April 6 Update From NC Senator Jeff Jackson from District 37 – Mecklenburg; About Infection Totals for NC; Liquor Stores and Car Inspections

Published Monday, April 6, 2020 at 4:06 pm

CURRENT STATS (as of 4/6 at 3:00 p.m.)

  • 2,900+ cases
  • 270+ hospitalizations
  • 42 deaths
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NEW PROJECTION FOR NC

Five days ago I sent you a projection of ICU capacity in North Carolina under the strain of the COVID pandemic from a national group that used an off-the-shelf model for all 50 states. At that time, it was the best projection we had.

Today we have a new projection built specifically for North Carolina by a collaboration of researchers at UNC, Duke, and RTI. They built their projection by using a composite of three different models, each with varying assumptions of variables like hospitalization rates and transmissibility.

It considers two scenarios: 1) We maintain our current posture (stay home order extends beyond April 29, schools and non-essential business remain closed), and 2) we lift those restrictions at the end of April.

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In short, under our current posture there is only a 20% chance that we will exceed our ICU capacity (which is a significant benchmark because people who need ICU and don’t get it have very high fatality rates). Alternatively, if we lift those restrictions at the end of April there would be a 50% chance of exceeding our ICU capacity.

Why? Because the model projects that lifting restrictions at the end of April will take us from 250,000 cases to 750,000 cases.

So we take from this good news and bad news.

Good news: We are on track to minimize the loss of life in North Carolina.

Bad news: Absent a separate set of policies that are equally effective at reducing infection rates, lifting our current restrictions in the near-term may triple the number of North Carolinians who become infected and may overwhelm our ability to provide acute care to the most serious cases, leading to a spike in the fatality rate.

So – for the moment – we take this as a sign that what we are doing is working. The sacrifices we are making as individuals are adding up to a major reduction in loss of life.

But we know we can’t stay at home indefinitely. So what’s the plan for the long run? Looking beyond this moment, it’s becoming clearer that, while we didn’t get rapid, widespread testing prior to hitting peak infection, we’re still going to need it. It looks like mass testing (+ contact tracing + isolation) may become the biggest piece of a post-peak but pre-vaccine strategy for social and economic re-opening. 

PPE

North Carolina has received three shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile, which means we’ve received 33% of our request. We’ve been told the stockpile is nearly depleted and not to expect any more shipments.

Our emergency management teams are working to find PPE anywhere they can. They’ve put in over $100m worth of orders so far. As you may have seen reported, it’s been made more difficult by the fact that we’re competing against other states and hospital systems.

If you have PPE to donate (if in Charlotte), contact [email protected].

If you have PPE to sell, contact [email protected]dhhs.nc.gov.

HEALTH CARE VOLUNTEERS

We need clinical personnel, clinical support personnel, and non-clinical personnel to volunteer with the medical response. If possible, please contact https://terms.ncem.org/TRS/

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Nearly 400,000 North Carolinians have lost their jobs in the last few weeks. DES has started paying benefits to roughly 10%. DES is receiving roughly 1,000 claims per hour – 100x the normal number.

Which means – as many of you have painfully experienced – the system is totally overwhelmed.

But DES has hired 350 new people, contracted with an additional call center, and is adding server capacity. Fixing this is an immediate priority.

NOTE: 30% of the calls they are receiving are from people checking on the status of their claim or asking general questions about eligibility. If possible, please use their FAQ section for this.

If you are an independent contractor or are self-employed, you currently don’t qualify for state benefits BUT you may qualify for the new federal benefit BUT you will ultimately have to apply through the state BUT the online application currently isn’t designed to accommodate you BUT you should apply anyway. We are waiting on guidance from the federal Department of Labor on how to implement this program and that will let us tailor the approach for those groups but guidance from DES is to go ahead and apply now.

If you’re having problems with your password or your PIN, contact [email protected]nccommerce.com.

CAR INSPECTIONS

This is coming up a lot – and also happens to apply to me (I’m due).

Right now DOT doesn’t have the authority to push back inspection dates, but they are planning on asking for that authority when the legislature returns to session this month.

“WHY ARE LIQUOR STORES STILL OPEN?”

It’s because we have a lot of people who are chemically dependent on alcohol and if we suddenly cut off their access they would go into withdrawal and flood the emergency rooms, which we can’t have right now. That’s why every state that’s closed non-essential businesses has made an exception for liquor stores (except Pennsylvania, and they’re reconsidering).

“Each year there are roughly 250,000 emergency department visits and 850 deaths related to alcohol withdrawal,” George F. Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, noted in a statement to Newsweek. “Abruptly limiting access to alcohol could lead to an increase in withdrawal among people with severe alcohol use disorder and add to the burden on the healthcare system.”

EMAIL

For those of you who received this email from a kind friend who forwarded it to you, if you’d like to sign up you can do that here.

FINAL THOUGHT

The people who are going to be sick during peak infection in the next few weeks are *not sick yet.*

That means we can still minimize the loss of life, but our primary weapon for that is social distancing.

When we get past peak infection and realize that we succeeded at minimizing the loss of life, it will be clear that we accomplished something remarkable and historic on behalf of our friends, neighbors, and state.

Stay smart. Stay strong.

 
 
Jeff Jackson
 
N.C. Senate
District 37 – Mecklenburg
 
 
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