Daily dose

Tuesday News: Witness = Corona exposure


LAWSUIT FILED TO MAKE NC'S MAIL-IN VOTING LESS COMPLICATED: A group of voters backed by Democratic legal groups sued North Carolina on Monday seeking to loosen rules around absentee mail-in ballots amid predictions that the coronavirus pandemic will make voting by mail a widespread practice. They want the state to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots, change a requirement for two witnesses to sign a ballot, extend the deadline for receipt of ballots until nine days after Election Day and give voters a chance to fix signature discrepancies before election officials reject those ballots. North Carolina’s state board of elections endorsed the first two provisions in a proposed list of election changes released in March. The new lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court with support from the Right to Vote Foundation and the National Redistricting Foundation, which is affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Monday News: 99 counties


AVERY IS THE LAST REMAINING NC COUNTY WITH NO COVID 19 CASES: As state officials consider relaxing social restrictions by the end of the week, the coronavirus has now been recorded in all but one of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported the first case in Yancey County, located on the western side of the state along the Tennessee border. That leaves only Avery County, another sparsely populated county in western North Carolina, as the lone county not to record a COVID-19 case. The state has now recorded 11,664 cases statewide in 99 counties. That’s a relatively small increase of 155 cases over Saturday’s updated total from DHHS. The state recorded two new coronavirus-related deaths Sunday morning, increasing that total to 422. The number of hospitalized patients dipped to 475, the first time that total has been below 500 since Tuesday.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FACTS & FIXES TO REALLY HELP NC'S UNEMPLOYED: A look at the fine print in the law, says any change in the number of weeks for benefits to be paid will be based on “the average of the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for the state for the preceding months of January, February and March” for the change that would be made on July 1. With that standard, state law allows for NO change in the number of weeks benefits are paid. Why? Because – and here’s the math – the January unemployment rate was 3.6%. The February unemployment rate was 3.6% and the March unemployment rate was 4.4%. That comes to an average of 3.9% -- well below the 5.6% needed to add even another week – let alone the maximum to add an additional 8 weeks when the rate exceeds 9%. So, thanks to the clever bill authors in 2013, even though there’s likely to continue to be high unemployment rates – it won’t be until January 2021 that there’s any hope of increasing the number of weeks benefits are offered.

Saturday News: Right to live


JUDGE ORDERS NC PRISONS TO EXPLAIN COVID 19 PROTECTIONS FOR INMATES: A state judge on Friday demanded that North Carolina's prison system provide detailed information about how it's trying prevent the spread of the new coronavirus among offenders. “It is impossible for the court to determine whether specific practices and procedures undertaken at each of North Carolina's incarceration facilities comply with defendants' statutory and constitutional obligations,” Rozier wrote. He is seeking the information by May 8, after which he'll hold a hearing. Several prisoners and civil rights groups, which include the state NAACP and Disability Rights North Carolina, filed a petition three weeks ago with the state Supreme Court asking the justices to act. The Supreme Court dismissed the case but left open the door for the matter to be refiled in another court, Disability Rights attorney Susan Pollitt said Friday.

Friday News: Monumental screwup


AUTHOR OF REVISION TO NC SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM STILL A MYSTERY: DPI is distancing itself from the monument recommendation for third-grade students. Lori Carlin, DPI section chief for K-12 social studies and arts education, noted that students already learn about monuments in 4th- and 7th grades and in high school. “We were pleased with the objective in draft one and are unsure as to where or why the writing team determined a more specific focus was necessary for the 3rd grade,” Carlin said in an email. “At this time, we are recommending that draft 3 revert to the original language from draft 1.” Scioli, a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, said they’ve been unable to find out how the changes were included because the teachers on the writing teams signed a confidentiality notice. “I think the lack of transparency in the process prevents us from feeling great about the process,” she said.

Thursday News: Poison pill


SENATE RELIEF BILL STILL CONTAINS ONLINE LEARNING NONSENSE: A sticking point between senators on Wednesday was something that’s not in the House bill: a June 30 deadline for detailed remote instructions plans for the 2020-21 school year. However, that was later resolved with an amendment that extended the deadline until July 20. Still, the entire Senate will have to approve it. All of North Carolina’s public schools have switched to teaching students online since Gov. Roy Cooper ordered school buildings closed on March 14. The school days are generally shorter, with schools saying they have to take into consideration that some families are struggling and not all 1.5 million students have the same internet capabilities for online learning. “A piece of legislation that says we need to prove that online learning gets the same outcomes as in-person learning sets us up for failure,” Angie Scioli, the founder of the Red4EdNC teachers group, said in an interview Wednesday. “If our legislature is so out of touch that they don’t know that, they need to get in touch with teachers.”

Wednesday News: Should have just complied...


ASHLEY SMITH AND THREE OTHERS ARRESTED AT GOVERNOR'S MANSION: Hundreds of protesters crowded into downtown Raleigh on Tuesday for a third week of rallying aimed at reversing Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-home order for North Carolina. Four protesters, including ReOpenNC leader Ashley Smith, were arrested when they stepped onto the sidewalk outside the governor’s mansion on Blount Street, violating police instructions. Protesters gathered around the Capitol Police car and banged on the window as Smith was taken away. “This is how Nazi Germany started,” said her husband, Adam Smith, who was handed bail money by other protesters. Using a bullhorn, he called each officer outside the governor’s mansion a “little piggie.” The group, smaller than the number of protesters last Tuesday, honked horns and waved signs that they hope will influence a short session of the state General Assembly that started Tuesday.

Tuesday News: Heartbreaking

NC'S COVID 19 STATS ON NURSING HOMES RELEASED, NUMBERS ARE HORRIFYING: Under pressure from advocacy groups and media organizations, North Carolina health officials have released details for the first time Monday on the locations of dozens of nursing homes and other group living facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks across the state. The move marks a significant policy reversal for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which for weeks has maintained that identifying facilities with outbreaks would reveal confidential health information for particular patients. As of Monday, DHHS reported more than 2,500 cases of COVID-19 and more than 150 deaths from the disease in so-called congregate living settings, which include nursing homes, prisons and residential care facilities. Infections in those settings account for more than one-quarter of the state's total cases, and more than half of all deaths. DHHS data on the outbreaks shows The Citadel, a nursing home in Salisbury, N.C., has the largest number of COVID-19 cases so far at 144. The facility has also seen 10 deaths from the disease.

Monday News: Keep staying at home


NC NOW HAS 8,830 CASES OF COVID 19, MECKLENBURG LEADS WITH 1,482: Mecklenburg County has 1,482 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. There were no new deaths disclosed Sunday morning. The county reported late Sunday a total of 1,471 cases and said 40 residents have died from coronavirus. State officials report 1 additional death, for a total of 41. State and county coronavirus data can differ, with the county reporting only deaths and positive test results among Mecklenburg residents. North Carolina data includes people who are being treated locally or who test positive in Mecklenburg but live elsewhere. Statewide, cases rose Sunday, with 289 deaths reported. But N.C. health officials also said Sunday an earlier reporting error inflated the statewide case total. Officials corrected Saturday’s total number of cases to 8,542 and reported a total of 8,830 on Sunday morning.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FEDERAL STIMULUS AIM IS TO HELP THE NEEDY, NOT ENRICH THE GREEDY: Most basically, the hope is that families in need will spend the $1,200 per adult on making sure, as far as it will go, the basics of life are taken care of – shelter, food and health. There’s plenty of advice for those who may be in a position to share some of their stimulus check with organizations that help those in need. But some North Carolinians and others across the nation are discovering someone else has already decided what will happen to those stimulus funds – and grabbed them within seconds of the funds arriving in a bank account. Banks, lending institutions, debt collectors and others are making claim. Consumer advocates, members of Congress who voted for the legislation and 25 state attorneys general – including North Carolina’s Josh Stein – say that’s wrong. They’re right. This is meant to help wage-earners live – not provide relief to big financial institutions, commercial lenders and debt collection agencies.


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