PRE News

Stories broadcast on PRE which are of interest to Eastern North Carolina

"Bars" by foreverdigital is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mass COVID-19 testing is happening at a second North Carolina state prison. The Department of Public Safety said testing began Friday for all inmates at the medium-security Caswell Correctional Institution, with results expected next week. The department says testing is occurring there because close to 40 prisoners or staff have tested positive since mid-April. A similar mass testing occurred last month at the dormitory-style Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, where over 450 prisoners tested positive. The number of overall COVID-19 cases statewide is now almost 26,500.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s top health official has asked for more details on how GOP leaders will protect attendees of a Republican National Convention this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump has threatened to move his formal renomination elsewhere if he doesn't soon get guarantees of being able to hold a large-scale event. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen sought more specifics Friday beyond the safety protocols the GOP leaders said want approved for the August event in Charlotte.

A healthcare provider in Pitt County has tested positive for COVID-19.  The Pitt County Health Department said in a news release Thursday that the individual did not exhibit any symptoms but sought testing last Friday to ensure they were not at risk of exposing others to coronavirus. The provider is at home in isolation and remains asymptomatic.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s governor said Thursday that his administration hasn’t received the written safety plan for the upcoming Republican National Convention requested by his health secretary in response to President Donald Trump’s demands for a full-scale event. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said during a media briefing that his administration has yet to see plans for how the RNC envisions safely holding the convention in Charlotte in August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cape Lookout National Seashore continues its phased reopening.  On Friday, the Harker’s Island Visitors Center will reopen at 9 am.  However, the visitor center bookstore will remain closed.  North Core, South Core, and Shackleford beaches remain open. On June 6, the park plans to reopens access to the Keepers’ Quarters Museum.

The following facilities and activities remain closed:

· Harkers Island Visitor Center Bookstore, Beaufort Visitor Information Center, and the Light Station Visitor Center and Bookstore

· Cape Lookout Lighthouse Public Climbing

Changes to mail-in absentee ballot rules in North Carolina and funds to improve safety at in-person voting sites during the COVID-19 pandemic have received overwhelmingly approval in the state House. The bipartisan measure approved Thursday by the chamber is designed to help those at higher risk for developing complications from the coronavirus be able to vote. The measure now heading to the Senate expands the options for registered voters to receive an absentee ballot request form and to turn it back in.

Commercial and for-hire fishers have an extra month to renew or purchase licences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, 2019-2020 licenses that are set to expire on June 30 will remain valid until July 31.  

 

Lawmakers in North Carolina are advancing legislation that would allow voters to have more options in requesting absentee ballots this November and would give officials funds to keep precincts clean and staffed. The measure that cleared two House committees on Wednesday prepares for November’s high-stakes election to occur amid the pandemic. The bill would expand the options to seek and return absentee ballot forms. The number of required witnesses on the ballot envelope would decrease from two to one.

North Carolina legislators are starting to debate proposed election rule changes this fall so people have wider paths to cast ballots despite COVID-19 health risks. House committees scheduled meetings on Wednesday to advance a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for someone to request a mail-in absentee ballot and for officials to recruit polling site workers. There would also be millions of dollars distributed to elections boards in part to upgrade security and equipment. Demand for absentee ballots is expected to soar this year.

North Carolina bars closed due to the pandemic could again serve patrons who are outdoors in legislation that's advancing in the General Assembly. One of two bills that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday would allow bars and similar private clubs whose doors remain completely closed under Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order to sell beverages outside, whether on a patio or under a tent. Another measure expands further the customer capacity for restaurants and breweries allowed to partially reopen their indoor serving areas by going outside, too.

Three more COVID-19 related deaths were reported in Duplin County Tuesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 16.  According to a news release, two of the recent deaths were people ages 50 to 64 years old, and one person was over the age of 65.  As testing increases in Duplin County, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has climbed to 670 residents.

The National Park Service says it is investigating after a nesting loggerhead sea turtle was found dead on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beach, with signs that the creature was run over by a vehicle. The female turtle came onto the beach early Monday morning and had begun to lay eggs in a nest in the sand, according to a news release from the federal park. That’s when it is believed a motor vehicle struck the the turtle. Intact eggs thought to be viable were discovered nearby, the park said. Loggerheads are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

State Transportation officials announced they are holding a virtual public meeting on June 4 from 6-8 p.m. to provide updates and discuss the Rodanthe "Jug Handle" Bridge project.  The 2.4 mile span is currently under construction on the Outer Banks.  The bridge is expected to be complete in the fall of 2021. It extends over the Pamlico Sound between the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Rodanthe. Once the bridge is constructed, the existing N.C.

NC DPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is permitting restaurants, barbershops and salons to welcome customers indoors starting this weekend, but bars, gyms and other indoor entertainment will need to remain closed for another five weeks. The Democratic governor announced a new executive order on Wednesday that starts the second phase of easing restrictions that originally were issued in March. Cooper says he feels comfortable about virus data to extend starting Friday afternoon partial openings to dine-in eating at restaurants and for personal care services.

It's taken 20 months of rebuilding and repairs, but the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center will finally reopen prior to the Memorial Day weekend.  The museum, located "at the end of the road" on Harkers Island, sustained significant roof damage during Hurricane Florence in 2018.  In total, the storm caused an estimated $3.4 million in damages. 

North Carolina's chief health leader is asking residents to "hang in there" by continuing to comply with the state business restrictions mean to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper's current stay-at-home order expires Friday. Cooper said this week he's hopeful further easing of business restrictions could begin. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday that testing, tracing and hospitalization trends used to make decisions on stay-home orders continue to be stable.

Federal prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal charges against a chemical company that for years discharged compounds with unknown health risks into a North Carolina river. Chemours Co. told shareholders in a quarterly report this month that prosecutors were closing the case without charges. News outlets report that the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Environmental Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department were investigating potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act by the company, a spinoff of DuPont that has a plant near Fayetteville.

A North Carolina appliance manufacturer says it is shutting down until further notice after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. WCTI reports Lore McKenna, director of corporate communications for BSH Home Appliances Corporation North America, says the company was informed of the test connected with its New Bern plant on Monday and immediately contacted local authorities. Out of an abundance of caution, McKenna says the plant will remain closed until further notice.

Tropical Storm Arthur brought heavy rain to North Carolina's coast on Monday as forecasters warned that the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season could also spread life-threatening surf and rip currents along U.S. East coast beaches in the days ahead.

It's another early start for the Atlantic hurricane season: Arthur formed Saturday in waters off Florida, marking the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1.

ECU Brody School of Medicine

When a person recovers from coronavirus, they will likely develop antibodies that may protect them from getting it again in the near future.  East Carolina University and Vidant Health in Greenville are using donated antibodies to treat patients who are hospitalized because of the virus.  PRE’s Jared Brumbaugh spoke with the Chair of Internal Medicine at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine Dr. Paul Bolin about their part in a nationwide study, which is already showing promise.

North Carolina government is offering widespread testing or protective equipment to workers in two of the more vulnerable living settings for COVID-19 outbreaks. The Department of Public Safety unveiled on Thursday a plan to make free testing available starting next week to employees in state prisons and those who supervise offenders in the community. An earlier initiative failed to materialize. Gov. Roy Cooper also says packages of personal protective equipment are being sent to each of the state’s 3,800 long-term care facilities.

One of North Carolina's most powerful Republican elected officials has called on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to give county governments the ability to reopen barbershops and hair salons. Senate leader Phil Berger said on Wednesday that most Southeastern states have allowed these personal service businesses to reopen in some capacity. Salons and barbershops remain closed in the first part of Cooper's three-phase plan to ease out of the state's stay-at-home order. They could reopen in some capacity statewide later this month.

Hundreds of North Carolina state prisoners with COVID-19 are now deemed to have recovered based on government health guidelines. The Division of Prisons calculates that more than 500 of the over 640 offenders testing positive for the new coronavirus meet criteria to be released from medical isolation. Most of the prisoners presumed recovered are housed at the Neuse Correctional Institution. Five prisoners statewide have died from COVID-19-related illnesses. The prison system credits cleaning prisons, isolating the sick and limiting prisoner movement in part for controlling outbreaks.

Public input is being sought on a draft spending plan for $7.7 million in federal aid that will support some local businesses that lost revenue due to Hurricane Florence.  The spending plan must be approved by NOAA Fisheries for the state to receive the funding.  The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries said in a news release that the federal fisheries disaster aid will be distributed to affected seafood dealers and processors, bait and tackle shops, for-hire businesses, and ocean fishing piers.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is defending details of his eased stay-at-home order against criticisms by Republican elected officials and the latest weekly protests at his home. Cooper’s altered COVID-19 order allows more businesses to open, but barber shops, movie theater and gyms remain closed. He's also keeping narrow the exceptions for churches to hold services indoors. Cooper said on Tuesday that “pandemics cannot be partisan" and talked about how he signed a bipartisan COVID-19 funding bill recently.

North Carolina and FEMA have approved more than $7.5 million to reimburse the City of New Bern to replace a recreational facility damaged during Hurricane Florence.  Inspectors determined the Stanley White Recreation Center was substantially damaged after more than two feet of water flooded the facility during the 2018 storm. According to a news release, the city’s rebuilding strategy calls to elevate the 18,000 square foot building to reduce or eliminate flood damage.   More than $50 million has been approved for the City of New Bern to reimburse Hurricane Florence-related expenses.

FEMA recently approved disaster assistance funding for public utilities affected by Hurricane Dorian.  More than $940,000 will go to Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative for the replacement of damaged poles and transformers. The City of Kinston will receive more than $143,000 to replace damaged poles and transformers.  And Brunswick County will receive nearly $45,000 for wastewater treatment repairs.  FEMA has provided more than $16.1 million for Hurricane Dorian-related expenses in North Carolina through the Public Assistance program.

Friends of Fort Macon

 As Governor Roy Cooper’s order to ease restrictions takes effect later this week, 29 state parks will reopen to the public on Saturday, May 9th.  That includes Fort Macon, which is one of the most visited state parks each year. 

“Our main goal is to give people access to the park without it getting too crowded,” said Katie Hall, the Public Information Officer for the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.  

Three counties on North Carolina's tourist-reliant Outer Banks have announced plans to lift coronavirus-related visitor restrictions. Officials in Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing restrictions on entry for visitors will be lifted at noon on Saturday, May 16. According to the statement, reopening to visitors on that date will allow local businesses, attractions, and accommodation providers time to follow the new business operating requirements put in place by Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order.

NCDPS

On Tuesday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 138  that implements phase one of easing restrictions.  The order takes effect Friday, May 8th at 5pm.  The governor said the modification to the statewide stay at home order will allow some businesses to reopen. 

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