Monday News: Racing fans matter?


2,000 ATTEND RACE AT ACE SPEEDWAY SATURDAY, SIGN SAYS IT WAS A PROTEST FOR INEQUALITY: On Friday, Sheriff Terry Johnson said his officers would be there to enforce Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people as part of the state’s efforts to combat the coronavirus. Johnson made it clear he did not agree with the order. It does not look like that happened, though, as a reporter from a Gannett newspaper who was on the scene said there were at least 2,000 people in the stands. Another reporter, Amanda Ferguson from WFMY in Greensboro, tweeted a picture of a sign that had been posted at the Speedway. “This Event is held in Peaceful Protest of Injustice and Inequality Everywhere. — Ace Speedway,” was written on a dry erase board.

GOP BILL TO OPEN GYMS AND FITNESS CENTERS HEARD IN NC SENATE TODAY: On Monday, state lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill that would allow indoor gyms to reopen before North Carolina enters its final phase. The Senate Commerce committee Thursday unanimously approved House Bill 594, a proposal to set aside Gov Roy Cooper's executive order and allow gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, yoga and dance and other studios to get back in business. The full Senate is expected to approve the measure Monday night and send it to the state House, which could approve it and forward it to Cooper with a single vote Tuesday. Although Cooper has talked about possibly allowing gyms to reopen in Phase 2.5, he said he is not inclined to sign the bill. Matt Gross with the state N.C. Department of Health and Human Services cautioned lawmakers that even with social distancing, indoor exercise carries a higher risk of spreading the coronavirus. When people exercise, Gross explained, they breathe harder, so if they're infected, they expel more virus that can linger in the air for longer periods of time.

RALEIGH PROTESTERS SATURDAY WERE PEACEFUL YET VEHEMENT: As hundreds gathered in North Carolina on Saturday for a memorial service for George Floyd, protesters took to the streets of the state’s capital for hours. Different groups, including educators and clergy, protested at various times and various spots in and around downtown Raleigh. Sometimes, groups met up and marched together to someplace new. Along the way, some marchers taped photos of George Floyd to light poles. By late afternoon, the crowd in the area around Capitol Square numbered more than 1,000. Most of the protesters all day were peaceful. Living Ultra-violet was joined by the groups NC Born and Unite. As they marched back up Glenwood Avenue toward Hillsborough Street, protesters ran to bystanders with posters showing QR codes, which the bystanders scanned with their phones. The codes went to a website with information on a proposal to de-fund the police. The crowd grew thinner after 9 p.m. After a few speeches at the Capitol, they had an eight-minute moment of silence while protesters sat or kneeled with one fist raised in the air. “I want y’all to disperse safely and calmly,” an organizer was heard instructing the crowd. Another speaker told the crowd to celebrate Floyd’s life and go home safely.

VARIOUS STATE AND LOCAL SHUTDOWNS PREVENTED 60 MILLION COVID 19 INFECTIONS IN U.S.: Shutdown orders prevented about 60 million novel coronavirus infections in the United States and 285 million in China, according to a research study published Monday that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion. A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated that the shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and dropped infection rates by an average of 82 percent, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels. The two reports, published Monday in the journal Nature, provide fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions and job losses, were necessary to halt the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus. But the overwhelming majority of people remain susceptible to the virus. Only about 3 to 4 percent of people in the countries being studied have been infected to date, said Samir Bhatt, senior author of the Imperial College London study. “This is just the beginning of the epidemic: we’re very far from herd immunity,” Bhatt said Monday in an email. “The risk of a second wave happening if all interventions and precautions are abandoned is very real.”

BIG HOSPITAL CHAINS ABUSED BAILOUT FUNDING, LAYING OFF FRONT-LINE STAFF WHILE AWARDING HUGE BONUSES TO EXECS: The hospitals — including publicly traded juggernauts like HCA and Tenet Healthcare, elite nonprofits like the Mayo Clinic, and regional chains with thousands of beds and billions in cash — are collectively sitting on tens of billions of dollars of cash reserves that are supposed to help them weather an unanticipated storm. They awarded their five highest-paid officials about $874 million in the most recent year for which they have disclosed their finances. At least 36 of those hospital chains have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic. More than a dozen workers at the wealthy hospitals said in interviews that their employers had put the heaviest financial burdens on front-line staff, including low-paid cafeteria workers, janitors and nursing assistants. They said pay cuts and furloughs made it even harder for members of the medical staff to do their jobs, forcing them to treat more patients in less time. The bailout money, which hospitals received from the Health and Human Services Department without having to apply for it, came with few strings attached. Katherine McKeogh, a department spokeswoman, said it “encourages providers to use these funds to maintain delivery capacity by paying and protecting doctors, nurses and other health care workers.” The legislation restricts hospitals’ ability to use the bailout funds to pay top executives, although it doesn’t stop recipients from continuing to award large bonuses.