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Weekly News Roundup: Spa Owner Disputes Stay-at-Home Citation

A March 26 post from Cool Cave Spa showed community donations. (Instagram)

Spa Owner Disputes Stay-at-Home Citation

CMPD announced on Friday that officers issued the department’s first citation for violating the statewide stay-at-home order, though the owner of the business that was cited says the charges stemmed from a misunderstanding. 

According to CMPD, police got a tip on Wednesday concerning the Cool Cave Day Spa on Monroe Road, and officers went to the business and advised the owner and employees that they would need to close the business and leave. They returned several hours later and again encouraged everyone there to voluntarily comply. When they returned again on Thursday, CMPD states that, “based on evidence and their observations, [officers] determined that the business was continuing to operate as a massage and day spa.” 

Officers then cited Cheree-Alexia Hercule, whom they referred to as the on-duty manager, for violations of emergency prohibitions and restrictions. Cool Cave owner Kim Elamina tells a different story, however.

According to Elamina, after the stay-at-home order was implemented, Cool Cave turned over its space to the Metro Proponent Foundation (MPF), a local youth mentorship nonprofit program, to act as a hub for charitable activities helping families struggling during the COVID-19 crisis. The building was used as a drop-off for donations of items that have been scarce such as toilet paper and Lysol wipes, and as a pick-up for grab-and-go lunches provided by volunteers.

On March 26, the day the county’s stay-at-home order went into effect, the Cool Cave Instagram account posted a picture of donations and stated, “Moving forward we have been a designated drop off point for supplies needed. If you would like to contribute to our efforts, please stop by and drop off any donations.”

Elamina told Queen City Nerve that Hercule is not an employee of the spa, but works with MPF. Calls and emails to MPF were not returned by the time this article was published, but we will update as necessary. Elamina told Queen City Nerve she expects the charges will be dismissed. “We have always strived to partner within the community,” she wrote in an email. “Since our conception 11 years ago our business and Brand has always been active in community efforts. We cannot let the COVID-19 virus attack our community without being involved.” 

County Plans Field Hospital at UNCC

County leaders held a press conference on Friday afternoon, stating that more than 600 Mecklenburg County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and three have died. Officials also provided more details about plans for a mass care field hospital planned in UNC Charlotte dorms that could treat as many as 3,000 people during the peak of the pandemic, which is expected to occur locally between late April and early May. 

A look at what a little social distancing can do. (Graph courtesy of Mecklenburg County)

According to County Manager Dena Diorio, experts estimate that, with social distancing, the virus would peak in Mecklenburg County on May 11, with 4,692 hospitalizations, including 1,842 on ventilators and 1,482 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Without social distancing, experts say the peak would come quicker and be more widespread, with 8,500 hospitalizations, including 1,663 patients on ventilators and 3,288 in the ICU. Diorio said that, while the original Mecklenburg County stay-at-home order expires on April 16, officials will work next week with the governor to most likely extend it. 

“If you haven’t taken [social distancing] seriously, now is the time,” said CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes. 

The county also released new stats about the first 466 cases in Mecklenburg County through April 1. Of those cases, about three in four were in adults between the ages of 20 and 59. About one in five reported cases required hospitalization, though that rate rose to about half of the cases in people 60 or older. One in three of all reported cases have been released from isolation. 

Latin American Coalition Helps Latinx Community Get Answers

The Latin American Coalition (LAC) on Tuesday opened a Spanish-speaking hotline for the Latinx community affected by the COVID-19 crisis. With funding from Foundation for the Carolinas and United Way of Central Carolinas, the LAC HELPLINE will provide relief to immigrant families who will see the most substantial impact of this crisis, as many cannot work from home and will not be eligible for government aid, according to a release from the LAC put out on Tuesday. 

“Our community is looking for local information and resources in their language; many of the official communications are not in Spanish, it is difficult to find updated information, and families do not know where to look for help. That is why we launched HELPLINE, a Spanish hotline to connect our people with local resources,” José Hernández-París, executive director of the Latin American Coalition, stated in the release. 

José Hernández-París at the recent opening of LAC’s new Digital Learning Lab. (Photo courtesy of LAC)

The line provides information on crisis assistance, help with groceries, questions about the school system, low-cost clinics, document translation, health clinics, immigration and citizenship consultations, among other services, and is available regardless of one’s immigration status. Tuesday’s release emphasizes that there are no attorneys on staff and legal consultations are limited to immigration. 

“We hope this is very useful for our people; we want them to know that they are not alone in this and that they see The Coalition as an information and support center in their language,” Hernández-París stated. 

The hotline number is 980-320-3743, and will be available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. 

County Releases Numbers for First Responders Affected by COVID-19

Mecklenburg County released info on Friday about first responders who have tested positive or been ordered to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the release, two CMPD officers have tested positive, while 14 have been quarantined. At Charlotte Fire Department, one firefighter has tested positive while 13 are quarantined, and one MEDIC has tested positive while 14 are quarantined. No one from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has tested positive or been quarantined. 

“The county and city have been prepared for this possibility as our first responders have a difficult job that requires them to place their lives on the line to protect the public. We owe them and their family a debt of gratitude and we wish them a speedy recovery,” stated Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County public health director, in a release.

Teenager Murdered on Commonwealth Avenue

There have been three murders since our last Weekly News Roundup, bringing the total number of homicides in Charlotte this year to 26. On Saturday, March 28, police responded to an assault call on Mont Carmel Lane in southwest Charlotte at around 8:20 p.m. and found 64-year-old Hector Cruz suffering from a stab wound. MEDIC transported Cruz to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Later that night, at around 9 p.m., police responded to Irma Street in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of north Charlotte and found 37-year-old Mario Reynolds suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported him to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. No arrests have been made in either case. 

Mario Reynolds (Facebook)

Just before 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, police responded to a shooting call at the Citgo gas station on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Morningside Drive near Plaza Midwood and found 16-year-old Reginald Deveaux suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. MEDIC transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Devaux would have turned 17 on April 11. Police have arrested a 16-year-old juvenile for Deveaux’s murder. 

Reginald Deveaux (Facebook)

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