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COVID-19 Education Top Story

Positive virus tests spurs Durham Public Schools to cancel popular meals program

A week ago, Durham Public Schools (DPS) bus driver Gail Clay was what’s known these days as an "essential employee." That meant the work Clay did was important enough that she was expected to show up while DPS employees with less essential jobs or jobs they could perform remotely were told to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  Clay’s “essential” duties included delivering food to needy students ordered to stay home since March 13 after Durham became one of the first districts in the state to announce it would close schools to help battle the contagious and deadly virus.

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COVID-19 News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

“Shockingly large numbers” of positive virus tests found at troubled Orange County nursing home

The man, known in federal documents as Resident No. 1, was wearing his hospital gown, underwear and socks, lying on top of some rocks in a drainage ditch. The ditch had a small amount of water in it, and part of his gown was wet. About three feet away sat his shoes.  On a March morning a year ago, the sun was just coming up, and the man, with his arms folded across his chest, was looking up at the sky.

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Environment News Top Story

DEQ rejects Chemours’ proposed GenX groundwater cleanup plan

Company now says it’s too expensive to remove PFAS compounds, including GenX, to comply with consent order

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has rejected a groundwater cleanup plan proposed by Chemours, which would have left at least 70 square miles contaminated with the chemical GenX.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

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

Disease poised to spread like "wildfire" at overcrowded ICE detention facilities At Stewart Detention Center in southwest Georgia, 350 immigrants began starving themselves last week to protest the conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ana María Reichenbach, who used to live in North Carolina but is now in New York, spoke to Policy Watch last week about her friend who is being detained at Stewart, where immigrants picked up in North Carolina, as well as other states, are housed.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

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

The challenge of keeping kids and staff safe in juvenile detention facilities The needs of children in detention centers are almost identical to those of adults in jails and prisons, but their age and development can be an added challenge for officials to consider when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “They are uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this type of emotional and psychological strain that this virus is causing,” said Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, formerly the Carolina Justice Policy Center.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Monday numbers: A closer look at where millions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars will go in NC

Last week the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law, the third phase of federal aid for states struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week the North Carolina General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division prepared a summary of the impact of these federal relief bills on Health and Human Services in North Carolina.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

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

Advocates, family members plead with Gov. Cooper to to take action "before it's too late" About seven years ago, a Buncombe County man stole a piece of metal from a dumpster and then sold it at a scrap yard. He needed money, because as a chronic substance user he had relapsed after his wife miscarried their child.  The man was charged with larceny and selling property under false pretenses, but because he had previous drug charges — set aside when he graduated a court-ordered substance use program — prosecutors resurrected those charges as part of his sentencing.

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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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