COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News, Uncategorized

UNC-Chapel Hill launches COVID-19 dashboard, shows 173 infections as students return to dorms this week

UNC-Chapel Hill, the flagship school of the UNC System, has launched its own COVID-19 data dashboard as students have begun moving back to campus.

Similar to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services dashboard, UNC-Chapel Hill’s shows the number of tests conducted, the number of positives, the capacity at the school for isolation and quarantine as well as the number and percentage of courses being taught face-to-face, online-only and in a “hyflex” model. The percentage of student tests and positives by week is also provided in the dashboard.

 

 

Last updated on July 31, the  dashboard now shows 173 total infections among UNC community members — 137 of them students. That cumulative number includes the previously discloses 37 positive tests that led the school to temporarily suspend workouts among student athletes who returned to campus early.

Thirteen of those infections were recorded in the last week of July, before most students moved in to dorms. Students are scheduled to arrive from Aug. 3-10 in appointed time windows.

The university is not doing mass-testing of students, faculty or staff who do not show symptoms, saying that negative tests could give people a false sense of security. That could lead to them taking fewer precautions, administrators have said, and community spread is the greatest danger.

According to the dashboard, the university had tested 1,289 students as of July 31.

The cumulative percentage of student positives is 10.6 percent. The positive percentage for the week of 7/19 is 11.1 percent, 8.6 percent for the week of 7/26 — the last week before most students return to campus.  The current statewide total positive rate is 8 percent.

 

News, public health, Uncategorized

Facing a ‘snowballing’ of uninsured patients, Waynesville presses for Medicaid expansion

State legislators do not return to Raleigh until late April, but leaders in one Haywood County community are going on record now urging the General Assembly to take action to pass Medicaid expansion.

The Waynesville town board unanimously passed a resolution last week calling for Medicaid expansion, desperately needed by the region’s medical community.

Here’s how reporter Becky Johnson reported that meeting in The Mountaineer:

Republican lawmakers who have resisted Medicaid expansion claim it would cost too much. But the irony is that failing to expand Medicaid has actually cost the state more, according to those who spoke at the hearing.

People without health insurance don’t get the early, preventative care they need, and instead wait until they are in dire straits before ending up in the emergency room.

“It’s snowballing and they are showing up in the ER on the tail end of their illness,” said Rod Harkleroad, the CEO of Haywood Regional Medical Center, who was one of those who spoke at the public hearing.

By then, they need far more expensive treatment, and society ends up picking up the tab for anyway, Harkleroad said. The unpaid medical bills are ultimately passed down in the form of higher insurance premiums and medical costs to everyone else.

Haywood Regional Medical Center has to write off $24 million a year in charity care for patients who can’t pay their medical bills. Of the 50,000 patients who come through the ER at Haywood Regional, around one-third don’t have insurance. Those stats demonstrate the pattern of the uninsured waiting until their health is in crisis before getting care.

It’s estimated that there are 3,400 residents in Haywood County without insurance who could benefit from expansion.

Read the full story here.

Conservative lawmakers in the state Senate have blocked any effort to expand Medicaid coverage, making North Carolina one of just 14 states to reject expansion and additional federal funds.

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The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. An infant‘s gravesite, environmental concerns could put proposed Caswell County mining operation on the rocks


In addition to historic cemeteries and archaeological resources, state is concerned about asbestos, drinking water pollution 

Rubbie Francis Wade entered this world in 1921. She left it eight months later, in the summer of 1922.

A descendant of the enslaved, Rubbie was not considered by whites important enough to document. Neither her birth nor her death were officially lodged with the Caswell County Register of Deeds. But we know from her delicately carved gravestone that she was the daughter of Robert and Norah Wade. [Read more…]

2. Critics vow to combat UNC’s “Silent Sam” deal with Confederate group

Students, faculty and legal experts are all questioning last week’s legal settlement in which the UNC System gave the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans – along with $2.5 million.

And some are vowing to fight it.

“We’re doing our best to figure out possibly what legal action we can take,” said Ashton Martin, undergraduate student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“We definitely don’t see this as a satisfactory conclusion and we don’t want it to be the conclusion,” Martin said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this isn’t the final decision.” [Read more…]

3. State court cites time constraints in approving congressional maps that are “not perfect”

North Carolina Republicans officially ran out the clock – at least legally – when they enacted a new Congressional map just weeks before candidate filing.

A three-judge state Superior Court panel ruled unanimously Monday that the map can go forward, setting aside a prior injunction postponing congressional candidate filing.

“As a practical matter, in the court’s view, there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” said Judge Paul Ridgeway, who read the panel’s decision. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”

The court declined to take up constitutional issues raised about the new map, and it did not rule on the constitutionality of the 2016 congressional map, which was challenged in the partisan gerrymandering case Harper v. Lewis. [Read more…]

4. After Republicans’ latest gerrymandering low, now is the time for your outrage

It may be difficult to say how you are feeling this morning, two mornings after a Superior Court panel — facing the impending launch of the 2020 election cycle — choked down another GOP-manipulated map for North Carolina congressional districts.

But because there are not, in this moment, 10,000 people on the steps of the Legislative Building frothing over the latest malpractice in Raleigh, it is safe to assume there are many in this state who are not simply angry enough.

Perhaps this reflects that roughly half of North Carolina is willing to acquiesce to gerrymandering as a necessary evil because, in this instance, it favors the candidate or the political party of their choosing. [Read more…]

5. Eight errors and omissions of the 2019 legislative session


Well, that appears to be a wrap.

The 2019 legislative session that commenced way back in January and dragged on in desultory fashion for months past its usual adjournment date finally petered out a couple of weeks back. Now, barring some new and unforeseen holiday season power grab – something that’s always a possibility for legislative leaders who maintain only a passing interest in quaint concepts like notice, public input and process – the honorables have absented themselves from the state capital until mid-January. [Read more…]

6. State Board of Ed examines decline in teacher licensure exam pass rates

The percentage of teachers passing state licensure exams has fallen to 80 percent, leaving some members of the State Board of Education (SBE) to wonder if students are being shortchanged by ill-prepared teachers.

A report shared with SBE members this week showed the passing rate on state teacher exams falling from 96% percent in 2014 to 80.2% in 2018.

“I know there are other pathways to teaching, but if you spent four years at a university in an EPP [Education Preparation Program] and can’t pass the content test and the pedagogy test, then we have a problem and it’s showing up in our test scores, SBE member Amy White said during the board’s monthly meeting this week. [Read more…]

7. Sen. Phil Berger sidesteps an inconvenient truth about NC teacher pay

 

Despite having voted to expand the economics and personal finance curriculum in the state’s high schools, North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger fails to apply basic principles of these subjects when touting supposed accomplishments in teacher pay in his Nov. 25 op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer, “Yes, Republican tax policies are working in North Carolina.”

Perhaps most notably, he conveniently forgets to apply a rather basic concept called “inflation.” Ignoring inflation in GOP efforts to convince North Carolinians that teachers have experienced windfalls under their tenure is an irresponsible representation of the reality of teacher wage growth, or lack thereof. While corporate income taxes have been cut by more than 50%, many teachers are, when one adjusts for inflation, out tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Instead of touting “average” teacher pay (in the op-ed, Berger brags that “Since 2014, average teacher pay shot up by more than $9,000”) let’s look at actual teachers’ pay across the salary schedule. Consider the following real-world examples:[Read more…]

8. Weekly micro-podcasts and newsmaker interviews:

Click here to listen to Rob Schofield’s latest commentaries and podcast interviews.

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

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Winston-Salem Journal: Berger’s unethical mortgage deal

Last week, veteran political watchdog Bob Hall filed a formal complaint with the State Board of Elections questioning Senate President Phil Berger’s practice of paying himself “rent” from his campaign funds that he is then using to purchase real property.

While Berger has said this is not improper, Hall maintains the Senate leader should stop profiting personally from campaign contributions.

Today the editorial board of the Winston-Salem Journal comes down on the side of the Hall and good government. Here’s more from Friday’s editorial:

Talk about playing with house money …

Whether it is legal or not, it is wrong for the most powerful politician in the state to use campaign funds to buy a house. It’s a misuse that should concern taxpayers — especially those who contribute to the campaign.

Instead, staffers for Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden who is the president pro tem of the N.C. Senate, say no laws were broken, so what’s the big deal?

Simply put, Berger’s campaign allegedly is paying a company owned by Berger to rent the town house owned by Berger and his wife — enough to cover the monthly mortgage payments. And that is illegal, contends Bob Hall, the retired executive director of Democracy NC, who filed a complaint last week with the State Board of Elections. “Unless the State Board of Elections takes action, politicians will continue to profit handsomely by funneling campaign contributions to themselves, directly or indirectly, to pay for inflated expenses and subsidized assets,” Hall argues in his complaint.

Hall said at a news conference that the senator is using his campaign fund as “a piggy bank.” Hall’s complaint further alleged that Berger, through a second company he owns, is using campaign money to pay the rent and other expenses for his law firm in Eden. This means, according to campaign finance records, that Berger uses campaign money to pay himself a total of $3,000 a month for the Raleigh town house and his Eden law office.

As proof that he hasn’t broken any laws, a Berger representative counters that state elections officials have said he is not violating any campaign regulations by funneling money from his campaign to make payments on the $250,000, 1,400-square-foot town house.

Berger’s campaign staff says the senator first cleared the arrangement in 2016 with the state elections director at the time, Kim Strach, who served when Republican Pat McCrory was governor — and a second time with Karen Brinson Bell, who was appointed elections director by current Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

Further, it is neither uncommon nor unreasonable for legislators to use some campaign money to supplement a modest stipend ($104 a day for meals and housing while the General Assembly is in session) to pay for rental housing in Raleigh. The law requires them to maintain their homes in their districts and some may live too far from Raleigh to commute on a daily basis.

Even so, Hall maintains that Berger is breaking the law. While it is OK to pay rent with campaign money, Hall contends, not so with a mortgage. Funneling the money to cover mortgage payments is entirely different, Hall said, because the money is being used to buy an asset that likely will increase in value.

Meanwhile, a Republican campaign official characterizes Hall’s complaint as nothing more than a partisan attack. “This is just another example of Bob Hall being a bottom-feeder and a scumbag,” Dylan Watts, the Senate Republicans’ political director, chirped classlessly to The News & Observer of Raleigh. That’s quite a disproportionate response to a legitimate concern.

If the law doesn’t make situations like this crystal clear, it needs to. Legislators should scrub it free of any ambiguity.

What Berger is doing is not ethical. And if any other lawmaker did it — Republican, Democrat, whoever — it would be just as wrong.

Read more in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Click here to read Hall’s complaint filed on November 6th with the State Board of Elections.

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Going, going, gone. No tickets left for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ appearance at ‘Color of Education 2019’

Ta-Nehisi Coates (Photo: Getty Images/Tasos Katopodis)

This post has been updated to reflect a change in the “Color of Education 2019” program. Adriane Lentz-Smith, an associate professor of history at Duke University, will join Ta-Nehisi Coates on stage for a conversation about race in America.

Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates is expected to draw a big crowd Saturday when he headlines a one-day conference in Raleigh titled the “Color of Education 2019,” an event that will focus on race, equity and education in North Carolina.

But, if you haven’t already gotten a ticket, it’s too late.

Event organizers told Policy Watch the last ticket for the session with Coates was sold Tuesday morning. Tickets for plenary sessions have been sold out for weeks.

“Color of Education 2019” will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center from 8 am to 4:30 p.m. Coates’ keynote address is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

The event is a collaboration among the Public School Forum of North Carolina, The Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity and Policy Bridge at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
Coates will read from his new book and first novel, “The Water Dancer,” which was released in September.

The novel was quickly selected by Oprah Winfrey as the media mogul’s new book club selection. Winfrey said the book is in the Top 5 of the best she’s ever read.

After reading from his novel and answering questions, Coates will be joined on stage by Adriane Lentz-Smith, an associate professor of history at Duke University, for a conversation about race in America.

Before Coates’ presentation, a full day of workshops and panel discussions will be offered. The workshops will focus on strategies to address persistent racial inequities in the state’s educational system.

Coates is a distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is the author of the bestselling books, “The Beautiful Struggle,” “We Were Eight Years in Power” and “Between The World And Me,” which won the National Book Award in 2015.

Coates is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. And he is current author of the Marvel comics, “The Black Panther” and “Captain America.”