Here are a few updates for today:

  • U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has posted a helpful video with instructions on how to make your own face covering for use in situations where social distancing is difficult, like going to the grocery store or pharmacy.  This follows updated guidance by the CDC issued recently that recommends the use of face coverings in those sorts of situations. 
    • However, please know that if you use a mask do not ignore key health guidelines due to a false sense of protection.  The primary guidelines include:
      • 1.) Staying at home and away from others as much as possible,
      • 2.) Standing at least 6 feet from others,
      • 3.) Keeping your hands away from your face, and
      • 4.) Washing your hands frequently.  
    • Putting a mask on does not decrease your risk if you aren’t following these four items of guidance as well.  In fact, it may very well increase your risk if you are adjusting your mask constantly and therefore have your hands at your face.  It’s also been my observation that many using masks are standing much closer than 6 feet due to what I presume is a false sense of protection. 
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  • N.C. State Extension has an extensive page of resources for our farm families and agricultural sector, including information on food safety and supply chain issues. 

  • Vice President Pence said yesterday that 1.67 million Americans have now been tested for the virus and received results, -- far more than any other country. 

  • A reminder from the IRS about the distribution of Economic Impact Payments authorized by the CARES Act, which will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. Here's more information about the payments, who qualifies and how they'll be distributed.  An important reminder: individuals on Social Security who have not filed tax returns ARE eligible for the payments.

  • Treasury and IRS have also launched the Employee Retention Credit, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payrolls during the pandemic.  The refundable tax credit is 50 percent of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19.  Updates on the implementation of this credit and other information can be found on the Coronavirus page of IRS.gov.  It's important to remember that businesses that receive Paycheck Protection Program loans are not eligible to receive the Employee Retention Credit.  

  • Some encouraging news: the FDA is launching a national effort to develop new blood-related therapies that can be used to help combat COVID-19.  It's one of the many ways the FDA, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies are working around the clock to speed the development, testing and deployment of innovative new testing and treatment options.  Learn more about the effort here.

  • Microsoft's Bill Gates said last week that his foundation will spend billions of dollars to construct factories for the most promising efforts to develop a vaccine.  And Apple CEO Tim Cook said last night they will produce 1 million face shields per week for medical workers, on top of the 20 million N95 masks they have already donated.  

For today's "good news" story, I want to highlight N.C. State's Nonwovens Institue, which is manufacturing material for 500,000 surgical masks per day.  The masks created from this material will go directly to those on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.  Our nations has tremendous resources to bring to bear in the effort to contain the outbreak, and this is just one of the many ways we're doing it right here in North Carolina.

As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and NC's Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest on the outbreak.