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Firefighters air grievances at South Hill meeting

Nearly a year after members of the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department ousted longtime fire chief Rosser Wells, members of the department say he and town officials are harassing them…


Mecklenburg supes get draft budget plan for $240.5 million, but no tax hike


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Pick up 1-0 victory in a pitcher’s duel





Looking up / March 11, 2021
Don’t look now, but the news is only getting better.

On Wednesday, Congress gave final approval to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, the third and best stimulus package Washington has come up with to pull the country out of the grips of the covid pandemic and strengthen a social safety net that has frayed badly over recent decades. There’s a lot to digest with this bill, which heads to President Joe Biden for his signature, but some highlights include:

» $1,400 checks for all Americans earning $75,000 annually or less as individuals, $150,000 for married couples.

» an extended $300 weekly unemployment benefit for jobless Americans, on top of the payments that recipients already receive from states. The enhanced payments run through early September.

» The IRS will send out child credit tax checks to families for up to $3,600 annually for each child 6 years old or younger, $3,000 for children under 18. That's the amount per child. The timetable for the issuance of checks is TBD, but it's a real possibility those checks will go out monthly, rather than families having to wait all year at tax time to receive their refunds. (The ARPA child tax credit is fully refundable, meaning it gets paid no matter what other tax obligations you're on the hook for with the IRS.) The credits are temporary (they're set to expire in 2022) and they do start to decline for annual incomes above $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 for families, so your results may vary. This is a huge deal! A good place for sorting through the details is here.

» Billions to help schools reopen and prevent states from having to idle their workforces due to budget shortfalls. The federal assistance to state, local and tribal governments also will help stave off calamity for a raft of programs such as mass transit and infrastructure upgrades that have been brought to a standstill by COVID-19. (Just yesterday, a number of residents along North Main Street in South Boston lost water service when yet another Halifax County Service Authority water line broke. The HCSA is working with a system of pipes that dates back to the turn of the previous century. Don’t tell me America doesn’t need a massive amount of infrastructure investment to keep from stagnating down the road.)

» Maybe most importantly, the American Rescue Act provides funding to carry out the most ambitious vaccination campaign in this nation’s history.

The news is pretty encouraging on that front, too.

Yesterday, President Biden announced an agreement to purchase another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which unlike the Moderna and Pfizer shots can be administered in a single dose for full protection. Let’s emphasize the concluding words of that sentence: FULL PROTECTION. With all the misinformation floating around about vaccines, one thing you might hear is that the J&J vaccine is somehow inferior to the others. While it is true that the FDA has determined that each vaccine has its own level of efficacy, the takeaway here is that they all work very well — and speed in getting shots in arms in much, much more important than fine differences in the shots themselves.

By the way, if you do read that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer formulas, keep in mind that FDA testing of the J&J shots was conducted after variants of the coronavirus had already emerged among the population. Those efficacy ratings for J&J come after tests against all known mutations of the virus, which is not the case with the other formulas. (Although in yet another piece of excellent news, subsequent testing shows that the Pfizer vaccine also fights COVID-19 variants very well.)

Everyone has their own comfort level with vaccines and that’s fine. Do your own research, just don’t hang around on Facebook and tune into OANN or Newsmax and expect to get reliable information. And please keep in mind that the pandemic is not over, not even close, but vaccination is our surest pathway to returning to life more or less as normal.

Here’s a story that appeared this week in the Idaho Statesman newspaper worthy of your consideration. It’s about Paul Russell, a 63-year-old truck driver who contracted COVID-19. The title: “Idaho man thought ‘the virus would disappear the day after the election.’ He was wrong.”

An excerpt:

Russell once thought the coronavirus wasn’t a real threat. He didn’t believe in masks. All that has changed.

“Before I came down with the virus, I was one of those jackasses who thought the virus would disappear the day after the election. I was one of those conspiracy theorists,” he said.
Instead, he was in the hospital with COVID-19 a week after the election.

“All these people that are saying that it’s fake, blah blah blah, they’re lying to themselves,” he said.

“COVID gave me a foggy memory, it gave me — I occasionally have speech problems.”

His scans show scarred lungs. He has pain in different parts of his body. He has dizzy spells. His heart races when he gets up to do anything.

He said taking a shower can raise his heart rate to 128 beats per minute — at his age, the upper range for vigorous exercise — and drop his blood oxygen to levels far below normal.
When he returned home from the hospital, he developed “what they call ‘COVID foot,’ ” he said. “The bottoms of my feet were cracking, and it felt like I was walking on needles.”

A course of steroids helped with that, he said.

Since he got infected on the job, Russell said he’s receiving workers’ compensation. But it’s not enough to afford house payments, so he’s selling his family’s home to move to a less expensive suburb.

After a life-saving hospital stay, his perspective has changed, he said.

One of his nurses told him that eight patients left the ICU the same week as him, but he was “the only one that didn’t have a toe tag,” he said. He asked her to take his toe tag and shred it.

“Life is no good right now,” he said. “Except for one thing: I’m alive.”

The full version is very much worth your time to read.

Hey folks, as vaccines become more and more available, whaddaya say we all get our shots?

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