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5 Things To Know: Omicron Variant Case Confirmed at UNC Charlotte

...and four more stories from Dec. 5-11, 2021

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UNC Charlotte, Omicron variant
A UNC Charlotte who traveled out of the country during Thanksgiving break was confirmed to have brought back the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

First Omicron Case Found in Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) announced on Friday that officials had been made aware of the first known positive case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in a student at UNC Charlotte. The case was identified through the university’s sequencing program. 

According to Rick Tankersley of UNC Charlotte, who took part in a virtual press conference with county health officials on Friday afternoon, the student contracted the coronavirus while traveling out of the country during Thanksgiving break, then was isolated. The student has already recovered. Their exposure was apparently limited to one contact and there is not believed have been any spread of the virus from there, yet officials expect there will be plenty more Omicron cases to come. 

During the press conference, MCPH director Gibbie Harris acknowledges that officials are still learning about the Omicron variant, which was first reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24, and first confirmed in America in Dec. 1. It doesn’t appear to be any more deadly than previous variants, however. 

“This virus is not going away, that’s the one thing that we can pretty much say for certain,” Harris said. “What it does and how we manage it are the variables that we can control.” 

As with other variants of the virus, it is believed that COVID-19 vaccines help curb the symptoms of the Omicron variant if contracted. The student who contracted the Omicron variant in Mecklenburg County was fully vaccinated and experienced only mild symptoms, according to Harris. 


City Not Enforcing Ordinances

Genevieve Curtis with WSOC reported on Friday that, as of Dec. 1, CMPD has stopped enforcing city ordinances due to a new law that went into effect at the beginning of the month before the city was able to review its own localized policies. The law, signed by Gov. Cooper in September, decriminalizes a number of city ordinances, which set into motion a review process for all municipalities — one that Charlotte city staff has not yet finished. 

This means that, while still enforcing state law, CMPD is not currently enforcing city ordinances such as panhandling, littering, trespassing, curfews, and animal abuse. 

Panhandling is legal for the time being, but these signs should be illegal. (Photo courtesy of Keysha Walker Taylor/Twitter)

According to WSOC’s reporting and reactions on Twitter, much of the city council was not aware of this new development. In response to the story posted on Friday morning, Braxton Winston tweeted at CMPD and the city of Charlotte: “It is interesting to find out about this second hand via Twitter. Seems like this would have been a good update to get during our monthly strategy session.” 

City officials have reportedly said they plan to have the results of their review in front of city council early next year. 

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Arrival Will Establish Battery Module Microfactory in Charlotte

British-based global electric vehicle company Arrival announced Monday it will establish a high-voltage battery module assembly plant, adding 150 new jobs and investing $11.5 million in its new facility off Yorkmont Road.

Arrival, founded in 2015 and based in London, manufactures electric buses and vans. Since 2020, the company has established its U.S. headquarters in South End, an electric van assembly microfactory in Charlotte, and an electric bus assembly microfactory in Rock Hill, S.C.

Arrival
One of Arrival’s zero-emission vans.

This new plant will assemble Arrival’s proprietary battery modules that can be used in all of Arrival’s vehicles and offers customizability for customers to configure battery requirements according to their specific needs. The plant will employ 150 people, and most roles will serve as operators who assemble the battery modules. The average wage for all employees is $54,700.

“We’re excited to add another facility in Charlotte, as we prepare to open our new North American Headquarters building just down the road and continue to work in tandem with the City to develop solutions for their electrification and sustainability goals,” said Mike Ableson, CEO of Arrival Automotive, in a release Monday. “This is a big milestone for Arrival as we ramp up operations in the region in advance of production starting in Rock Hill in Q2 next year.”


New Design Renderings for Rail Trail Bridge Released

At an event on Tuesday, city officials and developers presented updated renderings of the Rail Trail Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that will connect Uptown and South End over I-277, from the CATS Blue Line Stonewall Station to where the existing Rail Trail ends under the East Morehead Street bridge, north of Carson Street. 

Rail Trail bridge
The Rail Trail Bridge will be 16 feet wide and feature 40-foot-high double arches.

The design is expected to be finalized by summer 2022, with construction beginning in spring 2023 and ending two years later. The bridge is expected to cost $11.5 million, consisting of $3.1 million from the city, $3.3 million from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, $3.1 million from Mecklenburg County, and $2 million from the private sector. 


Three Men Killed in Separate Incidents This Week

Three men fell victim to gun violence in Charlotte this week, bringing the total number of illegal killings in the city this year to 98. 

A teen died on his way to the hospital after being shot in a trailer park in the Newell area of north Charlotte on Sunday morning. According to a CMPD release, officers responded to a shooting call on Ann Elizabeth Drive at around 2:49 a.m. on Sunday, but were told that a “possible victim” had already been transported to the hospital by a third party. That victim, later identified as 19-year-old Daniel Morales, wouldn’t make it to the hospital, however. Nearly 40 minutes after the original call, officers responded to a call about a gunshot victim in a car on East Independence Boulevard and found Morales dead of a gunshot wound in a vehicle. No arrests have yet been made in the case.

 

Just before 2 a.m. on Monday, CMPD officers responded to a check-the-welfare call along with MEDIC and Charlotte Fire at the intersection of North Graham Street and Oneida Road, where they found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. One was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, but the other, 41-year-old David Castillo-Salinas, was pronounced dead on the scene. 

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning, police responded to a shooting call on Swank Road in the Northlake area of north Charlotte and found 29-year-old Devontae Springs dead of a gunshot wound. When officers arrived at the scene, they saw a car that they believed to be involved speeding away and gave chase. After a brief pursuit, the car crashed into a utility pole. While taking the two people in the car into custody, one was found to have multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. 


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