NC Republican House member, a vocal mask opponent, has COVID symptoms

Rep. Keith Kidwell (at right) speaking at the General Assembly earlier this year.

Rep. Keith Kidwell has symptoms associated with COVID-19, one of his Republican House colleagues said Thursday morning.

Kidwell posted on Facebook this week that his wife is hospitalized with COVID. He asked for prayers for her.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, read a message from Kidwell on the House floor Thursday. “My fever seems to have gone. Just walking to the bathroom is exhausting.”

Kidwell and Pittman could not be reached by phone Thursday.

COVID-19 cases caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant are spiking in the state. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 5,900 new cases Thursday. One month ago, the state reported a one-day total of just 562 new cases.

Kidwell has been vocally opposed to wearing masks in the pandemic and also opposes mask mandates. During a floor debate last year, he said he would not wear a mask, no matter what the governor said. A Facebook photo of his swearing-in shows him maskless in the height of the pandemic last winter.

At a legislative meeting this year, Kidwell  also questioned COVID-19 vaccines.

Kidwell is also a chief sponsor of House Bill 572, which would prevent the governor from using an executive order to require vaccination. The bill passed the House in May but has not moved in the Senate.

“The governor cannot force one to take an injection of any type into their body,” Kidwell said. “It’s all about freedom, people.”

NC higher education group: It’s time to mandate vaccination at all UNC campuses

In case you missed it, the group Higher Ed Works is calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination at all North Carolina public universities.

The following essay, along with the footnotes referenced therein, were posted to the group’s website this week:

Mandate vaccines at NC’s public universities

‘Pretty please’ won’t cut it anymore.

With COVID-19 cases rapidly on the rise, it’s time for UNC campuses to require all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against the virus.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Executive Committee adopted a resolution last week that seeks a delegation of authority from the UNC System Office to require proof of vaccination from all employees and students and to adopt masking requirements based on the viral load in the community and capacity of the health-care system.1

In response, UNC President Peter Hans and the UNC System Office issued a policy saying all employees must be vaccinated or, if they aren’t vaccinated, tested weekly.2

Though such a policy was adopted for students in May,3 it’s astonishing it wasn’t already in place for faculty and staff just weeks before students return to campus.

Call it Mandate Lite.

Six former state health directors in North Carolina also wrote Hans last week calling for a vaccine mandate.

“The current UNC System policy allows students and employees to opt out of COVID 19 vaccination and enter a regular testing program,” the health directors wrote. “This policy is not strong enough.

“There is enormous risk that without a mandate for COVID 19 vaccination, the burden of new cases and hospitalizations will overwhelm the University campuses’ abilities to quarantine and isolate cases effectively. It will be horrific should a death of a student, staff or faculty member occur that could have been prevented by mandatory vaccination.”4

The health directors – who place public health ahead of politics – noted that other state universities across the country have adopted vaccine mandates. Many of UNC-Chapel Hill’s peer institutions have as well:

What do these schools know that the UNC System doesn’t? Read more

We’ve coddled ignorance for years. Now we’re all paying the price with COVID.

This is not a real column, but it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see it | Susan J. Demas graphic

Sane America has had enough.

After almost two years of a horrific pandemic that’s killed almost 620,000 Americans and deadly, faster-spreading variants emerging because selfish and ignorant people refuse to get vaccinated — those of us who have tried to do everything right have no more f–ks left to give.

Anti-vaxxers, COVID conspiracy theorists and right-wing politicians have made the pandemic far more hellacious than it ever needed to be. We have been lectured endlessly by pundits and attention seekers on social media that we musn’t ever make them feel bad about their awful choices — no matter how many public, violent scenes they cause over health rules, heavily armed protests they organize to intimidate us and how much the death toll soars.

Their feelings have been deemed more important than the health and well-being of our families, because somehow if we kowtow to the worst people in our society, a few will supposedly be nice enough to get vaccinated or wear masks.

Nope.

If you refuse to get vaccinated — and this goes double if you are someone with enough of a platform to influence others — you are to blame for the fourth wave. You are the reason why more children are being hospitalized, so spare me your family values bloviation. You are why good people who have done their part and gotten their shots are getting breakthrough cases.

I am tired of sugarcoating it. I am tired of the perennial hectoring to “both sides” the pandemic like we mindlessly do with political coverage.

The 40% who can’t be bothered to get jabbed because they know more than doctors or they understand freedom better than the rest of us or just know that the magnetic 5G is gonna be injected in their veins are why people continue to needlessly die. And they are why life continues to be hell for the rest of us.

Yes, there is a political divide in vaccination rates — and Republicans are on the wrong side of it. Let’s stop denying the obvious or making excuses for a party whose pandemic response has been a mix of crass pandering to their base and sociopathic stupidity.

For almost a year and a half, most of us have stayed home as much as we could, helped our neighbors, homeschooled our children, faithfully worn masks and gotten our shots when it was our turn. Health care workers, in particular, have seen the most unfathomable human suffering, been forced to isolate from their families and have desperately pleaded with people to follow simple health rules and get vaccinated so that we can put COVID-19 behind us.

We were promised that by sacrificing, working hard and playing by the rules, we could put an end to mass death and finally get back to some of the things that bring us joy: having parties, going to festivals, traveling beyond our backyards and more.

But the dream of post-COVID normalcy is fading fast as Delta and other variants have ripped through our country, even infecting some of the vaccinated. Read more

NC House tax plan isn’t good for our state (and these graphs explain why this is the case)

The N.C. House tax plan would continue to reduce income tax rates even as economic hardship persists and real, sustained investments will be required to ensure that the state and every community can thrive.

The plan reviewed in the House Finance committee Monday afternoon would reduce the state’s flat income tax rate to 4.99 percent after Jan. 1, 2022, and phase down the corporate income tax rate from 2.5 percent to 2.25 percent in tax year 2024 and to 1.99 percent beginning in tax year 2025.

These rate cuts aren’t nearly as bad as the Senate’s proposal, but make no mistake — they aren’t good either. (And Speaker Moore’s statements in a press event yesterday, suggest that the House leadership shares the Senate’s goal of getting to zero income taxes.)

The full impact of the changes by 2025 would be a reduction of $2 billion in annual revenue that otherwise could have funded priorities for the well-being of the state and the people. By just the second year of the biennial budget, the state’s revenue with these tax cuts would fall below the required funding level needed to keep up with enrollment growth in K-12 and post-secondary schools, as well as the costs of delivering health care services.

Read more

NC House can choose a different future for North Carolina

Yesterday, NC House members began releasing details of their budget proposal in committees. Without a transparent view of how these pieces fit together and other considerations that factored into the plan, we will have to wait for a full assessment of the path that the House will take.

More than a month has passed since the Senate passed its budget and the start of the new fiscal year — July 1. However, preliminary information from yesterday’s committee review suggests there is still time to choose a better path for North Carolina.

House leaders agreed to an arbitrary spending limit with the Senate before the start of the process, but the sheer scale of need demands more careful consideration of public input and more responsible stewardship of public resources than the Senate put forward.

As was evidenced in a number of committee reviews yesterday, the House budget misses committing long-term to community needs by making small-scale allocations rather than bolstering public systems, as well as using one-time money rather than recurring resources.

House leaders appear poised to accept the Senate tax plan that would slash income tax rates for the wealthiest and profitable corporations. The personal income tax changes alone would deliver 74% of the net tax cut to the richest 20% of North Carolinians.

The standard deduction and lower flat rate that Senate leaders propose actually excludes hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians with low incomes who carry a heavier sales and property tax load. The Senate proposal also provides just half the tax reduction, when calculated as a share of income, to North Carolinians with income below $66,000 (those in the bottom 60% of the income distribution) than is provided to the richest 1%.

The House can afford to choose a different future for North Carolina — one that advances the well-being of all people rather than focuses on tax cuts for the rich and profitable corporations as the Senate did. By establishing the systems and structures that strengthen communities and the economy for the long-term, lawmakers can help families move past the pandemic to sounder footing.

The North Carolina Justice Center delivered a letter to the House two weeks ago detailing some of the areas for public investment. This list of recommended appropriations — while not exhaustive — would fall well within the resources the state has available today.

The list of recommendations includes commitments for the next two years to providing a sound, basic education to every child, increasing affordable housing development, stabilizing the early childhood system, helping people access health care, and ensuring that people re-entering communities are supported for success.

Redirecting 40% of dollars that the Senate proposed for tax cuts and for additional allocations to savings reserve and the state capital and infrastructure fund in the first year, and 60% in the second would be more than sufficient to meet these recommendations.

North Carolina leaders committed to helping people could go even further to advance the well-being of us all right now.


We need our elected leaders to choose a different path — one that helps people and makes sure our state can be ready to support people’s well-being for the long haul. It is the best path to a brighter future for North Carolina.

Alexandra Forter Sirota is Director with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.