Monday News: Twelve thousand, five hundred twenty three


3 MILLION NORTH CAROLINIANS HAVE BEEN FULLY VACCINATED FOR CORONAVIRUS: At least 956,932 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 12,523 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,167 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, down from 2,236 reported the day before. State health officials reported 1,145 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Friday, down from 1,165 reported on Thursday. On Wednesday, the latest date for which data is available, 5.1% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. More than 3 million people in North Carolina, or about 37% of the state’s population, had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Friday.

LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR AN END TO "SURPRISE BILLING" AFTER HOSPITAL VISIT: State senators are working on a proposal to cut down on unexpected medical bills. So-called “surprise billing” by out-of-network providers has caught a lot of patients off guard. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said she's heard numerous complaints from people who get medical care at a hospital or clinic only to find out later that their insurance doesn't cover it. Even though those third-party providers may work at a hospital or clinic that’s in someone's insurance network, they may not be part of it. Patients often don’t find out about that until after the fact. Senate Bill 505 would require clinics or hospitals to let patients know 72 hours in advance of a planned procedure if they’ll be using any out-of-network providers. In emergency cases, the facility would have to notify the patient as soon as reasonably possible. Federal regulators are also planning to take action on surprise billing, but those rules won't be in place till next year, at the earliest.

APPLE COMING TO RTP AFTER ACCEPTING ALMOST A BILLION IN INCENTIVES: After more than three years of courting and an initial snub, North Carolina is finally landing an Apple campus. Apple plans invest $1 billion over 10 years to establish a campus in Research Triangle Park and create at least 3,000 jobs, according to the state Department of Commerce. The jobs would pay an average of $187,000 a year starting in 2023, according to the commerce department. The company’s decision was announced Monday morning at the monthly meeting of the Economic Investment Committee, which makes decisions about job development grants. The committee approved jobs grant of $845.8 million over 39 years, plus a utility benefit of $112.4 million for a total incentive package worth $958.2 million. The campus will be 1 million square feet on the Wake County side of RTP, on tracts of land straddling Interstate 540 near Cary and Morrisville. It will run on 100% renewable energy, the company said. The new jobs will be in machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering and other related fields, according to the news release.

NO, JOE BIDEN IS NOT COMING AFTER YOUR RED MEAT: “To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat,” Larry Kudlow, a former White House economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said on Fox Business on Friday. “No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue.” But Biden’s plan doesn’t include any call to limit meat-eating. Instead, conservative ire was sparked by a Daily Mail article that baselessly speculated about measures that could accomplish Biden’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Biden’s lack of specifics led the Daily Mail to write about what “what life could look like” under the plan, citing a University of Michigan study on the impact of limiting meat consumption — including an extreme scenario examining the impact of Americans eating just four pounds of red meat per person annually. Without evidence, the Daily Mail published a graphic implying that a four-pound meat restriction would be “required” to meet Biden’s climate goals. Fox News later aired a graphic titled “Up In Your Grill: Biden’s Climate Requirements” that listed bullet points including “cut 90% of red meat from diet” and “one burger per month,” citing the same study that has no link to the president’s plan. Abbott shared a screenshot of that graphic on social media. One of the Michigan researchers behind the study told he has “no idea what Biden’s plan has to say about our diets.” Despite the lack of ties between the Michigan study and Biden’s plan, Republican commentators continued blasting the idea this weekend.

FEDERAL RENTAL ASSISTANCE IS BOGGED DOWN BY PROGRAMMATIC ISSUES: Four months after Congress approved tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental aid, only a small portion has reached landlords and tenants, and in many places it is impossible even to file an application. The program requires hundreds of state and local governments to devise and carry out their own plans, and some have been slow to begin. But the pace is hindered mostly by the sheer complexity of the task: starting a huge pop-up program that reaches millions of tenants, verifies their debts and wins over landlords whose interests are not always the same as their renters’. The money at stake is vast. Congress approved $25 billion in December and added more than $20 billion in March. The sum the federal government now has for emergency rental aid, $46.5 billion, rivals the annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Experts say careful preparation may improve results; it takes time to find the neediest tenants and ensure payment accuracy. But with 1 in 7 renters reporting that they are behind on payments, the longer it takes to distribute the money, the more landlords suffer destabilizing losses, and tenants risk eviction. The situation illustrates the patchwork nature of the American safety net. Food, cash, health care and other types of aid flow through separate programs. Each has its own mix of federal, state and local control, leading to great geographic variation. While some pandemic aid has flowed through established programs, the rental help is both decentralized and new, making the variation especially pronounced. There is no complete data on how many tenants have been helped. But of the $17.6 billion awarded to state governments, 20 percent is going to states not yet taking applications, though some local programs in those states are. Florida (which has $871 million), Illinois ($566 million) and North Carolina ($547 million) are among those that have yet to start.




I had my annual physical with my doctor this morning; he looked over my COVID vaccination record card and entered it into my records. He's concerned about the large percentage of people refusing to get vaccinated that can lead to mutations of COVID into stronger and more virulent strains. I've been thinking the same thing in recent weeks.

We're doing well now and people are talking about a "return to near normal" in the summer and fall, but the Trumpsters and conspiracy theorists taking a pass on getting vaccinated are the big elephant in the room. Already, I'm seeing reports of diminishing numbers of people lining up for the vaccine - we may be approaching the saturation point of people willing to get vaccinated.

I'm not making any down payments on travel or vacations for later this year. I fear we might be right back where we started because of too many self-centered idiots.