Monday News: Twelve thousand, seven hundred eighty


HALF OF NC ADULTS HAVE RECEIVED AT LEAST ONE DOSE OF VACCINE: At least 980,498 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 12,780 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,932 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up from 1,798 reported the day before. At least 1,006 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Friday, down from 1,031 on Thursday. As of Wednesday, the latest day for which data is available, 4.4% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Roughly 50% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 43.6% were fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

RACIST VANDALS KNOCK DOWN BLACK LIVES MATTER SIGN AT CHAPEL HILL CHURCH: A wooden cross and a door with "Black Lives Matter" written on it was knocked to the ground on church property in Chapel Hill. This all happened last Thursday at University United Methodist Church on Franklin Street. Pastor Justin Coleman says a UNC student saw this, picked both the cross and door up and notified the church. "Sometimes disagreement these days is met with hostility, so even if you have a different understanding about a subject matter, it doesn’t warrant hostility," Coleman said. "The door has been knocked down a couple of times," Coleman said. "Previous iterations of it have been kicked in and damaged in various ways. You really have to work to knock these doors down; they’re placed in the ground in a very sturdy way." Even though the damage is done, Coleman says this will not stop them from getting their message across. "We believe in picking it back up just like we believe picking up and supporting everyone who’s been knocked down," Coleman preached.

RONNIE CHATTERJI TAPPED TO BE CHIEF ECONOMIST IN BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: Chatterji is currently a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is also a faculty affiliate of the Health Sector Management program, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the Center for Energy, Development and Global Environment at Duke. Chatterji worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and served as a Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisors under the Obama administration from 2010 to 2011. “My experiences over the last 15 years at Duke as a scholar and teacher have prepared me for this role. My research has explored many of the issues I will be dealing with at Commerce, specifically around regional economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Chatterji wrote in a statement to the Chronicle. Chatterji also worked as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs and was a term member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Last fall, Chatterji ran for North Carolina state treasurer but lost to Republican incumbent Dale Folwell. Chatterji will be taking a leave of absence from Fuqua during his service.

DOPED KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER WILL KEEP COMPETING IN TRIPLE CROWN: Baffert may have improperly administered a corticosteroid to Medina Spirit before winning his record seventh Kentucky Derby on May 1. A positive drug test showed the presence of twice the allowable limit of betamethasone, a therapeutic anti-inflammatory meant to treat swelling and joint pain in horses. Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert from entering any horses there, on the rationale that “Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys. … Churchill Downs will not tolerate it.” But apparently the Maryland racing commission and Pimlico will tolerate it. And Baffert is also free to enter Medina Spirit in the June 5 Belmont Stakes, which could well be run before Baffert’s appeal is decided. This is the state of racing in a nutshell: Baffert can go right ahead entering Medina Spirit and his other charges in Triple Crown races because the balkanized powers of thoroughbred racing can’t muster the collective moral will to put carefulness ahead of handicapping. The bay colt was scheduled to be loaded into a van Monday for shipment to Pimlico, where he will gallop a mile and three-sixteenths in the dirt just two weeks after the Derby, while everyone awaits the result of the “split sample,” the second test demanded by Baffert. Interestingly, Baffert supported the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act by Congress last year in the wake of a spate of equine deaths on the track and horse-doping-ring indictments. HISA calls for a national disciplinary body to be established by July 2022, but various factions within racing are bitterly challenging its constitutionality and authority.

BIDEN CRAFTING EXECUTIVE ORDER TO STRENGTHEN CYBER SECURITY: A pipeline that provides the East Coast with nearly half its gasoline and jet fuel remained shuttered on Sunday after yet another ransomware attack, prompting emergency White House meetings and new questions about whether an executive order strengthening cybersecurity for federal agencies and contractors goes far enough even as President Biden prepares to issue it. The order, drafts of which have been circulating to government officials and corporate executives for weeks and summaries of which were obtained by The New York Times, is a new road map for the nation’s cyberdefense. It would create a series of digital safety standards for federal agencies and contractors that develop software for the federal government, such as multifactor authentication, a version of what happens when consumers get a second code from a bank or credit-card company to allow them to log in. It would require federal agencies to take a “zero trust” approach to software vendors, granting them access to federal systems only when necessary, and require contractors to certify that they comply with steps to ensure that the software they deliver has not been infected with malware or does not contain exploitable vulnerabilities. And it would require that vulnerabilities in software be reported to the U.S. government. Violators would risk having their products banned from sale to the federal government, which would, in essence, kill their viability in the commercial market. “That is the stick,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Companies will be held liable if they’re not telling the truth.” The order, which is expected to be issued in the coming days or weeks, would also establish a small “cybersecurity incident review board.” The board would be loosely based on the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates major accidents at air or sea.



We don't normally feature sports

or other entertainment topics here, but I couldn't help but get the impression that things have changed for the worse due to Donald Trump. Cheating and lying are now the new normal, and "honor system" approaches to regulating are no longer viable.

Vaccination numbers

While the overall numbers for vaccinations in NC look promising, we need to keep in mind that it can vary greatly by region. NC's rural counties have much lower rates than our urban areas.

In the area I live in a central part of the state, adjacent to an urban area, vaccination rates are a little lower than our neighbors next door in the more urban county. And, if you go out to a public place, most people are wearing masks, but you find a few people that aren't.

This weekend, when visiting western NC, I saw just the opposite. I was going into some stores and public places where no one was wearing masks except myself and maybe one or two others. And the vaccination rates in those counties are much lower.

The church where my mother is a member, which she hasn't attended in the past few months due to declining health, didn't have any services Wednesday or Sunday because two people in the church had bad cases of COVID that required hospitalization and one died. For several months, the church has had in-person services with almost no one wearing masks - the minister's entire family came down with COVID around Easter.

I've kept an eye on the area where my family lives and that cluster of rural counties has seen their hospitalization and COVID case numbers basically remain about the same for a couple of months now - lower than earlier during the pandemic, but not really declining by a significant amount.

As we head into the summer and vacation season, keep in mind that if you're in one of the more urban counties in the Piedmont, Charlotte, or Triangle area, you may get a rude awakening, you may be surprised and dismayed by what you see on the coast or in the mountains.

I fear that we might start seeing more dangerous variants taking off in these areas later in the summer and towards fall, spilling back into areas where masks and vaccinations are taken more seriously, as has happened in Florida after spring break.

Cooper really can't do much to get Republican-controlled counties on board to do better. The best we can do is protect ourselves from the idiocy the GQP has spread.

Very frustrating.

The speed with which vaccinations were administered (in April particularly) should have boosted us to around 60% with the first dose by now, damn close to the 2/3 the Governor is shooting for. But half ain't gonna cut it.

Even 2/3rds is still too low...

to achieve herd immunity, which is why I never understood Cooper's use of that figure for a benchmark to lower restrictions. We need somewhere in the 75%-80% vaccinated range (and that's for total population, not just adults) to get to actual herd immunity and be able to lift restrictions without danger. But with the recalcitrance of too many Republicans who think they can hold off the virus by pure ideology and obstinance, that's looking like it will be further and further out of reach.