How Roy Cooper Stopped Worrying and Learned to Tolerate the Coronavirus
Wed., Jan. 5: Hospitals are filling up, but damned if we’re going to do anything about it + the big congressional money race
» Cooper on COVID: “Learn to Live With It”
“We will have to learn how to live with it, and continue to keep kids in schools and businesses open, and government operations running effectively and efficiently,” Governor Roy Cooper told reporters at a press conference yesterday, signaling an inevitable surrender to a disease running rampant throughout the state.
Cooper still wants you to get vaccinated—and if you’re a state worker, he’ll make you.
He wants you to wear a mask, too—and a good one, like the N95s, instead of a raggedy-ass bandana you barely pull over your mouth. (I see you, Dollar General Guy.) But he can’t make you. And unless you live in one of North Carolina’s liberal urban areas, you’re free to ignore experts’ mask advice.
The General Assembly effectively barred school districts from going fully remote again, and school boards that enforce mask mandates perpetually face the wrath of the Karen Army. (Except in Wake County, where the new school board chair won’t let many members of the public into their meetings.)
Neither the state nor any city is contemplating closing businesses again. To do so would be politically ruinous, to say the least.
So case positivity is hovering around 30% and hospitals and ICUs are at or near capacity, almost entirely filled with unvaccinated patients. (Everyone on ventilators is unvaxxed.) Duke has already paused elective procedures and is about to move COVID patients to tents in the parking lot. And in all likelihood, this wave is just getting started.
But Cooper says life will go on.
“The new omicron variant has been less severe than the previous surges. We have the benefit of so much more information, science and data than we did at the start of this pandemic. We are using that knowledge to keep students safely in the classroom, help businesses stay open and ensure public services are running.”
It’s not like he has any viable alternatives. But Cooper’s not wrong. While cases are spiking—and the reported cases are likely the tip of the iceberg—hospitalizations are well below where they were a year ago. That’s because three-fifths of the population is fully vaccinated, and because Omicron is evidently a milder variant.
It would have been great if everyone took COVID seriously from the beginning instead of trying to wish it away, and if an entire political party hadn’t decided that business restrictions and vaccine mandates were just like Nazi Germany. We might be in a better place now. But we’re not.
Here’s what we know: Nearly every case in North Carolina is Omicron. Vaccinations keep people who contract Omicron out of the hospital. So the biggest problem, then, is that 41% of the state’s population is unvaccinated, and about 75% haven’t been boosted.
The irony: The Venn diagram of the people demanding an immediate return to normalcy and the people who refuse to do the one thing that would make an immediate return to normalcy possible is pretty close to a perfect circle.
» Durham’s Congressional Candidates Raised a Ton of Money
State Sen. Valerie Foushee kicked off Tuesday morning by announcing that her campaign for North Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District—which currently covers Durham and Orange Counties, as well as a chunk of Wake, but may not once the gerrymandering trial is over—had raised $162,000 in its first 45 days.
Foushee, an Orange County Democrat, said she had nearly 700 donors, 83% of whom lived in North Carolina. Three-quarters of the donations were less than $100, she said.
Foushee’s campaign manager—and the contact on the press release—is Anna Nunn, who until last month was the deputy executive director of the deputy executive director (and before that, the finance director) of the Democratic Senate Caucus. You’d think those connections would help lighten wallets.
Foushee: “Since launching my campaign, I have spoken with hundreds of voters across the district and I have been truly touched by how enthusiastically my candidacy has been received. It is clear that they are placing their trust and faith in me to be that fighter and I am grateful for their support.”
Within minutes, Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam rained on Foushee’s parade. (To be clear, Allam’s campaign manager, Maya Handa, told me Monday night that they were going to announce fundraising the next day.)
From her press release:
Since announcing her candidacy for Congress less than 2 months ago, Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam has raised over $300,000 from over 2,300 individual donors without accepting any corporate PAC money, fossil fuel lobbyist money, or attempting to buy a Congressional seat by self-funding her campaign—the only candidate in the race to make such a pledge.
Her average donation was $33. One of those donations came from Mark Ruffalo—aka the Incredible Hulk—which, for a fanboy, is a neat aside.
Allam is looped into Bernie Sanders’s national progressive fundraising network, which certainly helped. Her press release didn’t say how many donations came from in-state.
Handa: “We’re still running the numbers but we saw a huge amount of in-state support, including from many first-time donors to political campaigns.”
Since I had numbers from Foushee and Allam, I texted Sen. Wiley Nickel, the other major announced candidate, to see if he was going to announce anything. He asked me what the others had posted—I told him—then said he’d throw something together. An hour or so later …
Sen. Wiley Nickel, Democratic Congressional candidate for NC-06 blew past the $500,000 fundraising mark in the fourth quarter. Nickel is running a campaign focused on building a broad coalition of support, and talking about issues that matter for North Carolina’s working families. The campaign will report over $515,000 as of the fourth quarter filing, making Nickel the top fundraiser in the race by a wide margin.
A quick caveat: Nickel did not raise $515,000 in the last quarter of 2021, which would be the apples-to-apples comparison with Foushee and Allam. He declared his candidacy—initially, for the undefined 14th District—much earlier this year.
According to FEC reports, Nickel raised about $202,000—including a $50,000 loan to himself—by the end of the third quarter, meaning his Q4 number is more like $312,000. That’s still the best in the field, by a nose.
Nickel told me he’d have details on the number of contributors, the percentage that came from North Carolina, and so on, next week.
Nickel: “We’re going to keep working hard to earn every vote in the May 17th Democratic primary. I’m humbled by the depth of our support. With this level of fundraising, we’ve been able to get a big head start on having meaningful conversations with Democratic primary voters. These fundraising numbers show that our positive campaign for change is catching on with the voters.”
The unanswered question: What will the district look like after the gerrymandering trial?
This is a massively Democratic district—like another deep blue seat in Charlotte, it’s a district into which Republicans crammed every Democrat they could find so as to make the neighboring districts more Republican. Along with the split of Guilford County, that “packing” is a focal point of the lawsuits now making their way to the Supreme Court.
No matter what, CD6 will be a Dem district. But if it’s redrawn, will it keep the chunk of Wake it has now? Will it shift in some other way?
Down the road: While I was looking at fundraising, I also pulled the financial disclosure congressional candidates have to file. At least, I pulled Allam’s and Nickel’s. Foushee hasn’t filed hers yet. Once she does, we’ll explore. I promise you, there is fun to be had.