Tuesday News: Witness = Corona exposure


LAWSUIT FILED TO MAKE NC'S MAIL-IN VOTING LESS COMPLICATED: A group of voters backed by Democratic legal groups sued North Carolina on Monday seeking to loosen rules around absentee mail-in ballots amid predictions that the coronavirus pandemic will make voting by mail a widespread practice. They want the state to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots, change a requirement for two witnesses to sign a ballot, extend the deadline for receipt of ballots until nine days after Election Day and give voters a chance to fix signature discrepancies before election officials reject those ballots. North Carolina’s state board of elections endorsed the first two provisions in a proposed list of election changes released in March. The new lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court with support from the Right to Vote Foundation and the National Redistricting Foundation, which is affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

OVER A MILLION NORTH CAROLINIANS HAVE FILED FOR UNEMPLOYMENT DUE TO PANDEMIC: Sometime Sunday, North Carolina's unemployment system logged its 1 millionth claim in less than two months. That means nearly 20 percent of North Carolina's work force has filed for unemployment since March 15, when the state started logging claims related to coronavirus-related shutdowns. It's nearly 10 percent of the state's entire population. It's far beyond anything the state saw during the recession a decade ago. So far, the system has paid out $1.27 billion, mostly in federal money that was included in a stimulus bill boosting payments by $600 a week. Otherwise, the state's maximum weekly unemployment payout would be $350. Cooper said during a Monday bill-signing press conference with General Assembly leaders that the state needs to look both at the length of time it pays unemployment benefits and the amount it pays. "Our state amounts are quite low as compared to the national rankings," the governor said. "We need to look at if we want to up the amount."

COVID 19 TRACING USING CELL PHONES MAY BE A HARD SELL FOR MANY AMERICANS: “There are conflicting interests,” said Tina White, a Stanford University researcher who first introduced a privacy-protecting approach in February. “Governments and public health (agencies) want to be able to track people” to minimize the spread of COVID-19, but people are less likely to download a voluntary app if it is intrusive, she said. Containing infectious disease outbreaks boils down to a simple mantra: test, trace and isolate. Today, that means identifying people who test positive for the novel coronavirus, tracking down others they might have infected, and preventing further spread by quarantining everyone who might be contagious. That second step requires an army of healthcare workers to question coronavirus carriers about recent contacts so those people can be tested and potentially isolated. Smartphone apps could speed up that process by collecting data about your movements and alerting you if you've spent time near a confirmed coronavirus carrier. The more detailed that data, the more it could help regional governments identify and contain emerging disease “hot spots.” But data collected by governments can also be abused by governments — or their private-sector partners. Apple and Google have pushed for public health agencies to adopt their privacy-oriented model, offering an app-building interface they say will work smoothly on billions of phones when the software rolls out sometime in May.

TRUMP APPLAUDS GOVERNORS FOR NOT FOLLOWING HIS OWN ADMINISTRATION'S GUIDANCE: States across the country are moving swiftly to reopen their economies despite failing to achieve benchmarks laid out by the White House for when social distancing restrictions could be eased to ensure the public’s safety during the coronavirus pandemic. These governors’ biggest cheerleader is President Trump. A slew of states — such as Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Florida — have pushed forward with relaxing social distancing guidelines even as the number of people testing positive in many states has increased in recent weeks and testing continues to lag behind. White House recommendations released last month encouraged states to wait to see a decline in cases over a two-week period, as well as having robust testing in place for front-line workers before entering “Phase One” of a gradual comeback. But Trump and some of his aides have backed away from their own guidelines, opting instead to hail the broad economic reopening that health experts say has started too quickly. The dichotomy comes as the White House also tried to distance itself from a draft federal government report predicting an explosion of new coronavirus cases and 3,000 daily deaths by June 1. It underscores how an eagerness by Trump and several state governors to begin restarting normal activities after a weeks-long economic slowdown has clashed with a stubbornly high national caseload that has defied the president’s predictions of a swift and safe reopening.

SOME CHILDREN WHO WERE INFECTED WITH COVID 19 ARE DEVELOPING AN INFLAMED BLOOD VESSEL SYNDROME: Fifteen children, many of whom had the coronavirus, have recently been hospitalized in New York City with a mysterious syndrome that doctors do not yet fully understand but that has also been reported in several European countries, health officials announced on Monday night. Many of the children, ages 2 to 15, have shown symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare illness in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries, the city’s health department said. None of the New York City patients with the syndrome have died, according to a bulletin from the health department, which describes the illness as a “multisystem inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with Covid-19.” Reports of children sick with the unexplained syndrome in New York City have been circulating for several days, but Monday’s bulletin was the first time the city’s health authorities warned doctors to be on the lookout for patients who might have it. The bulletin said that most of the 15 children had a fever and many had a rash, vomiting or diarrhea. Since being hospitalized, five of them have needed a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe, and most of the 15 “required blood pressure support.” “The full spectrum of disease is not yet known,” the bulletin said. Of the 15 patients, most either tested positive for the coronavirus or were found, through antibody testing, to likely have been previously infected.