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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
→ TOP STORY: THE NCGA IS ALREADY TIRED OF THE SHUTDOWN
Shot: “Harsh measures, including stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures, are contributing to rapid drops in the numbers of fevers—a signal symptom of most coronavirus infections—recorded in states across the country, according to intriguing new data produced by a medical technology firm.”
Chaser: “NC Senate Leader Phil Berger has been soliciting ideas recently from lawmakers on how to help rescue the state’s economy from the damage the coronavirus is inflicting. Among the suggestions: Allow some easing of Gov. Roy Cooper’s order this month that closed dining areas in North Carolina restaurants.”
→ WHAT IT MEANS: There’s no proposal right now. If anything emerged—and Cooper didn’t veto it—it would probably involve allowing restaurants to open outdoor seating. But as the N&O’s editorial board points out: “The willingness to publicly float a reopening of restaurants signals that lawmakers may be thinking about revisiting our state’s coronavirus restrictions sooner than later. It also illustrates a looming tension here and across the country between being attentive to public health and getting businesses back on their feet.”
→ MEANWHILE: Some influential North Carolina conservatives are urging the state to end shelter-in-place rules sooner than later: “The draconian response to COVID-19 has imposed grave economic and social consequences on North Carolinians and other Americans. They won’t shelter in place for months. They can’t. And they’ll become increasingly impatient with leaders who offer them platitudes instead of a practical plan for moving forward.”
→ YEAH, BUT: We’re likely
three four weeks out from the peak of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s model, but there’s a long tail, with projected daily deaths rising into double digits later this week and not falling into the single digits until early June. That model, which forecasts just over 2,500 about 1,600 deaths in North Carolina through July, “is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures … and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths.” (Note: The IHME updated its forecast in between the time I wrote the newsletter late last night and posted it this morning, moving back the peak date and lowering the projected death toll in North Carolina.)
→ RELATED: I wrote about these opposing forces—economic health vs. public health—in my column this week.
“There’s always a tradeoff between capitalism and public health, and capitalism usually wins. (We still have coal-fired power plants, for example.) Capitalism’s benefits tend to be immediate (cheap energy!), while the problems it causes are more abstract (how do we know climate change made last year’s hurricanes worse?). But the coronavirus is different. We know it could kill 100,000 people if we do everything right, and many times that if we don’t. We also know that by doing the hard part now, we can spare ourselves much more pain down the road.”
→ REALITY CHECK: Last night, the White House’s coronavirus task force projected that COVID-19 would kill between 100,000 and 240,000 even with mitigation efforts, beginning with a “rough” two weeks ahead. That kind of body count will put an end to the open-the-restaurants happy talk.
Look at this picture from last night’s press conference: The same president who said a month ago that we’d have “close to zero” cases soon now has 100,000–240,000 deaths as a “mitigation goal.” Talk about moving the goalposts.
The newsletter is sponsored this week by Ninth Street Bakery, which is serving coffee, pastries, and sandwiches for (contact-free) takeout or curbside pickup from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. on Sunday and offering free lunch or bread for any service workers who were laid off or are only partially employed as a result of the virus.
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