Commentary, COVID-19

Editorial, responsible religious leaders: Rushing back to church was and is a mistake (Video)

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the Sunday lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “A prayer for judgment.” In it, the paper rightfully critiques a recent federal court decision allowing churches to again hold large, indoor services as the pandemic continues to rage. In the ruling, Judge James Dever stated that “the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship together indoors.”

Here’s the Journal in response:

As we see it, the issue here isn’t “trust.” It’s a highly communicable disease that thrives in close quarters — and has proven especially transmissible in religious services. On Mother’s Day, 180 people were exposed to the novel coronavirus during services at a church in California after a person who had attended later tested positive for COVID-19. The service had been held in defiance of stay-at-home orders….

The governor’s cautious and incremental approach to resuming life as we used to know it — or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof — is the right strategy. But he chose not to appeal. So, for now it will be left to faith leaders to decide for themselves. We hope they choose wisely, but we worry. During a Raleigh rally in favor of the lawsuit, speakers cited safety concerns as top-of-mind. Yet many attendees neither wore masks nor practiced social distancing.”

Even in light of the ruling, many faith leaders do appear wary of the health risks, including 75 churches, mosques and temples in Charlotte. “Lest we forget, faith communities who sang together, shared meals, and stood shoulder to shoulder were initially hit hardest by the virus,” they said in a collective statement. “Regathering prematurely risks the spike of infection. It is the health, safety, and well-being of our communities and neighbors that motivate us towards making decisions that will care for and protect one another.”

And isn’t that the point of the rules in the first place? Not only to protect yourself and your loved ones but strangers as well — “to love thy neighbour as thyself.”

And here’s the Rev. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director of the N.C. Council Of Churches with another common sense message:

Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Failing the ‘Republican goddess’ test

One of the symptoms of COVID House Arrest is you start going down a lot of “rabbit holes” on your computer. I realized things might be getting out of hand when I actually Googled “Derivation of phrase going down rabbit hole.”

Look it up for yourself. I’m not your mama.

With so much extra time (and sanitizer) on my hands these days—I just dusted the light bulb in the beer fridge for the SECOND time—I’ve discovered it takes little provocation to research something, anything that might distract from the “unseen enemy” as the president insists on calling the coronavirus. Such a drama queen.

Which is how I arrived at the most incredible website: FindingMyRepublicanGoddess.com.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Because how can you NOT investigate this?

My friend, “L,” shared her discovery with me via text and I responded “all in.” She is the same person who told me about all the iterations of “90 Day Fiance” so I trust her reccs completely.

Sadly, it’s not exactly what I’d hoped—hordes of well-scrubbed Republicans looking to escape the ho-jum likes of Hinge in search of more of their own kind.

Nope, it’s just one guy. And he is, as Aunt Verlie might say, a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

I’m not saying he’s not a nice man, but let’s just say he has very unusual standards when it comes to finding his Republican Goddess.

As in, there’s a lengthy—and weird—vetting questionnaire. Did I take it? Well, of COURSE I took it because “dammit Jim, I’m a scientist!” In my mind.

Sadly, I kept getting kicked out of the questionnaire because apparently I was nobody’s idea of a Republican goddess. Huh.

Things hit the skids at Question 1, which was basically “how much do you love President Trump?” (a lot, more than my children or just enough to get in the country club)…

I should’ve realized when he prefaced the questionnaire by saying he considered Trump and his “personal guru” to be the two greatest living heroes, where we were headed with this.

It didn’t take this “deep state loving feminist” to figure out you could just go back and try again. I hit all the right answers and easily arrived at the page which assured me I was in the running.

Is a man who wears a short-sleeved sports shirt with a TIE and who boasts of mad “tantric skill” the best match for me? Mmmmm. No. Besides, I’m already married, although it should be noted our guy is very much in favor of plural marriage – and, interestingly, plural divorce.

It broke my heart a little when he admitted he wasn’t perfect. “I need dental implants and wear hearing aids” and he hinted at a “third health issue” which he would discuss on a need to know basis.

And now I REALLY need to know.

There’s a lid for every pot so I hope he finds his honey. But he might want to go easy on the tantric talk. Makes him sound like a Democrat.

Celia Rivenbark needs some more Netflix suggestions, y’all.

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

First look at NC’s potential revenue losses from pandemic points to an obvious policy course

Image: AdobeStock

The consensus revenue forecast released by the General Assembly today provides further evidence of both the enormous economic harm COVID-19 is inflicting on the state and some important long-term certainties about our economy. More than ever, it’s clear that how people are faring and what policy decisions are made to support their well-being will make a difference for the state’s economic recovery.

Economists with the Fiscal Research Division and Office of State Budget and Management are cautiously projecting revenue losses as deep as the Great Recession, but they also lift up many questions that remain about how this downturn and the recovery will play out. They also make clear that the numbers reflected in today’s forecast could change.

One thing we know for certain, however, is that our leaders in Washington and Raleigh can and should put policies in place today to support people and thereby, in turn, our economy.

Only through a bold policy agenda that rejects the status quo can our state hope to bend this latest curve upward so that we can secure an inclusive recovery and ensure all communities can thrive.

The hard truth is that weaknesses of our last economic expansion left our state less resilient in the face of this pandemic. Too many North Carolinians were already living paycheck to paycheck; too many didn’t have access to affordable health insurance; too many couldn’t afford safe housing or afford to put food on the table each night. Too many barriers to good jobs and the capital to start new businesses persisted for Black and brown North Carolinians.

Our leaders must go further to provide people with the supports to make it through this pandemic. A pro-growth agenda can’t ignore the drag of inequities and hardship any longer, but must first invest in every person’s well-being.

Even with the projected revenue losses, North Carolina leaders can make smart choices to quicken the recovery for more people.

Now is the time for our state leaders to call for additional federal aid to state and local governments that is sufficient and flexible to fill this revenue shortfall. Now is the time to look to smart, targeted revenue options at the state level that can undo tax cuts that have hampered our public response.

In this moment and for the future, North Carolina must have the foundation of public services and institutions in place to deliver well-being to all.

Alexandra Sirota is the Director of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

Environment

Hitting the water on Memorial Day weekend? Sound Rivers tells you where contamination is.

The Upper Neuse River Basin includes Falls Lake, the Eno River and Lake Michie. (Map: Upper Neuse River Basin Association)

Sound Rivers, a nonprofit environmental group, launches its summer waterway testing in the Upper Neuse River watershed this weekend, and has found five sites with high levels of fecal bacteria.

The bacteria tested for — E.coli  — can be found in freshwater and indicates likely fecal contamination. If you ingest or touch the contaminated water, there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections.

The sites showing high levels of bacteria above state and federal criteria are Hickory Hill Boat Launch, Anderson Point Park Canoe Launch, Buffaloe Road Canoe Launch, Milburnie Park Canoe Launch, and Poole Road.

Either avoid the area or use caution if you decide to visit. Keep water out of your eyes and nose, and wash your hands after you’ve touched it. This is especially important if  you have open cuts, scratches or wounds.

To find out more about water quality in your area, go to www.soundrivers.org/swimguide or text ‘SWIM’ to 33222 for weekly water quality updates.

COVID-19, NC Budget and Tax Center

Release: Latest labor market figures show devastating blow from COVID-19

The Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, issued the following summary and assessment of North Carolina labor market data released today. From the media release:

RALEIGH (May 22, 2020) — Labor market data for N.C. released today show April was the worst month of job losses in North Carolina’s history, far surpassing the worst months of the Great Recession. “The scope of the job losses is simply staggering,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “Job losses are concentrated in industries and occupations that typically pay the worst wages so a lot of the people who lost jobs in April had little or no financial cushion to fall back on. Many of the jobs that have disappeared likely won’t be coming back anytime soon, which means state and federal leaders have to figure out a way to support people through an economic crisis unlike anything in living memory.”

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include: Read more