State Representative Wesley Harris (D), who represents a portion of southern Mecklenburg county and holds a Ph.D. in economics, has been posting videos addressing economic issues related to COVID-19. The videos average between 5,000 and 6,000 views and have covered issues ranging from defining the difference between this and previous economic downturns, to who should pay for needed resources.
In his latest video, released yesterday, Rep. Harris discussed how states buying their own material—specifically personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing materials—has led to price increases as states compete with each other for access to a limited supply. Since many states have a ban on accruing debt these increased prices may begin to drain a state’s rainy day fund, which in many cases is already being used to pay unemployment benefits, and may leave a state like North Carolina vulnerable when the hurricane season begins. He suggested that the President use the Defense Production Act to increase access to testing.
A Politico article published today outlines some of the complications involved in applying the Act to the acquiring of tests. One example provided in the article is the production of the reagents needed to analyze the test samples. Some of the biggest providers of reagents are either only partially located in the US or not at all, meaning the Act has little impact on them.
The question of testing has been a recurring issue in North Carolina where Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a press release on April 13th announcing $100,000 in funding for an antibody study being conducted by Dr. John Sanders of Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Preliminary results from antibody testing in Los Angeles County show that infection rates are likely markedly higher than previously understood. Where the current number of confirmed cases in Los Angeles County stands around 14,000, the antibody tests show that the number of actual infections may be between 200,000 and 400,000 individuals—about 4 percent of the county’s population.
The antibody tests being conducted in North Carolina are being provided by Scanwell Health, a California based company that uses smartphone technology to allow for medical testing from home.
In his videos, Rep. Harris states that testing will be critical to reopening the economy, though he also stated that, “before we go back to work this public health crisis has to have fully passed.”
Rep. Todd Johnson of District 35 had said in a post on Facebook, “The shutdown should not be extended,” citing domestic violence and child abuse concerns, along with other states relaxing their policies.
At a press conference at 3 PM this afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper announced an extension of the Stay at Home order through May 8th.