Update: Relief bill passes unanimously, possible at-home COVID testing, school start date, car inspections, reopening an old hospital
CURRENT NC STATS
- 10k+ cases
- 384 deaths
- 5,700 tests done yesterday
SOME OF THE LARGEST LAYOFFS IN THE STATE
- HMSHost (a catering company for Charlotte airport) — 815
- Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor water park my family enjoys) — 626
- Hooters — 416
- Cheesecake Factory — 376
- Walmart — 285
- Kanki Japanese Steakhouse — 220
“SUSTAINED LEVELING” IS THE NEW “PEAK”
The basic idea had been to reopen once we were about two weeks past the peak. And that’s still the official guidance from the White House.
But the problem is the more we’ve flattened the curve the more we’ve pushed out the peak. Different models show different peaks, but some of them now take us out to late June.
So we readjusted. The new position is, “Ok, as long as we’ve basically flattened the curve for a couple weeks, we’ll start to carefully reopen.”
That means that the new goal is “sustained leveling.” We’re looking for leveling in a handful of metrics, not just infections. (The truth is, we’re still strictly rationing our tests due to multiple bottlenecks and material shortages, so we really can’t base policy just on infection rates.)
One of those key metrics is hospitalizations. Here’s where we are:
Except for a small uptick yesterday, you can see some decent leveling here. That’s positive — and it’s also why hospitals have slowly resumed elective surgeries. The sudden halt in almost all elective surgeries cost our state’s health care system nearly $1b last month, with rural hospitals getting hit the hardest.
Another key metric is testing. NC DHHS says they want to see testing average of 5,000–7,000 people per day. As you can see from this chart we’ve only gotten into that range five times in the last month.
There’s also some cautious optimism around LabCorp’s new at-home COVID test, which just received FDA approval. They FedEX you the material you need to collect a nasal swab, you mail it back to them, and you check your results online. Initially, these tests will only be available to health care and front-line workers, but LabCorp believes it will be able to go wider in the next few weeks. (They may also do at-home antibody tests to determine if you’ve already had COVID, but this test is a molecular test to determine if you’re currently infected).
BIPARTISAN COVID RELIEF BILL PASSES SENATE UNANIMOUSLY
Yesterday was our second day back in session. We passed a $1.4B COVID relief bill that was constructed in a very bipartisan way. A lot of input was given and taken from different groups.
This bill is essentially our first round of spending the $3.5b we just got from the federal government to help fund our COVID response. We aren’t spending it all at once, but this first round will be the single biggest piece.
Here’s the summary:
Important note: This is not final. This is just the senate bill. The house has their own version, which is broadly similar but contains a few major differences. When we pass a final, combined bill I’ll do a post that lays out the details.
- Both the house and senate bill will have funding for small business loans. These loans will be administered by the Golden Leaf Fund. The original fund of $15m has been depleted, which is why we are going to re-fund and significantly expand it. I expect that within the next ten days or so you’ll be able to go here to apply. Many people are rightfully concerned about making sure these loans actually go to small businesses, unlike what we saw with the federal program. We included restrictions to make sure that happens.
- There is some talk among the majority party of a partial, temporary expansion of Medicaid specifically for the testing and treatment of COVID patients. Full-scale medicaid expansion will not occur this year due to opposition by senate leadership.
- We are reopening a hospital in Richmond County that was closed three years ago and prepping it as a COVID surge facility.
- Over 900 members of our National Guard are helping to transport PPE and food across the state.
- We haven’t addressed car inspections yet but I believe we will soon. N.C. Highway Patrol is not prioritizing the enforcement of inspections right now.
- Under current law, schools can’t start earlier than the Monday closest to August 26. The senate bill passed yesterday moves the allowable starting date up to August 17. By contrast, the Governor would rather give school districts the ability to make their own decisions about start dates. This is a perennial issue in the General Assembly, but it’s taken on more urgency now.
- We’ve hired 250 contact tracers with plans to hire another 250.
- An early version of the senate’s COVID bill included a section that said teachers needed to prove that their online instruction would get the same outcomes as in-person instruction. Teachers rightfully called that unrealistic and the section was amended to say that remote learning plans must have “work measurement guidelines appropriate to each grade level.” There is also discussion about waiving the required K-3 class size reduction next year, as this is essentially an unfunded mandate handed down by the state and counties are going to be resource-starved.
- A new drug that is showing promise at treating COVID patients was created at the labs at UNC-CH. Dr. Fauci said the new drug “has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect.” It’s still being tested.
You’re going to see a lot of activity from the state legislature over the next two weeks. I hope we can keep the bipartisanship going. I’ll keep you posted.
Sen. Jeff Jackson