Up & Coming Weekly

October 27, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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6 UCW OCTOBER 28-NOVEMBER 3, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Medicaid expansion will help close gap for low income families by LARRY G. DOBBINS Covid-19 has exposed the inadequacies of our society and economy. All across North Carolina and here in Spring Lake we're seeing our families, friends and neighbors go without proper health care, jobs and sufficient unemployment benefits. North Carolina is one of only 12 states that has not adopted Medicaid expansion even though 90% of the costs would be covered by federal funds. It is past time for our elected officials to invest in North Carolina, our citizens and our hospitals. It's time to send legislators to Raleigh who'll put aside par- tisan politics and listen to the needs of our citizens. We can't afford to be short- sighted any longer; we must begin investing now. Affordable and accessible healthcare is necessary to en- sure the wellbeing of our fami- lies, friends and neighbors. Medicaid expansion will help close the coverage gap and in- crease economic growth to our state. As retired state employees, my wife and I were fortunate to have adequate insurance cover- age through the North Carolina Teachers' Retirement System. Because of the fact that she was insured, she received great medical care and treatment. We didn't have to experience bankruptcy when she became terminally ill as her final medi- cal expenses greatly exceeded $2,000,000.00. Many citizens of Spring Lake are not as fortunate, through no fault of their own. As the richest and most pro- gressive country in the world, we have a responsibility to speak up in support of the less fortunate, the disenfranchised, the poor and our elderly. I speak on behalf of the 13,000 residents of the Town of Spring Lake, many of whom are on fixed incomes, working low-wage jobs, or have no jobs at all. OPINION Mayor Larry G. Dobbins LARRY G. DOBBINS, Mayor of Sping Lake. COMMENTS? Editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484- 6200 JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. Contributing Writer. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200 ere are about 300,000 fewer jobs in North Carolina today than there were in February, before the start of the COVID-19 recession. at's a 7.5% drop in total employ- ment — the biggest decline in the southern United States. Our labor market also compares poorly on other measures. Our Sep- tember unemployment rate of 7.3% is higher than the regional average. Our neighboring states of South Carolina (5.1%), Virginia (6.2%), Tennessee (6.3%), and Georgia (6.4%) all have lower jobless rates. Nor is this just a statistical artifact driven by workers giving up and dropping out of the labor force. If you compare the ratio of people employed to the total working-age population, all four neighboring states still rank higher than North Carolina. On the other hand, Georgia and South also rank significantly higher in COVID death rates — 72 and 71 per 100,000 residents, respectively, vs. North Carolina's 37, accord- ing to the latest counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Virginia (40) and Ten- nessee (42) have modestly higher death rates, as well. For the most part, all sides of the COVID debate agree that Gov. Roy Cooper's regulations have been among the strictest in the region. Disagreements arise about whether the benefits of Cooper's approach have outweighed the costs — counted not just in jobs, incomes and businesses lost but in adverse medical, educational, and social consequences — as well as what North Carolina should do from this point forward to battle COVID in the most cost-effective manner. I have opinions about these questions, naturally. I bet you do, too. But can we first agree that some questions can't be answered authoritatively right now, given our necessarily limited information? For example, while it's possible Cooper's tighter regulations on bars, restaurants, public venues, and educational settings have reduced viral transmission enough to explain some of the difference in COVID death rates, there are clear- ly other variables at work. Some states with regulations as tight or tighter than ours have higher death rates. Other states with many fewer business restrictions than in North Carolina, and where most schools are open for in-person instruction, have comparable or lower death rates. Policy choices simply cannot ex- plain all of the variation in COVID incidence and severity, or even most of the variation. Differences in density, urban design, business structure, demographics and medi- cal care matter a great deal. My view, stated repeatedly dur- ing the COVID crisis, is that North Carolina should have allowed local communities more flexibility in developing public-health measures that best fit their risks and prefer- ences. Gov. Cooper should have consulted the other statewide- elected executives who comprise the Council of State, rather than assuming extraconstitutional and perpetual "emergency" power over private households and businesses. If he felt he needed additional authority to act, he should have approached the General Assembly to secure it, since governors have no more powers in this arena than they are granted by legislation. Moreover, I believe the governor should have established more-rea- sonable guidelines for our public schools to reopen for in-person instruction, again in consultation with other elected officials. Many preschools, elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities have been open for in- person instruction for months now across much of the country. While there have been COVID outbreaks here and there, few have led to severe illness. Schools have not been a major source of deadly infections. ose who predicted otherwise were mistaken, and ought to be willing to shift their views accordingly. Over the coming months, we should be both determined and prudent. We should all take reason- able precautions, absolutely, but keeping schools, public venues, and large swaths of our economy closed or severely constrained in- definitely strikes me as the opposite of reasonable. Even when vaccines are available and widely adminis- tered, the risk of contracting CO- VID will not suddenly drop to zero. We must accept the realities of the situation on the ground. And we must not accept North Carolina's current distinction as first in the South in jobs lost. North Carolina leads in jobs lost by JOHN HOOD ExplosivE Fun! at sEnd a soda bomb Family•FriEnd•ClassmatE•tEaChEr•nEighbor

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