- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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March 10

The Winston-Salem Journal on the list of North Carolina residents waiting to receive government assistance:

“Unmet Needs” should say it all. It’s in the name of the appropriately titled list known as the North Carolina Registry of Unmet Needs, representing people who qualify for government assistance but have waited to receive that assistance for years because of legislative-imposed limitations - and too much politicking.



These are people with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Some of them can attend college and/or hold down a job - and many do - but they still must rely on parents or other caregivers to function in a healthy fashion.

But caregiving is stressful, hard work and ultimately temporary, when parents die or become incapable themselves. This creates an uncertain, worrisome situation for tens of thousands of North Carolinians.

The people on the list - more than 750 of whom live in Forsyth County and more than 14,000 in North Carolina - could receive assistance in skill building and transitional living through available waiver programs. But while there’s a lot of talk on their behalf, the available resources have been held up over many years by legislators whose attention has been given to other priorities - like corporate tax cuts.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. Funding for the needs began declining during the Great Recession, when the Democrats who then controlled the government were trying to balance the budget.

But the Republicans who took over in 2011 haven’t improved the situation. While tax cut upon tax cut has reduced our corporate tax rate from 6.9% in 2013 to 2.5% in 2019 - the lowest in the country for states that have a corporate tax rate - and while we maintain a budget surplus of nearly $900 million, other facets of our communities have suffered. It’s past time to devote some of these economic benefits to the neediest among us.

At a meeting of advocates at the Central Library last week, state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, who chairs the Health Care and Appropriations on Health and Human Services committees, told attendees that the number of people awaiting waivers is “unacceptable.” She said, “Medicaid transformation and an increase in waiver slots is a priority for me. I’m not going to work on anything else.”

We wish her every success. If Krawiec can cut through the political finger-pointing, she’ll be doing everyone in the state a favor. She might start by sitting down with Senate leader Phil Berger, who continues to block Medicaid expansion for nakedly political reasons.

“While Democrats have focused their efforts on expanding socialized medicine via Obamacare Medicaid expansion, Republicans believe that care for people with severe disabilities should be prioritized over taxpayer funding for able-bodied adults,” Berger stated in July 2019.

That statement is just so much blather. The red states that have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare haven’t turned into socialist bastions - and with the strong economy in which Berger otherwise takes pride, there’s no reason to choose among needy groups - including those he describes as “able-bodied adults,” eliciting visions of lazy sluggards sitting at home eating bonbons rather than the working poor who can’t afford medical insurance.

Many of the people on this list are go-getters who want to learn how to be as independent as they can be. They belong to families that pull their own weight and make sacrifices, but still need help.

They’ve been ignored for too long.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com

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March 9

The Fayetteville Observer on preventing misinformation about COVID-19:

With the rapid spread of novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, another unwelcome virus also spreads - rumors. Our community is not immune. Some people are transmitting false information that serves only to add an overlay of needless worry in a time where our concern is already elevated.

For those who do spread unverified rumors, we respectfully ask you to stop. Do not pass along hearsay. The truth is usually available at the cost of a little bit of your time and a website click or two.

Methodist University and Cape Fear Valley Health System are among local institutions that have had to clear up rumors about affected or quarantined people connected to their communities.

Methodist officials said in a statement on March 9 that there are no known cases of COVID-19 at the school. “No one at Methodist University has been isolated, and no one’s movements have been restricted,” the statement said. “We continue to monitor the spread of the virus closely.”

Cape Fear Valley has also said it has no confirmed cases; city and county officials say the same.

Globally, more than 3,500 people have died from the respiratory illness, which is similar to the flu, with more than 105,000 people affected, according to the World Health Organization. There are more than 420 confirmed cases in the United States and as of March 9, two in North Carolina. A vaccine for the disease could be a year or more away, according to health experts.

It is reasonable to assume that the virus will eventually make its way here to Cumberland County, one of the state’s largest metros. It may already be here, in someone who has yet to receive a test and diagnosis.

Meanwhile, we are all best served by taking in accurate information and passing it along to others. The website for the Centers for Disease Control is a good starting point for an overview of COVID-19 and the current state of play in terms of preparation and prevention, and guidelines for travel.

We also recommend Cape Fear Valley Health’s COVID-19 YouTube video, available through its Facebook page, where officials helping lead the hospital response to coronavirus answer questions about it in clear, easy-to-understand language. Topics covered include the best ways to protect yourself and what to do if you suspect you may have the virus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZsiU12WfYw&t;=31s

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin in a news release on March 9 encouraged residents to bookmark the city’s website and follow city news on social media for updates. The release said the city was in “close coordination” with the Cumberland County Department of Public Health over how the virus might affect the city. The release adds that the city would be more “rigorous” about cleaning city buses and “all our public facilities.”

What local officials learned during our two recent hurricanes, Matthew and Florence, is that there is immense value in a team-lift between all community and government partners. We expect to see that kind of unity of purpose in the case of coronavirus, too.

Good communication is always an important component of teamwork. Residents’ role in that is to avoid spreading rumors - get the facts instead.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com

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March 8

The Charlotte Observer/The News & Observer on protecting vulnerable communities from COVID-19:

She’s a cashier at a counter uptown. It’s a job that pays most of the bills, but not the insurance bill. So she ignores the cold symptoms that come each winter, and she tries to ignore what she hopes is just a stomach bug. It’s easier to work while you’re sick than for your bank account to recover from acknowledging that sickness.

He’s a cook at the neighborhood meat-and-three. It’s one of the 75 percent of food service jobs that don’t have sick pay, so if he feels like he’s coming down with something, he grabs some cold medicine and heads in to work. His bottom line leaves him little choice.

You may know people like them, or maybe not. You may not have given them much thought.

As the number of domestic Coronavirus cases grows - North Carolina announced two documented cases this week - public health experts are worrying that the virus could be spread by workers and others who can’t afford the health care protections and benefits that many of us take for granted. The possibility of such spread is certainly unknown at this early stage, but the threat has revealed an uncomfortable reality: Our well-being may be subject to the health of the least insured and most vulnerable among us.

They are nearly 400,000 North Carolinians without medical coverage and the 45 percent of Americans who don’t have paid sick days. They are the people who pause at what’s routine and dread what should be merely inconvenient - taking a couple hours to have a doctor check you out. That trip takes time that can’t be recovered, and that visit has to be weighed against the number of meals it might pay for. For too many, it’s a cruel calculation that brings no good choices.

Maybe you don’t like the idea of the government helping these people out. Maybe you think they should bear the consequences of the life choices they’ve made. Maybe you haven’t even haven’t bothered to even give it much thought.

Do you care a little more?

Our well-being has always been tied to the most vulnerable. When people can’t afford the time or cost of basic health care, emergency rooms get clogged, medical costs rise and illness can spread. A Cornell University report last month showed that influenza infection rates dropped by 11 percent in a year in 10 states that enacted mandates requiring employers to offer paid sick leave.

Now we share something more stark: That anxiety and helplessness you feel these days at the slow drip of coronavirus news? Imagine having health symptoms that you fear signal something bad, yet you can’t afford to find out how bad. It’s been a reality for millions of Americans for years.

The short-term solutions: Congress should follow the coronavirus template laid out by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recommends that uninsured or poorly insured Americans get evaluation and care for coronavirus for free, and that anyone who has symptoms - or has a dependent with symptoms - can get paid time off through an emergency paid leave program.

The longer-term solution: North Carolina should give hundreds of thousands of its citizens access to health care with Medicaid expansion, and Republicans in Congress should strengthen the Affordable Care Act instead of weakening it and working to eliminate it in court. Congress, if not states, also should provide all Americans access to paid sick days and family medical leave.

To do so is the right thing for all of us, but more importantly, it’s the right thing for the least protected among us.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com

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