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5 Things To Know: Gov. Cooper Calls on District to Reopen Schools

…and four more stories from Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2022

reopen schools
CMS will begin to reopen schools on Feb. 15. (Photo by Austin Pacheco)

Gov. Cooper Calls on District to Reopen Schools

During a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said he is “strongly urging” all districts in the state to reopen schools and return to some form of in-person learning as soon as they can do so, stating that students should have the option to remain virtual and at-risk teachers should be allowed to teach remotely, but students should be given the option to return to school if their parents want them to.

Cooper’s press conference came on the day that a three-week directive from Mecklenburg County Public Health that called on residents and leaders to “utilize full-virtual options for work, school and any other activity where in-person activity is not required” expired. 

On Jan. 14, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education (BOE) pushed back the scheduled return to in-person learning to Feb. 15 for PreK-5th grade, K-8th grade schools, and students with special needs; and Feb. 22 for middle- and high-school students following an ABC attendance rotation. CMS will reevaluate its plan to reopen schools based on district and county evaluation in partnership with Mecklenburg County Public Health at the Feb. 9th BOE meeting.

Though he strongly urged it at Tuesday’s press conference, Cooper made no executive orders or mandates, stating that local boards should have the final say. 

“Let’s give these local boards a chance,” Cooper said. “They’ve had to make some very tough decisions on the ground. I think we agree our decisions are best made about education at a local level.”

Spectrum Center To Be Next Mass Vaccination Site

Novant Health confirmed on Friday that Spectrum Center will be the next location for a mass COVID-19 vaccination event to be held on Feb. 13. This follows similar events hosted by Atrium Health at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America Stadium in January. It’s unclear how many appointments will be available for the Saturday vaccination. The hospital says it has administered 66,000 vaccine doses total to this point between staff and residents, though in mid-January it had requested 95,000 doses a week just to meet demand.  

Linda Keene is vaccinated at Bank of America Stadium on Friday. (Photo by Emily Barnes/Atrium Health)

Though North Carolina is still only offering vaccinations to frontline workers, staff at long-term-care facilities, and residents 65 years old or older, Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said at a press conference on Wednesday that she expects the state will move to Group 3 — including essential front-line essential workers like first responders, teachers, grocery store employees and TSA workers — within the next month. 

reopen schools
(Graph courtesy of Mecklenburg County Public Health)

According to the latest data from Mecklenburg County Public Health, released Friday morning, there had been 88,594 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 797 deaths due to the coronavirus at that time. That’s an increase of 4,150 cases and 31 deaths since the same time last week. According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through the week up to Wednesday, the average test-positivity rate was at 10.5%, while the average number of people hospitalized on any given day was at 340, both decreasing trends.

Mecklenburg County Passes LGBTQ Resolution

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a nondiscrimination resolution on Tuesday, a symbolic act meant to show support for a more meaningful nondiscrimination ordinance, which Charlotte City Council is expected to draft and vote on in the coming months. Late last year saw the sunset of a law that came as part of a compromise that ended HB2 but prohibited municipalities from passing new nondiscrimination ordinances.

Multiple municipalities in the Triangle area including Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Durham have already passed new ordinances protecting LGBTQ residents from facing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace and elsewhere, and Charlotte city staff is reportedly working on drafting a new ordinance for the city, though the details have not yet been released. 

Charlotte Police Rank High in Racial Arrest Disparities

CMPD ranked fourth in racial arrest disparities in a new study released by Samuel Sinyangwe and FiveThirtyEight on Thursday that looked at arrests and police killings by race in 37 police departments with the largest jurisdictions in the United States. The study showed CMPD arrested nearly five times as many Black people as white people in 2019, ranking only behind Washington D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco. 

CMPD also ranked in the top half of the pack at 15th in police killings, having killed nearly four times as many Black people as white people per capita between 2013 and 2020. 

(Graph courtesy of FiveThirtyEight)

“These initial findings are not enough to prove policing in these cities is unlawful or to prove these disparities were motivated by racial bias,” Sinyangwe wrote. “But they do establish a set of ‘warning flags’ that signify undesirable policing outcomes that, at minimum, should result in further inquiry and investigation from those tasked with holding police accountable.” 

An in-depth study by Amanda Zhou of the Charlotte Observer in December 2020 showed that Black people make up 57% of the traffic stops in the city while being 35% of the population, along with other disparities that may play a role in the arrest disparities shown in the FiveThirtyEight report. 

Man Arrested for Machete Attack in CATS Bus

Police announced the arrest of a 27-year-old man on Friday for the reportedly random stabbing of two CATS bus riders that occurred on Wednesday. Police responded to an assault call on East 7th Street near the Kirkland Apartments in the Elizabeth neighborhood and found two victims suffering from non-life-threatening injuries. They told officers they were riding the bus when a man pulled out what appeared to be a machete and began stabbing them. The suspect then got off the bus and fled down East 7th Street. 

After community tips led police to identify a person of interest who turned out not to be involved, they arrested a 27-year-old man near East 7th Street and North Dotger Avenue on Friday and, after an interview, charged him with two counts of attempted murder. 

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