N.C. Anti-Trans Bills Part of a Countrywide Effort
Republicans introduced two new anti-trans bills on the North Carolina General Assembly this week that target transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.
Senate Bill 514, also known as the Youth Health Protection Act, would prevent doctors from performing gender confirmation surgery for transgender people younger than 21 and would require any government employee — including teachers — who is aware of a child displaying “gender nonconformity” to “immediately notify” their parents or guardians. Senate Bill 515, titled Health Care Heroes Conscience Protection Act, would grant medical providers a right to refuse treatment — even life-saving treatment — for LGBTQ+ people if they object to doing so on the basis of conscience.
There are currently 20 states that have introduced anti-trans bills that would prohibit or restrict transition care for trans minors, according to the ACLU, and more than 30 that have introduced measures that would ban trans student athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity.
North Carolina Republicans have introduced a separate anti-trans bill that would prevent transgender youth from participating in sports in the state with a bill that experts say “gets the science wrong.”
“These bills are yet another bigoted, cruel, and heartless attack by North Carolina Republicans aimed to stigmatize transgender and gender-nonconforming youth,” read a joint statement released Friday by North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson, NCDP Transgender Political Caucus President Angela Bridgman, and LGBTQ+ Democrats of NC Auxiliary President Ginger Walker decrying the wave of anti-trans bills.
“Let us be clear: Ability to access health care should not be restricted by a person’s gender identity. These hateful, targeted attacks by Republicans seeking to invade conversations between individuals and their doctors are inappropriate, and allowing doctors to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people ‘on the basis of conscience’ is flat out dangerous.”
Local COVID-19 Metrics Are Mixed as Vaccinations Expand
The average number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 among Mecklenburg County residents rose this week for the first time in 2021 as the daily number of newly recorded cases fell and the test-positivity rate remained steady. According to the most recent data released on Friday, there had been 104,279 total cases of COVID-19 and 922 deaths related to the coronavirus in the county to that point, an increase of 1,824 cases and nine deaths since the last release on April 1.
According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through Wednesday, the county had seen a 6.8% test-positivity rate over the previous week, a “fairly stable trend.” An average of 128 people were hospitalized on any given day due to COVID-19 over the past week, an increase over the 109 average recorded for the week leading up to April 1.
More than 91,000 Mecklenburg County residents got their first vaccination shots this week, as eligibility expanded to anyone 16 years old or older on Wednesday. According to MCPH, 296,552 Mecklenburg County residents (26.7%) had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 192,115 residents (17.3%) were fully vaccinated.
Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are currently being offered at Bojangles Coliseum through a partnership between Mecklenburg County and StarMed, as well as through private health-care providers, various mass vaccination sites, and at participating Walgreens and CVS locations.
Airport, CMPD Among Agencies Using Controversial Facial Recognition Software
This week, Buzzfeed News published an investigative report on law enforcement use of the facial recognition app Clearview, AI. Their reporting exposed nearly 2,000 agencies that have used Clearview for facial recognition searches, including 64 in North Carolina. That includes Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, where the technology was implemented in the lead-up to the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Clearview AI has faced controversy and public opposition due to limits to its technology, including unreliable results that tend to misidentify people of color at higher rates than white people. The technology has been used to surveil people taking part in peaceful protests, like those that occurred in Charlotte last year.
Buzzfeed’s investigation did name CMPD as an agency that was found to have used Clearview technology, though they could not confirm, as department officials did not respond to requests for comment. As stated in this searchable database, the investigation did have its limits, and some agencies confirmed to have used the technology may have only done so to test its efficacy.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future has created a Ban Facial Recognition map that shows where facial recognition surveillance is happening, how it’s spreading, and where there are efforts to rein it in. While Vermont is currently the only state where facial recognition software is banned, there are many municipalities that have prohibited its use, though none in North Carolina.
“This data highlights what we already know: that law enforcement is using facial recognition in ways that fundamentally threaten any semblance of human rights, due process, and surely exacerbate existing discrimination,” said Caitlin Seeley George, director of campaigns and operations at Fight for the Future, in a release on Friday. “The only way to stop this is to ban it.”
JCSU Partners with CPCC for Direct Admission Program
On Thursday, leaders at Johnson C. Smith University and Central Piedmont Community College announced JCSU Connect, a new bachelor’s degree pathway that they say will expand college access to more students in the Charlotte area and beyond. The new collaboration is part of JCSU President Clarence D. Armbrister’s mission to help address the lack of economic upward mobility in Charlotte by providing local students a guided pathway to earn bachelor’s degrees from JCSU, according to a release.
JCSU Connect is a “2+2” program, meaning participating students will complete an associate degree at Central Piedmont and a bachelor’s degree at JCSU. During the first two years of study, program students will take classes at Central Piedmont and engage in intentional career and academic workshops at JCSU. During the third-year, students will enroll at JCSU and be placed in an on-campus paid internship via federal work study at JCSU that correlates with their field of study. During the final year of study, participants will complete their academic program at JCSU and engage in experiential learning, including internships and undergraduate research.
“For more than 150 years, JCSU has been a leader in providing educational access,” Armbrister stated in the release. “As the University continues to focus on providing opportunities to address economic upward mobility in Charlotte, we look forward to this new partnership with Central Piedmont Community College to assist those seeking bachelor’s degrees and experience Charlotte’s HBCU, the only HBCU in partnership with Central Piedmont.”
In addition, each student who remains eligible during their time at Central Piedmont and successfully submits the application to JCSU will receive an $8,000 annual scholarship and other financial aid to attend the HBCU. CPCC will launch the program this August at the start of the Fall 2021 semester.
Two Homicides Make 24 Illegal Killings in Charlotte
Two people were murdered in separate incidents in Charlotte this week, making a total of 24 illegal killings in the city thus far in 2021. At approximately 1:46 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a welfare check call for service at a hotel on Queen City Drive, where they found a 29-year-old woman named Jaida who was unresponsive. She was pronounced dead on the scene. Jaida’s family is raising money for her funeral, which will take place in Darlington, South Carolina, on Tuesday, and has asked that any donations be sent to $Faith0287 on CashApp.
Just before 12:45 p.m. on Friday, police responded to a shooting call on Parkland Circle in east Charlotte and found a man dead of a gunshot wound. The victim’s name has not yet been released.
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