Charlotte, NC-We are moving forward in the short session at the General Assembly and attempting to close out the biennium budget. Weekly we are passing bills and working towards closure for this budget year. The pandemic has changed our trajectory somewhat, but our responsibility to the citizens of North Carolina remain steadfast and immovable.
As the second phase of North Carolina's reopening is underway, we must be vigilant about our safety. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our communities and we are charged with the safety and well-being of our neighbors.
North Carolina moved forward on May 22 into the second stage of a three-part plan to resume business and social activities during the COVID 19 pandemic, other states are several steps ahead when it comes to returning to life as close to normal as possible. But comparing the spread of the virus isn’t as simple as putting states and their data side by side. North Carolina has more than 20,000 infections, which ranks 35th per capital nationwide. Georgia, which is about the same size in terms of population, has twice as many cases, well over 40,000. South Carolina, with half the population of the other two states, has fewer than half the cases of North Carolina.
North Carolina has 23,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the state reported Monday, representing a day-over-day increase of 742. The number of patients reported hospitalized with COVID-19 reached a new high since the state Department of Health and Human Services started releasing that data, with 627 people receiving in-patient care, and 81% of hospitals reporting. The state reported 754 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, up 10 from Sunday. Seven-day rolling averages in reported positive tests have been increasing in the weeks since testing has expanded and since restrictions on consumer and leisure activities have begun to loosen. Newly reported cases in the state had shown a dip Sunday after a record-breaking number of new cases were reported Saturday.
reported Monday completing 8,034 more corona virus tests, bringing the total of completed tests to 344,690. About 7% of all tests were positive. DHHS said the most recent day of testing saw 8% of tests come back positive.
More than 3,000 people are presumed to have recovered from the corona virus in North Carolina in the past week, according to N.C. DHHS. A total of 14,954 people are presumed to have recovered. Meaning roughly 62% of the people infected have recovered. In determining the number of people presumed to have recovered, the state estimates a 14-day recovery period for people who have not been hospitalized for COVID-19 and 28 days for people who have been hospitalized. The state does not have access to patient-specific information for all cases, it says.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate nearly tripled from 4.3% in March to 12.2% in April, a stark reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the state’s economy. By comparison, the state unemployment rate reached a 33-year peak of 10.9% in 2010 as the state and national economies began their slow recoveries from the Great Recession. The Triad peak was 11.5% in February 2009.
Economists project the May jobless rate will be significantly higher since the U.S. Labor Department collects employment data during the week that contains the 12th of the month. The April report covers the churn from March 14 to April 12. The regional and county jobless reports will be released June 3. The data only reflects 16 days of the executive order implementing stay-at-home restrictions that began March 27. The major reason North Carolina’s unemployment rate was lower overall is that we invoked a stay-at-home order a little bit later than other states did.
Economists forecast that as many as 2.5 million North Carolinians may be at high or moderate risk for a layoff or reductions in wages, tips and work hours, or for furloughs.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction announced at the State Board of Education meeting that school districts will be able to use whatever K-3 reading diagnostic tool they want next year. This comes after a long period of strife over what diagnostic tool the state should be using. As part of the Read to Achieve program, a diagnostic tool is necessary to measure the progress of students. The state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) originally chose Istation to be the state’s tool, replacing mCLASS, a product of the company Amplify, that had been in use in the state’s public schools for years.
The procurement process for that contract became a source of a lot of contention. Amplify — a competitor in the bidding process — took issue with how the procurement process happened. The state Department of Information Technology (DIT) has been reviewing how Istation was chosen and put a stay on the implementation of that contract while the issue was being litigated. DIT has yet to issue a decision. Johnson said that while a statewide reading diagnostic tool will likely be needed in the years ahead, allowing districts to choose their own tool next year would “eliminate uncertainty.” Johnson said DPI will give districts a list of diagnostic tools they can use for next year.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Last Friday evening, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines for high school and youth sports to return, outlining requirements to limit mass gatherings, which currently means no more than 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. These guidelines are not directives, simply recommendations. The N.C. High School Athletic Association has yet to make any decisions about the future of high school athletics. They held a press conference on Tuesday, May 26 at 4 p.m. “to provide better information to the media relative to NCHSAA plans moving towards athletic activity resumption.
“We know that contact sports, like basketball or football, where you’re in each other’s personal spaces, and you’re breathing out respiratory droplets on one another, we know this is a higher way of spreading the virus as opposed to non-contact sports like tennis, or baseball, or individual sports like swimming or golf,” the Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Agency said in a press conference on Friday.
With uncertainty looming over how serious COVID 19 will be this fall, a bipartisan push at the state legislature would make it easier for North Carolinians to vote by mail this year, the bill is titled HB 1169 Bipartisan Election Act. State officials are expecting a massive increase in people wanting to vote by mail in November. By introducing this bill, the legislature wants to make sure vote by mail goes smoothly. Usually less than 5% of North Carolina voters choose to vote by mail — but because of the virus this voting method for 2020 is expected to surge up to 40%.
HB 1169 was written to give both state and local elections officials the ability to be more flexible with the additional resources needed to accommodate the expected surge in absentee ballot requests.
HB 1169 would let people help voters request absentee ballots. It also calls for exploring the idea — only in limited cases, including with nursing homes, hospitals or places under quarantine — of allowing people to help voters fill out and send in their completed ballots to be counted.
"Amid this pandemic and all that is going on in our state, we are working diligently to bring some normalcy to the citizens of NC. Our work today will be the cornerstone for our well-being tomorrow" said Senator Joyce Waddell.