COVID-19NC: Phase 2.5, Relief Bill Backstory & Revisiting Prisoner Research

Sep 7, 2020

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss North Carolina’s move to Phase 2.5 of the governor’s reopening plan, what happened behind the scenes as lawmakers hammered out the remainder of the federal coronavirus relief package, and why some researchers are revisiting the question about conducting research in prisons.  

HC: Your thoughts about North Carolina moving into phase 2.5?

RH: The governor and health secretary had been talking for a long time that they wanted to see the positivity rate on tests down in like the five to 6% range.   I think they are moving - I hesitate to say faster than secretary Cohen would probably want, But I think at this point in time, you know, that there's just so much pressure to open up that I think they had to move,  

HC:  Going forward, I want to know what are you watching out for other than more clusters on college campuses?

 RH: I think it's a lot of wait and see, I am very curious about how the flu season pans out.  I wonder if  more people will get flu shots. I also wonder if more people are wearing masks and people aren't hanging out together, maybe this flu season will be a little milder.

 HC: This week, lawmakers hammered out the rest of the coronavirus funding package. You were there and have an interesting piece on two items that didn't make it into the book.

RH:  There was a provision in that bill, which would have made it easier for adult care home owners who've had track records of penalties you know, noncompliance with rules, even deaths in their facilities. It would've made it for them to get relicensed. There were also concerns about childcare rules.    It was Senator Terry Van Duyn who ran that amendment to tighten up some of those rules around the ad hoc childcare centers. And that was one of the amendments that was tabled.

HC: Let’s talk about the  article that just hit your website, spotlighting a conversation by some researchers who are wondering -  is it time to reconsider bans on using prisoners in medical trials?   

RH: It's a fascinating question as to whether we should allow inmates to be part of a COVID-19 vaccine trial.  In the past inmates were used as guinea pigs and had a lot of negative outcomes in some fairly notorious drug trials.  So now there's a federal rule that says you can't use inmates in drug trials.  But this is a population that’s acquiring COVID at an  incredibly high rate.  So, it’s a perfect population to study a vaccine, right? But is there coercion?  Can you really have informed consent when you don't have freedom?

About Rose Hoban: 

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health, policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at