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.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PASSES $1.6 BILLION IN PANDEMIC RELIEF BILLS: Lawmakers gave final approval to two bills in a rare Saturday session, wrapping up the legislature's first action on COVID-19 response. The votes in both the House and the Senate Saturday were unanimous, which is unusual for large legislation in a General Assembly so often divided by party. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign the bills into law quickly, and they would take effect immediately. Among other things, they extend driver's license and tag expiration deadlines, waive interest payments on state income and business taxes that were normally due in April and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on public schools, vaccine and treatment research, coronavirus testing and contact tracing and a bridge loan program for small businesses. Another session is expected later this month as the body decides how to allocate more of the $3.5 billion in federal funding kicked down to the state as part of Congress' stimulus bills. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he hopes most of the $2 billion or so left can be used to prop up the state budget, which will take a major revenue hit from reduced sales and other tax collections.
DURHAM FARMER'S MARKET HAS REOPENED, IS RECOMMENDING PEOPLE PRE-ORDER: After a six-week closure amid coronavirus fears, the popular Durham Farmers' Market reopened Saturday to long lines of mask-wearing customers. The market closed in March because of the city's stay-at-home order. WRAL-TV reports that people waited in long lines that stretched around the block as the market reopened Saturday. The market had several new safety rules in place, including social distancing guidelines and mandatory face masks. It also had hand-washing stations set up to help prevent the spread of germs. In a Facebook posting, organizers said pre-orders and pre-pay are strongly encouraged. “We look forward to seeing you soon, from a 6' distance of course!” the posting said. Note: there are many farms within a short drive that are now selling directly to customers. Here's an interactive map of their locations, but make sure to contact them before showing up.
TRUMP CALLS ARMED PROTESTERS "VERY GOOD PEOPLE" WHILE PUSHING FOR STATES TO REOPEN: “I really believe that you can go to parks, you can go to beaches . . . [if] you stay away a certain amount,” Trump said during a Fox News Channel town hall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Trump said that it’s possible to “satisfy both” anti-lockdown protesters and those who are afraid to resume public life. He noted that Americans have been wearing face masks and social distancing in recent weeks and said that “you’re going to have to do that for a while,” even as states reopen their economies. Anti-lockdown protesters have demonstrated at state capitols across the country in recent weeks. Trump on Friday expressed support for protesters in Michigan — some of whom were armed with military-style rifles — tweeting that “these are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!” On Sunday, the governors of several states faced questions about the steps they have taken amid the pandemic. Some, such as Whitmer, defended the need for stay-at-home orders, arguing that “this isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of.” Whitmer also sharply criticized “some of the outrageousness” that was on display during last week’s protests in Lansing, Mich., which she said “depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.” “The Confederate flags and nooses, the swastikas, the behavior that you have seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan,” Whitmer said.
MASK WEARING HAS BECOME A NEW POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND: The decision not to wear a mask has, for some, become a rebellion against what they regard as an incursion on their personal liberties. For many others, the choice is a casual one more about convenience than politics. The choice can also be a reflection of vanity, or of not understanding when or where to wear one. Some people said they found masks uncomfortable, and thus a nuisance they were unwilling to tolerate. Others were skeptical how much difference they made outside on a sunny day. “I hate it,” groused Ammiel Richards, 27, who said that he had twice been ejected from New York City buses for not wearing a mask. But public health experts have reacted in horror both at the sight of public places where people have crowded without masks, and at demonstrations, like those in Michigan and California, where protesters without masks have been jammed together and at times yelled in the faces of police officers. Experts described wearing a face covering as a considerate act meant more to protect others than the person wearing it. “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally,” Dr. Birx said on “Fox News Sunday,” “because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition, and they have a serious or unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.” In Flint, Mich., a security guard at a Family Dollar store was fatally shot on Friday afternoon after an altercation that the guard’s wife told The New York Times had occurred over a customer refusing to wear a face covering, which is required in Michigan in any enclosed public space.