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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.

Saturday News: Survival & Beyond

COALITION OF ADVOCACY GROUPS PUSH FOR POLICY CHANGES TO FIGHT INEQUALITY: The group has a heavy focus on immigrant rights, with a long list of priorities calling on government to address injustices that amplify the economic crash's impact on people who can least afford it. Their top priorities are expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance long-term to North Carolina's working poor and ensuring "free and widespread testing, treatment and medication" for COVID-19. Medicaid expansion remains unlikely to move in the coming legislative session, but free testing and treatment is something state and federal leaders have backed for people who meet income thresholds. The group also wants prison system reforms, including an end to cash bail, assistance programs for immigrants regardless of legal status and an end to state cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

Friday News: Not nearly enough


LEGISLATURE BUDGETS $600 MILLION, HOSPITALS LOSING $1 BILLION A MONTH: Lawmakers in the state House backed a bill Thursday with more than $600 million in it for COVID-19 research, medical care, hospital bailouts and a slew of other programs. A key budget writer called it "phase one." The North Carolina Healthcare Association says hospitals around the state are out about $1 billion a month because of the elimination of profitable non-essential procedures and spending on COVID-19 preparations. The House working group, laying out priorities ahead of next week's legislative session, also approved a bill that details long-term plans for a new state stockpile of personal protective equipment – the PPE considered so crucial to protect hospital and other front-line workers from the new coronavirus.

Thursday News: Stay tuned


GOVERNOR COOPER TO RELEASE DETAILS OF REOPEN PLAN TODAY: Gov. Roy Cooper will make an announcement at 3 p.m. Thursday about when and how to start lifting restrictions, as North Carolina tries to control the spread of coronavirus, a source close to the governor confirmed. Cooper had earlier said he would announce a decision this week about the stay-at-home order, which is set to expire April 29, and on opening school facilities, which are now closed through May 15. Cooper did not hold a press conference on Wednesday. Cooper also said Tuesday that he wants to “ease back” restrictions so the virus does not spike and overwhelm our hospitals. The governor said the decision about the reopening of schools will include guidance from public health officials about what is needed to make students safe in school, the N&O previously reported.

Wednesday News: Fraud is my middle name


MCCRAE DOWLESS CASHED SSI DISABILITY CHECKS WHILE WORKING: McCrae Dowless, the Bladen County political operative at the center of the allegations of absentee-ballot fraud that brought down Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris in 2018, has been indicted on new charges. A federal grand jury accused Dowless of collecting thousands of dollars in Social Security disability payments in 2017 and 2018 even though he was working for multiple political campaigns including Harris’ bid for the 9th Congressional District, according to a newly unsealed federal indictment. Social Security disability payments are typically available only to people who can’t work because of a disability. And Dowless, the indictment said, told the government that “he remained disabled and did not receive income beyond his SSI benefits” even though in fact he was working. Ultimately, he’s accused of taking at least $14,000 in unauthorized payments.

Tuesday News: Going nowhere, fast

NC REPUBLICANS PUSH FOR NO-FAN NASCAR RACING: Calls are mounting from elected officials hoping to see NASCAR return to North Carolina on Memorial Day weekend, with the Coca-Cola 600 run in front of an empty stadium in Charlotte because of coronavirus concerns. House Speaker Tim Moore joined the call Monday, writing a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper about the prospect. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who was recently hospitalized and recovered from COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus, made much the same ask. They joined five Republican state senators who broached the subject last week. Cooper's press office said Monday that he's "already been talking with track and team owners about how we could potentially restart racing."


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