Wednesday, April 29, 2020


[RALEIGH] Four participants in Tuesday’s “ReOpenNC” protect in downtown Raleigh, including the cofounder - Ashley Smith, were arrested
and charged with resisting a public officer, and violation of an executive order. One of the other four - Jonathan Warren -  was charged with damage to property after damaging the “ north east gate the executive mansion by pulling on it so violently that it was broken, a police report said, noting that Warren caused the damage by trying to gain access during the demonstration.
Hundreds of predominately white protestors converged on the governor’s mansion, and the legislative building as the new special session began. They want Gov. Cooper to drop his COVID-19 restrictions.

[RALEIGH] According to the New York Times, the Durham-Chapel Hill area ranks high for becoming the next COVID-19 hotspot because it has logged at least 20 COVID-19 deaths. Raleigh is twelfth on the list.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

In an April 28th letter, Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, the president of the NCNAAC, urged Republican legislative leaders of the N.C. General Assembly to use the COVID -19 pandemic crisis to expand Medicaid, and help the needy who are being struck hardest by it.
“You have with your power to immediately allow our widely respected State and County Health Directors to put into effect a Containment strategy, complementing the Mitigation strategy, which has slowed, but not reversed, the ring number of cases and deaths we now experience. With the new Medicaid money released, we can move to a testing and tracing containment policy in the hotspots that are pooping out across the state - nursing homes, prisons, jails, large plants, and other places. This action will give us the ability to truly control the pandemic.”
Spearman’s letter to Senate Majority Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore comes the NC legislature reconvenes in special session this week to consider further measures needed to deal with impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As of this writing, North Carolina had a confirmed over 9,415 cases, with over 336 deaths. At least 39% of those are in the African-American community.
Spearman also expressed concern that if the legislature does expand Medicaid, it would only only be for the duration of the  pandemic, as Speaker Moore has offered.
Gov. Cooper has held fast for expanding Medicaid permanently, even before the COVID-19.
And Dr. Spearman also cautioned how statistics are already showing how disproportionately impactful COVID-19 is being African-Americans.
“Expanding Medicaid now is crucial for the survival of all our state’s citizens,”  Rev. Spearman continued. “Today we have more than a half million neighbors unable to access healthcare, unless they are so sick they need costly emergency care. They are the frontline workers who some call heroes during the pandemic; some call them essential now…”
“Pandemics arise without warning and people need to have the ability to access care in place when they first happen,” rev. Spearman concluded. In that case, the best decision would be to expand Medicaid now.’

Wednesday, April 22, 2020



[RALEIGH] In the midst of neighboring Southern states, like Georgia, relaxing their restrictions on public mobility, Gov. Roy Cooper has said he is working now on plan on how to ease his stay-at-home order for North Carolina. He cautions that his modifications “must be made in a responsible…staged way. The governor said he also plans to announce what then future of schools will be. Public schools have been closed until May 15.

[RALEIGH] North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has emergency ordered all magistrates in the state  to continue performing marriage ceremonies, but do so according to new social distancing restrictions. That means magistrates can limit the number of people attending the ceremony, and can even determine the scheduling. Magistrates perform 25,000 marriages a year in North Carolina.

[RALEIGH] Approximately 1,000 protestors from across the state came to Raleigh Tuesday, demanding that Gov. Roy Cooper withdraw his stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses, and put hundreds of thousands out of work during the coronavirus plague. The overwhelmingly white crowd denied the science behind the social distancing restrictions, even confronting a group of nurses on the steps of the state Archives at one point. Health experts say it is too soon to lift restrictions until more testing is done.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

The NCNAACP this week filed a second suit against Gov. Roy Cooper, Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Erik Hooks, and other state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and petition for writ of mandamus.
The over 34,000 adults and hundreds of youth incarcerated in this state live in close proximity and often unsanitary facilities. They cannot engage in the social distancing that experts and Governor Cooper have ordered the rest of us to undertake in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the April 20th suit states.
When more mass outbreaks in North Carolina prisons occur, the people locked in those prisons will have no choice but to rely on a system that is unequipped to handle a novel, deadly virus that has overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world. Given these dire circumstances, North Carolina public health experts have urged that “reducing the prison population is a critical measure that must be acted on immediately.” 
Normally. approximately 2,000 inmates are released from the state correction facilities a month, the suit maintains. Thus far in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper and Hooks have only committed to releasing 400.
Release of only approximately 400 people will not allow for the social distancing needed to ensure the people in DPS custody will be safe during the pandemic, and Governor Cooper and Secretary Hooks have not announced a plan to release significantly more. 
          “In the face of widespread and avoidable loss of life, Plaintiffs ask this Court for declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Defendants to comply with their obligations under Article I, Section 27 of the North Carolina Constitution to ensure that no person incarcerated in North Carolina prisons is subject to cruel or unusual punishment.”
The suit goes on to say that COVID-19 is a “death sentence, and that “due to the severe shortage in testing, the true scope of COVID-19 
infections inside the DPS 52 adult prisons and 4 Youth Development Centers  across the state remains unknown. Neuse Correctional Institution has seen the state’s biggest outbreak. There, DPS has confirmed 239 infections in a population of over 700.
After citing which articles of the North Carolina Constitution the state is violating by not immediately removing nonviolent inmates from the prison population, the lawsuit petitions the court to take any and all steps necessary to prevent the continued exposure of those in prison to COVOD-19, including ensuring [the state’s] compliance with the relic ordered.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NC Department of Health and Human Services, and NC Medicaid are reaching out to the African-American community, recommending that it begin using “Telehealth,” a new method using a computer, smartphone or telephone to keep scheduled appointments, and speak with your health provider, for those who are afraid to leave home, and possibly expose themselves to the virus at their doctor’s office.
“We know that communities of color are being harder hit by COVID-19 than others,”NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen told her agency via video this week, urging them to pay particular attention the 38% disproportionate cases and deaths in the black community.
Telehealth is seen as a way to make sure that African-American patients receive the timely observation they need, especially during this health pandemic. It has become a vital tool when it comes to connecting rural patients with their doctors.
Telehealth is available through mobile apps such as MD Live, FaceTime, WhatsApp video chat and Skype and video conferencing platforms such a Zoom or WebEx.
Patient portal message and telephone calls without video are also considered “Virtual Health” visits. Just call your doctor’s office and inquire about using Telehealth for your next appointment.
African-Americans, notably, have not used Telehealth out of concerns for confidentiality privacy, but health officials assure that the practice is secure.
Patients can receive therapy, mental health and some development disability services through Telehealth. And if Medicaid patients fear that they may be sick, they are advised to stay at home, call either their doctor or 1-1877-490-6642 for advice. If you feel that you have COVOD-19 symptoms, again, stay at home, but keep yourself away from your family if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing chest pain or pressure, and call 911.
Telehealth is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross-Blue Shield of NC.
“Technology is evolving quickly and our ability to assist our most vulnerable citizens through creative uses of this tool has vastly increased,”NCDHHS staff wrote in a report to the NC General Assembly in 2018.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020



[WASHINGTON, DC] Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the NC Democratic Party, demanded that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) immediately step down amid a new report that he sold his Washington, D.C. townhouse to a well-known lobbyist for well-over fair market value. According to the report by ProPublica, the lobbyist is a longtime donor to Burr’s campaign. Goodwin was one of many to call for  Sen. Burr to step down after it was revealed he dumped $1.6 million in stock right before the COVID-19 pandemic cratered the stock market.  Burr has asked for an ethic investigation.

[RALEIGH, NC] Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a candidate for governor this fall, has demanded a list of information dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina because, he said in an April 13th letter to NCDHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen, “Now, it’s time to start planning how to rebuild.” Forest and other conservatives have been bellowing that Gov. Cooper’s measures to slow the transmission of the virus down by closing restaurants and bars, and imposing stay-at-home measures, has “seriously damaged” North Carolina’s economy. Cooper has said that the stringent measures must remain April 30th, and then he’ll look to see whether the rate of transmission has slowed sufficiently.

[RALEIGH, NC] At least 500 prison inmates are being considered for early release because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NC Dept. of Public Safety officials say. Those inmates may be moved to home confinement, but they have meet certain confinement requirements, says Eric Hooks, secretary of DPS. They must also already have a release date for 2020.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Racism, and our environments hold the keys.
In the eyes of the national media, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowly, but surely, evolved into a black people’s “problem,” and many African-Americans don’t like it.
Reports from states like Louisiana, where 70 percent of the COVID-19 deaths as of last week, have been black, and the major midwest city of Chicago, which logged over 9100 cases as of Monday of the week, with, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, more than half of them black.
Here in North Carolina, which has tallied over 5,000 confirmed novel coronavirus cases, African-Americans comprise 38% of those cases (and 39% of the over 100 deaths thus far).
And the NCNAACP has filed suit against the state to release nonviolent prison inmates now because of the danger of infection in close quarters. A COVID-19 outbreak was reported at the Smithfield prison in Johnston County, and at least three prisoners at the federal prison in Butner reportedly contracted the virus last week.
Many medical professionals have noted that those people with comprised immune systems - the body’s natural defense system that fights off disease - are highly susceptible to the physical ravages of COVID-19 the can result in high fevers, corrupted respiratory breathing and, in many cases, death. So African-Americans already suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and other traditional maladies associated with low-income living, have fallen victim.
But why, and can the environments that typically produce these dire results, be turned around?
According to social scientists, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed, without doubt, the nation’s “dirty little secret” about how it treats it’s poor, and the environmental and structural conditions America forces black and other communities of color to live in.
Crowded, isolated, older urban neighborhoods that are literal food and grocery store deserts, where families are unable to access fresh, nutritious produce, meats and dairy; and cannot even service pharmacies for important medication to properly manage health conditions.
Beyond older community centers and parks, few, if any facilities for the purpose of wholistic exercising and programs. Very little constructive exercise programming for young people!
Communities deliberately located near toxic chemical dumps, or are filled with light levels of toxic old lead paint still prominent in the housing and playground equipment.
Blacks and other poor people of color who live in these communities are largely not health-insured (though they probably need access to appropriate health coverage more than the average American), and are overrepresented in low wage/low benefits ‘essential jobs,’ like factory workers, janitorial services, bus and delivery drivers, waitresses, etc.
And now, with COVID-19, forcing these poor workers to report to work, despite overall ‘shelter-in-place’ restrictions for public safety, the risk of being infected is compounded, compared to the rest of the population.
“These communities, structurally, they’re breeding grounds for the transmission of the disease,” Sharelle Barber, assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told the NY Times last week. “It’s not biological. It’s really these existing structural inequalities that are going to shape the racial inequalities in this pandemic.”
Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. professor of biological science at NC A&T University in Greensboro, was even more blunt in his perspective.
The effect of this kind of pandemic is going to be even more devastating on the poorest people in this nation, he told Roland Martin Unfiltered recently.
“One of the unintended side-effects of income inequality is creating a reservoir of …homeless people, and incarcerated people, who are always going to be the target of these viral and bacteria diseases, because of the conditions that they have to live in. But those people also come in contact with services where rich people are. So if [rich people] think they are going to be safe, you know, cloister themselves in their own communities, while allowing the majority of the [poor] people in this country to go homeless or under-employed, or thrown in jail, then they’ve got things absolutely wrong,” said Dr. Graves.” It’s even in their best interest to have places or people to live…people with employment that is meaningful.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Will black businesses like restaurants, barber shops and beauty salons, and others, survive the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, or fall prey to the current “stay-in place” safety restrictions?
And if they do survive, can they navigate a probable national economic recession?
“Music is GONE,” opines popular jazz singer Eve CorneliOus. “Self-employed musicians are in trouble.”
Both are open questions now, particularly in a state that boasts to be in the top five when it comes to black businesses nationwide. Given the historic struggles black businesses encountered long before the “rona” - as some in the community nickname COVID-19 - began infecting the nation earlier this year,  there is serious doubt about what will happen next.
In a normal environment, black businesses face being pigeon-holed racially; lack the both the capital and access to credit to build and hire more in the community; have to compete with non-black businesses sometimes within their own communities; adequately pay bills even when patrons fail to pay theirs on-time; not considered good enough; and maintaining product and service quality.
Indeed, according to national figures, eight out of ten black business startups fail in the first  year.
Black-owned companies averaged lower sales than those with white, Asian, and Hispanic owners, according to Inc. Magazine.
Now comes the coronavirus, and in an effort to slow down transmission of the dangerous infectious disease, Governor Roy Cooper orders all restaurants, bars and “nonessential” businesses closed, and for people to stay at home.
That order effectively closes many small businesses in the black community, let alone many small businesses overall.
Ideally, what was supposed to happen once the $2.3 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was passed by Congress in March was small businesses were to have access to $350 billion “Payroll Protection Program” in loans (up to $10 million) from the federal government to the stave off layoffs and closures if employees are forced to stay home.
There was also $10 billion for emergency $10,000 grants for small businesses for operating expenses.
If a company has 500 or fewer workers, and it maintains it’s payroll during the pandemic shutdown, the employer could receive up to eight weeks of cash-flow assistance from the government. And if the business owner continued to pay employees while essentially shutdown, the portion of the government loan from the bailout used to cover payroll, pay interest on an outstanding mortgage, rent and utilities, would be forgiven.
But reportedly, what Trump administration officials promised would be a simple process of just going to the bank and making application online for the CARES Act loan, has turned out to be anything but for small businesses overall, thanks to administrative problems with the U.S. Treasury and the Small Business Administration.
And worst of all, banks would favor small business customers they already have a lending relationship with.
That one factor has locked a large number of small black businesses out, primarily because many aren’t able to access substantial credit on a normal basis, and thus, don’t have the strong bank relationship required to take advantage of the CARES Act loan.
Ironically, the CARES Act does provide funding to the Minority Business Development Agency, but it’s only $10 million.
It may take followup Congressional funding, along with strong input from the Congressional Black Caucus, for small black businesses to get the real financial assistance that they need to survive the coronavirus.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


[RALEIGH] The State Employees Association of North Carolina wants Gov. Roy Cooper and the legislature to grant hazard pay to all state workers at prisons and other state facilities "in essential jobs where social distancing is impossible or impractical.” In an April 4th letter, SEANC Director Ardis Watkins requested that state employees get time-and-a-half as long as the state emergency lasts. No response from either from the governor or legislative leaders at press time.

[GREENSBORO] Elderly citizens who live by themselves and are self -dependent for food and medicine are at greater risk during the COVID-19 crisis, because thy can ill-afford to run out of their essentials, health officials ay. In addition, even without the crisis, many seniors have to deal with loneliness and depression. Some seniors, fearful of contracting the deadly virus, have cut back on in-home care services to minimize coming in contact with the outside world. Many elder services across the state have established routine calling to their clients to make sure they’re alright, and get a read on their needs.

[RALEIGH] 21,000 out-of-work North Carolinians have filed for jobless benefits every day in the three weeks since a state of emergency was declared because of the COVID-19 crisis, published reports say. The state has approved approximately $30 million in unemployment benefits, and federal government benefits are expected to assist as well. Congress approved benefits of $600 per week for up to four months. Per state benefits, 110,000 have been proved thus far.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

         In Louisiana Monday, Gov. John Bell Edwards had stark news for his state - over 70% of it’s confirmed 15,000 COVID-19 cases were African-Americans.
“Slightly more than 70 percent of all deaths in Louisiana (from the virus) are of African Americans, who make up about 32 percent of the overall population of our state,” he said Monday. “This is a big disparity, and we want to find out what that is attributable to … and what we can do to slow that trend down.”
In Chicago, more than half of those who’ve contracted coronavirus, and over 70% of those who have died, are African-American.
As of Monday, April 6th, North Carolina officially had approximately 3,000 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), in over 90 of 100 counties, with approximately 40 deaths (unofficial numbers from late reporting county health departments had the numbers higher).
Of that number, over 690, or 37 percent, were black. An estimated 22% (7) of blacks known to have been infected with COVID-19, had died.
African-Americans make up an estimated 21% of North Carolina’s population. Mecklenburg, Wake and Durham counties - counties with high black populations - also have the most coronavirus cases across the state. 
With published reports projecting that North Carolina could have as many as 750,000 people infected by the end of May if current social distancing policies are not maintained (Gov. Cooper’s “stay at home”  restrictions are scheduled to end on April 29th), the number of blacks who could catch the virus if the percentages held at where they are now would be 277,000 African-American cases, and 165,000 dead.
As shocking as those numbers are, they are even more eyeopening in other, larger states.
As of Friday, April 3rd, while African-Americans make up just 15% of Michigan’s population, they are 35% of the state’s COVID-19 known cases. In Illinois - blacks are 16% of the state’s population, but 36% of the coronavirus cases.
And in neighboring South Carolina, African-Americans tally in at 28% of the population, but 36% of those infected with COVID-19.
Even without COVID-19, the death rate for African-Americans “…is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide,” states the 2017 U.S. Health and Human Services report, based on 2015 findings.
But now with the novel coronavirus added to the list, spreading at a frightening rate (North Carolina is doubling it’s overall cases in days now instead of weeks) the impact on the black community here in the Tar Heel state, and across the nation, is expected to be devastating.
Indeed, because several chronic diseases like diabetes are so prevalent in the African-American community, many black medical professionals are bracing themselves for the worst, and warning the community to pay serious heed to the social distancing directives issued by Gov. Cooper weeks ago.
North Carolina is fortunate. It is one of the few states breaking down it’s daily cases by race, thus making it easier to track the virus. Neither the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World’s Health Organization do as of press time.
In a March 27th letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar from Sen/ Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, requested that his agency start keeping track of COVID-19 in communities of color, and publish the results .
Without demographic data on the race and ethnicity of patients being tested, the rate of positive test results, and outcomes for those with COVID-19, it will be impossible for practitioners and policy makers to address disparities in health outcomes and inequities in access to testing and treatment as they emerge,” Warren and Pressley wrote. “This lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities. It will also hamper the efforts of public health officials to track and contain the novel coronavirus in the areas that are at the highest risk of continued spread.”
Until a vaccine is developed, can the African-American community here and elsewhere, survive as the coronavirus spreads.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

As it stands now, come November 3rd, if a North Carolina voter chooses to mail-in their ballot, they may do so, or go to their local voting precinct to cast their ballot.
But because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, and concerns about state-mandated social distancing restrictions remaining in force through then, there are many Democrats nationally who would prefer to see the presidential and local elections be conducted by mail.
Vote by mail is so important to ... our democracy so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially at this time, by the admonition to stay home," Pelosi told reporters last week. She wants to put the proposal in the next $1 trillion COVID-19 response legislation that Congress will take up.
In the U.S Senate, Sen. Amy Klobucher (D-MN) is sponsoring a bill designed to accomplish the same thing.
Several states, including Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming, already  ditched their in-person primaries in lieu of mail-in ballots for different dates. Advocates say with questions looming over the November general, now is the time to establish a national mail-in policy.
But prominent Republican leaders, including no less than President Trump, counter that making voting easier and more efficient is not good for the country, because it’s primarily bad for the GOP.
'They had things – levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again,' Trump said earlier this week of the Democratic proposal.
Another major Republican leader, Speaker of the Georgia House David Ralston, is also not pleased with mail-in plans for balloting. The state is mailing each registered voter a form so that they can get an absentee ballot in the mail for the May 19 primary.
Ralston, like the president, believes mail-in ballots open up possibilities of fraud. But then he added, “The president said it best ― this will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.”
Every registered voter is going to get one of these. Now I ask you ... what was turnout in the primary back in 2018 or 2016. Was it 100%? No. No. It’s way, way, way lower. This will certainly drive up turnout.”