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North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped markedly in August, falling to nearly half the record rate during the spring at the height of restrictions issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Department of Commerce says last month's rate was 6.5%, compared to 8.5% in July. The state rate for April was 12.9%. The jobless figures for August mask partly the reduction in the overall number of people in the workforce by almost 72,000 compared to July. That could signal that some residents have stopped looking for work.

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Engineers are shooting trillions of laser beams at a new bridge on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They want to make sure it will withstand the harsh elements of the Atlantic coast. The Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday that the tests are being done on the $252 million Marc Basnight Bridge. It carries N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet and connects the northern Outer Banks to Hatteras Island. Expansion and contraction from heat and cold can have the most impact. One thing engineers don’t want the bridge to do is lean one way or another.

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North Carolina State University says parents will be able to attend in-person this week's football game against visiting Wake Forest. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says two family members per player may attend live games if colleges and universities meet certain health criteria. The department noted that no more than 350 people will be allowed to attend sporting events. Duke won't allow spectators for Saturday's football game. East Carolina University plans to utilize “all that is permitted” for families to attend the games.

NCDPS

North Carolina elementary schools will soon be allowed to return to daily, in-person classes under a plan announced by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The decision on whether to return to full in-person instruction will be left up to individual districts. Those choosing to go forward with the Plan A reopening option starting on Oct. 5 won’t be limited in the number of students who can be inside a classroom.

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East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine plans to expand funding of COVID-19 research after receiving $15 million dollars in CARES Act funding from the North Carolina General Assembly. PRE’s Jamie Rodriguez has more on how the University plans to allocate the funds.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest has called for all North Carolina K-12 public schools to reopen without requiring students or teachers to wear masks. At a Wednesday morning news conference, the lieutenant governor said he would not mandate masks if elected governor, and that he wants the state to move quickly to Plan A so everyone can have 100% in-person learning. The current directive from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper allows school districts to partially reopen under Plan B, but also gives local school boards the option to stay fully remote under Plan C.

Federal assistance could soon help North Carolina’s commercial fishing industry bounce back from the economic effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries announced that their spending plan for CARES Act relief has been approved by NOAA Fisheries.

A North Carolina appeals court panel has overturned a court ruling that voided amendments to the state constitution because legislators who put referendums on the ballot were elected from racially biased districts. The challenge to actions by the Republican-dominated General Assembly is not over after Tuesday's split decision by the Court of Appeals and will be decided by the state Supreme Court. The litigation centered on two amendments approved by voters in 2018, including a photo identification requirement to vote.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham have traded accusations over the government's COVID-19 response and an upcoming vaccine in their first televised debate. Tillis was largely the aggressor in Monday night's debate, criticizing Cunningham for failing to accept the Senate's latest COVID-19 relief bill and for questioning the efficacy of a coronavirus vaccine should it arrive soon. Cunningham says he's worried about the influence of politics and money in Washington when it comes to public health.

House Speaker Tim Moore and some Republican sheriffs are accusing Democratic legislative candidates of pushing to reduce police funding if elected this November. But the top Democrat in the chamber says the pledge that dozens of House Democratic candidates agreed to contains no demand to “defund the police.” Moore cited on Monday a pledge promoted by the group Future Now, a nonpartisan issues group. Its political arm has given campaign contributions to Democrats. Future Now's executive director, Daniel Squadron, says Moore is lying about the group’s policy goal.

Jared Brumbaugh

It’s been two years since Hurricane Florence devastated Eastern North Carolina, and several non-profit organizations are still helping residents recover from the storm.  Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders has invested $1.5 million dollars in rebuilding 63 homes in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties.

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Work scheduled on the Emerald Isle Bridge in Carteret County has been delayed until Nov. 1st.  After conversations with town leaders and residents, the N.C. Department of Transportation decided to postpone the planned closures so the improvements could be completed when fewer motorists would be affected.  The lane closures were orginally scheduled for Wednesday. Lane closures on the Atlantic Beach bridge began Monday and will continue through 2021.

N.C. State Board of Elections - Facebook

State data shows nearly 10,000 North Carolinians had their mail-in ballots accepted in the first week of voting. The data released Friday shows North Carolina was the first state in the country to send absentee ballots to voters who requested them.  The accepted ballots represent about 1% of the number requested and an even smaller fraction of the state’s 7.1 million registered voters. Limited conclusions can be drawn so far, but the data still offers insight on how people are casting ballots and what challenges may lie ahead.

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North Carolina plans to keep challenging the U.S. government’s decision to advance seismic testing off the state’s Atlantic coast. One testing company has pulled out, but four others still want to search for natural gas and oil. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office made the announcement on Friday. The state sued last month over the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that overrode objections by state coastal regulators.

North Carolina’s elections board won’t try to stop enforcement of a court ruling that would allow more convicted felons to vote this fall, but legislators still could appeal last week’s decision. Attorney General Josh Stein's office represents the State Board of Elections in the litigation and announced the board's decision on Thursday. Some judges declared that felony offenders who’ve completed their prison time, probation or parole can’t be prevented from registering to vote if fines or restitution still must be paid. Legislative leaders are still evaluating an appeal.

NCDPS

North Carolina's state government is using federal COVID-19 relief dollars to purchase equipment so more public school students access online classes and homework help. Gov. Roy Cooper announced this week that nearly $40 million would go toward a new partnership involving his administration called NC Student Connect. It's designed to improve reliable internet for children as they learn remotely this fall due to coronavirus restrictions. Most of the money will be used to buy and distribute 100,000 wireless high-speed hot spots for students.

ECU

More than 1,000 East Carolina University students have tested positive for the coronavirus since fall classes began on Aug. 10. Student case counts are also approaching 1,000 each at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. All three campuses shut down in-person classes for undergraduate students last month and urged them to move out of their dorms and return home.

Emerald Isle Realty

Many coastal North Carolina vacation rental companies say it’s been a busy summer despite the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re not expecting a slowdown any time soon. While Labor Day marks a ceremonial end to summer, long-term rentals for the fall are pouring in, representatives for companies along the coast told The StarNews. Many parents are teleworking and students are taking classes online. One company's project manager says the rest of September and October will be “insanely busy,” with some longer-term rentals coming off the market for two or three months.

Carteret County Schools - Facebook

Over the past week, three individuals associated with the Carteret County school system have tested positive for COVID-19. PRE’s Jamie Rodriguez has more on the county’s response to these cases.

 

 

NCDPS

North Carolina’s Democratic governor says he will sign a Republican-authored plan to spend $1.1 billion of the state’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds on aid to families with children, unemployment benefits and efforts to fight the virus. Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Friday came a day after he received the package from legislators. It includes direct cash payments to nearly 2 million families, a $50 increase in weekly unemployment benefits and more funds for virus testing, tracing and personal protective equipment.

Mail voting has started in the presidential election as North Carolina begins to send out about 600,000 ballots to voters who have requested them. Those voters are overwhelmingly Democrats and independents, reflecting a partisan split in voting methods that's developed since President Donald Trump started attacking mail voting in March. Democrats are well ahead of Republicans in requesting mail ballots in several states. That may give them a slight edge in the campaign but doesn't reflect any inevitable success election night.

A U.S. Marines helicopter was forced to make a precautionary emergency landing and caught fire in eastern North Carolina. The Daily News in Jacksonville reports that the incident occurred on Thursday afternoon. Officials with Marine Corps Air Station New River told the newspaper that no injuries were reported. The reason for the landing of the CH-53E remains under investigation. The helicopter landed in a field in Sneads Ferry, which is about 50 minutes north of Wilmington.

NCDPS

North Carolina's gubernatorial election between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest provides one of Joe Biden's best chances for victory in the South. With less than three months until Election Day, the governor is in prime position to win reelection, with a lead over Forest in public opinion polls. Cooper has earned high praise for his proactive, but balanced approach to controlling the coronavirus.

MCAS Cherry Point

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point will break ground on the first of three F-35 Aircraft Maintenance Hangars.  A ceremony planned for September 4th will mark the start of construction on the $105 million dollar project as well as planned improvements to modernize facilities and infrastructure at the 80-year-old installation.  More than one billion dollars of military construction projects are planned through 2027 to make way for six F-35 Lightning squadrons.

The North Carolina legislature will reconvene briefly starting Wednesday to consider spending leftover federal COVID-19 relief funds to reach the pockets of parents, the unemployed and poll workers. House and Senate Republicans have agreed on a package they want to send to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper this week to spend just over $1 billion in coronavirus relief from Congress. The package would include sending $325 payments to households with children to help parents with child care and education. Cooper will have to decide whether to sign the General Assembly's final package or veto it.

A North Carolina judge has agreed to sign an order that calls for $427 million in additional education spending this year to carry out longstanding court rulings on public school funding. Superior Court Judge David Lee formally backed on Tuesday the spending plan developed by the State Board of Education and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration.

North Carolina’s governor is extending an executive order that limits the hours that restaurants can serve alcohol to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday that he’s extending his order that requires restaurants to stop serving alcoholic beverages at 11 p.m. until Oct. 2. State law usually allows sales until 2 a.m. The order originally went into effect in July. The order doesn’t apply to grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers that sell beer and wine for consumption off premises. Bars remain closed under Cooper’s executive orders.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued an executive order that will soon allow residents to go to gyms but keep them prohibited from entering bars. The mass gathering limit will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors starting on Friday. Republicans remain concerned businesses can’t survive further closure extensions. The executive order will allow gyms and bowling alleys to open at 30% capacity. Bars, movie theaters, nightclubs, dance halls, amusement parks and indoor entertainment venues must remain closed. Cooper said the mandate for face coverings will stay in place.

Tropical Depression 15 has formed off North Carolina’s coast but was not expected to approach land. The U.S National Hurricane Center said Monday evening that the depression had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was about 190 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras. It was moving northeast at 12 mph. The Hurricane Center in Miami predicted it will strengthen into a tropical storm Tuesday, in which case it would be named Nana. Swells from the depression were affecting parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but no watches or warnings were issued by the center.

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