North Carolina to relax 10-person limit for GOP convention

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina public health officials told the Republican National Committee that the party can have more than 10 people in a room to conduct official convention business while in Charlotte. The updated guidance eases indoor gathering limits Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper imposed in a recently extended executive order. President Donald Trump said he will deliver his nomination acceptance speech for the Charlotte convention but hasn’t committed to speaking to a crowd of people in person. Cooper previously denied Trump’s request to have a full-scale maskless convention in Charlotte. The RNC has estimated it would have no more than 500 delegates per day at the Charlotte Convention Center and the Westin hotel.

Most NC parents won’t have option to send kid back to school

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows most K-12 parents won’t have the option of sending their kids back to school at the start of the fall, even partially. Gov. Roy Cooper allowed districts to opt for fully remote learning in his reopening guidance. His Republican gubernatorial election opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, wants every parent to be able to have the choice for fully in-person learning five days a week. The state remains in Phase 2 of its reopening as coronavirus cases remain high in North Carolina, and some teachers fear they don’t have the cleaning supplies they need.

North Carolina high school sports group delays fall sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has announced the fall sports season will be delayed again for its member schools. The association made the announcement on Thursday, a day after Gov. Roy Cooper extended the state’s current COVID-19 restrictions until at least Sept. 11. The association’s commissioner says the health and safety of coaches and other essential staff will be a priority as they make decisions about the season. The association had previously delayed the start of fall sports from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1. The group says they hope to announce a calendar for the sports season prior to Aug. 17.

Lawyers for political rivals argue Cooper’s COVID-19 powers

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lawyers for North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest have argued before a judge over whether Cooper’s COVID-19 orders shuttering businesses and demanding face coverings were lawfully imposed. Tuesday’s court hearing focused on whether the Council of State needed to consent to Cooper’s executive orders first before they could be carried out. Forest sued the governor last month and says the law required he get the council’s approval. Cooper’s lawyers say he didn’t need to. The judge didn’t say how he would rule on Forest’s request to block the orders. Cooper and Forest are running for governor in November.

North Carolina county to help people with utility bills

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Officials in a North Carolina county have set aside money to help families who are late in paying their utility bills due to COVID-19. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Wake County will give up to $500 per household to help residents pay their overdue bill. County officials say the $5 million, which comes from the federal Coronavirus Air Relief and Economic Security Act, should help nearly 10,000 families. Applicants must have “suffered financially from COVID-19,” be Wake County residents and be able to submit their unpaid utility bills.

North Carolina liquor sales see 12% jump during fiscal year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Liquor sales in North Carolina have seen a 12% increase during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The Fayetteville Observer reports the jump largely came in March when Gov. Roy Cooper shut down bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Hill owns multiple liquor stores in the state. He told the newspaper that customers said they were purchasing high amounts of alcohol because of fears Cooper would also shut down liquor stores. Liquor purchases by bars and restaurants has remained below normal levels as of June.

Trump coming to North Carolina to see work on virus vaccine

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump is coming to North Carolina to visit a biotech facility involved in work to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Trump’s trip on Monday to Morrisville is his first public event in the state since the eve of the March 3 presidential primary. Trump won North Carolina’s electoral votes in 2016 by nearly 4 percentage points. The state is also considered a presidential battleground this fall. The FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center that he’ll tour is manufacturing key components of a vaccine candidate developed by another company.

North Carolina liquor sales see 12% jump during fiscal year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Liquor sales in North Carolina have seen a 12% increase during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The Fayetteville Observer reports the jump largely came in March when Gov. Roy Cooper shut down bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Hill owns multiple liquor stores in the state. He told the newspaper that customers said they were purchasing high amounts of alcohol because of fears Cooper would also shut down liquor stores. Liquor purchases by bars and restaurants has remained below normal levels as of June.

Colleges plan for virus testing, but strategies vary widely

BOSTON (AP) — Dozens of U.S. colleges are announcing plans to test students for the coronavirus this fall, but their strategies vary widely. Colby College in Maine plans to test all students every other day for two weeks and then twice a week. Harvard University will test students on campus three times a week. But some plan to test students only if they show symptoms or come into contact with a positive case, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Federal health officials discourage widespread testing on college campuses, but some researchers say it’s necessary to prevent outbreaks. Cornell and Yale university researchers say that without widespread testing, COVID-19 could be spread by infected students who don’t show symptoms.

Duke campus housing only for 1st, 2nd year students in fall

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke University in North Carolina says campus housing this fall will be only for first- and second-year students as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Provost Sally Kornbluth wrote in an email to faculty that upperclassmen and graduate students will take online classes in the fall semester. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports juniors and seniors will have access to libraries and labs but not residence or dining halls. This represents a schedule modification for Duke, which is set to begin classes Aug. 17. Duke previously had upperclassmen arriving at school a couple of days before the semester’s start.

2 more N.C. prison inmates die from COVID-19 complications

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Two more male inmates at a North Carolina prison with among the highest number of COVID-19 cases have died after testing positive for the virus. The Department of Public Safety ssays one offender at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Stanly County died Friday, while another housed at the prison died at a hospital on Thursday. Eight state prisoners with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began. Three were serving their sentences at Albemarle, which has reported over 100 positive cases to date. The Division of Prisons is currently working toward testing every inmate in the state’s more than 50 prisons.

Trump to visit North Carolina, cite work on COVID-19 vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Donald Trump will visit North Carolina on Monday to tour a business that is participating in work on a COVID-19 vaccine. The White House said Trump is expected to speak about the collaboration between the administration and the private sector to rapidly develop a vaccine and ensure rapid distribution once ready. North Carolina is a key battleground state in the coming election, and Trump’s visit marks his 10th trip there during his presidency. Trump is seeking to highlight progress on a vaccine and therapeutics as the country struggles to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

University of North Carolina system to keep tuition rates

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — University of North Carolina system officials have voted to keep tuition rates the same regardless of whether classes move online because of coronavirus concerns. News outlets report Thursday’s split vote by the school system’s Board of Governors also keeps the same fees for athletics and student activities. The boards resolution says the current rates are important in sustaining essential services. The News & Observer reports the vote comes as the school system continues to prepare for different scenarios for its budget amid the coronavirus pandemic. One board member who pushed back against the measure says the system would be overcharging tuition if classes were to move online.

Trump calls off Florida segment of GOP National Convention

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is having to shift plans for the Republican National Convention again. Trump has scrapped convention events scheduled for Florida next month, citing a “flare-up” of the coronavirus. Trump’s formal renomination will still go forward in North Carolina. Trump made the announcement Thursday at the White House. He had moved parts of the GOP convention to Florida last month amid a dispute with North Carolina’s Democratic leaders over holding an indoor gathering with maskless supporters. But those plans were steadily scaled back as virus cases spiked in Florida and much of the country over the last month.

North Carolina group asks judge to stop touch-screen voting

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina NAACP has asked a judge to bar the use of a touch-screen voting machine in several counties due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Charlotte Observer reports the group made the request to a Wake County judge Wednesday. The injunction says the machines create risks to voters because they will be touched by many people. The request comes more than three months after the civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against state and local election officials seeking to stop its use. The Observer reports the state attorney general’s office has asked a judge to dismiss that lawsuit. A state election official says officials have been instructed about cleaning the machines.

N.C.’s largest district to begin year with online learning

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s largest public school district is sticking with only online student learning to start the academic year. The Wake County school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to become yet another system not ready to return to classrooms next month due to COVID-19. Board members had committed earlier to a rotating schedule for in-person instruction to begin the year, but district officials said things have changed since coronavirus hospitalizations and the percentage of positive cases have increased. Gov. Roy Cooper also last week gave school districts the option to conduct all instruction online. Positive COVID-19 cases have now exceeded 100,000 in North Carolina.

Virtual academy draws nearly half of district’s students

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Nearly half of the students in North Carolina’s Wake County have signed up for the school district’s virtual academy to avoid in-person instruction this fall. The Wake Virtual Academy received 78,792 applications, far exceeding expectations. The Wake County school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to begin the school year with online learning for all of its students, with in-person instruction to follow when practical. Some parents and teachers want online classes only for safety reasons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But other families say the high demand for the virtual academy should make it easier to reopen schools for remaining students.

August hearing set in lawsuit pitting Forest against Cooper

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A hearing has been scheduled in litigation from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest challenging several COVID-19 restrictions issued by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. A judge set Aug. 4 as the date for arguments before him. Forest sued the governor three weeks ago, saying executive orders that Cooper’s issued during the pandemic should be voided because the Council of State didn’t agree to them. Cooper has said he followed the law while making health and safety decisions. The state Supreme Court also suspended on Tuesday a ruling by the same judge in separate litigation that otherwise would let some bowling alleys reopen.

Cluster of coronavirus cases found at North Carolina casino

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Health officials in North Carolina are investigating a cluster of coronavirus cases after five casino employees tested positive for the virus within two weeks. The Jackson County Department of Public Health said in a news release Monday the cases were identified among Harrah’s Cherokee Casino employees who work in the table games section. The regional manager of the casino said no other employees or customers have been identified as having close contacts with the employee who have tested positive. The casino had closed in March and reopened in late May with 30% capacity. The business said in May employees would be having daily health checks.

Driver license road tests waived for N.C. adult applicants

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Road tests still aren’t being performed by examiners from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles due to COVID-19, so now certain adults are exempt from passing one to obtain a regular license. The DMV announced that starting Wednesday it’ll waive the road test for drivers 18 or older in several specific situations. This follows the General Assembly approving a law last month allowing youths to defer the road test otherwise required to obtain a limited provisional license. The adults seeking a waiver still must make an appointment with the DMV and provide all required documents in person.

Raleigh mayor bans late-night alcohol sales amid pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina mayor has banned alcohol sales after 11 p.m. in an effort to curb the coronavirus spread. Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin signed an executive order Monday announcing the sale ban in bars, restaurants and grocery stores. The curfew will be from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and will take effect Wednesday. According to the order, social distancing and face covering requirements weren’t being followed at restaurants and other businesses in the evening and early morning hours. Baldwin said the curfew could reduce the spread of COVID-19 and “reduce the number of people, especially young people, gathering without masks.”

Judge weighs N.C. voting rule change demand with COVID-19

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A judge is listening to arguments this week about whether the COVID-19 pandemic demands changes to North Carolina’s voting systems this fall. U.S. District Judge William Osteen scheduled a hearing starting Monday involving a lawsuit by two voting advocacy groups and several citizens who fear current rules threaten their health if they want to vote. The plaintiffs want Osteen to block several voting restrictions now. A new state law already eases absentee ballot rules and directs that an online portal be created to file applications. Similar virus-related voting lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina and other states.

N.C. elections order could mean more early voting sites

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s top elections administrator has ordered counties to open a minimum number of early in-person voting sites this fall to buttress ballot access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those sites also have to be open on otherwise optional voting weekends. State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell cited her emergency powers in announcing changes Friday. The order also tells election workers that while they’ll have to wear face coverings at voting centers and Election Day precincts in November, voters won’t be required to do so. A key Senate Republican and liberal-leaning election advocacy groups criticized the order for different reasons.

NC K-12 students to have mix of online, in-person classes

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina will allow K-12 public schools to reopen in the fall with limited in-person capacity. The plan announced by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper allows school districts to decide whether they want to offer online only instruction. A state law appears prevent remote learning during the first week of school. Rotating students between live instruction and remote learning also wouldn’t be allowed for the first week. K-12 schools teaching more than 1.5 million North Carolina students had received guidance for three different reopening scenarios, including full in-person classes, a mix of in person and online and online only. Plan B will remain in effect as public health officials caution against a more expansive reopening until coronavirus numbers improve.

N.C. parents, businesses await Cooper’s COVID-19 plans

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina teachers and parents as well as gym and bar operators are anxious to know what Gov. Roy Cooper will say about the path ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper scheduled a media briefing for Tuesday to discuss the state’s coronavirus case response. He said previously that he would announce this week how the state’s K-12 public schools would operate when classes begin Aug. 17. Cooper also must decide what to do with his executive order expiring Friday that extended closings of bars, health clubs and movie theaters shuttered since March. State virus death trends have been unfavorable in recent weeks.

Outer Banks island ravaged by storms and virus restrictions

OCRACOKE, N.C. (AP) — A secluded tourist destination on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is having an extremely tough year. Ocracoke Island is recovering from the most damaging hurricane in its recorded history and the near-economic paralysis wrought by one of the world’s worst pandemics. A little more than half of the island’s businesses have reopened since the hurricane struck and pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. Their owners are hoping to recoup some of their losses as tourists return, albeit in smaller than usual numbers. They don’t have much time: The hurricane season is expected to heat up again here in August.

N.C. senator says he’s tested positive for COVID-19

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first known public case for a General Assembly member. Robeson County Republican Sen. Danny Britt told The Associated Press he received the positive test on Friday. The 41-year-old was on the Senate floor on Wednesday as the chamber debated bills and cast votes. The entire legislature now isn’t expected to return to work until early September. Building administrators at the legislative complex in Raleigh have initiated health and social distancing measures since April. But Democrats have complained they aren’t strong enough and often criticized Republicans for failing to wear face coverings indoors.

Suit seeks to block N.C. mail-in ballot witness mandate

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A lawsuit seeks to block North Carolina’s witness requirement for people casting mail-in absentee ballots for the November election because of the pandemic. State law reads an absentee voter has to fill out a traditional absentee ballot in the presence of one adult, who then signs the sealed envelope. It was reduced from two witnesses this year because of COVID-19 concerns. But four voters with health concerns who sued Friday in Wake County court say the reduction isn’t good enough, and they fear they could endanger their lives to locate a witness.

Judge won’t delay order that lets N.C. bowling alleys reopen

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge has refused to delay enforcement of his ruling allowing dozen of bowling alleys to reopen in contradiction to Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order. Judge James Gale denied on Wednesday the request from attorneys for the state representing Cooper in a lawsuit filed by an association of bowling lane operators. Now Department of Justice lawyers are asking the state Supreme Court to intervene. Gale decided the association was likely to win on arguments that Cooper’s order wrongly treated them differently compared to businesses with similar virus-risk levels allowed to reopen. Bars and gyms remain closed.

‘Top Chef’ contestant permanently closes Raleigh restaurant

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A “Top Chef” contestant’s restaurant in North Carolina has permanently closed down due to revenue losses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Katsuji Tanabe told The News & Observer on Wednesday his business partner decided to shut down Raleigh’s High Horse restaurant due to the money losses. The restaurant had opened in November 2019. Tanabe told the newspaper his business partner “didn’t feel like trying to reopen” the restaurant again. Tanabe says High Horse tried offering takeout during restaurant closures. He says diners didn’t want takeout from a restaurant known for its live experiences. Tanabe says he has plans to stay in the Raleigh area.

Several veto override attempts at N.C. legislature fail

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly has again fallen short in overriding several of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Wednesday’s unsuccessful votes for the GOP mean directives within the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders that keep many businesses closed remain intact. Four vetoes upheld in House or Senate votes were related to bills Cooper’s orders during the pandemic. A fifth veto upheld addressed a bill about concealed weapons inside certain churches. A Cooper veto hasn’t been overridden since December 2018 — the result of more Democratic seats in both chambers over the past two years. After Wednesday, lawmakers won’t return to work until September.

North Carolina Mountain State Fair canceled due to COVID-19

FLETCHER, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s agriculture commissioner has announced that the 2020 Mountain State Fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fair was scheduled to take place from Sept. 11-20 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Commissioner Steve Troxler says social distancing would be difficult to enforce. News outlets report the event drew more than 171,000 total visitors in 2019. Last year, a hot tub display in the agricultural center during the fair was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The state’s department of health and human resources says four people died and more than 130 others were infected.

North Carolina renaissance festival canceled due to virus

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The annual Carolina Renaissance Festival in North Carolina has been canceled due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus outbreak. The festival said in a statement Monday that the event has been rescheduled to the fall of 2021. It was supposed to be held in October and November of this year. The Charlotte Observer reports the outdoor renaissance event has been held in Huntersville, North Carolina since 1994. A festival official told the newspaper the event draws more than 200,000 people to the town every year.

COVID-19 outbreak hits North Carolina women’s prison

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Authorities say a Raleigh prison for women is grappling with the coronavirus outbreak and will soon test all inmates. The North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh tested 227 inmates in a housing unit last week, and 45 COVID-19 tests came back positive over the weekend. Those figures were announced Monday by the state’s Department of Public Safety. They came as North Carolina recorded its highest day of current hospitalizations at 982. Last month, North Carolina announced its plan to test all prison inmates and staff members.

As COVID cases hit new high, N.C. delays K-12 reopen plans

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina delayed announcing statewide plans for reopening K-12 public schools. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he expects to release updated guidance “in the coming weeks.” Schools were instructed in June to draft three plans for resuming fall classes, which include in-person and remote learning. Cooper on Wednesday said his top priority is to get kids back into classrooms. The decision to postpone a decision on how best to reopen classrooms comes as new coronavirus cases hit a single-day high at 1,843. Public health officials are still working on a plan to protect college students as campuses reopen across the state.

Pandemic prompts layoffs at Belk department store chain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has prompted layoffs at the Belk department store chain, including at its North Carolina-based corporate headquarters. The Charlotte Observer reports that the Charlotte-based company declined to disclose the total number of job losses. The company has about 1,300 employees at its corporate office and about 20,000 employees total. Belk said in a statement that it “had to make some of the most difficult decisions of its 130-year history.” The company said it is providing severance packages to those affected. The company had closed 291 stores in 16 Southern states because of COVID-19. Stores began to reopen in May.

Forest files lawsuit challenging N.C. governor’s orders

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has filed his lawsuit challenging Gov. Roy Cooper’s decisions to shutter businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic without getting the backing of other elected officials. The Republican officially sued the Democratic governor in Wake Superior Court on Wednesday, nearly a week after Forest signaled he’d do so. Cooper and Forest are running for governor in November. Forest wants voided six of Cooper’s executive orders issued since March because Cooper didn’t obtain “concurrence” from the Council of State for his actions. Cooper says his administration has followed the law while making health and safety decisions.

North Carolina requires face coverings statewide

North Carolina’s governor has ordered people across the state to wear masks or other face coverings in public to fight the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Wednesday that people must wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order also mandates masks or other face coverings for employees of businesses including retailers and restaurants, as well as state employees in the executive branch. Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are generally punishable by misdemeanor, but Wednesday’s order directs law enforcement to issue citations to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce mask requirements, not individuals.

N.C. health chief laments virus trends as order soon expires

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s health chief says the state’s COVID-19 case trends have worsened since the economy has reopened in recent weeks. But Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen wouldn’t say on Monday whether they would prevent more shuttered businesses from reopening when Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order expires this week. The number of virus-related hospitalizations remains near a record high for the pandemic, and the number of deaths has exceeded 1,200. The state prison system says about 60 offenders held in Stanly County have tested positive. And state courts will extend a prohibition on jury trials through at least the end of July.

Planning for summer beach days? Docs share virus safety tips

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Americans have never been more ready to get out of the house and bask in the sun. Warm weather beach destinations are the most popular vacation searches, with Florida, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and San Diego among the top considerations. Tripadvisor says 50% of travelers are looking to book a one- to five-day trip this month, suggesting massive pent-up demand for sand and surf. But the craving for a beach getaway coincides with recent spikes in coronavirus cases in beach havens like Florida, Texas and the Carolinas. Experts say a beach trip is low-risk as long as you follow some basic precautions.

Apple closes stores in 4 states, again, as infections rise

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Apple is closing 11 stores in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina that it had reopening just a few weeks ago. The decision announced Friday arrives amid rising infections in some states, particularly those that began loosening restrictions requiring most people to stay home and most stores to shut down this spring. There were 286.7 new cases per 100,000 people in Arizona over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 143.1%. Johns Hopkins University researchers tracking the virus say new cases in Florida have increased by 144.4%.

Agency: North Carolina unemployment rate neared 13% in May

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A state agency says North Carolina’s unemployment rate neared 13% in May. The actual rate of 12.9% announced Friday by the Division of Employment Security matches the revised rate for April. The identical figures still reflect the massive layoffs and furloughs that have occurred due to the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The state rate was just slightly over 4% in March. The division said May’s total employed workforce actually increased by 118,000 since April. But that total is 663,000 below where the employed workforce stood 12 months earlier. The state has distributed more than $4 billion in unemployment benefits since mid-March.

North Carolina to test all prison inmates, staff members

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina has announced plans to test all state prison inmates for COVID-19 over the next two months. The move to do so comes after a court ordered the state to come up with a plan to offer a coronavirus test to its entire prison population. Officials say the testing will cost an estimated $3.3 million and take at least 60 days. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said all staff members also be tested. Statewide, numbers released Thursday from North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services showed 1,333 new cases of coronavirus and a third straight day of record-high hospitalizations at 857.

Governor: Decision on shuttered businesses comes next week

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he’ll announce early next week a decision on whether businesses still shuttered because of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen. Cooper’s current executive order expires June 26. It allows restaurants to have dine-in seating again and for barber shops and hair and nail salons to reopen. But bars, movie theaters and gyms remain closed. The governor said Monday his decision will be based on science and data. He’s worried about the recent upticks in cases and hospitalizations. But he’s hopeful a “second wave” of cases can be stopped by the public practicing social distancing.

Speedway protest over COVID-19 limits draws only small crowd

PINE HALL, N.C. (AP) — Stock car racing has turned into the leading battleground over COVID-19 crowd restrictions in North Carolina. Track owners have taken their fight to reopen to the streets and to court. But on Saturday, a protest at one race track attracted so few people that the demonstration was perfectly legal under the state’s restrictions. The News & Observer reports that at 311 Speedway in Stokes County, fewer than 25 people showed up to protest, despite a live band and a free cheeseburger and fries with a ticket purchase .Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus restrictions limit outdoor gatherings to 25 people.

Alarming rise in virus cases as states roll back lockdowns

NEW YORK (AP) — Coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half the U.S. states. And while many are chalked up to increased testing or to small, local outbreaks, others are more alarming. In Arizona, hospitals were notified over the weekend to prepare for the worst amid surges across the state. And the governor of North Carolina says recent jumps have caused him to rethink plans to reopen schools or businesses. Texas and Utah are among the states that have also been identified as worrisome hot spots. What’s tricky is sorting out exactly why different surges are happening. The answer may vary from state to state, and even from county to county, some experts say.

Solutions for youths awaiting license clear N.C. legislature

RALEIGH, N.C (AP) — North Carolina legislators have agreed about what to do for teenagers whose attempts to get a license have been thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The House and Senate voted separately on Thursday for compromise legislation that defers the behind-the-wheel tests for young people seeking a limited provisional license. The Division of Motor Vehicles isn’t currently offering those tests due to social distancing concerns. The bill heading to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk also addresses what happens to young people who could only partially complete 30 required hours of classroom instruction to receive their first license before schools were shuttered.

Prep for high N.C. absentee ballot demand gets Senate OK

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Changes to mail-in absentee ballot rules in North Carolina to help operate a fall election during the pandemic has received tentative approval from the state Senate. The measure is a response to the expected spike in demand for absentee ballots from people at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19. Wednesday’s Senate debate was more divisive than a similar discussion in the House two weeks ago. The measure expands the options for registered voters to receive an absentee ballot request form. And there’s $27 million for things like upgrading elections security, recruiting in-person poll workers and stocking up on personal protective equipment.

NC Republicans abandon effort to keep Trump in Charlotte

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A proposal by a North Carolina state legislator to keep President Donald Trump in Charlotte for the Republican National Convention will not go up for a vote. The Republican National Committee oversees the convention, and its chairwoman now says Jacksonville, Florida, is the top site for Trump to accept his party’s nomination. The last ditch-effort by state Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County contradicted Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s insistence that the state could not promise a full capacity crowd because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Trump will speak elsewhere, the RNC insists some of its business activities will continue to be held in Charlotte.

Judge: Prisons must create testing plan for all inmates

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge says the state prison system must come up with a plan to test all inmates for COVID-19. Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier is hearing a lawsuit filed by prisoners and civil rights advocates seeking action to reduce the virus’s threat behind bars. Rozier wrote this week that inmates are likely facing unlawful “cruel or unusual punishments” in part because correction officials have failed to offer widespread testing. Prison leaders have kept to a policy whereby mass testing has occurred in only two prisons. Rozier also signaled his order will tell prison officials to find more ways to release prisoners early.

North Carolina speedway ordered shut because of large crowds

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has ordered closed a small stock-car track that’s allowed large crowds to gather repeatedly for weekend races well above COVID-19 limits for mass gatherings. Cooper’s health secretary says Ace Speedway in Alamance County is an “imminent hazard” for the virus’ spread and can’t reopen unless it creates a safety plan to keep fans away. Media outlets have reported crowds at the speedway exceeding 2,000 people. The action came after the local sheriff announced on Monday he wouldn’t issue a citation for the speedway. Disclosure of the legal action came as North Carolina reported another record high of virus-related hospitalizations.

As cases climb, Cooper warns of consequences of virus spread

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is warning the public about the consequences of the spread of COVID-19 as the state’s case and hospitalization numbers reach new highs. North Carolina recorded the highest one-day increase in cases over the weekend, and the number of virus-related deaths now exceed 1,000. Cooper said Monday that the reopening of the public schools in August could be in jeopardy if health precautions aren’t taken seriously. Cooper and state health Secretary Mandy Cohen said people who have been in crowds should get tested. That includes thousands that have been demonstrating since the death of George Floyd.

GOP lawmakers push bill to keep Trump, RNC in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina plan to introduce a bill that would allow President Donald Trump to speak in front of a packed Republican National Convention. The measure would allow the convention in Charlotte to operate without many of the restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus. The move comes after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said the August convention would have to be scaled down to protect public health. Trump responded by announcing that he’d speak in a different state. The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. John Torbett of Gaston. It is largely symbolic as Cooper is likely to reject it and Republicans are unlikely to have the votes to override a veto.

Cooper vetoes bill to let N.C. bars serve patrons again

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed legislation that would have let North Carolina standalone bars serve patrons again in contradiction to his executive order that’s aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. The vetoed bill would have allowed bars to only reopen outdoors, as well as give additional outdoor seating to restaurants that Cooper agreed could again serve dine-in customers two weeks ago. The governor wrote Friday that the bill would have limited the ability of leaders to respond quickly to a surge in the virus. A veto override looks unlikely. Legislators are advancing another measure that would allow gyms to open against Cooper’s wishes.

Trump threatens to move RNC without assurances from governor

President Donald Trump is threatening to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if the state’s Democratic governor doesn’t immediately sign off on allowing a full-capacity gathering in August despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s tweets Monday about the RNC planned for Charlotte come just two days after the state recorded its largest daily increase in positive cases yet. Gov. Roy Cooper’s office responded with a brief statement that state officials are working with the GOP on convention decisions. Cooper allowed the state to enter a second phase of gradual reopening Friday with some further loosening of restrictions on hair salons, barbers and restaurants.

Georgia gov offers state as GOP convention host amid virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is demanding assurances from North Carolina’s Democratic governor that the Republican National Convention can go forward in August despite coronavirus fears. This comes as at least one GOP governor began lobbying for the convention to move to his state. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent an open plea to Trump Tuesday to consider his state as an alternate site for the quadrennial convention, which is set to gather more than 2,500 delegates and thousands more guests, press and security officials. Plans have been underway for more than a year to host the convention in Charlotte, but Trump and national Republican officials have expressed concerns that local officials may not allow gatherings of that size amid the pandemic.

North Carolina town installs sanitizer stations on sidewalks

SOUTHPORT, N.C. (AP) — A coastal town in North Carolina has installed hand sanitizer stations on sidewalks in its downtown. The Charlotte Observer reports that that the town of Southport announced the move on Saturday as crowds traveled to the North Carolina coast for Memorial Day weekend. Health experts have long recommended that people sanitize their hands to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

NC farmers start euthanizing 1.5M chickens amid pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants are forcing North Carolina farmers to euthanize 1.5 million chickens, according to a state official. Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon told The News & Observer on Friday that this is the first time during the pandemic that North Carolina farmers have had to euthanize their animals. Reardon said roughly a third of the 1.5 million chickens already had been killed. Agriculture officials said Thursday that 2,006 workers in 26 processing plants across the state have tested positive for coronavirus.

Lawsuit: NC laws expose many voters to virus risks

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates claims North Carolina has failed to change its election laws to ensure that voters can safely cast ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina sued Friday on behalf of several elderly or disabled residents whose medical conditions make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. The federal lawsuit alleges that several aspects of North Carolina’s absentee vote-by-mail requirements are unconstitutional because voters will have to risk exposure to COVID-19 to successfully vote.

UNC, NC State to resume in-person classes on Aug. 10

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — During a visit to the Charlotte area, federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the upcoming NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday in Concord is an important part of the country getting back to work and normal activities. He praised governors for moving to reopen their economies, with North Carolina set to enter a second phase of loosened restrictions Friday. He said economic downturns can lead to increased suicide rates and reductions in vaccinations and cancer screenings. Azar addressed reporters after touring a testing center at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and having a discussion with health leaders about reopening state economies.

Cabinet Secretary Azar visits testing site in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A key booster of President Donald Trump’s administration response to the new coronavirus and efforts to revive the national economy is visiting North Carolina. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar planned to visit on Thursday a testing site run at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. The Cabinet secretary also was expected to meet with local health care leaders about efforts to dull the spread of COVID-19 and reopen North Carolina safely. The visit comes the day before a new order by Gov. Roy Cooper takes effect that reopens barber shops and salons and lets restaurants serve sitting patrons again.

Poultry plant in North Carolina reports 570 COVID-19 cases

WILKESBORO, N.C. (AP) — Meat producer Tyson Foods is reporting 570 cases of COVID-19 at a poultry processing complex in North Carolina. Tyson said in a news release that it tested more than 2,000 staff members and contractors who work at its facility in Wilkesboro. Tyson said that most of the 570 didn’t show symptoms. Tyson said it’s increasing testing and health care options at 30 of its facilities and providing face masks, putting physical barriers between work stations and implementing social distancing practices. Tyson had temporarily closed parts of the North Carolina complex that houses multiple plants for deep cleaning, including a multi-day closure announced last week.

North Carolina beach town scales back restrictions

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina beach town is scaling back its restrictions in advance of the Memorial Day weekend. News outlets report Wrightsville Beach allowed all beach activities to resume as of Wednesday afternoon, including sunbathing, fishing and games. Previously, it allowed access to its beach but only for exercise. The town is also allowing short-term rentals to resume and has opened six of its public parking lots to beachgoers, a total 329 available spaces. On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced restaurants, barber shops and hair salons could welcome patrons inside starting this holiday weekend, citing state COVID-19 trends remaining largely stable.

Durham County holds off on business opening until June 1

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Officials in a North Carolina county say they won’t allow restaurants, hair salons and swimming pools to reopen until June 1. The Herald-Sun of Durham reports the decision by Durham County comes one day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced that restaurants, barbershops and salons could welcome customers indoors starting this weekend. Cooper said bars, gyms and other indoor entertainment will need to remain closed for another five weeks. Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners, confirmed to the newspaper in a text that those entities won’t be allowed to open until June 1.

N.C. health chief asks people to “hang in there” under order

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s chief health leader is asking residents to “hang in there” by continuing to comply with the state business restrictions mean to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper’s current stay-at-home order expires Friday. Cooper said this week he’s hopeful further easing of business restrictions could begin. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday that testing, tracing and hospitalization trends used to make decisions on stay-home orders continue to be stable. Still, Cohen’s agency reported 675 new virus cases and 30 additional deaths in North Carolina on Tuesday, compared to a day earlier.

North Carolina appliance manufacturer closes due to COVID-19

NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina appliance manufacturer says it is shutting down until further notice after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. WCTI reports Lore McKenna, director of corporate communications for BSH Home Appliances Corporation North America, says the company was informed of the test connected with its New Bern plant on Monday and immediately contacted local authorities. Out of an abundance of caution, McKenna says the plant will remain closed until further notice. The plant, which employs more than 1,400, had previously closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 in March.

N. Carolina transportation department furloughs employees

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Department of Transportation has told its employees to take unpaid time off until the end of June to help the department save money as part of cost-cutting measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Transportation Secretary J. Eric Boyette wrote in an email to employees on Monday that they will have until June 26 to take 20 hours of unpaid time off. News outlets report the furloughs will also affect the department’s executive and senior leadership teams. An official told the News & Observer the furloughs will save the department about $7 million.

Judge blocks governor’s virus-related orders on churches

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge in North Carolina has sided with conservative Christian leaders and blocked the enforcement of restrictions that Gov. Roy Cooper ordered affecting indoor religious services during the pandemic. The order from Judge James C. Dever III came Saturday, days after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filed a federal lawsuit seeking to immediately block enforcement of rules covering religious services within the Democratic governor’s executive orders. The plaintiffs argued the limits violate their rights to worship freely and treat churches differently from retailers and other secular activities. Cooper’s office says it won’t appeal the ruling.

Correctional facility to test all juveniles for COVID-19

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Department of Public Safety says all juveniles held at the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center will be tested for COVID-19 after a staff member reported testing positive for the coronavirus Friday. The agency in a statement Saturday said the employee has been off work since May 10 after notifying management about a potential exposure to the virus. The employee showed symptoms Wednesday and was tested that day. Facility director Peter Brown says no juveniles have shown symptoms associated with COVID-19. He says two living units have been placed on quarantine, and children there are being monitored twice a day for symptoms.

Patient testing for virus in N. Carolina to expand greatly

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina health officials are expanding greatly the scope of COVID-19 testing by encouraging doctors to order tests for higher-risk individuals even when they show no symptoms. The new protocol announced on Friday comes as North Carolina has shown a significant jump in completed tests thanks to more laboratory capacity and materials. People who could now get the test without showing illness signs include people age 65 or over, African American residents, prisoners, grocery-store clerks and first responders. State health Secretary Mandy Cohen says her agency is also moving toward periodic testing of all nursing home residents and staff.

Durham keeps stay-at-home order in place indefinitely

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The mayor of a North Carolina city is keeping a stay-at-home order in place since late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic in effect indefinitely. News sources report Durham Mayor Steve Schewel announced on Friday that a revised order will largely conform to Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest statewide order, allowing most businesses to operate if they adhere to strict cleaning protocols and take steps to ensure social distancing for both customers and employees. But Schewel said the local order will continue to be stricter than the state’s in several ways, including requiring people to cover their faces in public whenever social distancing isn’t feasible.

N. Carolina governor defends rules for businesses, churches

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is defending details of his eased stay-at-home order against criticisms by Republican elected officials and the latest weekly protests at his home. Cooper’s altered COVID-19 order allows more businesses to open, but barber shops, movie theater and gyms remain closed. He’s also keeping narrow the exceptions for churches to hold services indoors. Cooper said on Tuesday that “pandemics cannot be partisan” and talked about how he signed a bipartisan COVID-19 funding bill recently. Hundreds of demonstrators critical of his stay-at-home order rallied again in front of the Executive Mansion on Tuesday.

North Carolina Democrats to hold state convention online

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Democratic Party will hold its state convention online next month in keeping with social distancing rules from the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual convention is set for June 6 and will feature appearances by statewide candidates and other special guests. Convention business includes picking those who will serve as Democratic National Convention delegates and on the party’s slate of presidential electors. The state Republican Party had planned to hold its convention in Greenville this weekend, but it’s been pushed back to July. Both state parties have been holding local activities online in recent weeks.

N.C. stay-at-home order eased starting late Friday

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina residents will be able to frequent reopening businesses and parks as Gov. Roy Cooper’s modified statewide stay-at-home order to address COVID-19 takes effect. More North Carolina businesses can be open starting Friday afternoon as long as they limit customer occupancy. All but one state park will be open starting Saturday. Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options for at least another two weeks. And, barber shops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed. Cooper and state health officials are urging people to remain vigilant in keeping their distance and washing their hands.

Absentee ballots now getting mailed for N.C. Congress runoff

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina election administrators say voters shouldn’t fear the new coronavirus while casting ballots in next month’s primary runoff for a congressional seat in the mountains. Election boards in 17 counties within the 11th Congressional District will begin on Friday mailing absentee ballots to voters requesting them for the June 23 GOP runoff between Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn. Mail-in ballots are likely to be in higher demand due to the COVID-19 outbreak. State elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell says safety precautions also will be in place at in-person voting sites.

North Carolina transit system to require masks for riders

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) — One North Carolina transit system is requiring its passengers to wear masks beginning next week. The News & Record of Greensboro reported that, starting Monday, High Point Transit passengers will have to wear protective masks or face coverings. A news release from the city said the mask must cover passengers’ noses and mouths. Passengers without a face covering will be given a disposable mask. The city said that while High Point Transit will continue to operate fare-free until further notice, passengers must have an intended destination.

Smoky Mountains National Park to reopen over weekend

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set to reopen on Saturday, becoming one of the biggest federal attractions to reopen amid the national lockdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis. The nation’s most visited national park has been closed since late March in response to the pandemic. The park says some of its most popular trails will remain off limits for now. It says new safety measures will be implemented in facility operations and services to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most national parks remain closed, though Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Everglades National Park in Florida have also announced phased reopenings.

N. Carolina Republican state convention pushed back to July

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Republican Party has delayed its convention by two months because of the continuing COVID-19 outbreak. The party had planned to hold the four-day convention in Greenville starting May 14. Now it’s been pushed back to July 9 at the Greenville Convention Center. Party activists will elect Republican National Committee members and state delegates to the national covention, which is still set for late August in Charlotte. North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley says the party is committed to hosting the state convention, but that it had to adapt to the “evolving timeline” for reopening the state.

Outer Banks counties announce date for reopening to visitors

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Three counties on North Carolina’s tourist-reliant Outer Banks have announced plans to lift coronavirus-related visitor restrictions. Officials in Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing restrictions on entry for visitors will be lifted at noon on Saturday, May 16. According to the statement, reopening to visitors on that date will allow local businesses, attractions, and accommodation providers time to follow the new business operating requirements put in place by Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order. Officials are also reminding potential visitors to observe restrictions such as social distancing because the pandemic is not over.

N. Carolina governor to ease stay-home order later this week

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper has agreed to ease North Carolina’s stay-at-home order originally issued several weeks ago due to COVID-19. A new order taking effect Friday replaces a more restrictive mandate that Cooper had issued. Cooper said he signed the new order Tuesday because COVID-19 cases are generally stable and testing, tracing and health care supplies are improving enough to warrant increased commerce and movement. Retail businesses previously considered nonessential will be able to open with capacity limits. Bars, barber shops and gyms still must be closed, and restaurants still can’t provide dine-in meals. Church services can be held outdoors with social distancing.

In clamor to reopen, many black people feel overlooked

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Many African Americans watching protests calling for easing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus see them as one more example of how their health and their rights just don’t seem to matter. To many, it seems that the people protesting — who have been predominantly white — are agitating for reopening because they won’t be the ones to suffer the consequences of it. Instead, those will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of black people and other marginalized groups. The pandemic has highlighted gaping inequalities in the United States. Black people are dying in disproportionate numbers from COVID-19 in the U.S.

UNC Wilmington extends cancellation of summer programs

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The University of North Carolina at Wilmington says it is extending the cancellation of its summer programs, camps and non-athletic conferences due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school had initially announced that its summer programming was canceled through June 24. Another announcement from the school said the programming is now canceled through Aug. 5. UNCW said in a statement that that some camps and programs will be offering participation online and urges those interested to check individual programs’ websites for information. UNCW Athletics will announce a decision about its camps by May 15.

Giant cinnamon rolls raise money, feed ‘bellies and souls’

What began as an effort by Whitney Rutz to cheer herself up ended up lifting the spirits of many others — one giant cinnamon roll at a time. Rutz’s rolls have raised more than $35,000 for the Oregon Food Bank. At first, she was auctioning the rolls off — the first went for $300. Now, Rutz, with some help, bakes a giant roll, 12 inches across and weighing more than five pounds, for every $500 raised. The highest contributor of the day decides where the roll goes — and most have sent them to health care workers.

In clamor to reopen, many black people feel overlooked

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Many African Americans watching protests calling for easing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus see them as one more example of how their health and their rights just don’t seem to matter. To many, it seems that the people protesting — who have been predominantly white — are agitating for reopening because they won’t be the ones to suffer the consequences of it. Instead, those will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of black people and other marginalized groups. The pandemic has highlighted gaping inequalities in the United States. Black people are dying in disproportionate numbers from COVID-19 in the U.S.

Gov. Cooper Signs $1.5B Coronavirus Measures

Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an over $1.5 billion package of bills that will help North Carolina fight COVID-19.  The measures were approved in a bipartisan effort in the N.C. General Assembly.  The bills will help provide assistance for small businesses, feed children while schools are closed, enable summer learning programs so students won’t fall behind, and assist hospitals and first responders.

Cooper says the state is making progress in its testing, tracing and trends.  The governor is hopeful the state will be able to start reopening its economy this weekend.  Gov. Cooper also reminded the success the state is seeing so far is due to North Carolinians following the “Stay-at-Home” order, and practicing recommended social distancing and sanitizing measures.  The governor’s “Stay-at-Home” executive order is currently in effect until May 8.

As of Monday morning, there were 11,848 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina.  430 of those cases have resulted in death.

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.

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.

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.

Homecoming for deployed soldiers altered by quarantine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — In January, thousands of paratroopers assigned to Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force were sent to the Middle East with little notice amid rising tensions with Iran. Four months later, the base they return to is much different. COVID-19 restrictions prohibit the traditional welcome home fanfare. Soldiers will be quarantined for 14 days either on base or at home to prevent the spread of the virus. But loved ones were still determined to cheer on their return.

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. session marked by empty seats, stay-home opponents

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly began its annual session by turning immediately to legislation to distribute COVID-19 federal relief funds amid unprecedented operating rules with social distancing in mind. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger gaveled in their floor sessions on Tuesday with only a few dozen legislators in attendance. The chambers hope to pass legislation addressing the coronavirus by the end of the week. Hundreds of demonstrators angry with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s extended statewide stay-at-home order greeted lawmakers while rallying for the third Tuesday in a row. They expressed their grievances in front of the Legislative Building.

Flyers stoke debate over reopening the Outer Banks

MANTEO, N.C. (AP) — A flyer that’s being place on parked cars along part of North Carolina’s coast is telling visitors to go home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Virginian-Pilot reported Tuesday that the message is emblematic of an ongoing debate over the value of stay-at-home orders and the need to restart the crucial tourist economy on the Outer Banks. The flyer that’s been distributed in Dare County said: “Stop being so selfish and ignorant about this.” Dare County rebuked the sentiment in a statement. The county plans to allow nonresident property owners to come back on Monday.

Students sue universities in North Carolina for tuition

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — College students in North Carolina are suing universities in hopes of getting reimbursements for tuition and fees after campuses shut down and moved classes online during the coronavirus pandemic. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Tuesday that the institutions that are being sued include schools in the University of North Carolina system as well as East Carolina University. Students say in the lawsuits that universities made the right decision to shutdown classes. But they claim that they were deprived of a college experience that includes in-person instruction, access to campus facilities and student activities.

Pick-your-own farm closes after positive COVID-19 tests

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A pick-your-own strawberry farm in North Carolina has temporarily closed after laboratory tests confirmed eight workers tested positive for coronavirus. Rudd Farm said on its Facebook page that it took preventative measures, including having workers wear gloves and masks and using a drive-through service to maintain social distancing. According to the post, one worker said he felt sick and tested positive, and several other workers also tested positive for COVID-19. The News & Record of Greensboro reported that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed eight cases linked to on-site housing for farm workers.

N. Carolina historians asking for help to remember pandemic

North Carolina historians are already pondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered by future generations and wants the public to help. The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources says it’s collecting objects, digital and physical documents and web content about what’s happening. It’s also asking residents to share with the agency their experiences and to save materials that could wind up in the State Archives and North Carolina Museum of History. The museum and archives are currently closed, so citizens are asked to save physical items for future collection.

N.C. data release shows 4 nursing homes with 10-plus deaths

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Four North Carolina nursing homes have each had at least 10 deaths of residents diagnosed with COVID-19. That comes from new detailed data released on Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. It names more than 70 long-term facilities, rehabilitation centers, adult care homes and other locations where outbreaks have occurred. The department hadn’t earlier identified the specific facilities, with officials saying it could break confidentiality rules on patient information. But some county health agencies had released those details anyway. Overall, North Carolina reported more than 9,100 positive cases statewide as of Monday and over 300 deaths.

N.C. General Assembly back at work shortly on COVID-19 aid

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly is starting its annual session during the COVID-19 health threat to quickly approve emergency response funding and ease rules for conducting business and government activities. The House and Senate planned to gavel in at midday Tuesday for what’s planned to be a few days of debate and voting. Lawmakers are expected to support bills being worked on by members of both parties and Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration. Cooper asked lawmakers to distribute $1.4 billion in federal funds. The Legislative Building is closed to the public as the statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect.

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.

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.

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.

N.C. Republican leader: We won’t seek budget veto override

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s powerful Senate leader says the chamber’s Republicans won’t try anymore to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto from last summer. Sen. Phil Berger said in an interview with The Associated Press that state government’s precarious fiscal situation due to COVID-19 would make it unwise to carry out the two-year spending plan. An override vote cleared the House last September but hasn’t succeeded in the Senate. The legislature returns on Tuesday briefly to approve emergency coronavirus spending and policies. Berger says an override is off the table next week and when the legislature meets again later in the year.

Courthouse closes after worker tests positive for COVID-19

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina courthouse is closed to the public after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. The Winston-Salem Journal reports Todd Burke, senior resident Superior Court judge, signed an order on Thursday which closed the Forsyth County Hall of Justice effective on Friday. The court is scheduled to reopen to the public on May 4. Burke said an employee came to work on Thursday exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Accordoing to Burke, the employee left work immediately and went to a medical professional to get testing. Burke said he was told late Thursday afternoon that the employee tested positive for COVID-19.

North Carolina extends stay-home order, develops reopen plan

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s governor is extending the state’s stay-home order by about a week while also creating a phased plan to gradually reopen businesses. Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that he will extend his stay-home order that also restricts non-essential businesses until May 8. It had previously been set to run through April 29. The Democrat is resisting pressure to move faster even as some other southern states have already taken steps to allow businesses to resume. Cooper said the phased plan for reopening would depend on increased testing and contact tracing, along with a downward trend in COVID-19 cases.

Vidant Health announces furloughs, pay cuts due to COVID-19

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Vidant Health is announcing furloughs, reduced salaries and cuts to employee benefits at its hospitals because of the COVID-19 outbreak. News outlets report the health system says that while a growing number of patients rely on Medicare and Medicaid, it is experiencing what it calls “a significant decrease in volumes which is impacting revenue.” Effective Sunday, Vidant says it will reduce pay for executives and all employees. The system will be implementing furloughs, salary reductions, and schedule/shift adjustments. It also will be cutting employer contributions to retirement plans by 50%.

Top N. Carolina judge: Magistrates must keep marrying

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — All North Carolina couples should again be able to marry before a local magistrate after worries over the spread of COVID-19 had led several counties to halt such officiating. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered this week that all counties resume performing marriage ceremonies, but gave local court officials flexibility in how and where to do them. Some officiating became more difficult in recent weeks as churches and other venues closed, so large numbers of witnesses came with the couple to the magistrate. Ceremony time and attendance restrictions and appointment requirements can still be issued.

N.C. hotel attempts to evict residents amid virus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Residents at a Charlotte hotel say management told them to leave their rooms, and shut off power and water in violation of North Carolina’s guidelines on evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. WJZY-TV reports residents at the Days Inn in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood were told Monday they had only had a few hours to move out. The decision caught residents by surprise since some had paid for their rooms in advance. North Carolina has halted eviction hearings until June 1, including for hotel residents. Water and power were restored Tuesday after Legal Aid lawyers intervened. Days Inn says it’s “troubled” by the situation.

Hundreds demand North Carolina governor end stay-home order

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Hundreds of people angry and frustrated with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order marched around his home while demanding that he cancel it to help restore the state’s economy. The crowd gathered on Tuesday before being escorted by Raleigh police motorcycles to walk through downtown Raleigh streets, including those surrounding the Executive Mansion. Cooper’s current order expires April 29, but the governor has said goals still must be met to ease movement and commerce restrictions. He says he’ll release more specifics this week about quantifying those goals. Governors of some surrounding states already have announced plans to reopen some businesses.

North Carolina transportation officials announce layoffs

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The N.C. Department of Transportation will lay off temporary and contract workers and delay the start of about 90 construction projects because of a decline in tax revenues resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. The department said in a news release that it expects a budget shortfall of at least $300 million for the fiscal year ending June 30. NCDOT said in the news release that it has told location governments that the shortfall is leading to a delay in all but about 50 major projects scheduled to start in the next 12 months.

Aide: Lt. Gov. Forest uses campaign money for COVID-19 help

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has given nearly $200,000 from his gubernatorial campaign fund to people and businesses needing assistance due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. That’s according to his campaign manager in a video released Monday that also criticized Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper for a recent campaign fundraising plea. The disclosure comes as Cooper has held a large campaign fundraising advantage over Forest. A Cooper campaign spokeswoman says Forest is just continuing to to inject politics into a public health crisis. Cooper has held the media spotlight for weeks while leading the state’s response to the new coronavirus.

More food help coming to North Carolina families

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Low-income families in North Carolina with school-age children will soon get additional food benefits thanks to federal funds sought by state government due to the COVID-19 crisis. Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Monday that the state is among the first four states approved to provide help through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer. That’s $250 in benefits per child for families whose children are eligible for free and reduced school lunches. The benefits are funded by the federal government and will flow through electronic cards. Program families already are getting the maximum amount of monetary benefits for their household size through April.

Wrightsville Beach opens to visitors, but with restrictions

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) — Officials in a North Carolina coastal town have opened beach access to the public, but with a set of restrictions. Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens announced that ocean and soundside beach access points are open as of noon Monday, but they are subject to restrictions. According to the town, all access points and beaches will be opened for what’s described as individual, non-stationary exercise activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, and surfing and water sports. beaches have been opened to residents and property owners in Carteret County, but are still restricted to tourists. Surf City officials took down barriers to public beach access last Friday.

North Carolina reports 350 new coronavirus cases

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Authorities in North Carolina are reporting 350 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, pushing the total number of cases to 6,500. Numbers released Sunday by the state health department show laboratory-confirmed cases increased from 6,140 cases to 6,493. The death toll increased from 164 to 172. Modeling released Friday by the University of Washington suggests that North Carolina may have reached its peak in coronavirus cases in the last few days, and that social distancing could be relaxed as soon as May 11 if sufficient testing is conducted, large gatherings are limited and other provisions remain in effect. Other models are less optimistic.

North Carolina coronavirus cases exceed 6,000;

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina authorities are now reporting more than 6,000 coronavirus cases after more than 280 new cases were identified. The state health department released new statistics Saturday showing that confirmed positive cases increased from more than 5,850 cases to 6,140. The state’s death toll increased from 152 to 164. Nearly 400 people are currently hospitalized. The numbers show that 43 deaths _ roughly 1 in 4 _ have occurred in nursing homes throughout the state. State officials are also dealing with a significant outbreak at Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, where authorities said Friday that more than 250 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina prison grows over 250

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Prison officials say a COVID-19 outbreak at a North Carolina state prison has spread to more than 250 inmates. State prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee said during a media briefing that 259 inmates had tested positive as of Friday afternoon at Neuse Correctional Institution, a state prison in Goldsboro. He said none were hospitalized and that 98% of those testing positive were asymptomatic. All 700 inmates have been tested but some test results are pending. Newly positive inmates are being put into isolation, and the state is sending additional medical and security staff to the facility.

Abortion protester charged for exceeding 10-person rule sues

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An abortion protester is suing the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County after being arrested for exceeding a 10-person limit imposed to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The Alliance Defending Freedom said Saturday it filed the lawsuit in federal court in Charlotte on behalf of protester David Benham and two antiabortion groups. Benham is one of several protesters who were arrested April 4 outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte. The lawsuit accuses authorities of singling out the protesters for enforcement. Police have said that about 50 protesters were gathered at the clinic and that eight were arrested.

Business owners left out as lending program goes on hold

NEW YORK (AP) — The government’s paycheck protection loan program for small businesses is on hold. The Small Business Administration has announced that it reached the $349 billion lending limit for the program. Thousands of small business owners whose loans have not yet been processed must now wait for Congress to approve a Trump administration request for another $250 billion for the program. Lawmakers have been haggling over whether to extend the program as it stands now, or whether to add provisions that among other things would help minority businesses. It’s unclear when they might reach an agreement that would allow loan approvals to continue. North Carolina had 23,786 loans approved totaling $5,729,549,254.

Stay-home orders change in two North Carolina counties

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two of North Carolina’s largest counties are modifying stay-home orders meant to curb COVID-19. Wake County, which includes Raleigh, announced Thursday it’s extending its stay-home order through April 30 while allowing more retail businesses to operate if they can provide delivery or curbside pickup for customers. Guilford County announced it will allow its stay-home order to expire, though residents will still be covered under Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide order with similar provisions. The statewide order remains through the end of April.

Cooper sets route to ease restrictions, warns of new normal

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper has set in place the route that North Carolina must take before movement and commerce restrictions due to COVID-19 can ease. Cooper said on Wednesday that the state will need more widespread testing, extensive efforts to track down people in contact with the sick and slowed case and hospital rates. Cooper must decide soon what to do with a stay-at-home order that expires April 29. He also warned that improvements would be incremental and described a “new normal” in which restaurants must be partially-full and fans prohibited from concerts and sporting events.

Multitudes of uncollected seashells in N.C. amid tourist ban

HARKERS ISLAND, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) — The lack of tourists in North Carolina’s Outer Banks during the coronavirus pandemic has been creating large piles of uncollected seashells. A Facebook video posted Monday by the Cape Lookout National Seashore shows a multitude of colorful shells spread out across the beach as waves splash over them. The Charlotte Observer reports that while park facilities are closed, both Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores in the Outer Banks are open to residents. The shells remain uncollected since visitors tend to gather them during the springtime.

N. Carolina lawsuit cites virus to stop touch-screen voting

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The threat of hand-to-hand contamination from the new coronavirus while voting entered arguments in a lawsuit seeking to stop the use of touch-screen ballot-marking machines in North Carolina. Lawyers for North Carolina voters and the state NAACP largely cited constitutional concerns Wednesday in their lawsuit demanding the machines from Election Systems & Software be barred from future elections. The plaintiffs also say the touch-screen machines are inherently hazardous to use during the COVID-19 crisis because screens are smudged with fingers and hands. The litigation comes as states figure how to conduct high-stakes elections this fall should the new coronavirus persist.

North Carolina deaths pass 100; protesters seek order’s end

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Deaths in North Carolina of those with COVID-19 have exceeded 100, but the increase in the number of positive cases may be slowing. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 108 related deaths statewide as of Tuesday and more than 5,000 positive cases. Department Secretary Mandy Cohen mourned the deaths at a media briefing but says social-distancing directives are helping blunt the intensity of the virus. They include Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order. Around 100 people who want Cooper to ease or lift the stay-at-home order held a midday rally on Tuesday in downtown Raleigh before being dispersed by police.

NC may ease COVID-19 restrictions if outbreak pace slows

North Carolina’s governor said Monday that he could ease some coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses after April if social-distancing practices continue to slow the virus outbreak over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, corrections officials said they are allowing some inmates out of state prisons early if they didn’t commit violent crimes and fit certain criteria. Gov. Roy Cooper stressed at a news briefing that relaxing restrictions meant to slow the virus outbreak would be gradual. He said he’s discussing with epidemiologists what steps could be taken after the end of April to help the economy. Current measures include only allowing restaurants to serve takeout and delivery and restricting many nonessential businesses.

Inmate dies, 80-plus others infected in his prison complex

BUTNER, N.C. (AP) — A 81-year-old inmate in North Carolina has died after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The Federal Bureau of Prisons says Charles Richard Rootes died Saturday after receiving treatment for over two weeks. He was diagnosed with the virus on March 26 after being taken to a hospital for respiratory failure. The News & Observer reports more than 80 people, including 22 employees, have been diagnosed with the virus in the prison complex that housed Rootes. Butner Prison Complex’s medium-security facility, which houses 641 men, currently has more than 40 inmates who have tested positive for the virus. There are 10 other confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates at Butner’s low-security facility.

Over 50 new coronavirus cases confirmed at nursing home

PITTSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Officials say testing has confirmed just over 50 additional cases of COVID-19 at a North Carolina nursing home with a coronavirus outbreak. Chatham County said in a news release Sunday that all residents and staff of The Laurels of Chatham were tested for COVID-19 after six people associated with the facility had previously tested positive. The results showed an additional 51 individuals had the virus. The development comes as data from the state show there are 28 ongoing outbreaks in nursing homes across the state. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases. North Carolina’s total number of cases continued to rise Sunday.

Church displaced by virus moves Easter service to beat storm

CLOVER, S.C. (AP) — The coronavirus has pushed the members of Relevant Church in Clover, South Carolina, out of their usual church setting. Impending bad weather made the church hold its Easter Sunday service on Saturday. Nearly 300 people pulled up in cars, SUVs and trucks to listen to Pastor Matt McGarity’s sermon on an FM radio station. Vehicles were carefully spaced apart and the congregation was asked to stay inside them — but many used horns and hazard lights to cheer on the message. Member Kelly Hills said the congregation felt the evening was like “any Easter morning. Joyful, expectant, hopeful.”

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