POSITIVE TEST RATE FOR CORONAVIRUS IN NC STILL UNDER 5%: At least 916,159 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 12,136 have died since last March, according to state health officials. At least 985 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Thursday, an increase from 957 on Wednesday. As of Tuesday, the latest day for which data are available, 4.4% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. More than 1.9 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated. For the first time since North Carolina introduced its COVID-19 county alert system, no counties were red. Parents who haven’t received a $335 COVID-19 relief check from the government to offset the cost of remote learning have until May 31 to apply.
30 YEAR-OLD BRUNSWICK COUNTY DEPUTY DIES FROM COVID 19: A Brunswick County Sheriff's Deputy has died after a battle with COVID-19. Deputy Brandon Gore died over the weekend. Gore was described as a 'kind, gentle soul' and was part of the county's animal protective services. Gore was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and suffered a stroke weeks after his diagnosis. He was just 30 years old. Gore had been with the department since 2015. “Deputy Gore was a kind and gentle soul,” said a Facebook post from sheriff’s office’s page. “He was always willing to help anyone in need, both at work and in his personal life. He had a genuinely cheerful heart and always greeted everyone with a smile. He will be terribly missed by all of us at the Sheriff’s Office, especially by those with whom he was especially close, and those he worked with every day at the animal shelter.”
BIG SURPRISE, A HANDFUL OF REPUBLICANS ARE HOLDING UP NURSE PRACTITIONER BILL: Rep. Kristin Baker is a first-term lawmaker and the only physician in North Carolina’s legislature. The Republican from Cabarrus County is one of the chairs of the House health committee who did not sign on. Her campaign received at least $87,000 in 2019 and 2020 from physician-backed committees and physicians who self-reported their occupation in campaign finance records. And one outside group called NC Citizens for Patient Safety, which is heavily funded by medical groups, spent $153,000 in advertisements to support Baker during the election. The other health committee chair who is not among the bill’s 102 sponsors, Rep. Larry Potts, a Republican from Davidson County, received some $17,000 from physicians and their committees during the election. Some of those same groups also funded the campaign of Sen. Jim Perry, a Republican from Kinston, who is one of three chairs of the Senate health committee. Perry, who previously worked in the dental field for 20 years helping dentists open practices across the country, received at least $40,000 from physicians and physician groups.
FACEBOOK DATA BREACH INCLUDES PERSONAL INFO ON SOME 32 MILLION AMERICANS: Personal information on more than 500 million Facebook users — previously leaked and now made more widely available — was shared online Saturday, according to the news site Insider, worrying experts who said the compromised data could make people more vulnerable to fraud. Insider said it reviewed a sample of the leaked phone numbers, birth dates, biographical details and more and found that some data matched known Facebook users’ records. The Washington Post has not independently verified the information. Facebook said the leak involved “old” data stemming from a problem resolved in 2019, but the news still sparked renewed scrutiny of a social media giant previously dogged by high-profile concerns about data privacy. Gal told The Washington Post that the leaked database was previously sold for tens of thousands of dollars and then circulated, selling for lower prices until it finally was offered at no charge. Early this year, Gal said, someone built a bot that gave people access to the database for a fee — a development that made the trove of data “much more worrisome,” Gal tweeted at the time. Motherboard reported in January on that peddling of access in a “low-level cybercriminal forum.” Facebook — the world’s most popular social media site, with well over 2 billion users — has drawn rebukes before for its handling of people’s data. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined the company $5 billion, alleging that it misled users about how third parties such as advertisers were accessing their personal information. Facebook did not have to admit guilt, but its settlement with the government included what was the largest privacy violation fine in American history. The FTC began investigating after reports that Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked with the campaign of former president Donald Trump, had improperly accessed names, “likes” and other information for millions of users without their knowledge.
PRESIDENT BIDEN'S WAR ON HUNGER IS THE LARGEST EFFORT IN 50 YEARS: With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid. The effort to rush more food assistance to more people is notable both for the scale of its ambition and the variety of its legislative and administrative actions. The campaign has increased food stamps by more than $1 billion a month, provided needy children a dollar a day for snacks, expanded a produce allowance for pregnant women and children, and authorized the largest children’s summer feeding program in history. “We haven’t seen an expansion of food assistance of this magnitude since the founding of the modern food stamp program in 1977,” said James P. Ziliak, an economist at the University of Kentucky who studies nutrition programs. “It’s a profound change.” While dollars and decisions are flowing from the Agriculture Department, the tone has been set by President Biden, who issued an executive order in January telling aides to “address the growing hunger crisis” and later lamented the car lines “half a mile each, just to get a box of food.” The Biden effort marks a sharp change from the philosophy of the Trump administration, which sought to narrow eligibility for food stamps and expand work rules. So far, the expansion of aid has brought only modest conservative complaint. But what supporters called “nutritional assistance,” critics often call “welfare.” Past expansions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is formally known, brought counterattacks from conservatives who argued that the program undercut work and marriage. Presumably it undercuts marriage because single mothers aren't forced into a relationship they don't want, that might expose them and their children to abuse.