Will North Carolina’s vaccination lottery work?

Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina is the latest state to bank on a lottery to reverse flagging COVID-19 vaccinations.

North Carolina joins Ohio, New York, Maryland, Oregon, Colorado, California, New Mexico, West Virginia, and the state of Washington in offering the chance at some serious money or college scholarships in an effort to get more people to roll up their sleeves.

Will it work?

It’s too soon to tell in North Carolina, but some states saw quick upticks in vaccinations after their lottery announcements.

In Ohio, vaccinations increased 55% for 20-49 year-olds the week after Gov. Mike DeWine announced that state’s  lottery, Vax-a-Million, NPR reported. Vaccinations jumped 94% in that week for people ages 16 and 17. Lottery winners in Ohio ages 12-17 get a full ride to Ohio state colleges.

In Colorado, vaccinations increased 17% the day Gov. Jared Polis introduced Colorado Comeback Cash, and then held steady for the next few days until Memorial Day weekend started, a Colorado television station reported. Colorado is giving five people 18 and older $1 million over five weeks.  Coloradans 12-17 years old are in a lottery for five $50,000 college scholarships.

Four people 18 and older in North Carolina will get $1 million each in the Summer Cash lottery. People younger than 18 will be in a drawing for four $125,000 scholarships for use after high school.

Vaccinations in North Carolina peaked the week of April 5 at 685,156 doses administered and dropped steadily since then, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The week of May 31, 134,547 shot were administered. Forty-seven percent of people 12 and older have been vaccinated.

“After seeing the benefit in other states, we believe this program will help get more North Carolinians vaccinated, making our state a safer place for everybody,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Thursday news conference.

The state is trying other incentives, including cash cards.

People who were vaccinated at certain sites on particular days from the last week of May to June 8 in  Guilford, Rowan, Rockingham, and Mecklenburg counties received $25 cash cards. People who drove others to those vaccination sites also received cash cards.

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said Thursday that the cards are meant to help cover the cost of transportation or time away from work.

A DHHS spokeswoman said in an email Thursday that more than 1,700 cards were distributed to vaccine recipients and more than 700 cards were given to drivers.

“More than 40 percent of people said having someone to drive them was a very important reasons that they got vaccinated at a Summer Cash Card event,” she wrote, and 25% said that the cash card was a “very important motivation for getting vaccinated that day.”

Cohen said the cash card program worked to reach underserved communities. “We’re really excited about what we’ve seen,” she said.

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Apotential resolutionto Hannah Jones tenure controversy may not heal damage done at UNC

“Ninety percent of Black and non-white faculty right now, they are probably looking at their other options. That may be a conservative estimate.”

Attorneys for UNC-Chapel Hill will meet with the legal team of Nikole Hannah Jones Thursday to find “a potential resolutionto the tenure stand-off that has generated international headlines.

But students, faculty and members of the university’s board of trustees say regardless of whether a resolution can be found, the damage has been done: to the school’s reputation, trust in university leadership and the norms under which the school has long operated.

“The soul of our university is at stake,” said Lamar Richards, student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill and a member of the board of trustees. “We are so used to back channeling, back-room dealing and lack of transparency that it’s embedded in the foundation, in the system of governance at Carolina. That’s how we’ve operated for so long. And you can see it’s been unproductive.” [Read more…]

2. NC failed to meet court-ordered deadlines for moving people with mental illnesses out of adult care homes. But it got another extension.

Service gaps, lack of central control over regional offices, COVID-19 pandemic contribute to “mission drift”

North Carolina had eight years under a 2012 court order to move 2,000 people with mental illnesses out of adult care homes and into houses or apartments. A few years ago, the state received an extension to this July. It won’t make that deadline, either.

The U.S. Department of Justice and North Carolina negotiated the original court order after a federal investigation found that the state was using adult care homes to warehouse people with severe mental illnesses in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people “have the right to receive services in the most integrated settings possible,” the Justice Department said then.[Read more…]

3. Are NC district attorneys a roadblock to needed criminal justice reform?

Lawmakers, civil rights groups and researchers say DAs often thwart necessary change

Jim Woodall made a promise to the family of Eve Carson, the UNC-Chapel Hill student body president who was murdered in 2008. Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17 years old at the time, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Carson after a robbery attempt.

“Carson’s parents, everyone was told, he will receive a life without parole. And he will never get out of prison,” Woodall, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, said. “I take that as a very serious promise made by the system, made by me, made by the judge to the family of Eve Carson, to the Friends of Eve Carson and to the memory of Eve Carson that Laurence Lovette should stay in prison, every day for the rest of his life.”

To help uphold his promise, Woodall said he opposes what he calls an “assault on life without parole.” He told his colleagues at the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys to defend the sentence, even for juveniles. [Read more…]

4. At the state GOP convention in Greenville, Donald Trump’s fade to black continues

He’s baaaack. Well, sort of.

Former President Donald Trump emerged from his self-imposed Florida/New York internal exile this past Saturday evening by delivering a typically rambling and narcissistic speech at the 2021 North Carolina Republican Party convention in Greenville. It was his first such appearance outside of Florida since leaving the White House in January.

The chief political headline from the event surrounded the 2022 GOP primary to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (whom Trump never mentioned by name). After first allowing his daughter-in-law Lara, a political novice with no evident qualifications, to announce that she would not seek the seat, Trump issued – in what sounded like an offhand and last-minute act of a man known for winging things – an endorsement of Congressman Ted Budd in the already crowded race. [Read more…]

5. Gov. Cooper issues Executive Order requiring North Carolina to ramp up wind energy projects

Offshore wind power will become a more integral part of the state’s clean energy plan, according to Executive Order 218, issued by Gov. Roy Cooper today.

North Carolina will “strive” to develop 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power 700,000 homes, over the next decade, with a total of 8 gigawatts of wind power 2040, the order reads.

The 8-gigawatt figure would generate 25% of the state’s electricity consumption.

Since the legislature’s moratorium on wind energy expired in 2018, North Carolina has looked for ways to restart the fledgling industry, not only for environmental reasons but economic ones. [Read more…]

6. New report lays out vision for democracy reform in North Carolina

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

More than 20 experts from leading research and advocacy organizations proposed reform measures for North Carolina in a report titled “Blueprint for a Stronger Democracy” released Tuesday. The report zeroes in on policy discussions around voting, redistricting, campaign finance reforms and judicial accountability.

In addition to expertise from national organizations, such as the Brennan Center for Justice, the Voters’ Rights to Know Project and the Campaign Legal Center, the report showcases local input from groups including Common Cause NC, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Disability Rights North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina and the North Carolina Black Alliance. It’s coordinated by the Institute for Southern Studies and the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections.[Read more…]

7. Need a reason to get the COVID vaccine this summer? How about a million?

Governor Roy Cooper is hoping to encourage more North Carolinians to get vaccinated against the coronovirus by offering millions of dollars in cash and prizes to cover college expenses.

Cooper announced the $4 Million Summer Cash and Summer Cash 4 College Drawings at a Thursday press conference.

“A chance at a million dollars is pretty good motivation,” the governor said. “Even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus.”

Here’s how it will work:[Read more…]

8. Senate examines Colonial Pipeline meltdown; millions for NC included in House transportation bill

Colonial Pipeline CEO: ‘One of the toughest decisions I have had to make’ to pay a $4.4M ransom

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline, which underwent a ransomware attack in early May that led to massive shutdowns of gas stations across the Southeast, said during a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday that it was his decision to pay a ransom to restore the company’s operations.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my life,” Joseph A. Blount Jr. said in his opening statement. “But I believe that restoring critical infrastructure as quickly as possible, in this situation, was the right thing to do for the country.” [Read more…]

9. Weekly Radio Interviews:

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10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

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The great mask conundrum: What’s the best course for a responsible vaccinated person?

Mask rules differ from store to store. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Last week, Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel tweeted: “My local supermarket has (a) sign saying they ‘strongly encourage’ everyone to wear a mask. Do you wear one, and feel silly engaging in hygiene theater? Or not wear one and feel a little like an (a–hole)?”

It’s a great question, and on a lot of people’s minds, as evidenced by the comments that followed.

Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor columnist and reporter David Brooks, known on Twitter as @GraniteGeek, replied: “I wear mine although I’m fully vaxxed but I do feel a little silly. I tell myself it gives psychological support to people who need to stay masked (immunosuppressed, etc), and is a reminder that the pandemic hasn’t magically disappeared.”

Haspel replied: “I have similar feelings. But the vast majority of people who are unvaxxed choose to be unvaxxed. And the thing I’d really like to normalize is vaccination. So there’s no place I’m comfortable here.”

A thoughtful conversation – something of a rarity on Twitter – ensued, with some pointing to the importance of normalizing and encouraging mask wearing, including during cold and flu season, and others settling on something more fundamental: common courtesy. All good points, but for me “The Answer” remains elusive.

A couple of weeks ago, the grocery store I frequent swapped out its “Masks required” sign for one saying there were now separate rules for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Get the shot, ditch the mask. Skip the shot, cover up.

The first time I saw the new poster, I stared at it dumbly for a few seconds, took a couple of steps into the store, identified maskless employee after maskless employee, and then removed the cloth mask from my face and put it in my back pocket. My steps felt lighter during that excursion, and I found myself doing something I rarely do while food shopping: smiling.

When I returned to the store a few days later, the mask stayed with the loose change and crumpled receipts in my truck’s console. This time, however, it wasn’t the maskless faces that struck me but the number of people still wearing them. My naked face clearly landed me in the minority – and I knew that a lot of those masks were being worn by people who, like me, were fully vaccinated. Inner conflict took root. 

What message did I want to send: “Hey, I’m not wearing a mask and that means it’s been at least two weeks since my second shot. Yay, science!” or “I’m still wearing a mask because I don’t think you can be too sensitive when it comes to the physical and emotional well-being of others.” Both are fine things to signal to the world, but what if my fellow shoppers misread my decision entirely and thought I was wearing a mask because I’m skeptical of the vaccine or not wearing one only because I think COVID is overblown?

I’ve returned to the store several times since then, always maskless, and the struggle continues. When I walk down an aisle with others not wearing masks, I feel like we are leading the charge to normalcy and should be high-fiving. When I pass, say, a masked older couple, I feel nothing but guilt. I want to apologize and explain that the last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable, that I really do care about them, and if they would rather that I still wear a mask I would be happy to run back to the parking lot and grab one. 

But then I’d pass another older couple, both with easy smiles on uncovered faces, and righteousness would return.

Grocery shopping is now something very much like my childhood as a Catholic: rapid transitions between joy and guilt.

I am no closer to definitively answering Haspel’s Twitter question today than last week, but I will make one small change in my behavior: I plan to keep a mask in my pocket when I shop. That way I can read the room, as they say, and remain flexible. 

Going maskless, or wearing one, doesn’t have to be my religion. For now, in these odd days, that answer will have to do.

Dana Wormald is the editor of the New Hampshire Bulletin, which first published this essay.

Need a reason to get the COVID vaccine this summer? How about a million?

Governor Roy Cooper is hoping to encourage more North Carolinians to get vaccinated against the coronovirus by offering millions of dollars in cash and prizes to cover college expenses.

Cooper announced the $4 Million Summer Cash and Summer Cash 4 College Drawings at a Thursday press confrence.

“A chance at a million dollars is pretty good motivation,” the governor said. “Even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus.”

Here’s how it will work:

  • All North Carolina residents 12 and older who have been vaccinated with at least one dose are eligible, some restrictions may apply.
  • Those vaccinated on or after Thursday’s announcement will be entered twice for each drawing increasing the chance of winning for the newly vaccinated.
  • Drawings will take place every other week on Wednesdays with the first drawing on June 23.
  • New entries will close at midnight on the Sunday prior to the Wednesday drawing.

Read the official rules here.

North Carolina is hoping the new cash incentives will generate the same response seen in Ohio, where vaccination rates jumped 28 percent among those 16 and older in the first two weeks following their million dollar giveaway.

DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen

State officials are worried by the lack of urgency seen in early April in getting one of the three vaccines.

“When you look at North Carolina compared to some other states, we are starting to lag behind,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

“I am proud that we are doing well compared to a lot of other states in the South, but there are many states that are now seeing 70% of their adults vaccinated. We can get there too.”

North Carolina has about 2.5 million adults who still are not vaccinated, according to the governor.

Individuals will be automatically enrolled in the drawing based on receiving a dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The prizes are funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.

North Carolina has a newly designated endangered species, which is nothing to be proud of

Carolina madtom, a species of catfish, is now listed as federally endangered. Its protected critical habitat includes 257 river miles in 12 counties in North Carolina: Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Johnston, Jones, Nash, Orange, Vance, Warren and Wilson. (Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Carolina madtoms are armed with stinging spines on their fins that can stun their attackers, but these small catfish are helpless against their main predator: urbanization.

Because of human encroachment on their native homes, the Carolina madtom is now on the federal Endangered Species list, the Center for Biological Diversity announced yesterday.

The Center had petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the courts for more than a decade to add protections for the species.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool available to save plants and animals from extinction, so it’s good news that these special North Carolina creek critters now have the habitat safeguards they need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center, in a press statement.

The Carolina madtom occurs only in the Neuse and Tar River basins, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It is the only madtom native to North Carolina.

The Carolina madtom lives in larger streams that flow into the Tar and the Neuse. But runoff, sediment and other byproducts of urbanization and industrialized livestock farms have degraded the water quality in most of these streams. Before its designation as endangered, the Carolina madtom had been listed as threatened and a federal species of concern since 2007.

The Neuse River waterdog, an aquatic salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins of North Carolina, is now listed as threatened. It has been eliminated from 35% of its range, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The waterdog is very sensitive to pollution and changes in its habitat, which can occur from runoff attributed to logging, industrialized livestock farms, as well as development. The salamander will be listed as threatened with a “4(d) rule” that allows ongoing logging in its habitat if certain management practices are followed to protect streams from sediment pollution.

An additional 25% of the Neuse River waterdog’s historical streams are in such poor condition that the waterdog is unlikely to survive there. The most significant declines have occurred in the Neuse River near Raleigh.

Protected critical habitat for the Neuse River waterdog includes 779 river miles in Craven, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Orange, Person, Pitt, Wake, Warren, Wayne and Wilson counties. (Photo courtesy USFWS)