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5 Things To Know: As Child Vaccinations Start, NC COVID Restrictions Lifted

...and four more stories you need to know from May 9-15, 2021

NC COVID restrictions
Gov. Roy Cooper announced he will sign the Reopen Our Schools Act in March (pictured). On Friday, he announced an end to most NC COVID restrictions. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Cooper’s Office)

Cooper Announces End to Most NC COVID Restrictions

At a press conference on Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the immediate lifting of most NC COVID restrictions, including the full rescinding of all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, along with all social-distancing requirements and most mandatory mask requirements in North Carolina.

The announcement came on the heels of this week’s CDC recommendations stating that fully vaccinated people could go without masks in public settings, both indoors and outdoors. Cooper’s announcement went further, however, by not making any differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and lifting all other COVID-19 restrictions that were still in place.

According to Cooper, a mask mandate still applies when indoors on public transportation, in child-care facilities and schools, in prisons and in certain public health settings. He said the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will make “strong recommendations” for people to continue to wear masks in certain public settings, and for unvaccinated people to continue to wear them whenever indoors.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve said we would listen to health experts and follow the science as we made decisions,” Cooper said. “We would listen to the CDC. Our focus would be on saving lives. We would use a dimmer-switch approach to easing restrictions. We’re continuing to do all these things.”

In April, Cooper stated he would lift NC COVID restrictions by June 1 if the percentage of North Carolina adults who had received at least one dose of the vaccine reached 67% by that time. As of 11:59 p.m. on the Thursday before his most recent announcement, that number was at 51.2%. 


Children Aged 12-15 Begin Receiving Vaccinations

At a press conference on Thursday, the day health-care providers began administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to children between 12-15 years old per recent approval by the CDC, Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) Director Gibbie Harris pointed out inequities in the local vaccination process thus far. The same populations that were most affected by COVID-19 — Charlotte’s most marginalized communities — have received the least vaccinations, she said.

The county will continue efforts to target certain census tracts where the percentage of residents who have been vaccinated is the lowest, Harris said. Today, MCPH Deputy Director Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell, and other officials will attend a clinic at Movement School on Central Avenue in east Charlotte from noon to 4 p.m. More clinics will be planned at CMS schools on Saturday, May 22, Harris said. 

NC COVID restrictions
Abigail Isaac reacts to her first injection at a drive-thru vaccination clinic at Atrium Health CMC on Thursday. Friday saw the ending of NC COVID restrictions as children began to get vaccines. (Photo by Emily Barnes/Atrium Health)

At Thursday’s press conference, Harris predicted that Cooper would soon loosen the mask mandate on the heels of the CDC recommendation, though she emphasized that vaccinations are the only way to stay safe against COVID-19. “If you like the idea of not having to wear a mask indoors as well as outdoors, please take full advantage of these [vaccination] clinics this weekend … That is the answer,” she said.

Locally, MCPH reported on Friday that 42% of the total population (466,843 residents) of Mecklenburg County had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 35.7% of Mecklenburg County’s total population (396,879 residents) have been fully vaccinated. Those numbers grew by 2% and 4.2%, respectively, over the past week. 

(Infographic courtesy of MCPH)

According to the latest data from MCPH, released Friday afternoon, there had been 111,586 total cases of COVID-19 and 957 deaths related to the coronavirus in the county to that point, an increase of 981 cases and three deaths since the same time last week. 

According to more in-depth data for cases that had occurred through Wednesday, the county had seen a 5% test-positivity rate over the previous week and an average of 151 laboratory confirmed infections per day, both decreasing trends compared to the previous two weeks. On average, 150 people were hospitalized on any given day due to COVID-19 over the past week, also a decreasing trend. 


Charlotte Sees a Dry Spell at the Pump

Charlotte witnessed what can go wrong when people start to panic this week, after a reported gas shortage led to hoarding that dried out 70% of the city’s gas stations.

Following a hack in the Colonial Pipeline that halted the supply of much of the East Coast’s fuel, the company announced it had closed off the pipeline completely. These reports led people up and down the coast to begin panic-buying gas, storing it in whatever containers they had — although there were plenty of fake pictures of gas hoarding going around the internet, as well. 

Gas station outages from Monday-Thursday.

Regardless of just how serious the threat of a gas shortage was originally, the response from residents led to a real problem, with Charlotte topping out at around 72% of gas stations reporting outages, according to oil- and gas-price expert Patrick De Haan. By Friday afternoon, Colonial had resumed action in the pipeline for around 24 hours, though it took some time for that gas to reach stations. At around 2 p.m. on Friday, De Haan reported that 66.4% of Charlotte gas stations were still without gas. 


NC House Approves Bill Restricting History in Schools 

Republicans on Wednesday passed House Bill 324 through the North Carolina House of Representatives, a bill that would ban teachers from teaching lessons that acknowledge America’s history and legacies related to racism and sexism. 

The proposal first appeared in the N.C. House Education Committee on Tuesday in a maneuver that substituted new language into an unrelated bill about charter schools. The committee approved the sweeping new language with roughly six minutes of debate. The N.C. House Rules Committee endorsed the bill later in the day. The full House passed the measure Wednesday afternoon.

“The way this bill was fast-tracked with no opportunity or notice for public comment is a perfect illustration of what legislators hope to achieve in classrooms across the state,” wrote Chantal Stevens, executive director for the ACLU of North Carolina, in a statement on Wednesday. “Lawmakers pushing this bill do not want to hear views that conflict with their own. North Carolinians deserve better than a sham process that radically overhauls what can be taught to the more than 1.5 million public school students in our state.” 

In another release on Wednesday, NC House Republicans refuted the allegation that the bill would change what history can and cannot be taught in schools. 

“Students should absolutely learn the horrific facts associated with slavery, Jim Crow, and other dark times in our nation’s history,” wrote Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in a statement. “They should not, however, be subjected to pseudo-science social justice initiatives like the ‘1619 Project’ and ‘Critical Race Theory,’ which seek to divide us along racial lines and teach that the systems of our Republic and the history of our great American experiment are shameful.” 

The bill is part of a larger nationwide effort to push back against the bogeyman of “critical race theory,” an intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed — or culturally invented — category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color, according to Brittanica

We suggest all NC House Republicans read our Black History of Charlotte series for a better understanding of how our oppressive past has affected our present. 


Two Killings Put Yearly Total at 35

Two young men were killed in separate incidents in Charlotte this week, bringing the total number of illegal killings in the city this year to 35. 

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Thursday, police responded to an arcade business on Freedom Drive between Camp Greene Street and Enderly Road where they found 22-year-old Jaylon Webber suffering from a life-threatening gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Webber to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. No arrests have been made in this case. 

 

Shortly after 9:20 p.m. on the same day, police responded to another shooting call on Allen Street in the Villa Heights neighborhood of north Charlotte, where they found 16-year-old Jeremiah Woodard-Pegues dead of a gunshot wound. While investigating Woodard-Pegues’ murder, officers observed a stolen vehicle in the area and attempted to stop it, but the driver fled. A CMPD helicopter followed the vehicle and directed officers to where its occupants had jumped and ran. Officers apprehended the vehicle’s occupants, who were then interviewed by Homicide Unit detectives. Investigators later charged one of the occupants, an 18-year-old man, with murder, possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.


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