COVID-19News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things To Know: City Workers Protest Unsafe COVID-19 Conditions

...and four other stories from July 5-11, 2020

City Workers Protest Unsafe Work Conditions Due to COVID-19

Charlotte Water employees and other city workers will join a Black Lives Matter march this evening in protest of unsafe working conditions during COVID-19, citing several confirmed cases of the virus among the department including an apparent “major outbreak” that shut down the department’s Zone 2 offices in northeast Charlotte. 

According to a press release announcing the march, employees are demanding the following measures to combat the unsafe COVID-19 work conditions:

  • All departments to be sent back to the staggered A/B schedule to reduce furthered exposure
  • Hazard pay increased to 10% and remain effective throughout the pandemic
  • Employees of all city departments have their temperatures checked prior to starting their workday, as is already done at Charlotte Water
  • Each transit operator be allowed to refuse service to anyone not adhering to Gov. Cooper’s face-mask directive
  • The Zone 2 offices to be closed for deep cleaning
  • Testing for the weeks that employees are off when the A/B schedule is put back into effect, ensuring that employees are not bringing COVID-19 back into the work place

The UE Local 150 Charlotte chapter, which is organizing tonight’s rally, has also launched a petition for those who want to support city workers. In April, Queen City Nerve talked to local sanitation workers who felt equally endangered by unsafe work conditions during COVID-19. After tonight’s rally at Veterans Park, which is scheduled for 6 p.m., the workers will join a Black Lives Matter march set to leave from the park at 7 p.m. 

“Charlotte city workers will march with Queer-led Black Lives Matter demonstrators to demand that departments of systematic racism and bigotry be defunded,” the release read. “We demand that those funds be allocated to the majority black jobs/departments and social safety net programs such as housing, upward mobility, safety issues demanded by the union, and other vital services that focus on restoring health to the community.” 

Mecklenburg County to Host CDC Director as COVID-19 Cases Climb

Mecklenburg County health officials will host a virtual press conference on Monday with Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to climb in the county. According to the latest information released by the Mecklenburg County Public Health department on Friday morning, Charlotte has now lost 163 of its residents to the coronavirus, with 13,757 cases total among county residents. 

According to the most recent in-depth data, which covers 13,285 cases that had occurred through Wednesday, about 5% of all cases have required hospitalization. Half of all positive COVID-19 cases have met the CDC requirements to be released from isolation. Over the past week, about 175 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 on any given day, an increase over the previous two weeks. In that same time, an average of 11.4% of all people tested have been positive, which represents a stable trend over the past two weeks. 

unsafe COVID-19 conditions
A look at COVID-19 hospitalizations in Mecklenburg County.

Of the 163 deaths, 20 were in patients between the ages of 40 and 59, and the rest were in patients 60 or older. Nearly two out of three Mecklenburg County deaths have stemmed from outbreaks in long-term-care facilities such as nursing homes.

You can find the latest COVID-19 data from the county here

Duke and Dominion Cancel Plans for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

After six years of costly court battles and pressure from environmental activists, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced on Sunday that they won’t be moving forward with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, an $8 billion project that would have placed a 600-mile gas pipeline across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Despite a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed the companies to continue the project, the costs became too much. 

Part of the planned path for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (Photo courtesy of Dominion Energy)

Organizers from across the three states have continuously brought lawsuits against the company to stall or stop the project, bringing its costs far above what the two companies had planned for. 

“This victory is a testament to the hard work and determination of communities and organizations across the three states who fought their states’ most powerful entities from day one,” Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International, wrote in a statement. “Far from cleaning up energy supply in the Southeast, ACP would have made it dirtier … The project threatened to entrench environmental racism by siting a giant compressor station in the heart of a rural, historically Black community in Virginia and plowing through Indigenous communities in North Carolina. It threatened to remove mountain tops, destroy forests, and pollute waterways across Appalachia and beyond.” 

A statement from Duke chair, president and CEO Lynn Good, and Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell II cited “legal uncertainty” for the cancellation. 

“We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities,” the statement read. “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

City Puts Young Local Artists’ Work on the Street

Preceding this week’s announcement that the city will shut down South Tryon Street between 3rd and 4th streets through Sept. 3 to start a new pedestrian plaza pilot program where 17 artists recently painted a Black Lives Matter mural on the street, the city also announced the winners of its Art on the Roll competition, awarding a scholarship to two local teenagers and showcasing their murals on city buses for a full year. 

Artwork by Sonia Zhu

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt and Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) CEO John Lewis unveiled two CATS buses decorated with artwork by two local students of Charlotte. The two won a competition that invited high school and college students to submit artwork based on a “movement” theme.

A 17-year-old Ardrey Kell High School student named Sonia Zhu and 19-year-old UNC Charlotte student Kylie Chan were selected by a personal committee hosted by the CATS Art-In-Transit program. Upon selection, both students also received a $1,000 scholarship.

Zhu’s mural illustrates movement with a representation of Charlotte residents walking along an abstract path. The other, created by Chan, includes the motivational phrase “Get Moving” next to a basketball player, with an abstract Queen City skyline on the back of the bus.

Artwork by Kylie Chan

“These moving murals highlight the creative and artistic minds of our local youth and show how integrated transit is in our daily lives,” said CEO John Lewis. “That creativity is now on display throughout the Charlotte region and will hopefully inspire other youth and art students.”

The two buses will operate throughout the CATS service area for one year. 

Two Murders This Week in East Charlotte

Two murders in east Charlotte this week brought the total number of homicides in Charlotte this year to 55, as another killing  from March 1 was deemed “justified” by detectives. CMPD announced on Monday that the killing of Reyno Melgar in the North Sheffield Park area of east Charlotte on March 1 was deemed a “justified homicide” and nobody would be charged in the case. 

At around 11:30 a.m. on Monday, police responded to a call about a shooting on East W.T. Harris Boulevard near Albemarle Road Middle School and found 52-year-old Jessie Hurley dead of a gunshot wound. On Tuesday police arrested and charged 23-year-old Emmanuel Collins with Hurley’s murder. 

Just before 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, police responded to a shooting call on Coliseum Drive near Bojangles Coliseum and found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. Officers pronounced 57-year-old Roscoe Wright dead at the scene and MEDIC transported the other victim to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Detectives later arrested 27-year-old Jamie Lee Briggs and charged him with the murder. It’s unclear if Briggs was the person who was also shot during the incident. 

Roscoe Wright (right)

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