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by RFNC Staff

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Headline:"Coronavirus live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on March 23" 'UNC Health and WakeMed are asking for the public’s help getting the medical supplies they need. The most “urgent needs” include N95 masks, surgical masks, nasal swabs, disinfectant, eye protection, face shields, disposable gloves, gowns and shoe covers, and hand sanitizer and soap. Local organizations have started donating items to the hospitals. TEXTILE COMPANY MAKING FACE MASKS A North Carolina textile company is leading an effort to increase the production of face masks across the country. Parkdale Mills Inc. in Gastonia is working with several other companies in the United States to create a face mask “manufacturing supply chain” for health care workers. The company plans to start production Monday and expects to produce 10 million masks a week starting in about four or five weeks." (News & Observer, 3/23/20)
Headline:"Winston-Salem based Hanesbrands to produce masks during COVID-19 shortage" "Hanesbrands Inc. will begin producing cotton surgical masks at some of its factories in Latin American as part of a federal contract to combat a national shortage of face masks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. At peak output, the company expects to produce about 1.5 million masks a week. The announcement came Saturday during President Donald Trump’s media briefing about the new coronavirus and the federal government’s response. Hansesbrands, a global apparel manufacturer based in Winston-Salem, has joined a cooperative consortium of other major apparel manufacturers led by Parkdale Mills America that are dedicating manufacturing capacity to meet the U.S. need for masks during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a Hanesbrands spokesman." (Winston-Salem Journal, 3/21/20)
CBC Editorial:"EXPERT ADVICE: Three steps we all can take to slow COVID-19's spread" "With the cases of COVID-19 increasing across our state, and the images we are seeing from other countries, concerns about the potential impacts to North Carolina are high. At the same time, with so much information circulating, people can feel overwhelmed without a clear sense of how to best fight this pandemic. We have been fortunate in our state to have the leadership of Gov. Roy Cooper, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, and our State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson who have acted decisively to help protect our citizens during these challenging times. As six former State Health Directors for North Carolina, we are speaking with one voice to urge each North Carolinian to take three critical steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. We acknowledge that for many, these recommendations may be more difficult to follow. Barriers like lack of health insurance and paid sick leave and limited telework options can create additional hardships for many families." (CBC Editorial, 3/22/20)
Headline:"N.C. making plans to activate ‘small number’ of National Guard soldiers to help with supplies" "North Carolina is making plans to activate a “small number” of National Guard soldiers to assist with making sure supplies get to where they are needed across the state. Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberry made the announcement during a press conference with health officials Friday afternoon to update the public on the state’s ongoing response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Sprayberry said the soldiers will “serve in a logistical capacity helping with warehousing and transportation of supplies and equipment.” He added that those supplies would largely consist of “personal protection.” There is no word on when the soldiers will be activated or where they will primarily be operating. Sprayberry also stressed the need for N.C. residents to not buy supplies, particularly food, in bulk. “Please resist the urge to buy in excess - stores will remain open and there is not a food shortage,” Sprayberry said. He said that anyone with questions about food assistance, help for families or coronavirus preparedness can still call N.C. 211." (WBTV, 3/20/20)
Headline:"As coronavirus keeps spreading across NC, National Guard activated and citizens stock up" "Coronavirus cases continued to mount across North Carolina on Friday, as state residents did what they could to make life feel as normal and sustainable as possible. North Carolina counties had reported at least 179 cases by Friday evening, according to The News & Observer’s tracking of cases from county health department announcements. The state also reported Friday that 3,233 tests have been completed. During a Friday afternoon briefing with the state Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer, said community spread has expanded in the state from one case to three. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community spread is when someone contracts the illness without traveling to an area where there is an outbreak and without having any connection to a person known to be infected." (News & Observer, 3/20/20)

Headline:"Wake County reports 3 new coronavirus cases. NC total tops 300" "Wake County reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday evening, bringing the county’s total to 52. Wake County has the second highest number of reported coronavirus cases in the state. One of the reported cases is a person at Sunrise of Raleigh, a senior living community on Edwards Mill Road. Sunrise has moved residents to their suites, moved to in-room dining and limited visitors, with exceptions such as immediate family members of those nearing the end of their lives, according to a statement from Michelle Minor, regional vice president of operations for Sunrise Senior Living. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, Wake County officials said they are investigating a total of 54 people who were exposed to the virus and have developed symptoms. There are now over 300 reported cases in North Carolina, according to The News & Observer’s tally. That figure differs from the state’s number because it can take 24 to 48 hours for cases reported by individual counties to be included in the state figures." (News & Observer, 3/22/20)
Headline: "Latest: Local grocery stores struggling to keep up with demand" "Gov. Roy Cooper will host a state briefing at 1 p.m. Monday. Watch here or on WRAL-TV. At least 306 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the new coronavirus, including two in nursing homes, according to data from state and county leaders. No deaths haven been reported in the state. More than 34,000 people in the U.S. are infected, and more than 413 people have died across the country. Wake County ordered the closure of public playgrounds, gyms and salons and concert venues through April 30. Greenways and trails remain open along with essential stores like pharmacies, grocery stores and banks. Businesses that remain open are encouraged to take the temperatures of all employees and customers before allowing them in the building." (WRAL, 3/23/20)
Civitas Poll:"Despite COVID-19 news, optimism persists among North Carolina voters" "The latest Civitas Poll, conducted between March 15-17, 2020, asked likely voters across the state a variety of questions, including how closely they were following the coverage of the novel coronavirus, as well as their concern over contracting the disease, COVID-19, and their opinion on President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic:
How closely are you following the news about coronavirus?
74% following very closely
20% following somewhat closely
Taking into consideration both your risk of contracting it and the seriousness of the illness, how worried are you personally about experiencing coronavirus?
48% worried
51% not worried
Do you approve or disapprove of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak?
53% approve
41% disapprove" (Civitas, 3/20/20)
Headline:"NC funeral homes cope with coronavirus restrictions by delaying or streaming services" "Andy Medlin watched his mother fight cancer for nearly four years before she died a week ago in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. The next day, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered that there be no gatherings in the state of more than 100 people. Not only did that put an end to entertainment events but it canceled some funerals and weddings. By the time Medlin got to the funeral home Monday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended gatherings remain under 50 people. Medlin said he and his family had already decided an indoor funeral was a bad idea. So they had planned a graveside service that included anyone who wanted to attend. But it didn’t take long before he changed his mind. “By the time I got to the cemetery, 20 minutes later, I decided that was not a good idea,” Medlin said. He added that he didn’t want to put anyone in a position to choose between their health and paying their respects. The family decided to do a graveside service with just immediate family members — fewer than 10 of them — and then hold a memorial service later in the year." (News & Observer, 3/21/20)
Editorial:"Government declarations need common sense" "Two government declarations were made this past week that had major economic impact on our county. But the implementation of the decisions stands in stark contrast as to how the respective government agencies understand the ramifications of their decisions. Governor Cooper announced at 2 p.m. Tuesday that all restaurants statewide were to close to all in-dining customers at 5 p.m. that evening. Two days later, Carteret County commissioners declared a state of emergency, announcing that visitors were being “discouraged” from coming to the county. The difference in the two actions warrants comparison. The governor’s announcement was made with only a three-hour warning for those affected. The suddenness of the governor’s declaration was a financial hit and possibly devastating to most if not all of the county’s dining facilities. Most restaurants work on their menus days and even weeks ahead, purchasing supplies and preparing dishes in advance of the doors opening for diners. Many of our county restaurants are privately owned and are working on a weekly if not daily schedule to provide some of the best, if not the best, dining in the state." (Carteret County News Times, 3/21/20)
Headlne:"Outdoor Torah lessons? Confessions by appointment? NC faith groups adapt to COVID-19" "Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship are making hard decisions to protect their congregations after Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order and CDC recommendations to stop gathering in groups larger than 10. Many are livestreaming services and other weekly rituals. Some are deciding whether to close their doors indefinitely. Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh and Father Scott McCue of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Chapel Hill said the coronavirus presents challenges they’ve never faced before. The CEO of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR), Mohamed Elgamal, called the situation “a trying time for everybody.” He’s still learning how to livestream, setting up the camera just right to avoid glare, and thought it was going OK until a congregant reached out to him afterward. One of his neighbors had been mowing their lawn during the lesson, and his viewers could barely hear him" (News & Observer, 3/22/20)
Headline:"New unemployment claims in North Carolina approach 50,000 this week" "The number of North Carolinians who have filed for unemployment this week is approaching 50,000, as coronavirus closures rattle the service and hospitality industries. Approximately 42,000 people filed for unemployment between Monday and Friday at 8 a.m., said Kerry McComber, a state Commerce Department spokeswoman, and almost all of them listed COVID-19 as the reason. Media reports from around the country show that hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the last few days. President Donald Trump’s administration reacted by asking states to stop giving the public detailed updates, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Thursday." (Charlotte Observer, 3/20/20)
Headline:"Layoffs costing hundreds of people their jobs in NC but notices don’t capture true scope of cuts" "As the coronavirus takes a growing toll on the slowing US economy, hundreds of people in North Carolina from resorts in Greensboro and Kitty Hawk to an airline operating out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport are losing their jobs, according to layoff notices filed with the state of North Carolina. But the official notices are – so far- only a small indicator of job cuts. More than 83,000 claims had been filed from March 16 to March 21, compared to weekly filings of about 3,500 claims in recent months, Larry Parker, a spokesman for the Division of Employment Security told The Associated Press. COVID-19 was cited for the claims request in 85 percent of the cases, Parker said. Only seven formal notices had been filed in recent days as the number of job cuts soared, according to the NC Department of Commerce which lists the filings. The so-called WARN, which stands for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, filings are required by federal law." (WRAL, 3/22/20)
Progressive Pulse:"Pandemic likely to render effects of NC’s existing affordable housing shortage even more dire" "Now more than ever, housing is a health care issue. People who don’t have safe, secure housing are struggling to follow social distancing and personal hygiene guidelines. Isolation strategies, like stocking up on food and working from home, are a luxury that many cannot afford. Businesses that have closed are already laying people off. When people earn less, they are more likely to become homeless because they can no longer afford housing. Not surprisingly, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has confirmed that extremely low-income renters are most at risk for being inadequately housed. This NLIHC’s latest report found that no state has an adequate supply of housing. In fact, the United States faces a shortage of over 7 million affordable and available homes for renters making less than 30% of the area median income. For people who lack the safety and security of an affordable home, this pandemic could be a death sentence." (Progressive Pulse, 3/20/20)
Headline:"‘ We may not be able to survive:’ Small businesses struggle through coronavirus" "Surviving the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just a worry for people; it’s a legitimate concern for many small businesses around Wilmington. After Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order Tuesday, all area restaurants have shut down their dining rooms and have resorted to pick-up and carry out service. For Hayley Jensen, owner of Skytown Brewing Company and Beer Barrio in Wilmington, sales have dropped drastically since Gov. Cooper’s mandate. That’s why Caring to Deliver and Scott Adams, the creator of the Wilmington area - Take Out and Delivery Options Facebook group, started and initiative, designating Friday as national carry out day for Wilmington. “Our food purveyors reached out to me and they wanted to focus on local restaurants with national carry out day, and because of the situation that we’re not able to serve food inside, it’s just perfect timing,” said Jensen. " I think people do want to come support us, so this is just a push so customers will come to local businesses and put money back into the community for people who are suffering through this." (WECT, 3/20/20)
Headline:"Restaurants and bars fight to survive amid pandemic" "The novel coronavirus is having a major impact on the state’s restaurants and breweries, with Gov. Roy Cooper announcing that all restaurants and bars close except for takeout and delivery services. With most North Carolinians staying home and practicing social distancing, the restaurant and bar business will be the second wave of industries to be squarely impacted by the virus outbreak after the airline, cruise and hotel sectors. What makes matters worse is at restaurants and bars, most workers don’t have benefits and they rely on tips for income. When no one is coming through the doors, there are no tips. To make the situation slightly bearable, Cooper has reduced restrictions to unemployment benefits for affected workers because of the COVID-19 outbreak." (Triangle Business Journal, 3/20/20)
Headline:"Coronavirus fuels calls from Triangle renters for freezes on evictions and rents" "To help slow the spread of coronavirus, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley placed a 30-day suspension this week on courthouse activity across North Carolina, including eviction and foreclosure hearings. Advocacy organizations say this isn’t enough. They’re asking for stronger concessions for cost-burdened renters, such as a state-sanctioned moratorium on evictions, utility shut-offs and rent increases until year’s end. NC United for Survival and Beyond, a coalition of over 60 social advocacy groups and nonprofits, has called for lawmakers to consider a number of additional measures aimed at vulnerable populations during the pandemic, The News & Observe reported this week. “In the middle of this pandemic, no one should be homeless, and in a program that’s provided for homeless people and low income and disadvantaged people,” said Barbara Lyons, in a online press conference. Lyons, a Durham public housing resident who has experienced eviction, expressed concern for future evictions in the McDougald Terrace public housing complex and criticized the Durham Housing Authority for continuing existing eviction proceedings." (News & Observer, 3/20/20)
Headline:"Thousands apply for unemployment due to COVID-19" "It wasn’t long after N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper removed barriers to unemployment insurance that the system used to process online applications couldn’t keep up with the demand. Rep. Brian Turner, who represents the western part of Buncombe County in the North Carolina General Assembly, said thousands of requests from Western North Carolina alone were submitted. “In advance of the executive order, [Cooper] met with commerce and the department of employment security,” Turner said. “They were scaling up their capacity in terms of web presence so they could handle the influx, but the surge was more than anyone expected.” Turner added that some of the problem was the fact that the state website interfaces with the federal Social Security database, which may have contributed to delays. In a story from the News & Observer, Larry Parker, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Employment Security, said that 4,721 applied for unemployment due to COVID-19 as of March 19. Cooper issued his executive order on March 17. Along with mandating that all restaurants and bars cease dine-in services, it also provided expanded access to unemployment insurance. “I recognize this decision will cost people their jobs, so this order also brings them some relief,” Cooper said. “Today I am taking down barriers to unemployment benefits in response to this unprecedented health crisis.” (The Mountaineer, 3/20/20)
News & Record Opinion:"Our Opinion: Fraud’s going viral" "Jim Bakker doesn’t have a cure for the coronavirus. But that didn’t stop him from trying to sell you one. The disgraced televangelist was peddling a treatment for COVID-19 that he suggested would make you better. For only $80 per 4-ounce bottle. Specifically, Sherrill Sellman, a so-called “natural health expert,” touted Bakker’s wonder drug, “Silver Solution,” for killing earlier strains of coronavirus during an appearance on Bakker’s TV show. This meant, she said, that it probably would the current strain as well. “Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours,” Sellman said. “Totally eliminate it. Kills it. Deactivates it.” But wait. There’s more: Silver Solution also has killed SARS and HIV! The truth, of course, is that Silver Solution does not kill anything. Nor do similar concoctions that contain colloidal silver, which, in fact, can be dangerous. So, good for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which sued Bakker and his company, Morningside Church Productions, for selling it. The New York Attorney General’s Office also has sent Bakker a cease-and-desist order. Bakker no longer markets the miracle elixir. But this just goes to show you: Some people will do anything to make a buck, including preying on the fears and anxieties of others." (News & Record, 3/21/20)
Headline:"State Treasurer says state retirement fund remains strong amid shaky market" "North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell is confident the state’s retirement system will continue to be able to meet its obligation to retirees, despite the economic downturn. Folwell talked with WBTV on Thursday afternoon to provide updates on how the multi-billion-dollar state pension fund—which funds retirement benefits for employees of state government, local government and teachers—and the state health were faring during the economic turmoil. According to Folwell, the pension fund’s value had dropped roughly ten percent compared to the 25 percent downturn the market had seen. One percentage point is equal to roughly $1 billion, Folwell said. Despite that, the Treasurer said, the fund had about $10 billion in cash on hand, which his agency was using to acquire more investments to take advantage of the lower rates. Folwell attributed the state’s strong position to a conservative investment strategy. “Chief Investment Officer Magazine just did an article last week that said while other pension plans crumble, North Carolina shines,” Folwell said. “With everything that’s going on in our society right now—the angst and anxiety—the last thing I want any public servant leaving home worried about is the safety of the health plan and the safety of the pension plan.”" (WBTV, 3/20/20)
Headline:"North Carolinians can pay their taxes later. Other economic relief could be on way." "Some North Carolina state lawmakers want to put money in the hands of residents as part of an economic stimulus plan because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the federal government has extended the tax filing deadline and Congress is working on a plan to do more, North Carolinians are also getting some economic relief at the state level. On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Revenue announced it has extended the deadline to pay state taxes to July 15, like the IRS had. The federal government on Friday morning announced that taxpayers don’t have to file their taxes until July 15. The state has not yet announced an extension to filing, just paying. Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday they are working out what the legislature will need to do for more economic relief beyond unemployment benefits and the U.S. Small Business Administration approving his request for a disaster declaration. “I’m talking to leaders on both sides of the aisle and everybody is rowing in the same direction,” Cooper said. “Everything, I would say right now, is on the table.”" (News & Observer, 3/20/20)
Headlne:"‘ Every door you knock on is closed.’ Out of work, airport workers fear what’s next" "It started with a short shift last weekend. Then, HMSHost, Jeanette McClure’s employer at Charlotte’s airport, asked her to take the next day off. A few days later, Gov. Roy Cooper announced he would close all restaurants and bars except for takeout and delivery. HMS operates airport concessions across the country — including where McClure works, at the Tequileria restaurant in Charlotte Douglas International Airport. After Cooper’s announcement, HMS closed the restaurant McClure had worked at for four years, and she was unsure of her fate with the company. She was furloughed indefinitely. It’s been a week since she has earned any income. Her $950 rent was already a struggle for her and her husband to pay, even when she was working two jobs, the other in airport security. He travels for work but hasn’t been able to do so because of the virus. She’s tried calling her landlord and charity groups like United Way and Crisis Assistance Ministry. But so far, she hasn’t been able to find help. “It’s like every door you knock on is closed, or it might be open a little bit but you can’t get in the door,” she said." (WBTV, 3/21/20)