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VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA
N.C. judge orders prisons to detail COVID-19 protections
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina judge has ordered public officials to turn over detailed information and what steps they are taking to prevent coronavirus outbreaks in state prisons. The ruling was issued late last week by Superior Court Judge Vinston Rozier in a lawsuit filed by the state conference of the NAACP and other advocacy groups as prison officials grapple with two major outbreaks of the virus. At Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, more than 460 inmates have tested positive and two have died. At the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh, 90 inmates have been diagnosed with the virus.
Man charged in fatal stabbing of Korean War veteran
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A Maryland man has been charged in the 2019 killing of a Korean War veteran who was fatally stabbed in his North Carolina home. Benjamin Franklin Merritt was found dead on June 13 after a family member called police to check on him. A few weeks later, police arrested Michael Nicholson áon a charge of obtaining property by false pretense for allegedly pawning a bracelet that belonged to Merritt. The News & Observer reports that Nicholson has now been charged in Merritt’s death. Raleigh police confirmed Nicholson’s arrest, but did not provide other details about the investigation. Merritt is being held without bail in Wake County Detention Center.
FARMERS MARKET REOPENS
Durham Farmers’ Market reopens after 6-week closure
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – The popular Durham Farmers’ Market reopened Saturday to long lines of mask-wearing customers after a six-week closure due to coronavirus fears. The year-round 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.
N. Carolina COVID-19 package gets final General Assembly OK
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The General Assembly has finalized a relief package to address the new coronavirus pandemic in North Carolina, agreeing to send money to schools, hospitals, local governments and researchers. A pair of bipartisan measures approved unanimously by the House and Senate on Saturday direct how nearly $1.6 billion in federal funds are distributed and how government activities during the outbreak are deferred or delayed. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign the bills into law. He and Republican legislative leaders praised the collaboration in fashioning the measures. The Legislative Building was closed to the public while the General Assembly worked this week.
Shopping malls in North Carolina expected to reopen on May 8
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Several major shopping malls in North Carolina are expected to reopen on the same day Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order is scheduled to end. The News & Observer reports that Simon Property Group announced that it plans to reopen the SouthPark and Concord Mills malls and Charlotte Premium Outlets on May 8. A statement on Simon’s website says the planned reopenings are based on “current state and/or local stay-at-home or closure orders, which are subject to change.” The mall operator said all employees will be required to wear masks and take hand-washing breaks. The malls will also limit entrances, hours and the number of people in the buildings.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-BIRDING BOOM
Bird-watching soars amid COVID-19 as Americans head outdoors
Netflix? That’s old news. More people are turning their gaze outside and taking up amateur bird-watching as the pandemic drags on. Interest in birding has soared in recent weeks as bored Americans notice a fascinating world just outside their door. Downloads of two of the most popular bird identification apps have spiked, and preliminary numbers show sales of things like binoculars, bird feeders and birdseed have jumped even as sales of other nonessential consumer goods are plummeting. The trend coincides with the peak migratory season and nesting season, giving newfound birders a front-row seat to some of nature’s biggest shows.
N.C. lawmakers need more time before COVID-19 relief deal
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina House and Senate leaders still had work to do before finalizing a two-bill package to address immediate COVID-19 needs. Negotiators from both chambers settled on distributing slightly over $1.5 billion of the $3.5 billion that North Carolina received in the coronavirus relief law approved by Congress. But delays in resolving policy differences meant scheduled votes on final measures were delayed Friday until at least Saturday. Funds are expected to go to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, as well as to purchase more personal protective equipment and give attention to rural hospitals and outbreaks in nursing homes.
North Carolina police guard chief’s home after March protest
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Police in North Carolina’s capital city say they have been monitoring the home of the department’s chief around the clock in the nearly two months since crowds showed up at her door protesting a police shooting. Raleigh police said in a statement Thursday that Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown received the protective detail shortly after the shooting of 26-year-old Javier Torres on March 10 ignited demonstrations around the city. The department said more than 100 people showed up at the address late at night and that the chief has continued to receive threatening emails. Raleigh’s police union has questioned the measures and called the service an unusual use of city resources.