As today, April 16, North Carolina counts 5,465 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services page. That’s an increase of 342 cases since the April 15 numbers were released.
NCDHHS tallies 131 deaths statewide, up 14 deaths since April 15. Buncombe County now reports 43 lab-confirmed positive cases, though the state count remains at 41. Three people have died in the county from COVID-19.
Much of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina is closed, according to a press release from the National Park Service. While the Asheville commuter zone remains open, the parkway is mostly closed from its southern end near Cherokee at milepost 469 through the Blowing Rock area at milepost 292.
Gov. Roy Cooper said in an April 15 press conference that reopening the economy will be less like flipping a “light switch” and more like using a “dimmer switch” to adjust restrictions incrementally. Cooper identified three areas that will need to see major improvement before he considers easing restrictions which are testing, tracing and trends.
Asheville’s own Luke Combs has released a new song titled “Six Feet Apart” on YouTube yesterday. As of today, the song is ranked No. 11 on YouTube’s trending list. If you “ain’t got much else goin’ on,” give it a listen.
He opens with a spring memory that is familiar to Western North Carolinians — “When the dogwoods start to bloom, when the crickets hum their tune, is usually about the time that I feel most alive,” he sings.
“But the news has all been bad and the world just seems so sad,” he continues, “and I ain’t had much else goin’ on, so I sat down to write this song. It’s a mystery, I suppose, just how long this thing goes. There’ll be crowds and there’ll be shows, there will be light after dark someday when we aren’t six feet apart.”
On April 9, more than 300 educators, administrators, parents, and students in North Carolina submitted a letter to State Superintendent Mark Johnson urging him to direct the NC Department of Public Instruction to take action that would protect the privacy and safety of transgender students. As this topic has been advocated for years, the problem has become especially apparent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The online learning platforms, chat rooms, power points, discussion forums, and virtual testing sites that rely on generated student usernames that are based on their legal name, visible to other students and faculty. If the legal name is different than the name the student uses on a daily basis, which is the case for many transgender students, the system may reveal their transgender identity without their consent. This is a violation of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as state and district privacy policies. That privacy violation also threatens the safety of students, as transgender students are significantly more likely to experience bullying and harassment both online and when they go back to school.
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COVID-19 in prisons:
Emancipate NC, a nonprofit organization that empowers and engages communities to solve North Carolina’s criminal justice problems has been attempting to shed light on the concern about children in detention being cut off from in-person visits with their families which could, in turn, exacerbate their mental health issues. According to a 2016 state report, over 99 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health diagnosis, and 70 percent have more than one diagnosis. As of last week, no one in the juvenile facilities in NC had tested positive for COVID-19 and juvenile justice officials are monitoring the situation closely. They’ve already implemented several operational changes to help preempt and reduce opportunities for the virus to spread. This includes suspending visitation and volunteer activities at juvenile facilities. But also reducing the influx of new cases into the system. Last week, the National Juvenile Defender Center release a letter reduce the number of kids coming into the system, called on juvenile justice decision-makers to release as many kids as possible, limit in-person contact between youths and probation and parole staff and cancel fines and fees imposed on families during the pandemic.
State prisons begin moving inmates to community supervision
At an April 9 press conference, Governor Roy Cooper r announced a new executive order, that went into effect at 5 p.m. Monday, April 13, and will be in effect until Wednesday, May 13 to “help prevent stores from becoming flashpoints for virus transmission.”
The measure limits shoppers in any retail location to 20% of the store’s permitted fire capacity or five customers per 1,000 square feet. High-volume locations such as checkouts and deli counters must mark six-foot spaces to ensure social distancing in customer lines, and all stores must conduct “frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas.”
Also included in the order are additional rules for nursing homes: All communal and group activities must be canceled, and all employees must wear face masks while working. In addition, the order eases certain regulations on businesses filing unemployment claims to speed up the distribution of state benefits.