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Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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LONG-STANDING, UNMET PRIORITIES ARE EVEN MORE CRITICAL NOW: Now, as much as ever, the legislature should take the steps to accomplish the following: Support implementation of the recommendations outlined in the report released by Superior Court Judge David Lee, so the state meets its constitutional mandate to provide EVERY student with an opportunity for a sound basic education in public schools – no matter where they live. In the more than two decades since the Leandro ruling North Carolina has, according to the report, lost ground in meeting the court order and our constitutional requirement rather than moving closer to it. Expand Medicaid to the 650,000 working North Carolina citizens who are currently denied access to health care. It is no exaggeration that this is a life-and-death matter. It is particularly critical as hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed citizens now have nowhere else to turn for healthcare coverage. Approve the requests state Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell presented in her March 26 letter to the governor and legislative leaders. They will help assure the fall election will be open and as many voters as possible will have the opportunity to cast ballots.
https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/editorial-long-standing-unmet-priorities-are-even-more-critical-now...

Saturday News: No third wheel

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BIPARTISAN ABSENTEE BALLOT REFORM IN NC HOUSE WOULD CUT ONE WITNESS: With uncertainty looming over how serious coronavirus will be this fall, a bipartisan push at the state legislature would make it easier for North Carolinians to vote by mail this year. State officials are expecting a massive increase in people wanting to vote by mail in November. The legislature wants to make sure that goes smoothly, said Rep. Pricey Harrison, who has co-sponsored a new elections bill along with one fellow Democrat and two Republicans. People who vote by mail now have to find two people to serve as witnesses while they vote. But the bill filed Friday would drop that requirement to just one witness. Voters are currently not allowed to request absentee ballots by email or fax, but this bill would lift those restrictions. Bob Phillips, executive director of the group Common Cause NC, said in a news release Friday that the bill is “a positive step” but could still use some additional provisions.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article242924676.html

Friday News: Lead by example

SOME REPUBLICANS IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY STILL NOT WEARING MASKS: State health leaders have been urging people for weeks to exercise social distancing and wear masks in public, but many state lawmakers don't seem to be following that advice. Lawmakers and staff are almost on top of each other in some committee rooms, and in the House and Senate chambers, lawmakers sit only about 3 feet apart. "There’s no way to avoid being close to somebody eventually, but I think most people are being as cautious as they can and being as respectful as they can to someone else," said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow. Brown said that's more about the individual’s comfort level than about party. "I’ve got one in my pocket as well. If I’m in a big crowd, where I feel like, I’ll wear mine," he said. "So, I think it’s been left up to the individual." While kitchen and housekeeping staff wear masks, most legislative staffers and General Assembly Police officers don't.
https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/nc-lawmakers-crowding-together-often-not-wearing-masks-while-doing-...

Thursday News: Chicken fever

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570 WORKERS AT WILKESBORO TYSON PLANT TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID 19: Of the 570, most did not show any symptoms and “would not have been identified” if it weren’t for the facility-wide test, Tyson said. More than 2,000 were tested between May 6 and 9, according to the company. Earlier this month, Tyson temporarily closed the poultry plant for cleaning and sanitizing in response to an outbreak, The News & Observer reported. The company wouldn’t say at the time how many employees were infected with coronavirus. Wilkes County officials said that the majority of COVID-19 cases in the county were linked to the Tyson facility, the outlet reported. Production has since continued and is expected to “ramp up,” the Wednesday statement said, and new safety measures have been put in place -- including temperature screenings, face masks, and physical barriers at workstations and break rooms.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article242884456.html

Wednesday News: How about "No."

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DOMINION WANTS TO RUN GAS PIPELINE ALONG AMERICAN TOBACCO TRAIL: “What you’ll have is kind of a skinny canopy along the trail, rather than trees that go back 9 or 10 deep,” Devereux said in an interview. “It’s going to change the character of the trail markedly for a while during construction, and then the long-term change to the canopy will not be a plus.” Devereux learned of the potential use of the trail corridor for the pipeline only last week and posted an item about it on the conservancy’s Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. Dave Connelly, a long-time trail advocate and user in Durham, soon sent an email to several Triangle government officials asking how such a potentially disruptive project could have gotten this far unnoticed. “It’s incredible that neither NCDOT nor the Board of Transportation thought to mention this to people who use the ATT,” Connelly wrote. “If someone wanted to plant a pipeline on the North Carolina Railroad corridor, do you think NCRR would not mention it to Norfolk Southern?”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article242837121.html

Tuesday News: Bad leadership

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GOP COUNTY COMMISSIONER OPENS RESTAURANT FOR DINE-IN CUSTOMERS: Carrol Dean Mitchem, the Republican chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, was charged Monday with violating N.C. Executive Order 138, which bans on-site food consumption during the pandemic. Mitchem is known for taking controversial stands on the board of commissioners, including saying prayers from non-Christian religions are unwelcome at the county’s government meetings, WBTV reported in 2015. His restaurant was one of two cited Monday for violating the executive order. The Rise ‘n Shine Cafe in Asheville was issued a citation for what police called “persistent non-compliance to the public health order,” McClatchy News reported. Police said they received three complaints that the cafe was allowing people to dine inside.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article242833081.html

Monday News: Mistaken trust

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JUDGE TEMPORARILY BLOCKS GOVERNOR'S RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCHES: The temporary order comes after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filing a lawsuit against the Democratic governor Thursday, saying his executive order violates their First Amendment freedom of religion and other constitutional rights, The News & Observer reported. A hearing is scheduled May 29 on whether the order will become permanent. Until that time, the judge’s order prevents Cooper from taking enforcement actions against religious worshipers, but also states they should observe recommendations for social distancing and reduce transmission of the virus when possible. “The court trusts worshipers and their leaders to look after one another and society while exercising their free exercise rights just as they and their fellow citizens (whether religious or not) do when engaged in non-religious activities,” Dever’s order states.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article242788161.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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ACT NOW ON CRITICAL ELECTION NEEDS TO ASSURE FULL VOTING IN NOVEMBER: North Carolina is due $22.6 million in federal funding for election technology, security and COVID-19 safety as well as other voting related needs. But the state must come up with about $4.4 million to match. In one of the legislature’s recently passed COVID-19 response bills, it specifically prevents the state board from using any of its own funds for the match. The legislature needs to either quickly appropriate the matching funds or give the elections board a way to access those federal funds. The additional money is critical. It will help assure our polling places are safe, voters have several ways to cast ballots and as many voters as possible participate in our democracy. It shouldn’t be a matter of partisan bickering or shenanigans. We need to do this quickly so the necessary planning and procedures can be in place. Further, the legislature needs to act to give local boards more flexibility to assign poll workers and set up polling places for appropriate “social distancing.”
https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/editorial-act-now-on-critical-election-needs-to-assure-full-voting-...

Saturday News: Jim Corona

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NC'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULATION ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE IN PANDEMIC: Where the state does know race and ethnicity, DHHS reports that 33% of confirmed cases are among African Americans and 29% are among Hispanics. Of N.C. deaths, 36% have been among African Americans, and 5% among Hispanics. According to U.S. Census estimates for July 2019, blacks make up 22% of the state’s population. Hispanics account for less than 10%. The incidence of COVID-19 in North Carolina tracks with national trends. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April found that blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented among hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the new coronavirus. National numbers from May show that where race and ethnicity are known, black Americans are 2.6 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Americans.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article242764381.html

Friday News: Asked and answered

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REPUBLICAN CALLS TO REOPEN IGNORE THE DEATH TOLL IN GEORGIA: Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s running for governor against Cooper this year, also called on Cooper earlier this week to explain why North Carolina isn’t reopening as quickly as some neighboring states. Georgia, which has a Republican governor, was one of the last states to issue a stay-at-home order. It was also one of the first to start reopening. NPR reported on Tuesday that the federal government has identified that as a worry, since intensive care units in Georgia are already nearly 80% full and reopening could create a new spike in cases. Despite both states having roughly the same population, Georgia has reported 1,523 coronavirus deaths as of Thursday — more than double the 615 deaths in North Carolina.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article242733771.html

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