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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MILITARY CHAPLAINS
Military chaplains pivot to serve soldiers in virus outbreak
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) – For the chaplains serving the storied Green Berets of Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group, ministry is all about in-person connections. Trust is earned by training and deploying alongside soldiers who leave their families time after time for Afghanistan, Syria and other hot spots. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, many soldiers are spending more time at home, forcing chaplains to get creative with their outreach. They’ve turned to virtual messages and Facebook Live sermons to preach about patience and hope during a time when stress is elevated.
Census delay could put off new voting districts, primaries
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The U.S. Census Bureau wants more time to wrap up the once-a-decade count because of the coronavirus, and that could delay the divisive process of drawing new legislative districts. Redistricting could help determine what political party is in power, what laws pass or fail and whether communities of color get a voice in their states. The census data guides that process, and a delay could postpone some primary elections. The Census Bureau wants to push back the deadline for turning over information to the states from the end of March 2021 to the end of July 2021. Congress must approve that.
BC-NC-UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS-PHONE CALLS
State adds staff and phone hours as unemployment claims rise
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina is extending phone hours and adding more staff to respond to the growing number of people seeking help with unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Saturday that the leader of the Division of Employment Security is willing to do even more. Lockhart Taylor, the head of the office, said there has been an average of 80,000 calls a day since the middle of March when businesses began to close. Taylor said his office is investigating the possibility of an online chat system to help. People are now able to call in on weekends as well.
Pandemic could delay removal of grounded ship on Outer Banks
NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) – The coronavirus pandemic could delay the removal of a 72-foot long fishing vessel that has been grounded for weeks on a beach on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The scallop harvesting boat is considered a safety hazard as curious people climb aboard its rusting hull. The Virginian-Pilot reported Saturday that removing the abandoned boat could cost more than $60,000. The boat’s owner is responsible for its removal. But the owner lives in Texas. Stay-at-home orders have limited travel between states. Visitors are also banned from coming to the Outer Banks. The ship ran aground during a storm on March 1 near Oregon Inlet.
North Carolina man accused of giving drugs, alcohol to baby
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina man accused of giving a 3-month-old child cocaine and alcohol has been charged with child abuse. The Winston-Salem Journal reported Sunday that 60-year-old Ronnie Keith Johnson was arrested last week and charged with felony negligent child abuse inflicting serious physical injury. According to an arrest warrant obtained by the newspaper, authorities found the child had tested positive for cocaine and had a blood alcohol level that was two times the legal limit following an incident in January. Authorities determined Johnson lived with the child’s parents at the time. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina public schools closed for rest of school year
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper has announced that North Carolina’s public school buildings won’t reopen this school year due to COVID-19. Cooper originally closed K-12 schools in all districts in mid-March for two weeks, then extended his executive order through May 15. Cooper says the decision wasn’t taken lightly but it’s important to protect the health and safety of students and school staff. He says remote learning will continue for the rest of the school year and that the reopening of buildings this summer and fall will depend on meeting health goals that will be developed.
Earnhardt race car up for auction to fund virus relief work
WELCOME, N.C. (AP) – NASCAR team owner Richard Childress is auctioning off one of racing legend Dale Earnhardt’s cars to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts. The Charlotte Observer reports that this is the first time Childress has sold or given away an original Earnhardt car from his personal collection. A news release Thursday from Richard Children Racing officials doesn’t specify which of Earnhardt’s trademark No. 3 race cars is up for auction. Childress tweeted Friday that parting with one of his cars is “a small sacrifice” for him to make.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-COOPER’S BUDGET
N. Carolina governor seeks to spend $1.4B for COVID-19 aid
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper has asked North Carolina legislators to distribute $1.4 billion in federal funds to cover immediate health, education, small business and government needs created from the COVID-19 crisis. Cooper unveiled his emergency pandemic package Friday. The General Assembly convenes its session next week. Many of Cooper’s requested items have already worked their way through legislative meetings. The Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders say they generally have bipartisan support. The package includes $300 million each for local governments and the Department of Transportation, and $285 million for the public schools and university system.