PRE News

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

NCDHHS

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is asking vaccine providers across the state to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six reported U.S. cases of potentially dangerous blood clots were reported in women who received the J&J shot. None of the six cases occurred in North Carolina.

North Carolina has 85,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines it will offer to people who had been scheduled to receive a single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Those people can either reschedule their appointment if they want a J&J vaccine or elect to receive either of the other two vaccines. State health officials got word earlier in the day from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they should stop administering J&J doses over concerns of six rare cases of serious blood clots.

North Carolina House members are trying again to give school systems more flexibility over when they can hold classes. A House education committee on Tuesday passed several measures that would move up start dates or give districts wide-ranging control over their schedules. Current law requires districts to open the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. There are exceptions. A uniform calendar law passed in 2004 in response to worries that traditional summer vacations were diminishing.

NC Ferry Division

Ferry service on Pamlico Sound is resuming as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues work on shoaling issues in Bigfoot Slough. The N.C. Department of Transportation says in a news release that service from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island to Ocracoke began Tuesday with a two-boat, alternate schedule while the corps continues its work. Shoaling occurs when sand and sediment fill into a ferry channel, making water depths too shallow and the channel too narrow for safe operation of the ferry system’s largest vessels.

The number of gun purchases in North Carolina is rising based on an analysis of federal background checks. The Charlotte Observer reported Monday that the FBI in March conducted its highest number of background checks this year on North Carolina firearms buyers. The agency performed about 90,000 background checks. That’s up from 72,000 in February. Some gun shop owners say the rise in gun purchases is driven by fear of stricter gun laws and mass shootings. But the $1,400 in federal stimulus checks are also a factor.

ECU

Officials at East Carolina University say a former music instructor who promised the school a $500,000 gift actually has left a substantially larger sum. A news release from the school says the gift from Beatrice Chauncey totals $5.2 million, all of which is designated to go to student scholarships to the school of music. According to the news release, the $5.2 million gift will double the amount of scholarship money the school of music can award. Chauncey, who was originally from Akron, Ohio, came to what was then East Carolina Teachers College in 1949.

North Carolina’s latest law requiring photo identification to cast ballots is now on trial.  A panel of three state judges began hearing evidence on Monday in litigation filed to overturn a 2018 law that filled in details of how a voter ID constitutional amendment would be implemented.  A federal appeals courts already struck down in 2016 a voter ID mandate from 2013. A lawyer representing voters who sued told the judges the law is designed to keep Black voters from the ballot box. But a lawyer for Republicans say that's untrue, and that the law expanded the types of qualifying IDs.

NCDPS

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's safe for North Carolina vaccine clinics that saw an increase in reports of adverse reactions to continue administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. David Wohl oversees vaccine operations at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough Hospital. He says between eight and 14 of roughly 1,250 J&J vaccine recipients the clinic served on Thursday fainted after receiving the shot, though nobody was taken to a hospital. released. Fourteen additional people experienced minor reactions that were able to be treated on-site.

Creative Commons

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill offering a six-week summer school program to all K-12 students. Supporters of the plan point to increased learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need bring children back up to speed. Cooper on Friday also signed another bill that would create an Early Literacy Program to boost reading proficiency among younger pupils. Early-grade students struggling with reading will receive individualized improvement plans.

Even though 2020 was the most active hurricane season on record, forecasters are projecting another busy hurricane season this year.  Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project released its first forecast Thursday predicting an above-normal season for 2021.  A total of 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.  The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 31st, though storms can develop outside of that timeframe.  The National Hurricane Center will issue their tropical weather outlooks on May 15. 

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina says he has undergone surgery for prostate cancer. A statement from the senator's office said Thursday that he underwent the surgery earlier this week and that he's thankful to the doctors and nurses who provided him with outstanding care. Tillis announced last week that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, saying it had been detected relatively early. Tillis is a Charlotte-area native who was initially elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Town of Emerald Isle

The N.C. Department of Transportation is scheduling multiple overnight lane closures on a coastal bridge beginning this weekend. A news release from the department on Thursday says the Emerald Isle Bridge will be reduced to one lane on Sunday at 9 p.m. Lanes will reopen the next morning at 6 a.m. On the evenings of April 12-15, crews will close one lane at 7 p.m. and reopen it at 6 a.m. the next day. The work includes repairing the bridge seats, which the girders rest on. The repairs were already scheduled for this year but were moved up after a recent inspection.

North Carolina Strawberry Association

Strawberry season is underway across North Carolina.  According to the State Department of Agriculture, local growers are optimistic about the season and anticipate a crop that should last through Memorial Day.

“The recent hard frost kept strawberry growers busy protecting the plants’ tender blooms, but farmers have reported that those efforts seem to have been successful and consumers will be able to find local berries,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

NC Ferry Division

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division is suspending all service on the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferry routes through Monday, April 12.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dredging the Bigfoot Slough last month to clear the shoaling.

A survey from AAA finds that North Carolinians are growing more confident about making travel plans this summer.  Nearly half of people in the state feel comfortable taking a trip, citing the vaccine rollout and increased safety measures as reasons they feel comfortable traveling now.  That’s a 12% increase compared to a previous survey taken in January.  About 60% of North Carolinians plan to travel this year.  45% say they will feel more comfortable traveling when they are fully vaccinated.

NCDHHS

North Carolina is now offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people in Group 5, which includes anyone 16 years and older. Nearly 5.4 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in North Carolina.  According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 38.9% of the adult population has been partially vaccinated and 26.6% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.

North Carolina Democratic senate candidate Jeff Jackson raised nearly $1.3 million since entering the race in January. His campaign says more than 14,000 people contributed by the end of March. Jackson is looking to fill an open U.S. Senate being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The Charlotte-area state senator plans to publicly release his first quarterly campaign finance report of the 2022 election cycle on April 15. The median donation was $25. Jackson’s campaign says 86% of the more than 20,000 contributions it received were under $100.

NC Ferry Division

The North Carolina ferry service that carries passengers to the Outer Banks is facing a shortage of deck hands, seamen and captains. The Virginian-Pilot reported last week that there’s often a waiting list to get a ferry job. But this year the service needs to fill an expanded summer schedule. Jed Dixon, deputy director of the North Carolina Ferry Division, said the pandemic prevented an annual job fair that typically helps recruit enough employees. But he said that people could simply be choosing other careers. North Carolina has a system of 22 ferries on seven routes.

A trio of North Carolina Republicans are looking to ban gender confirming treatment options for residents under 21. The measure that will almost assuredly not become law would prevent doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery. LGBTQ advocates fear the bill would also out people under 21 who tell state workers that they may be transgender. Senate Bill 514 follows a nationwide trend of GOP-controlled state legislatures looking to limit treatments for transgender adolescents.

Creative Commons

The North Carolina General Assembly has finalized a pair of public education measures designed to get more intensive help to children learning to read and to those who have fallen behind during the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP-controlled House and Senate on Thursday approved both bills, which now go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. One bill would require all school districts to offer at least six weeks of summer school designed to help K-12 students who’ve failed to flourish with virtual learning. The other expands efforts to get more third graders reading proficiently.

North Carolina Republicans are looking to restrict abortions further in the state. They filed a bill this week to prohibit the procedure if the pregnant woman is seeking it due to the unborn child’s race or the detection of the presence of Down syndrome. A prohibition on sex-selective abortions became law in 2013. The North Carolina Values Coalition says nine states have barred abortions motivated by a child’s disability and six have barred them on abortions motivated by the child’s race.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s governor would have to get formal support from the Council of State to carry out long-term emergency orders in a measure approved by the state House on a party-line vote favoring Republicans. The measure is another response to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s directives during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included shutting down or scaling back businesses. These orders have been slowly eased in recent months, but GOP lawmakers have said the governor had too much power to begin with. Cooper has defended his actions as protecting the public.

North Carolina regulators have fined a company nearly $200,000 over problems with water treatment systems designed to stop contaminated wastewater from reaching the Cape Fear River. The state Department of Environmental Quality says The Chemours Co. isn’t keeping manmade “forever chemicals” out of the river. The StarNews of Wilmington reports that the fines imposed Wednesday were for violations related to the company’s failure to properly construct and install water treatment measures at its Fayetteville Works plant.

An overhaul of North Carolina’s efforts to improve reading proficiency for early-grade students in the public schools is advancing quickly through the legislature. The Senate gave unanimous approval to the measure Wednesday, and a House committee recommended it later. It signaled the General Assembly’s hope to give final legislative approval to the “Excellent Schools Act” and send it to Gov. Roy Cooper before the legislature holds a spring recess next week.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

The federal government is postponing new rules designed to keep endangered and threatened sea turtles from drowning in some inshore shrimp nets. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it also is considering whether to expand the rules. NOAA Fisheries said Tuesday that coronavirus pandemic restrictions limited in-person workshops and training sessions. So instead of starting Thursday, the new rules will take effect Aug. 1. The rule requires escape hatches for sea turtles on skimmer trawls pulled by boats at least 40 feet long.

North Carolina state lawmakers have advanced a bill that would prevent 6- to 9-year-olds from having to appear before a judge for juvenile justice proceedings if they're in trouble with the law. Advocates says young kids shouldn't be subject to what they describe as a potentially traumatizing process. The bipartisan proposal approved by a committee Wednesday would have younger kids pivot from court proceedings to a child consultation process. Families that don't ensure their children receive needed treatment and services would be referred to their local social services department.

North Carolina legislators have started debating a measure that would move up mail-in absentee balloting deadlines. The bill would require that ballots be received by officials by Election Day in order for them to be counted. Current law mandates ballot envelopes must be postmarked by the election date and received within three days to be counted. A Senate Republican sponsoring the bill on Wednesday said the measure would balance voting access with security and rebuild the public’s confidence following the 2020 elections.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday evening announced a three-month extension of the statewide eviction moratorium that had been set to expire at the end of March. The updated executive order comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed states to extend protections through June 30. The CDC order applies to all standard rental housing but doesn’t cover those living in hotels, motels or other temporary guest home rentals or individuals making over $99,000 a year. Cooper signed two other orders on Tuesday.

NCDPS

An organization committed to ending mass incarceration in North Carolina and demanding racial equity in criminal justice has called out Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein. Emancipate NC held a news conference Tuesday to release a letter that rebuked the Democrat and accused him of falling short in protecting civil rights of wrongly accused defendants and those on death row. Stein is considered a fellow liberal and sympathetic to concerns of racial justice advocates. He narrowly won reelection in November and co-chaired a racial equity task force that offered over 100 recommendations.

North Carolina's constitution still includes an unenforceable relic of the Jim Crow era — a voter literacy test. Some state lawmakers have started the process again to do away with it. A House judiciary committee voted unanimously on Tuesday for a bipartisan measure that would allow voters to decide next year whether to eliminate that section of the constitution. The voter literacy requirement was added to the constitution in 1900 and used to keep many Black citizens from casting ballots.

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