Wednesday News: Here we go...


PHASE 1 OF GOVERNOR COOPER'S REOPEN PLAN BEGINS FRIDAY: We’ll still have a stay-at-home order in Phase 1, but it’ll be modified to ease us into reopening. Prior to 5 p.m. on May 8, people were only supposed to venture out for essential tasks, such as grocery shopping and health care. During Phase 1, more businesses can open and people are allowed to venture out for more reasons. Businesses that do open have to implement social-distancing and cleaning rules, just like those currently in place at grocery and hardware stores. State parks can also open, but with limits on the number of people who can gather there. Businesses will still be encouraged to continue teleworking (working from home) when possible. We will live in Phase 1 for two weeks, as long as trends continue to move in the right direction. Even during Phase 1, public schools and non-essential businesses such as gyms and salons remain closed, but other activities will be allowed. If all goes well during Phase 1, Cooper suggested that Phase 2 can begin on May 22.

CHAIRMAN OF HOSPITAL BOARD RESIGNS AFTER "TYRANNY" FACEBOOK POST: The chairman of the board of a North Carolina health care system has resigned after reports about his social media posts, including one in which he called stay-at-home orders “tyranny.” CaroMont Health board of directors chairman Donnie Loftis resigned on Monday after eight years, The Charlotte Observer reported. On his personal Facebook page, Loftis showed support for anti-abortion protesters who violated the stay-at-home order. Gaston County issued a stay-at-home order on March 26. Loftis appeared to support the county order at first, but in April Loftis shared a picture of a pie chart that read: “What I worry about. COVID-19: 0.5, Loss of my rights: 99.5. You should be worried also.” CaroMont previously said board members’ personal opinions and beliefs “are not statements made on the behalf of CaroMont Health nor an indication of the health system’s position on any topic, situation or circumstance.”

NC DOT DID NOT BUDGET PROPERLY IN 2019, AUDITOR SAYS: Too often NCDOT based its spending projections on what it had spent in the past, according to the audit. For example, it says, the department spent $194 million more on pre-construction engineering than expected because it based its forecasts “entirely on prior-year spending,” and then didn’t adjust when additional projects arose throughout the year. NCDOT followed the same approach when it planned for cleanups and repairs after storms and other disasters, the audit says. The department budgeted $50 million for disasters in fiscal year 2019, as it had the previous four years, even though it had spent $335 million more than expected during those years. Hurricane Florence caused extensive flooding in Eastern North Carolina in fiscal year 2019, contributing to $296 million in NCDOT cleanup and repair costs that year, nearly six times the budgeted amount. The problems highlighted by the audit made NCDOT more vulnerable to the sharp drop in tax revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The department expects to receive $300 million less in revenue from fees and sales taxes on fuel and cars in March, April and May alone.

TRUMP FACES ANOTHER WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT, THIS TIME OVER HIS COVID 19 REACTION: A former top vaccine official removed from his post last month alleged in a whistleblower complaint on Tuesday that he was reassigned to a less prestigious role because he tried to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency” and raised health concerns over a drug repeatedly pushed by President Trump as a possible cure for coronavirus. He also notes that he clashed with his boss, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS Robert Kadlec, for at least two years. Bright alleges in the complaint that Kadlec and others pressured him to buy drugs and medical products for the nation’s stockpile of emergency medical equipment from companies that were linked politically to the administration and that he resisted such efforts. On a call with reporters earlier on Tuesday, Bright’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said Bright came under pressure from Kadlec to award contracts “based on political connections and cronyism.” Bright asserts in the complaint that he resisted pressure from HHS political leadership to make “potentially harmful drugs widely available,” including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has repeatedly heralded, and urged people to take both from his Twitter account and the White House podium. The president’s associates, including Fox host Laura Ingraham and Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani have also pushed the drug as a treatment for covid-19 in private Oval Office meetings and phone calls.

KUSHNER "TEAM" SCREWED UP THE PPE PROCUREMENT PROCESS LAUGHINGLY: Many of the volunteers were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump, tracked on a spreadsheet called “V.I.P. Update,” according to documents and emails obtained by The New York Times. Among them were leads from Republican members of Congress, the Trump youth activist Charlie Kirk and a former “Apprentice” contestant who serves as the campaign chair of Women for Trump. The fumbling search for new supplies — heralded by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner as a way to pipe private-sector hustle and accountability into the hidebound federal bureaucracy — became a case study of Mr. Trump’s style of governing, in which personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise, and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference. The young volunteers — drawn from venture capital and private equity firms — were expected to apply their deal-making experience to quickly weed out good leads from the mountain of bad ones, administration officials said in an interview. At least one tip the volunteers forwarded turned into an expensive debacle. In late March, according to emails obtained by The Times, two of the volunteers passed along procurement forms submitted by Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley engineer who said he could provide more than 1,000 ventilators. Mr. Kushner’s volunteers passed the tip to federal officials who then sent it to senior officials in New York, who assumed Mr. Oren-Pines had been vetted and awarded him an eye-popping $69 million contract. Not a single ventilator was delivered, and New York is now seeking to recover the money.



Screw up, move up

Now Kushner is going to be in charge of developing a vaccine:

Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the task force for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was created to coordinate.

Other administration officials said that under plans still in discussion, the White House would consult with medical experts on a more informal basis and that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, would help oversee a group pushing for progress in developing a vaccine and treatments for the virus.

“It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House.

In other news, we've always been at war with EastAsia.