Opinion Roundup: Really pricey toilet paper; COVID-19 treatment human trials; a look inside the virus battle; uptick in coyote sightings; and more.

Monday, Apr. 13, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Senate leader worried about voter fraud and Governor rigging election; one-tenth of the state's workforce files for unemployment; transgender students fear being outed; rural students lack broadband access; virtual zen courtesy of Cape Hatteras; and more.

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Duke nurse gives inside look at virus battle
Monday, Apr. 13, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Senate leader worried about voter fraud and Governor rigging election; one-tenth of the state's workforce has filed for unemployment; transgender students fear being outed; rural students lack broadband access; virtual zen courtesy of Cape Hatteras; and more.
$100 toilet paper roll among N.C. price gouging complaints (AP reports) -- The N.C. attorney general's office has received over a thousand coronavirus-related price gouging complaints. Among them: a Facebook marketplace seller asking $100 for a roll of toilet paper.
ANNE BLYTHE: At this COVID-19 testing center, you’re more than a lab number (N.C. Health News reports) -- UNC Health’s drive-through testing site doesn’t just stop with the tests.
N.C. Nurses Raise Alarm on Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (Public News Service reports) – N.C.'s nurses are signaling they may soon run out of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment, known as PPE. The N.C. Nurses Association says an informal poll found that, of the 354 nurses who responded, around 60% said their facility already has a PPE shortage. Only 20% said their facility has the supplies it needs, and 21% said they were unsure.
A tenth of the workforce has filed for unemployment. How N.C. is trying to fix delays. (N.C. McClatchy reports) – Gov. Roy Cooper issued a wide-ranging executive order that, among other goals, had a section aimed at speeding up the unemployment system. Cooper’s new order allows the unemployment office to ignore several regulations it normally has to follow if officials decide it would “significantly speed the processing” of claims and “expedite the distribution” of benefit payments.
GREG BARNES: A ‘new norm’ after the coronavirus pandemic (N.C. Health News reports) -- The novel coronavirus has brought death and devastation, but professionals from different walks of life say it could also bring positive changes once it finally subsides.
RTP biotechnology firm begins human trials for potential COVID-19 treatment (N.C. McClatchy reports) – BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded biotechnology company based in Research Triangle Park, has begun trials on a potential treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the company announced. The trial will investigate whether the company’s experimental yellow fever treatment, named galidesivir, is effective against COVID-19. BioCryst said that the antiviral treatment has already shown some activity against a number of different viruses, including the coronavirus strains that cause SARS and MERS.
MELBA NEWSOME: COVID-19 in western N.C.: Just the tip of the iceberg (N.C. Health News reports) – The number of COVID-19 cases in Western N.C. is relatively low compared to the more populous areas in the state. But people on the front lines see a worrying trend that indicates it’s only a matter of time.
Retail stores implementing new coronavirus-related guidelines early (WRAL-TV reports) -- Retail stores are taking precautions to help limit the spread of coronavirus, and with Gov. Cooper's order placing further restrictions on how retail stores operate, they've become necessary.
NED BARNETT: An N.C. bus driver rides the line hoping COVID-19 isn’t waiting at the next stop (N.C. McClatchy column) --Annette Sanders has seen the video of the Detroit bus driver. He went on Facebook to complain about a passenger coughing repeatedly without covering her mouth. Two weeks later he died of COVID-19. But that driver’s fate doesn’t keep Sanders from getting behind the wheel of her GoRaleigh city bus. “Because of my faith, I believe that God will protect us,” she said. Sanders, 36, thinks hers is an important job, and with unemployment soaring, she’s grateful to have one. “I understand that we are the only transportation some people have. We’re still needed.,” said the driver, who has been driving a city bus for six years. ”I’m glad we still have to work.”
Study: 1 in 4 Charlotte tenants missed rent in pandemic (WRAL-TV reports) -- A study by a housing nonprofit found nearly 1 in 4 Charlotte-area tenants have missed rent payments due the first week of April as the economy shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Grassroots effort demands that N.C. relax coronavirus rules. But state says they’re working. (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- A group with a fast-growing social media presence is lambasting Gov. Roy Cooper’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and demanding that restrictions be removed so businesses can open their doors again. State officials say the stay-at-home restrictions for N.C. are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ReopenNC calls Cooper’s executive orders unconstitutional and says curtailing citizens’ civil liberties and damaging the economy is doing more harm than COVID-19 is inflicting. The group’s Facebook page, started last Tuesday, grew to include more than 15,000 members by Sunday.
Childcare facilities juggle coronavirus realities with child interaction (New Bern Sun Journal reports) -- If you’re wondering how the 35 licensed daycare centers in Craven County are dealing with coronavirus and rambunctious children, the answer is that it’s pretty much like everyone else: social distancing and a lot of soap.
CELIA RIVENBARK: What’s in the experts’ bookcases today? (Wilmington Star-News column) -- I have a friend who has become obsessed with the contents of the bookcases behind Coronavirus experts interviewed from their homes on TV. OK, I lied. It’s me. Obsessed.
Health officials identify 43 new cases of COVID-19 at long-term care facility in Knightdale (WRAL-TV reports) -- Health officials have identified 43 new cases of coronavirus at the Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare facility in Knightdale. The news comes Sunday after the facility had previously reported four cases of the virus, bringing the total up to 47.
JOHN DELL: Truck drivers do their part to deliver much-needed supplies (Winston-Salem Journal/WRAL-TV reports) -- Val Fears, a veteran truck driver for Old Dominion Freight Line, couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride during one of his hauls last week.
57 people from Chatham County nursing home test positive for coronavirus (WRAL-TV reports) -- A Pittsboro nursing facility said 57 people from the community have tested positive for coronavirus.
Businesses, volunteer groups continue struggles during coronavirus outbreak (WRAL-TV reports) -- The past month has been hard on businesses and volunteer organizations, too. One group told WRAL's Mark Boyle about their struggle and how it's hard to help without help.
State treasurer cites movie line as inspiration in fight against coronavirus (WRAL-TV reports) -- State Treasurer Dale Folwelll said a scene from 'Shawshank Redemption' came to mind as he struggled to breathe, in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.
Samaritan's Purse receives donation (Hickory Daily Record reports) -- Samaritan’s Purse has received a $100,000 donation of uniforms and medical supplies from Foundation Forward Inc. for the World Medical Mission. Last week, Foundation Forward Inc. of Burke County in conjunction with Scrubs & More, donated several pallets full of new medical scrubs, lab coats, shoes, and other medical supplies to the Samaritan’s Purse donation center in North Wilkesboro.
Wilson woman talks about grief at sudden loss of father in New Jersey to coronavirus (WRAL-TV reports) -- In just about a week, a Wilson woman's father, who lives in New Jersey went from being diagnosed with coronavirus to passing away. Mark Boyle talked with her about the sudden grief and the message to everyone about the virus.
SEN. PHIL BERGER: Phil Berger statement on N.C. mail-in voting (N.C. McClatchy column) – Gov. Cooper fought fiercely to obtain full partisan control over the elections machinery in this state. And he’s now on his fourth partisan Chairman of the Board of Elections after his previous appointees left for a variety of reasons, including overt partisan activity. More concerning, after the Governor achieved partisan control of the Board, they summarily fired the previous Executive Director who led the investigation into the 2018 absentee ballot fraud. That does not instill confidence in a neutral, apolitical Board.
N.C.’s top Republican doesn’t trust the governor to run a fair 2020 mail-in election. Really. (N.C. McClatchy) – In a statement to the Editorial Board on Thursday about expanding mail-in voting here, Senate leader Phil Berger said he was concerned not only about voter fraud, but that he didn’t trust Gov. Roy Cooper and his state Board of Elections wouldn’t rig the election. “There is zero trust that this process would be fair and transparent,” he said. It’s a unfortunate statement, one that should sadden and alarm voters who already face uncertainty over what the November election might look like. Now, Berger’s comments raise additional concerns about whether Democrats and Republicans can come together to provide the infrastructure necessary for safe voting that’s accessible to everyone.
GOP pushes voting by mail — with restrictions — while Trump attacks it as ‘corrupt’ (Washington Post reports) -- The same week President Trump told the public that voting by mail is “corrupt” and “RIPE for FRAUD,” his own party was sending a very different message to Republican voters in Pennsylvania. … After the operation uncovered in the 2018 congressional race in N.C., lawmakers passed major election-law reforms in the state, including a stringent requirement that voters obtain two witness signatures before mailing their ballots.
Protester arrested outside N.C. governor’s mansion as activists seek early release of inmates (N.C. McClatchy reports) – A raucous protest with cars honking and circling the Executive Mansion, resulted in one arrest as activists called on Gov. Roy Cooper to show more support for people who are incarcerated. Carmack Kelley, 32, of Knoxville, Tenn., was charged with violating an executive order, assaulting a law government official with a deadly weapon, resisting a public officer and littering, according to State Capitol Police.
Protesters demand that officials reduce jail population to prevent spread of COVID-19 (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- A coalition of activists, attorneys and community leaders held a “moving protest” demanding a reduction in Mecklenburg County’s jail population due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on Friday.
Bridge Loans (The Insider reports) -- State legislators are considering funding “bridge loans” to small businesses awaiting federal money that’s been slow to arrive. The House coronavirus committee’s economic support work group has been working with the Golden LEAF Foundation, which has found that demand for its bridge loan program far outstrips the $15 million currently available. That program loans qualifying small businesses up to $50,000 with no interest and no payments for six months. As of last week, Golden LEAF had received 2,972 applications requesting a total of $109.5 million in funding. The average amount requested is $36,835, according to Kasey Ginsberg, the group’s director of government relations.
Fact check: Is it constitutional to arrest abortion protesters who violate coronavirus orders? (N.C. McClatchy reports) – In dealing with pandemics or other emergencies, the government does have the power to put into place new laws that might temporarily restrict people’s constitutional rights. For instance, while the U.S. typically allows people to travel in and out of the country freely as long they have the right documentation, President Donald Trump issued travel bans on China and Europe in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Although some public health experts have questioned their effectiveness, the bans have not been challenged as illegal. Similarly, America doesn’t only guarantee the right to international travel but also interstate travel. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled as early as 1823 that people have a constitutional right to travel between states — a fundamental concept that still stands today. But the government can override those rights by using quarantines to restrict travel between states “to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states,” the CDC notes. And people who violate a quarantine order can be arrested and charged with a crime, similar to people who violate a stay-at-home order.
JAY CHAUDHURI & NATASHA MARCUS: Republicans Send Wrong Message on Protecting Elections (Medium column) -- In N.C., we’re carrying out a comprehensive and aggressive strategy against COVID-19 that’s saving lives and keeping our citizens safe. That’s the immediate goal. s we approach the 2020 Elections, we must also focus on protecting the underpinnings of our democracy by keeping our polling places open and safe and expanding mail-in voting options for all who request it. That should be the goal for November. And, it should be a bipartisan goal.
CELESE GRACIA: Local Governments Could Lose Millions Because Of Pandemic (WUNC-FM reports) -- County governments in N.C. could lose an average of $4 million in sales tax revenue as a result of changed spending habits caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an ongoing study from NCSU.
Lack of Broadband Internet Is An Obstacle For Rural Students (WUNC-FM reports) -- College sophomore Ty Meyer has been spending lots of time in parking lots lately, mostly at McDonald's or his local library. It's often his best option for accessing wifi to turn in homework. One of his NC State University classes requires him to upload video assignments.
At-home, online, classes resume for students in Wake County public schools (WRAL-TV reports) -- Monday morning was a school day for students in Wake County public schools, the first one in weeks.
N.C. transgender students worried about being outed online during COVID-19 pandemic (N.C. McClatchy reports) – N.C.’s transgender students are worried that their privacy and safety are being put at risk as schools switch to teaching students online during the coronavirus pandemic. N.C.’s public schools use a version of the PowerSchool student information system that lists the student’s legal name and gender instead of the preferred name and gender identity. LGBTQ advocates say the PowerSchool data is now being used for online learning programs, resulting in some transgender students being outed to their classmates without their consent.
Thom Tillis announces fundings for N.C. universities (East Carolinian reports) -- Thom Tillis, U.S. Senator for N.C., announced a 378 million dollar funding to assist North Carolina’s higher education institutions and students on April 10 to provide financial support to students who may experience difficulties in education due to COVID-19.
Education Matters: Educator Self-Care and Wellness (WRAL-TV reports) -- During COVID-19, educator self-care is more important now than it has ever been. This week on education matters we're here to discuss staff wellness from teacher, district, and state wide perspectives and how we are supporting those on the front lines of education.
Hospitals Are Inundated. Foreign-Born Health Workers Are Blocked From Helping. (New York Times reports) -- Visa and airline ticket in hand, a Filipina nurse named Maria checked in recently for her flight from London to the U.S., where a job awaited her as an intensive care nurse at a N.C. hospital on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. But under the travel restrictions imposed by President Trump to help prevent new exposure to the virus, she was not allowed to board. “I was told that my visa is valid, and I would be allowed to travel once the restrictions are lifted,” she reported to the company that has been trying to bring her into the U.S. Hospitals are scrambling to address a shortage of medical professionals to help care for patients with the coronavirus, as the number of cases skyrockets and as maintaining a full supply of health care workers, who are themselves falling ill, grows ever more challenging.
Mass testing revealed major coronavirus outbreaks at two Orange County nursing homes (WRAL-TV reports) -- Dozens of residents and staff members at two Orange County nursing homes have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and officials credited mass testing of people in the facilities for alerting them to the outbreaks.
Duke nurse gives inside look at virus battle (WRAL-TV reports) -- Ashley Wheeler, an emergency department nurse at Duke Regional Hospital who is treating coronavirus patients every day provides a look inside her daily work.
Health officials: 2 babies have tested positive for coronavirus in Mecklenburg (N.C. McClatchy reports) -- Health officials in Mecklenburg County have recently discovered two cases of coronavirus among infants. For the first time late Friday, county health officials said in a news statement there are “two reported cases ... among children less than a year old.” The condition of the babies was not released. Just 1% of known COVID-19 cases in N.C. exist in people age 17 or younger, state data shows. And none of the reported deaths by state health officials have been people younger than 25.
GEORGE BOHMFALK: As economy sheds jobs, bring on Medicare or all the unemployed (N.C. McClatchy column) --As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of U.S. workers who were satisfied with and didn’t want to give up their employer-provided health insurance are losing both their jobs and the associated insurance. While most public option plans have glaring deficiencies, this crisis may be the perfect moment for a new public option plan, Medicare For All Who Lose their Employer-provided Insurance.
KEVIN GRIFFIN: Corning donates masks to Catawba County hospitals (Hickory Daily Record reports) -- Cable manufacturer Corning Inc. is donating masks for medical workers at Catawba Valley Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center.
JOEL BURGESS: Facing coronavirus tax losses, Buncombe leaders look to cut millions in planned services (Asheville Citizen-Times reports) -- Anticipating tax losses from the coronavirus pandemic, Buncombe County government leaders are looking to cut millions of dollars in planned services. The County Board of Commissioners discussed the pandemic's likely financial fallout at an April 7 budget workshop just a few months before the new July 1 fiscal year. Projected economic damage includes more than $7 million in sales tax losses over the next 15 months. That could scuttle a list of county initiatives, including $4.1 million for additional emergency services workers, $1 million to make Asheville buses fare free and $790,000 in new conservation efforts.
In saving coastal land, an evolving ‘Top 40’ of special sites (Wilmington Star-News reports) -- The N.C. Coastal Land Trust created criteria to help them identify and protect local important environments
Making a comeback: Biologist finds herring in N.C. creek (AP reports) -- A couple miles upstream from the N.C. 222 bridge, Ben Ricks begins an exploratory survey of fish on the Contentnea Creek.
KAREN CHAVEZ: A global coronavirus pandemic is not the time for frolicking in forests (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- A couple of weeks into working at home, I was feeling the claustrophobic fits and starts of cabin-fever craziness. I am, after all, the outdoors reporter. I needed a serious hit of oak trees. Of roots and dirt under my boots. Of vitamin D streaming through the just-blooming dogwood leaves. So my sister I and jumped on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a hike. A short one, close to home, where I was sure we’d be able to social distance properly. It was one of the worst hikes of my life.
Coyote Ugly: Coyote sightings increase possibly due to virus (AP reports) -- Officials said coyote sighting were on the rise in N.C. but that may be because more residents are at home.
Washington Daily News to print twice weekly (Washington Daily News reports) -- In response to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Daily News will begin next week publishing two print editions a week — a midweek edition on Wednesday and a weekend edition on Saturday. While the Washington Daily News has seen record traffic to its website and new print subscribers, newspapers all over the world have experienced a decline in local advertising as non-essential businesses are closed and events are canceled.
COREY FRIEDMAN: Local news could be coronavirus casualty (Wilson Times column) -- The virus’ economic downturn “could be an extinction-level event for newspapers,” UNC professor Penelope Abernathy told the Associated Press. As the nation’s leading researcher on newspaper closures, Abernathy would know. She’s chronicled the demise of more than 2,100 papers in the last 15 years as advertising’s shifted from print to online. While many newspapers operate robust websites updated around the clock with local stories, digital goliaths Google and Facebook alone take in 70% of all online ad revenue.
JAY PRICE: Cape Hatteras National Seashore Delights Virtual Visitors With Zen-Like Videos (WUNC-FM reports) -- Visitors aren’t allowed on the Outer Banks right now because of COVID-19. But there’s a new way to absorb the tranquility of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. On the seashore’s Facebook Page, the National Park Service has posted a 24-minute video of nothing but the sun rising and waves lapping on the beach. The Zen-like video has struck a chord with those housebound by the pandemic.
What to look for in the sky this week: April 12-18 (WRAL-TV reports) -- There are sights to see in the sky most days this week and spacey activities on those days when clouds get in the way.

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