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Hurricane season has already been busy this year, but forecasters say it should get even nastier soon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday increased its forecast for the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes this year to far above normal. Colorado State University, which pioneered hurricane season forecasting, is calling for twice the number of named storms and hurricanes this year — 24 of them. That means the season likely will run out of traditional names and start to use Greek letters. There already have been nine named storms.

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Gov. Roy Cooper says North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions keeping high-risk businesses closed and mass gatherings severely limited will remain in place for another five weeks. The governor's decision announced on Wednesday means the mandates under his current executive order set to expire later this week will be extended beyond Labor Day at least. Bars, gyms, movie theaters and amusement parks must remain closed and a face covering requirement in public places will continue.

Isaias is forecast to return to hurricane strength early as it approaches the Carolinas, where residents are being warned to brace for flooding rains and storm surge. Isaias remained a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph on Monday morning, where the storm remained more than 200 miles south-southwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Conditions in Myrtle Beach were overcast but calm Monday morning as people strolled the shoreline. In North Carolina, officials were wrapping up evacuations of Ocracoke Island, which took a beating from Hurricane Dorian last year.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency to aid in preparations for Hurricane Isaias, which he says will bring atypical challenges given the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency declaration issued on Friday runs as another declaration for the coronavirus has been in place for months. Cooper says the state could feel the greatest impact of the storm Monday night and into Tuesday. Tropical storm-force winds could be felt as early as Sunday night. Hyde County authorities announced that Ocracoke Island will be evacuated starting Saturday.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says the departure of its chief operating officer has nothing to do with State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s call to replace him. The DOT says Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis’ last day is Friday. An agency spokesperson says Lewis submitted his resignation letter nine days before Folwell announced July 15 he wanted the chief operating officer and chief financial officer removed from their jobs. DOT spokeperson Jamie Kritzer says Folwell hadn't communicated with anyone at the department before distributing his news release.

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North Carolina regulators have told the state’s big for-profit electric, natural gas and water utilities to keep delaying disconnections through August as customers still struggle financially from COVID-19. The state Utilities Commission issued an order late Wednesday, the same day a provision expired in Gov. Roy Cooper’s separate executive order that prevented shutoffs for all residential customers.

N.C. Dept. of Agriculture

The North Carolina State Fair has been canceled for this year due to safety, financial and attendance challenges from COVID-19. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler made the announcement Wednesday. The fair was first held in 1853 is one of the state’s largest annual attractions, bringing in roughly 1 million visitors every October. The fair was last canceled during World War II. Troxler also cited the uncertainty of whether current mass gathering restrictions will be eased.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he’s curbing alcohol sales hours at restaurants starting later this week in another effort to stem COVID-19. Cooper announced on Tuesday that starting Friday the eateries, distilleries and breweries will have to cut off sales at 11 p.m. instead of 2 a.m. Health officials says they're concerned more young people are contracting the virus and want to discourage late-night gatherings where social distancing isn’t happening. The order doesn’t apply to grocery or convenience stores, and bars remain closed.

Several North Carolina parents have sued to halt the state’s taxpayer-funded scholarship program for K-12 children to attend private schools. Monday's filing in Wake County court comes five years after a closely divided state Supreme Court upheld the legality of the private-school grants through the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit say the program violates several portions of the state constitution, including those protecting religious freedom.

Liquor sales in North Carolina have seen a 12% increase during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The Fayetteville Observer reports the jump largely came in March when Gov. Roy Cooper shut down bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Hill owns multiple liquor stores in the state. He told the newspaper that customers said they were purchasing high amounts of alcohol because of fears Cooper would also shut down liquor stores. Liquor purchases by bars and restaurants has remained below normal levels as of June.

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Two more male inmates at a North Carolina prison with among the highest number of COVID-19 cases have died after testing positive for the virus. The Department of Public Safety ssays one offender at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Stanly County died Friday, while another housed at the prison died at a hospital on Thursday. Eight state prisoners with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began. Three were serving their sentences at Albemarle, which has reported over 100 positive cases to date.

The White House says President Donald Trump will visit North Carolina on Monday to tour a business that is participating in work on a COVID-19 vaccine. The White House said Trump is expected to speak about the collaboration between the administration and the private sector to rapidly develop a vaccine and ensure rapid distribution once ready. North Carolina is a key battleground state in the coming election, and Trump’s visit marks his 10th trip there during his presidency.

Road tests still aren’t being performed by examiners from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles due to COVID-19, so now certain adults are exempt from passing one to obtain a regular license. The DMV announced that starting Wednesday it’ll waive the road test for drivers 18 or older in several specific situations. This follows the General Assembly approving a law last month allowing youths to defer the road test otherwise required to obtain a limited provisional license.

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Lifeguards on a beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks have posted a new purple flag that is adorned with images of a jelly fish and a stringray. The Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday that that the flag serves as a warning when the sea creatures are nearby. The purple flag expands warnings to swimmers beyond the red banner that’s already flown when rip currents are present. A yellow flag also warns of heavy shore break or dangerous currents. Purple flags are a common maritime warning.

A judge is listening to arguments this week about whether the COVID-19 pandemic demands changes to North Carolina’s voting systems this fall. U.S. District Judge William Osteen scheduled a hearing starting Monday involving a lawsuit by two voting advocacy groups and several citizens who fear current rules threaten their health if they want to vote. The plaintiffs want Osteen to block several voting restrictions now. A new state law already eases absentee ballot rules and directs that an online portal be created to file applications.

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North Carolina’s jobless rate declined dramatically in June as restaurants, hotels and retailers bounced back since Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 restrictions were eased. The state announced on Friday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment fell from 12.8% in May to 7.6% in June. The number of people on the job grew by 227,500. Cooper ended his stay-at-home order in late May, allowing restaurants to serve indoors again, albeit at partial capacity. Bars, gyms, movie theater and entertainment venues still have to stay closed.

North Carolina’s elected state treasurer wants two top state Department of Transportation executives replaced following recent reports of overspending and salary raises at the agency. Republican Dale Folwell said Wednesday that DOT Secretary Eric Boyette should remove the chief operating officer and chief financial officer because the agency's “continued mismanagement” threatens the state’s top-notch ratings when issuing debt. The department has been subject of two negative audits since May and two bailouts by the legislature since last fall.

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North Carolina will allow K-12 public schools to reopen in the fall with limited in-person capacity. The plan announced by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper allows school districts to decide whether they want to offer online only instruction. A state law appears prevent remote learning during the first week of school. Rotating students between live instruction and remote learning also wouldn’t be allowed for the first week.

North Carolina’s highest court has blocked temporarily a judge’s ruling that allowed dozens of North Carolina’s bowling alleys to reopen by overturning a portion of Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order. The state Supreme Court granted on Tuesday the request of state attorneys for Cooper, who says a preliminary injunction issued last week by a trial judge would make it harder to bring the virus under control. The decision puts a temporary delay upon Judge James Gale’s order, meaning the bowling alleys must shut down again for now.

North Carolina teachers and parents as well as gym and bar operators are anxious to know what Gov. Roy Cooper will say about the path ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper scheduled a media briefing for Tuesday to discuss the state’s coronavirus case response. He said previously that he would announce this week how the state’s K-12 public schools would operate when classes begin Aug. 17. Cooper also must decide what to do with his executive order expiring Friday that extended closings of bars, health clubs and movie theaters shuttered since March.

Connie Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer

A secluded tourist destination on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is having an extremely tough year. Ocracoke Island is recovering from the most damaging hurricane in its recorded history and the near-economic paralysis wrought by one of the world’s worst pandemics. A little more than half of the island’s businesses have reopened since the hurricane struck and pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. Their owners are hoping to recoup some of their losses as tourists return, albeit in smaller than usual numbers.

A North Carolina state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, making public the first known case involving a General Assembly member. Robeson County Republican Sen. Danny Britt told The Associated Press he received the positive test on Friday. The Senate held a floor session with recorded votes on Wednesday. The entire legislature isn't expected to return to work until early September. Building administrators at the legislative complex in Raleigh have initiated health and social distancing measures since April.

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are trying to reinstate the implementation of a voter photo identification requirement. Attorneys for GOP legislators have filed a motion asking trial court judges to lift an order blocking enforcement of a 2018 law that laid out the rules for voter photo ID. They say a law approved last month contains language that addresses the concerns of a state appeals court panel. A photo ID requirement for the November election still appears to be a long shot regardless of the outcome.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says a state panel he asked to recommend how to eliminate racial disparities in the state's criminal justice and court systems must be up to the task because the public wants solutions. Cooper spoke at Friday's first meeting of the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which he created in the days after massive demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Attorney General Josh Stein and state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls lead the panel, which has until Dec.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says a decision on how public schools will start the year teaching students during the COVID-19 pandemic will come next week. Cooper previously delayed the disclosure set for July 1, saying he wanted more time for feedback and to review the science related to school reopenings and public health. School buildings have been shuttered since March, and classes are now set to begin Aug. 17. Cooper also said Thursday he will announce next week whether businesses still closed under his latest executive order set to expire July 17 can reopen.

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The North Carolina General Assembly have again fallen short in overriding several of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Wednesday's unsuccessful votes for the GOP mean directives within the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders that keep many businesses closed remain intact. Four vetoes upheld in House or Senate votes were related to bills Cooper’s orders during the pandemic. A fifth veto upheld addressed a bill about concealed weapons inside certain churches.

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North Carolinians will no longer need to get an order from their doctor to receive a coronavirus test. The state announced the change on Tuesday in a move to boost testing in minority communities that are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The state's top health official, Mandy Cohen, warned that North Carolina lacks the chemical reagents it needs to conduct tests faster. This has caused the state to see delays of up to a week for residents to get back their COVID test results.

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a broad health measure because of a provision within that addresses the confidentiality of death investigation records. Opposition to the item has served as a rallying cry for demonstrators for racial justice outside the Executive Mansion. The Monday veto by the Democratic governor came even as it appeared his administration was OK to let the full bill become law, then work with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to repeal the section at issue. Cooper said the provision could limit transparency in death investigations.

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The developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have announced they are canceling the multi-state natural gas project due to delays and “increasing cost uncertainty.” Despite a recent victory before the U.S. Supreme Court over a critical permit, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy said in a statement Sunday that “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty" for the $8 billion, 600-mile project designed to cross parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

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President Donald Trump has endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest for governor in an effort to unseat North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in November. The president wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Cooper had made it “impossible” for the Republican Party to have its nominating convention in Charlotte. Cooper had refused to offer Trump the reassurances he sought to deliver his nomination acceptance speech to a full capacity crowd in August. Trump then decided to move the key convention functions to Jacksonville, Florida.

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