Latest North Carolina News:
VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA
State to vaccinate medically vulnerable starting March 24
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina will soon allow medically vulnerable people get vaccinated as early as March 24. The announcement comes after the group had been pushed down the priority list amid changing guidance from the federal government that favored older age groups. All remaining frontline essential workers will be able to get a vaccine starting Wednesday. The state feels comfortable expanding the pool of eligible recipients following approval of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 80,000 one-shot doses will soon be arriving in the state. Other states, including California and South Carolina, have already adjusted their plan and bumped up residents with serious underlying health issues.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-REOPENING SCHOOLS
Key NC senator explains absence for close override vote
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina legislator says he wasn’t on the Senate floor for a close veto override vote on legislation mandating the reopening of public schools because he had to work for his full-time employer. Hoke County Democrat Ben Clark got a leave of absence for Monday’s session. He was one of three Senate Democrats who had voted last month for the legislation that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed. The Senate override likely would have been successful had two of the three Democrats stuck to supporting the measure. Only one did. Republicans now plan a parliamentary maneuver to try an override again later.
Smokies sees more than 12M visitors despite virus closure
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) – Despite closing for more than a month because of COVID-19, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced its second busiest year on record last year. According to a news release, the park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border had a total of 12,095,720 visits in 2020. But the surge in use has brought problems with traffic, overflowing parking lots, crowded bathrooms, damage and litter. Over the last year, park managers worked with local communities and visitors to try to solve the challenges, collecting more than 2,000 ideas. Park managers are using those ideas to develop a pilot project for at least one park destination in 2021.
Government offers plan to release more endangered red wolves
Government wildlife officials say they have released two more critically endangered red wolves into the wild in North Carolina. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court filing Monday that it brought two male wolves from a Florida wildlife refuge. The agency paired them with wild female wolves from North Carolina and let them loose in February. One of the male wolves was later killed by a car. The service also plans to release another captive-bred pair this summer. A judge had ordered them to come up with the plan for more releases. Wolf conservation groups responded that the government needs to move faster.
Debt report says NC government has more borrowing capacity
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – An annual debt report says the North Carolina government’s ability to borrow money while remaining fiscally sound keeps improving despite economic challenges from the coronavirus. State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s office released the Debt Affordability Study on Tuesday. A study committee calculated how much additional debt the state can incur and and keep its top scores from credit-rating agencies. The report projects the state could approve $3.2 billion in bonds this year or almost $1.5 billion annually for the next five years. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and legislators from both parties want to put a bond referendum on the ballot soon.
XGR-VIRUS OUTBREAK-SCHOOL REOPENING
Cooper vetoes bill that would force K-12 schools to reopen
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has rejected a plan from state lawmakers that would compel districts to reopen schools with at least some in-person learning in about two weeks. Cooper says he worries the proposal wouldn’t ensure proper safety standards and would not give local school officials the flexibility they need to open or close based on levels of COVID-19 spread in the community. The plan introduced by Republican state lawmakers could still become law if enough of the handful of Democrats who supported the bill decide to override the governor’s veto. Cooper has urged school boards to move to get kids back into the classroom but said he does not want to mandate the reopening.
Jobless must prove they’re looking for work to keep benefits
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – People who are unemployed in North Carolina will be required to prove they’re searching for work in order to keep their jobless benefits. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order to that effect on Monday. But people who are currently on unemployment will not be affected. The governor’s order will impact only “new claimants who apply for unemployment benefits on or after March 14, 2021.” The work search requirement is typically required of everyone on unemployment. Cooper had waived that requirement a year ago when the coronavirus began.
NC House advances bill that distributes more COVID funds
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina legislators have advanced another bill that distributes more money from the federal government’s most recent coronavirus relief package. The legislation directing where more than $1.7 billion of relief funds will go cleared two House committees on Tuesday. A floor vote is expected Wednesday. Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation last month that doled out $2.2 billion in similar funds for public education, vaccine distribution and rental assistance. The measure debated Tuesday includes funds for colleges and universities, fisheries, COVID testing and tracing and food relief. The legislation also extends deadlines and waivers initiated last year as the pandemic began.