News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things To Know: Stricter Mask Mandate a Last Effort Before Rollback of Reopening

…and four more stories from Nov. 22-28, 2020

mask mandate
A stricter statewide mask mandate took effect on Wednesday. (AdobeStock)

Stricter Mask Mandate a Last Effort Before Rollback of Reopening

On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new, stricter approach to his mask mandate, giving law enforcement officers the right to cite people who are not wearing their mask in public and/or cite businesses that aren’t enforcing its use in their facilities. He also extended the mask mandate to apply to people sitting at restaurants who aren’t actively eating or drinking, and to apply to anyone around others they don’t live with. Though Cooper also encourages folks to wear masks inside their homes when around people whom they don’t live with, the mask mandate does not extend to private residences. 

The new order went into effect on Wednesday and will remain so until Dec. 11. Cooper has stated that a continued increase of COVID-19 cases statewide could result in a return to Phase 2, meaning stricter regulations on what businesses can remain open and/or how many people are allowed to gather.

“Wearing a mask over our mouth and nose is the best thing we can do to prevent the spread of this virus. It costs so little, but it does a lot to put countless dollars back into our economy by making it safer to visit stores and other businesses,” Cooper stated on Monday. “We don’t want to go backward, but we will if it’s necessary. The next seven to 14 days will tell us whether we are stemming the tide or whether we need to ratchet it up even more.”

Mecklenburg County Public Health has not released countywide COVID-19 numbers since Tuesday, though the most recent data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated Friday morning, states that Mecklenburg County has been home to 4,868 new cases in the last 14 days, with a total of 443 deaths due to COVID-19 throughout the year.  The number of daily hospitalizations statewide due to COVID-19 continues to rise as well, as can be seen below. 

mask mandate
A look at statewide hospitalizations over the past month. (Graph courtesy of NC DHHS)

CMS Votes to Allow Superintendent to Shut Down Schools Individually

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to give Superintendent Earnest Winston power to send individual schools into virtual learning if the need arises. Tuesday’s emergency meeting came after Metro School and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Academy (CMA) were both forced to close due to staffing shortages brought on by teachers taking leave, quarantining or being unable to work for other reasons. Both Metro School and CMA serve students with disabilities.

The new policy allows Winston to close an individual school for one of three reasons: the county health department orders it, there are health concerns related to COVID-19, or staff shortages make it impossible to operate. CMS policy has long been that if one school closes, be it for weather or another reason, they all close. 

Some middle school students return to class on Monday. (AdobeStock)

While around 40,000 pre-K and elementary school students are already receiving in-person instruction in some form, middle school students in K-8 district schools will return to in-person learning on Monday. Students at middle schools for 6-8 graders and high schools are scheduled to return to a rotating in-person schedule on Jan. 5. 

Newby’s Lead Grows Incrementally as Recount Delayed Further

The recount in the race for N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice did not end on Wednesday as originally planned due to three counties — Mecklenburg, Forsyth and Guilford — being unable to meet the 1 p.m. deadline. Their work was delayed through Thanksgiving and will resume on Monday. As of Friday night, challenger and Republican Paul Newby led incumbent Democrat Cheri Beasley by just 465 votes, or .00008625% of the nearly 5.4 million ballots cast. That’s a slight increase from the 406-vote lead Newby held following each county’s recording of absentee ballots, though the counties still finishing up their counts are three of the state’s four biggest counties and lean heavily Democratic. 

N.C. election results
N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley may have lost her seat. (Photo courtesy of Beasley campaign)

Halcyon Becomes Latest Charlotte Restaurant to Shut Down

Uptown fine-dining restaurant Halcyon became the latest Charlotte restaurant to announce its closure this week, stating in a Facebook post that, “As all things have their season,” the restaurant will close for the last time on Dec. 20. However, ownership with the Mother Earth Group already plans to open a new eatery in the same space, which is connected to the Mint Museum’s Uptown location, though it’s unclear exactly what that will look like. 

“We are grateful for your loyal patronage, conversation, and sharing your special occasions with us,” the post read. “We embrace the change and are excited about the creation of a new dining experience in the same wonderful Mint Museum space by the Mother Earth Group that will hopefully capture your heart and patronage in this new world.” 

Halcyon, Flavors From the Earth opened in 2010. Ownership expects to open a new restaurant in the space by Valentine’s Day 2021. 

Three Homicides Bring Total to 106

Charlotte came closer to surpassing its 2019 total of 107 homicides this week after three murders occurred, including two that happened on the same block within hours of each other. 

Police have arrested two teens for the murder of a fellow teenager who passed away on Sunday after being shot in west Charlotte’s Reid Park on the preceding Friday. Police responded to a shooting call on Reid Avenue at around 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 20 and found 16-year-old Joshua Clawson suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to the hospital, where he died on Sunday. That day, police arrested a 16-year-old girl and charged her with murder and shooting into an occupied dwelling. On Friday, police also arrested a 15-year-old boy and charged him with Clawson’s murder. 

Just before 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, police responded to a shooting call on South Gardner Avenue in the Smallwood neighborhood of west Charlotte and found 60-year-old Rory Montgomery dead of a gunshot wound. Deronald Bailey, 33, is wanted for Montgomery’s murder. At 2:45 a.m. the following morning, a little over five hours after the Gardner Avenue shooting, police responded to a block of Rozzelles Ferry just feet from where the previous shooting had occurred and found 42-year-old David Sanders dead of a gunshot wound. Police arrested 38-year-old Rsheena White at the scene and, after an interview, charged her with murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. The murder is suspected to be an incident of domestic violence.

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