Gov. Cooper announces new center that will vaccinate more than 20K per week

Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

There’s more good news on the pandemic front today. In addition to the hoped for approval of Johnson & Johnson’s one shot vaccine, North Carolina continues to make headway in rapidly improving vaccine distribution. Today, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina would be home to a new federally supported community vaccination center that will be able to serve very large numbers.

This from a press release distributed by Cooper’s office:

The FEMA-supported COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center will open at Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro on March 10 and will remain open for eight weeks. It will operate seven days a week with the capacity to provide up to 3,000 vaccinations per day, with options for drive-thru service in the parking lot and walk-in service in the space formerly occupied by Dillard’s department store.

To reach more marginalized and underserved communities, the main vaccination center at Four Seasons Town Centre will support additional sites and mobile vaccination clinics in communities of need in Guilford and surrounding counties.

The federal government will provide the center’s vaccine supply, which will be in addition to North Carolina’s weekly allotment from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Thousands of North Carolinians will be able to access vaccines as result of this local, state, and federal partnership. We appreciate everyone working together to focus on getting vaccines to our underserved communities,” said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D….

“Greensboro is pleased to play a vital role in vaccinating the general public,” said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “We look forward to working with the Biden, Cooper and Guilford County health departments as we continue to focus on vaccination, prevention and reducing the spread of COVID19. Through those coordinated efforts we can keep businesses in business and send our students back to school full time.”

…The site will be staffed by federal personnel, mostly from the Department of Defense. It will be supported with resources and personnel from Guilford County, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, to include the Division of Emergency Management and the North Carolina National Guard, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Support services will include logistics, information technology, data entry, emergency medical services and security.

Appointments will be required for vaccination at the site and will be available through a central system and through community partners to ensure access among marginalized populations. Information on scheduling appointments will be released in the coming days.

Guilford County was selected for a vaccination site by FEMA and the CDC as an area with significant underserved or marginalized populations, using a range of criteria including the Centers for Disease Control Social Vulnerability Index (CDC SVI), historical COVID-19 community impacts and the current rate and pace of equitable community vaccinations. The county has a population of about 523,000 residents, of which 49% are minorities. About 11% of county residents have received first dose vaccinations and 5.6% have received second doses.

Hope grows for ousting DeJoy from Postal Service leadership position

Louis DeJoy

There was progress yesterday in the effort to remove Greensboro’s Louis DeJoy from his position as U.S. Postmaster General. As several media outlets — including the New York Times have reported, President Biden has nominated three new members to the Postal Service board of governors. It’s hoped and expected by the legions of DeJoy critics that this move will shift the balance of power on the board and enable it to find a new leader.

DeJoy, of course, is an arch-conservative businessman and Trump supporter (and husband of former North Carolina HHS secretary Aldona Wos) who has come under fire for numerous moves that have been seen to undermine the USPS. This is from the Times report:

The Postal Service catapulted to the national spotlight last summer amid nationwide slowdowns that coincided with operational changes instituted by Mr. DeJoy, raising fears ahead of the election about vote-by-mail delays. Democrats accused Mr. DeJoy, a supporter of President Donald J. Trump, of trying to undercut mail balloting at a time when Mr. Trump was also promoting a false narrative that it was rife with fraud.

But Mr. DeJoy has also drawn fire for continued delivery problems since the election, as the Postal Service struggles to find a sounder financial footing.

Let’s hope the new Biden appointees are seated quickly and take swift action. As columnist Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post this morning:

To refresh your memory, DeJoy, a Republican mega-donor with no experience in the USPS, was appointed to lead the agency in the spring of 2020, despite having been beset by allegations of abusive practices at his business, conflicts of interest and potential campaign finance law violations. This came after President Donald Trump had spent years attacking the Postal Service.

DeJoy quickly took steps, supposedly in the service of cost-cutting, that had the effect of slowing down mail delivery. You probably noticed it.

After exploring the competing views of DeJoy’s actions and noting that here is bipartisan agreement regarding the need to upgrade the Postal Service, Waldman puts it this way:

“Although there does exist a progressive agenda with regard to the Postal Service (including the revival of postal banking) that Republicans will oppose, a well-functioning USPS that provides efficient service at affordable costs is something almost everyone agrees on. And it’s obvious that DeJoy is a polarizing figure whose continued leadership of the agency is going to only make everything harder.

So surely there are other experienced and qualified candidates out there who aren’t party donors and who could do a better job of reviving the USPS without being partisan lightning rods. If the Biden administration engineers it so DeJoy is replaced with someone like that, everyone ought to be happy.

Fingers crossed.

Editorial raises raft of good questions about bill to mandate school reopening

In case you missed it, be sure to check out yesterday’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com: “Bill requiring in-person learning relies on luck not reality. Needs more work.”

The impetus for the editorial, of course, is Senate Bill 37 — the legislation recently sent by the General Assembly to Governor Cooper that would mandate all school districts to return to in-person instruction. As the editorial notes, the bill is but the latest in a long line of maddening actions by Republican legislative leaders that: a) ignores the obvious imperative of negotiating controversial legislation with the executive branch, and b) imposes a mandate from Raleigh that hypocritically ignores the idea of local control that the GOP long championed before assuming power a decade ago.

Perhaps more importantly, the editorial notes, the bill raises several important practical questions, including:

  • Why are public charter schools excluded?
  • How are schools going to provide the additional space needed to accommodate a safe in-classroom environment?
  • How are schools going to pay for substitute teachers to replace those who cannot be in the classroom because of COVID-19 exposure or other related matters?
  • What needs to be done to meet necessary space requirements for in-school meals? Already, we’re learning that some schools are considering rules that could have kids sitting on the floor to eat meals.
  • Can all of this be assured when schools would be required to implement the mandate – around March 15?
  • Why isn’t there a requirement, and necessary funding, to make sure there is a nurse or other health professional, on-site at each open school?

It also specifies several specific actions that need to be in place before reopening is mandated:

  • There must be required frequent and regular COVID-19 screening of students and school personnel to quickly identify coronavirus outbreaks and deal with them before they become a crisis.
  • Teachers and other appropriate school personnel, including bus drivers, required to work in classroom settings must be vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • Provisions must be added for appropriate facilities for safely serving in-school meals. Mandating students sit on the floor, on the ground, or outdoors in cold or inclement weather is not acceptable.
  • All health and safety precautions must be in place for necessary social distancing and personal protective equipment needs to be available in the classroom and in all other school-related activities.

The bottom line: Just about everyone — Gov. Roy Cooper included — wants kids and educators to get back to school safely. But as the editorial rightfully observes, merely commanding it — without doing the hard, detailed work that’s necessary to facilitate it — is a lousy idea.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Former NC candidate for Treasurer lays out “five myths about campaign finance”

Image: Matthew Leatherman for NC Treasurer Twitter account

In case you missed it and can get to it, check out an essay penned by Matthew Leatherman that ran recently in the Washington Post. Leatherman, as you may recall, is a former employee of the state Treasurer’s office who ran in the Democratic primary for that office last year.

In “Five myths about campaign finance,” Leatherman shares some important insights that he gained during his campaign and in recent weeks in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection — some of which may surprise you.

Number One, for instance, is his take on the old aphorism that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” This, sadly, he says, is not always the case:

In a letter this month calling for greater campaign finance disclosure requirements, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) quoted Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous phrase, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” A 2017 article in the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems titled “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: Public Disclosure of Electoral Advocacy in Union Member Communications” argued that disclosure requirements would allow “voters to understand more fully which moneyed interests are supporting candidates behind closed doors.”

But this works only if sunlight-exposed information comes to the attention of voters — and if they care. When I ran for office last year, I was heavily outraised by the candidate who went on to win our primary. Nearly half of his initial fundraising total was a loan he made to his campaign. But even though this information was freely available and just a few clicks away, the only person who seemed to know these facts was me.

When President Donald Trump’s false statements about payments to Stormy Daniels were exposed, it may have hurt his reputation, but it didn’t meaningfully diminish his electoral prospects or his standing with most Republican voters. It hasn’t led, so far, to any liability on his part for alleged violation of campaign laws.

The other four “myths” Leatherman busts are:

  • Small-dollar donors are the face of democracy.
  • Companies quit politics after the Jan. 6 riots.
  • Candidate can refuse certain types of donations.
  • Money is a form of speech.

In each of his takes on these propositions, Leatherman does a great job of raising some hard truths about modern American politics in this era in which super-rich plutocrats play such an outsized role. Readers would do well to follow him on Facebook and keep an eye peeled for future insightful commentaries.

National publication: “North Carolina’s lieutenant governor has Jewish community on high alert”

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

You may want to find a calm and peaceful moment to do so and take a few deep breaths before plunging in, but if you care about North Carolina and its future, you would probably do well to read reporter Matthew Cassel’s story for Jewish Insider this morning about the highest ranking Republican in state government — our new Lt. Governor, Mark Robinson.

As Cassel explains in “North Carolina’s lieutenant governor has Jewish community on high alert,” Robinson continues to do little to assuage the concerns that were raised during last year’s campaign and during the weeks that followed about the numerous hateful and ignorant statements he has made down through the years about groups and individual he sees as adverse to his extremist belief system.

Here’s Cassel:

The lieutenant governor, a devout Christian who presents as a brash and unfiltered conservative culture warrior, invoked a number of antisemitic tropes in the years leading up to his election. In strongly worded Facebook posts, he decried a “globalist” conspiracy to “destroy” former President Donald Trump and took aim at “Black Panther,” the Marvel film whose titular protagonist, as Robinson put it, was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by [a] satanic marxist.” He went on to allege, using a Yiddish slur, that the movie “was only created to pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets.”

Last fall, Raleigh’s News & Observer unearthed an interview in which Robinson spoke with a fringe pastor, Sean Moon, who claimed that the modern incarnation of the four horsemen of the apocalypse includes China, the CIA, Islam and the Rothschild family of “international bankers that rule every single national or federal reserve-type style of central bank in every single country.”

Rather than objecting to the blatantly antisemitic conspiracy theory, Robinson grunted along in agreement. “That’s exactly right,” he said.

Cassel’s story also goes on to explore the downright bizarre and positively Trumpian stance Robinson has voiced in recent weeks that he doesn’t need to apologize for past hateful statements because — we’re not making this up — he uttered them prior to taking office. Read more