question, which Trump offered unprompted, immediately spurred doctors to respond with incredulity and warnings against injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants, which are highly toxic. “My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.” He also raised the possibility of using light to combat the viral infection and suggested consulting medical doctors with these questions. “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it,” Trump said to Bryan. “And then, I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way.”

STACEY ABRAMS AND KAMALA HARRIS EMERGE AS POTENTIAL VP CANDIDATES ON BIDEN TICKET: Pressure has been growing on Mr. Biden to choose a black woman to inspire black turnout this fall and not take it for granted. The Rev. Al Sharpton, for instance, who speaks to Mr. Biden regularly, is to announce his support for Ms. Abrams as vice president as soon as next week, according to those familiar with his plans. Yet Mr. Biden is facing other factors and pressures as well. He has said he wants someone who is prepared to step into the vice presidency immediately, a nod to the value he puts on government and leadership experience. He would be the oldest president ever, 78 on Inauguration Day, and is looking for a partner and, possibly, a potential successor. With the country deep into the coronavirus pandemic, voters will also assess whether his running mate appears capable of handling the worst national crisis since World War II. Ms. Harris, who has statewide and national experience, is seen in the Biden camp as a more likely pick than Ms. Abrams, who was a state legislative leader for a decade before losing her bid for governor. Still, some Democrats believe that choosing a hands-on governor or veteran senator is a better fit for the crisis than Ms. Harris, who was attorney general of California and has been in the Senate for three years.



Get your meat while you can

Keep in mind, nobody predicted any kind of shortage of toilet paper prior to this crisis, and it's damn near impossible to find on the shelves now. They are predicting meat shortages due to processing plants being forced to close, so it's only a matter of days before hamburger & steaks & chicken become scarce.

I had already cut back on my red meat consumption to keep my ticker healthy, and this is what I do: I'll get about 2 1/2 lbs of lean hamburger, and as soon as I get home, I separate it into about 1/3 of a pound chunks, and put each one in a ziploc sandwich bag for freezing (forcing all the air out). The plastic is thicker than the store wrapper anyway, which helps avoid freezer damage. I defrost 1-2 of them per week to be used in spaghetti or chili, or occasionally an actual burger/burger.

I've got about 3 weeks-worth in the freezer right now.

GOP counties, Civitias, Forest and coordinated messaging

IndyWeek's daily Primer email newsletter today helpfully pointed out how different GOP players all came out with the exact same language and phrasing attacking Cooper's plans (bolding mine):

A month ago, Republicans were deferential to Cooper’s cautious approach. But we all knew the bonhomie couldn’t last, not when polls showed Cooper beating Dan Forest like a rented mule, not when the Forest-backed ReOpenNC started raging about social distancing being tyranny, not when Bob Luddy accused Cooper of being personally responsible for destroying religious freedom and putting people out of work, and especially not when President Trump became more strident about jumpstarting the national economy and neighboring states rolled out plans to make it happen.

No sooner had the plan escaped Cooper’s lips than the conservative Civitas Institute responded: “Gov. Cooper's version of phased-reopening is a slow-walk into a deeper economic recession. If the most hopeful part of Phase 1 is that parks can reopen and possibly some retailers … then I question whether the governor's administration understands the financial strain that the state's citizens are under,” said Civitas Action President Donald Bryson.

One-size-fits-all policy does not work for North Carolina,” he added. “Currently, seven counties have no cases of COVID-19, and workers in all of those counties are at home without paychecks to pay for family necessities.”

Here’s that phrase again. From a letter Union County commissioners wrote to Cooper: “Every community is different; every business is different; every family is different. The people of North Carolina will suffer needless health and economic harm if the State continues to treat its diverse population with a one-size-fits-all approach.”

It’s almost like there’s a memo: "Gov. Cooper's one-size-fits-all approach for reopening is not necessary for a state as large as North Carolina,” said Dan Forest. “This decision will needlessly crush businesses and destroy livelihoods in places that don’t even have a single case of coronavirus. We shouldn't be holding back counties that are ready to safely reopen.”

The newsletter summed up the Civitas/Forest/GOP spin like this:

These guys aren’t always the brightest bulbs, but they know how to read a poll, and the polls tell them that reopening isn’t popular. Not even close. Only 16 percent of North Carolina voters think social distancing measures should be relaxed. Sixteen percent. You could get more votes around here for the ghost of Karl Marx. You’re not going to get broad swaths of people to think social distancing is bad. Your best avenue of attack—the way to motivate your side to loathe Cooper—is to make him appear indifferent and unreasonable to your needs while he focuses on, well, other people. Follow the subtext:

Your rural county doesn’t have a problem. The metros have the problem.

Cooper is punishing you for what’s happening there.

You: white, rural, Christian, Republican. Them: …

Conclusion: Cooper doesn’t care about you. He cares about them.

They're running scared

Dan Forest looks even more like an idiot in comparison with Roy Cooper's professionalism, so they're trying desperately to call into question the data he is using to make his decisions. They're also looking at polling numbers that show 70% are worried about opening too soon. Which translates to 70% supporting Cooper, giving them a pucker factor of 12.

To be fair ...

... Dan Forest has always been that one guy in Raleigh that was less competent than Pat McCrory. And that's really saying something.

They're also reading the polls...

like PPP's latest that has Forest down 13 points. Cooper is doing very well in a poll that somewhat over-represented Republicans (33% GOP in the poll vs. 29% GOP registration per the NCBoE). These are terrible numbers for Forest, since he's doing even worse in than Trump is state-wide, and Trump is currently losing to Biden. They're going to try everything to salvage the Republican position, no matter what, so that they can try to hold on to their majorities in the Legislature at least. My guess is hat this is what this attempt to divide urban and rural counties is really all about. They can't afford to have too many legislative districts peeled off or they become the minority party in the Legislature just like they are on the ground and all their power ends. Then Cooper and the Dems get to enact things that really help North Carolina in the wake of the Trump recession (and get the credit) as well as redistrict so that the GOP gerrymander is finally undone. Once those two things happen, the GOP is out of power for a decade or more, at least. They're not just running scared, they're terrified.

They're not just terrified of losing political power ...

What they're really terrified about is losing the ability to pass laws and enact policies that directly line the pockets of themselves, their family, and their business and church cronies.

Make no mistake - losing power means losing money and they're going to fight tooth and nail to stay in office.