The Good: Local Journalism!

For three weeks, the state Department of Health and Human Services refused to disclose the names of nursing homes, adult care facilities, and assisted living facilities that have seen coronavirus outbreaks. Some counties made this information available, but not the state, which argued that doing so would mean violating patient privacy. That reasoning was bogus and counterproductive. As the AARP argued in a letter to Governor Cooper, “residents and family members deserve to have this information for their own health decisions.” On Thursday, a coalition of the state’s media outlets—whose repeated public records requests for this information had been blocked—sent the DHHS a letter threatening to sue if the state didn’t reverse course. By Monday, the state, seeing that it would lose, changed its mind. 

The Bad: Thom Tillis

It must suck to be Thom Tillis. Here you’ve spent the last year blindly tying yourself at the hip to President Trump, and now where are you? POTUS just suggested injecting disinfectant to cure the coronavirus. Unemployment’s through the roof. You’re either tied with or losing to a Democrat most people couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Worse, said Democrat doubled your fundraising haul in the first quarter, and Mitch McConnell’s super PAC had to bail you out with a $22 million fall ad buy. So now you’re Mitch’s guy. And McConnell, having given corporations a $500 billion bailout, decided last week that state and local governments taking the economic calamity on the chin aren’t getting more help. Most cities and wealthy states are run by Democrats, after all; let ’em go bankrupt

At a tele-town hall on Friday, a constituent asked Tillis about bailing out “poorly run states that were near-bankrupt” before the pandemic: “I’m not so sure taxpayer dollars from North Carolina should go to a state, a county, or a city that, like you said, was in poor economic shape before we even had the virus,” Tillis replied. “I’m more or less aligned with Leader McConnell on the issue.” 

Much like his spine, Tillis’s brain has apparently gone to mush. Every state is taking a beating. Even the notoriously spendthrift North Carolina is staring down a multibillion-dollar shortfall—and that’s after the feds sent it $2.2 billion via the CARES Act. By the way, those “poorly run” states tend to be far less dependent on the federal government than Trump strongholds—including McConnell’s own Kentucky

No surprise, then, that McConnell—himself facing a tough reelection—has started to walk balk his objections. Expect Tillis to follow any second now. 

The Awful: ReOpenNC

Let’s put these people in context: Despite the outsize media attention ReOpen NC’s Tuesday freak show tends to get, just 16 percent of North Carolina voters think the state should relax its social distancing guidelines. That more or less mirrors national polling. In both cases, however, there are indications that our collective patience is waning, and these astroturf exercises in public idiocy aren’t helping. These ReOpen efforts are propped up by the same political networks that fueled the Tea Party, and to the same end: to further the interests of wealthy elites by fomenting faux-populist outrage. They’re pawns in a game they don’t know is being played, manipulated by the pseudo-scientific bullshit rife on right-wing social channels. And if we listen to them, a lot of people are going to die. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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