Saturday News: Hurry up and wait


COVID SURGE IS SLOWING DOWN AMBULANCE SERVICE: Emergency Medical Service departments across the Triangle say they're being slowed down by crowded hospitals as 911 calls hit record levels due to the pandemic. The impact is highest in Wake County, where EMS responded to a record-breaking 10,000 calls in May, and has set new, higher records each month this summer, according to Wake County EMS Assistant Chief Brian Brooks. Brooks said average time it takes to check a patient into the ER and get back out on the road used to be between five and 15 minutes. Because ERs are so crowded, it now takes 45 minutes. "We’ve had times up to two hours on several occasions last week, but that’s not a normal occurrence," Brooks said. "It certainly trickles down to the streets, because those units are now tied up in the hospital and not able to answer the next emergency call that comes up." It did not have to be like this, it's a result of wanton irresponsibility.

RALPH HISE TRIES TO USE FDA ANGLE TO BLOCK MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Republican Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine contrasted the push for medical marijuana — which has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — with other recent headlines about COVID-19 vaccines possibly being more widely mandated after receiving full FDA approval. “We’re all supposed to say, ‘Look, they’re the scientists,’” Hise said. “Well, where are the FDA recommendations on medical marijuana?” The FDA has not given approval to marijuana for medical use, although some cannabis derivatives have been approved. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and the FDA is part of the federal government. Unlike with vaccines, that has made scientific research into marijuana difficult. The law enforcement angle came up again later, when Republican Sen. Jim Burgin raised concerns about probable cause. In recent years national news outlets have reported on police frustrated that, in some states, they can no longer claim to smell marijuana as probable cause to pull over and search someone’s car. "Claim to smell" in this context speaks volumes, and it reeks of racial profiling.

WIFE-SWAPPING PROSECUTOR GETS LAW LICENSE REINSTATED BY NC BAR ASSOCIATION: Blitzer came under scrutiny in 2016, a year after taking office, when the State Bureau of Investigation learned that his wife had received $48,000 in unearned pay by claiming to work for the neighboring district attorney’s office while actually taking nursing classes more than 77 miles away. Blitzer wasn’t sentenced for his crime until 2019 because of agreements he made in a 2017 plea deal. That caused the N.C. State Bar to delay his disciplinary hearing until 2020. At that point, the Bar suspended Blitzer from working as a lawyer for a four-year period but gave him credit for the years prior. Blitzer petitioned for reinstatement on Aug. 11, and his license was restored on Aug. 19 when the disciplinary committee confirmed that he met the requirements to return to practicing law, according to State Bar records. Blitzer signed an affidavit saying that he and Bradsher came up with the idea to put each other’s wives on each other’s payroll at an Italian restaurant in Wentworth outside the Rockingham County Courthouse. No matter how the plea deal was worded, this was a conspiracy to embezzle public funds. If you don't punish corruption properly, expect more corruption, not less.

INSTEAD OF GETTING A FREE SHOT, IDIOTS ARE PAYING FOR FAKE COVID VACCINE CARDS: Those who get a COVID-19 vaccine are given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card, which says what COVID-19 vaccine they received, the date they received it and where it was administered. But some people are paying for blanks instead, citing a number of reasons as to why they prefer not to get the free vaccine. A Chicago pharmacist was indicted for stealing official COVID vaccination cards and then selling them on eBay for about $10 each, federal prosecutors say. He now faces prosecution, according to NPR. This year, federal agencies have reported seizing thousands of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards, and that was just in one Southern state. Earlier in 2021, the FBI released a statement about the uptick in the number of fake vaccine cards circulating in the United States. The agency warned people that doing so is a crime. "By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal (such as HHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) is a crime," read a statement from the FBI. Fines are also a possibility if caught with a fraudulent vaccination card. Two people traveling to Hawaii in August face up to one year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines after allegedly falsifying vaccination cards. They were reportedly trying to skirt the island's 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated people. This needs to be punished properly as well, and with the quickness.

THE PERSONAL COSTS OF REFUSING VACCINE COULD BE VERY STEEP: It’s a gray area, but given the severity of the pandemic, it’s very likely that if your employer requires that you be vaccinated and you are fired for refusing to do so, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits, according to Nicole Marquez, director of social insurance for the National Employment Law Project. If you’re opposed to being vaccinated, your employer-provided health insurance premiums might go up. Delta Air Lines has said employees who elect not to get vaccinated will be subject to a health insurance surcharge. In a memo to employees, Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said that starting Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s account-based health-care plan will have to pay an additional $200 per month for their coverage. In June and July, covid hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults cost the U.S. health system over $2 billion, according to the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Bastian made a passionate plea to vaccine holdouts, pointing out that the average hospital stay for covid-19 has cost Delta $50,000. “With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now. … Protecting yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones and your community is fundamental to the shared values that have driven our success for nearly a century.” Two hundred bucks per month is a lot, but the fact that about 70% of health insurers are on the verge of refusing to cover covid hospitalization charges for those who have refused the vaccine is a hell of a lot more. Like $75,000 more.