COVID HOSPITALIZATIONS IN NC SLIP BELOW 3,000, BUT 480 ARE IN ICU: At least 2,559,793 coronavirus cases have been reported in North Carolina, and at least 22,148 people have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, Feb. 18, reported 4,871 new COVID-19 cases, down from 5,583 the day before. An additional 87 coronavirus-related deaths were added to the total. At least 2,634 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Feb. 18, including 480 adults being treated in intensive care units, health officials said. The total patient count was down from 2,711 the previous day, according to state health officials. As of Feb. 16, the latest date with available information, 10.3% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Keep wearing your mask, this ain't over yet.
TIM MOORE BACK TO FLIRTING ABOUT CONGRESSIONAL RUN: North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore ruled out a run for Congress in November. Now the Kings Mountain Republican says he hasn’t made a final decision about his political future. “Many folks have continually asked me to consider running to represent our region of the state in Congress,” Moore said in a statement to McClatchy. “I am honored, but I am focused right now on getting these maps approved by the courts, fighting school mask mandates, and leading the House of Representatives. I will make a final decision once the maps are approved.” A congressional map passed Thursday by the state Senate includes a toss-up district with Moore’s home county of Cleveland. Importantly, the map also includes a more heavily Republican district to the west — one that might keep U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn from changing seats. The proposed 14th Congressional District voted 50.8% for Republicans and 47.9% in 12 statewide races in 2016 and 2020, according to analysis compiled by the legislature. Such a tight spread might be enough to push Cawthorn back to his safer, far-western district rather than in a potential primary against Moore. I'm not sure it's still that safe for Cawthorn out west, after shopping around like he's been doing.
OTTAWA COPS SWEEP OUT PROTESTING TRUCKERS: Hundreds of police in riot gear swept through Canada’s capital Saturday, retaking control of the streets around the Parliament buildings and appearing to end the siege of Ottawa after three weeks of protests. Protesters, angry over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, retreated from the largest police operation in the country’s history, with police arresting or driving out demonstrators and towing away their trucks. In Ottawa, Interim Police Chief Steve Bell said that some smaller protests continued but "this unlawful occupation is over. We will continue with our mission until it is complete.” While some protesters vowed to stay on Ottawa's streets, one organizer told reporters they had “decided to peacefully withdraw.” “We will simply regroup as a grassroots movement,” Tom Marazzo said at a press conference. You misspelled Astroturf.
PUTIN EXTENDS BELARUS TRAINING OPERATION THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO END TODAY: President Biden is set to meet with the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the threat of war in Ukraine, as officials warn that Moscow is stepping up its disinformation campaign in a bid to create a pretext for a military attack that the president has warned could come “in the coming days.” Belarus’s defense minister extended military exercises with Russian forces that were otherwise set to end Sunday, and announced a joint task force to “fight back if necessary.” The announcement that Russian forces would not return to base as planned contradicted the country’s previous assertion that not a single Russian troop or piece of equipment would remain after the drill. Before the exercise began 10 days ago, Western military analysts warned that it could be cover for an attack force to invade Ukraine from the north and potentially encircle the capital Kyiv. Russian and Belarusian leaders said they will “continue checking” joint force readiness as military exercises are extended. Belarus Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin cited the “increase in military activity” near the border and “the aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine. Now I'm starting to worry.
SO MUCH FOR GOOGLE BRINGING HIGH-PAYING JOBS TO THE TRIANGLE: Google has lowered salaries for new workers in some North Carolina offices, one of the areas company executives say is meant to help increase the overall diversity of the tech giant’s workforce. Employees raised concerns that Google cut wages in the “Triangle” area of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh in 2020 for new employees and those who moved there to lower levels than comparable metro areas, according to a letter posted this week on an internal forum obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by employees there. That is a problem, they say, because the company is using the area as a place to help recruit more Black engineers. Stock equity grants, which typically make up a significant portion of tech workers’ total compensation, are also being reduced starting last month. For some employees, that means their stock grants could be 25 percent lower than if they worked at other Google offices, like in Atlanta, the workers said in the letter. The employees say they want the salary cut reversed, and a commitment from their bosses to be more transparent about how regional salary differences are determined. “Why is this new policy being introduced after our work contributed to a record-breaking performance in the stock market, in spite of Covid-19?,” the employees wrote in the letter. Google made $257.6 billion in revenue in 2021, up 41 percent from 2020. Not much of a science post, but it needed to be covered.