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COVID-19 News Top Story

In the trenches of a pandemic, frontline medical workers ask lawmakers for reinforcements, more supplies

Front-line medical workers in North Carolina need more personal protective equipment, work flexibility and reinforcements from new and returning nurses and doctors  as COVID-19 numbers climb. "[Nurses and hospital workers] certainly consider themselves to be your front-line soldiers in this effort," Tina Gordon, CEO of the North Carolina Nurses Association, told the legislative Health Care work group, a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Education Top Story

As COVID-19 disrupts many school traditions, the Class of 2020 focuses on the future

Dizni DeBerry, a Hillside High School senior in Durham, vividly remembers the week before schools closed. In mid-March, DeBerry, 18, and other students in Hillside’s vaunted drama department, after weeks of rehearsals, were preparing to perform Matilda: The Musical, a play based on the hit movie and beloved children’s book.  But students had heard rumors that Durham Public Schools could possibly close in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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COVID-19 Higher Ed Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

College students, professors adjust to COVID-19 life

A disciplined collegiate rower, Lindsay York is used to a structured, yet social life. Last fall, the High Point native moved 1,100 miles away to attend Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she settled in well. “I have a rowing scholarship and that kept me busy from when I first got there,” York said. “I’m used to waking up at five in the morning, getting a workout done, going to classes, then getting another workout. I had a very tight schedule. But I also developed my own little Des Moines family, my friends and my team atmosphere.”

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COVID-19 News Top Story

COVID-19 threatens census. At stake: money, political power

WASHINGTON — It’s National Census Day. Organizations across the country are marking the occasion with webinars, virtual rallies, Twitter chats and other digital events throughout the week. April 1 is the date by which all people in U.S. households are to be counted. But the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make the count even more difficult than usual, which could exacerbate the inequitable distribution of resources in North Carolina and other states.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Criminal justice advocates and family members of incarcerated individuals have been warning state and county officials for weeks about the potential for COVID-19 to ravage the populations of jails, prisons and other detention facilities. Their pleas, however, have mostly been ignored.  Citing the public health and safety of North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper has closed schools, expanded unemployment benefits and ordered residents to stay at home. His administration, though, has been silent on issues facing some of the most vulnerable individuals in the state: incarcerated people and detention facility staff. 

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Health care workers using expired gear during pandemic and ‘hoping for the best’

WASHINGTON — States are receiving old or expired medical supplies from the federal stockpile.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice: Use them anyway.  The shortage of vital medical supplies, such as masks and ventilators, in the face of COVID-19 has led public health officials to advise hospital workers to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE), and to make due with what is available, relying on home-made masks and bandanas.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Monday numbers: A closer look at what federal relief could mean to North Carolina workers

[Editor's note: This post has been updated to provide additional information regarding the eligibility of Social Security recipients for stimulus checks.] Some money is better than no money, but $1,200 doesn't go as far as some think it might: A month's rent, maybe. Less than a month's worth of child care for two kids. About two weeks' worth of groceries for a family of four. The $2 trillion bailout package, which includes help for major corporations, as well as small businesses, includes a one-time $1,200 payment for taxpayers.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

Health pandemic leads to numerous reports of price gouging across NC

Just three days after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Joannie Valencia paid $42.90 for two bottles of 70% isopropyl alcohol at a mom and pop pharmacy in Charlotte. She was in a panic; she had kids at home and had driven all over the city looking for any kind of disinfectants to keep her family safe, but her search had been futile. She knew the price was high, but she paid it. When in stock, the same 32-ounce bottles of rubbing alcohol cost $1.99 a piece at Target and $2.39 at CVS.

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COVID-19 Environment News Top Story

As growing season commences, health pandemic raises big concerns for NC ag industry, farmworkers

The fields, rested over the winter and moistened by recent rains, are waiting and ready. Thousands of farmworkers, many on H2A visas from Mexico, have begun to arrive by bus, shoulder to shoulder, 40 at a time, to eastern North Carolina, like they do every year, to take on the backbreaking jobs that few other people want to do.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Burr asks colleagues to police his ethics. Will anything come of it?

WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who’s facing a political firestorm for selling off stocks ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, has asked for a Senate ethics investigation into his actions.  The Senate Select Committee on Ethics operates largely in secret, dismisses the vast majority of allegations it receives and involves senators policing their own colleagues. The public usually doesn’t know which complaints are before the panel or how they’re resolved. 

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COVID-19 Education Top Story

The ‘new normal’: With schools closed, Durham educators focus on feeding students, families

The weather was unkind Monday, the first day Durham Public Schools offered lunches to thousands of students forced to stay home due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Temperatures dipped into the mid-40s after a mild weekend, and a cold rain was heaviest between 10:30 a.m., and noon, when meals and educational materials are offered to families across the district.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

As testing ramps up, state officials scramble to acquire medical supplies, address economic fallout

Semi-trucks carrying medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile rolled up to a Durham warehouse early this morning, as state leaders try to fill at least 2,000 requests for resources to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The State of North Carolina has ordered $46 million worth of medical supplies, said Mike Sprayberry, state director of Emergency Management, during an emergency Council of State meeting conducted today by telephone.

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News Top Story

Monday numbers: A closer look at the 2020 Census

So, you're working from home again this week and you'd like to do something helpful, something to get your mind off current events. Well, you can stand up and make sure your household is counted in the 2020 Census. A complete and accurate census count will determine how much funding local communities receive for key public services. Officials also use your answers to draw boundaries for congressional, state legislative, and school districts.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Special PW update: North Carolina sheriffs are continuing to carry out evictions during pandemic

Should North Carolina sheriffs be evicting people during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereby place the public health at further risk? That's a question that's front and center in the state public policy debate this weekend. Advocates say that people evicted from their homes could end up on the street, doubling or tripling up in crowded homes with family or friends or congregating with crowds at homeless shelters. It doesn’t bode well, they point out, for the larger social distancing directive and other recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect the public from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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News Top Story

Displaced Durham Housing Authority residents struggle to adjust to new normal under COVID-19 threat 

Valencia McQueen had her hands full Tuesday at Millennium Hotel in Durham. Tevin, a busy three-year-old who folks a generation ago would have described as "all boy," was giving McQueen all that she could handle.  “They don’t have a playground, so he plays in the room, or we go into the hallway or come down to the lobby,” said McQueen, who spent the better part of an interview with Policy Watch chasing Tevin up and down the long, carpeted hallway just inside the hotel’s entrance.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Left behind: Immigrant communities try to navigate COVID-19 with language barriers, lack of resources

On the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it would limit enforcement action amid COVID-19 concerns, agents threatened to break a man’s truck window in a Cary parking lot to take him into custody. Mariano Rosario-Rios and his daughter locked themselves in their truck Wednesday morning and called Siembra NC’s 24-hour ICE detention hotline for help while agents surrounded them and ordered they get out of the truck. They were in a shopping center parking lot.

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