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Friday News: Insider trading


BURR IN HOT SEAT AFTER SELLING OFF STOCKS IN EARLY FEBRUARY: U.S. Sen. Richard Burr sold up to $1.5 million in stocks, including hotel chains, in mid-February weeks before he warned a private group that the coronavirus was “akin to the 1918 pandemic” and warned it to rethink European travel. The stock sales Feb. 13 were reflected on a financial disclosure form filed with the Senate on Feb. 27, the same day he spoke to members of the Tar Heel Circle, a high-dollar membership organization that is part of the North Carolina State Society of Washington, D.C. ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics first reported the stock sales. NPR first reported Burr’s comments. Burr was one of three senators to vote against the STOCK Act, a 2012 bill “that explicitly prevents members of Congress and their staffs from using nonpublic information for insider trading,” according to McClatchy reporting at the time. Burr called the bill “ludicrous” and said existing laws already covered it for all Americans, including members of Congress.

Thursday News: Then there were 92


DURHAM TAKES THE LEAD IN COVID 19 CASES WITH DUKE UNIVERSITY CLUSTER: Durham County announced 11 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, all members of the Duke University community. Most of them traveled internationally and were quarantined in their homes off campus, Durham County and Duke reported in a news release. Duke officials would not say where they traveled. Its announcement on Wednesday follows a day when 15 other cases were announced, all part of a group who had traveled internationally. Four more people who were tested out of the country remained there. Duke announced it is postponing commencement for the Class of 2020 “in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the latest public health advisories on travel and large gatherings.” In a letter to those students, Duke President Vincent Price said it was a “very difficult but necessary decision.” North Carolina had 92 cases of coronavirus after Duke’s announcement Wednesday, which followed five new cases in Wake County.

Wednesday News: Economic lifeline

COOPER LOOSENS RULES FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DURING PANDEMIC: Although drive-thru, takeout and delivery food orders are still available, he said, "I recognize this decision will cost people their jobs." So, the executive order also adjusts rules for jobless benefits: The one-week waiting period for benefits has been suspended. People won't be required to look for another jobs to obtain benefits. Workers who have had their hours cut back can seek benefits. People can apply online or over the phone and don't need an in-person interview. Employers won't be held responsible for anyone seeking benefits because of the outbreak. "These changes are designed to lessen the hit on our economy and workers wallets," Cooper said during a news conference. "We know people want to work and that businesses want to stay open. The reality is that many can't."

Tuesday News: Language barrier


COVID 19 HEALTH ADVISORIES ARE MISSING SPANISH TRANSLATIONS: For some members of the Hispanic community, getting information about COVID-19 has been difficult. "They think that if they get it, it's instant death. They have no idea what to do or what precautions to take, how to take care of themselves or how to get medicine," Ivan Aguirre, concerned about COVID-19, said. As information comes out, this is the reality for many in the Hispanic community. For Spanish-speaking households, it's difficult to translate the information, leaving for a worried community. "All the information I've seen has been in English, and the information I've seen has been what's going on around social media and most of it just seemed to be panic. Nothing is really straight," Aguirre said. Advocates for the Latin community like "El Pueblo" are working hard to provide helpful information, but it's a team effort.

Monday News: Slow is good...


NC NOW HAS 33 CASES OF COVID 19, 14 IN WAKE COUNTY: On Sunday, Wake health officials said one of the new cases flew to Raleigh-Durham International Airport on March 8. Wake officials say one of the other new cases attended the BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Convention at the Raleigh Convention Center from 2-4 p.m. on March 8. Anyone who was at the event during that time period is asked to call the county’s COVID-19 information line at 919-856-7044. Mecklenburg County has the next most with four cases. Others are in Forsyth, Durham, Chatham, Johnston, Cabarrus, Harnett, Onslow, Wayne, Brunswick, Craven, Wilson and Watuaga counties. The weekend has been quiet with many events being canceled as a result of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order on Saturday banning large gatherings of 100 or more people. His order also closes the state’s K-12 public schools through March 27.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


COOPER AND OTHER GOVERNORS FILL TRUMP'S COVID 19 LEADERSHIP VOID: Amid the stumbling, contradictions, inaccuracies and confusion coming from Washington on confronting the coronavirus outbreak, governors offered hope and real action. States, local governments and institutions are acting on their own. North Carolina is the textbook example. Two weeks before Trump acted, Cooper created a special state task force to monitor and when the situation necessitated, coordinate and direct actions to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They have acted in a timely manner to address the rapidly changing health environment and worked diligently to be open and keep the public informed. Difficult decisions are being made – it seems on an hourly basis. The impacts aren’t being taken lightly since they involve very significant investment, expense for individuals and disruption to long-made plans. It has been the state agencies that have provided the credible information.

Saturday News: Prudent Jurist


NC COURTS PUT ON 30-DAY DELAY OVER COVID 19: Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley directed most Superior Court and District Court cases to be pushed back for at least 30 days starting Monday, with some exceptions. Trials and grand juries with jurors already seated will continue as scheduled. Bond and probable cause hearings will still be held, domestic violence protection proceedings won't stop and magistrates will continue to be in place at courthouses across the state to issue warrants, state court leaders said. Beasley said the delays will affect thousands of court cases and likely will lead to backlogs in the months ahead. But she said the pause is needed so the judicial branch can do its part to curb the virus spread.

Friday News: Agent Extract

NC IS SLOWLY RAMPING UP TESTING FOR COVID 19: “Our issue and our limitation has been for supplies at our state lab,” said Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in a Thursday afternoon news conference. “Our extraction supplies have been in extremely limited supplies.” It’s not just a North Carolina problem. The agent used to extract genetic material from the virus at the labs has created a nationwide problem, Politico and The New York Times reported. “The main issue appears to be an agent used for extracting the RNA in order to identify the genetic sequence that marks this as the coronavirus,” said state Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenburg County Democrat. In addition to the state lab, tests are being conducted at LabCorp, Atrium, Duke and UNC, Cohen said. LabCorp, which is based in Burlington, is currently able to perform several thousand tests per day at facilities across the nation, according to its website.

Thursday News: Forest burning down


LINDBERG TAPES REVEAL DEEPER CONNECTIONS TO LT. GOVERNOR: "Well, some of what happened to Dan Forest was, was strategic, and there's more to it," Gray told Causey during a May 2018 phone conversation. "What you can see of it is not even the tip of an iceberg. There's a lot more to it than anybody knows, and I'm not at liberty to discuss it." Even though Causey didn't ask for details, Gray kept stressing discretion. "It's just not the kinds of things to be discussed publicly," he said, according to an FBI transcript. "Well, I certainly appreciate," Causey began, before Gray cut him off. "The best way to win a primary is not to have one," he said. Forest's campaign spokesman said it's "impossible to speculate" what Gray meant, and he accused WRAL News of trying "to smear the solid reputation of the lieutenant governor by innuendo, hearsay, guilt by association or any other means available."

Wednesday News: Hard-hearted, hard-headed

NC REPUBLICANS' OPPOSITION TO MEDICAID EXPANSION RUNS DEEP: The task force report referenced a study published in 2018 that concluded that the infant mortality rate dropped more quickly in states that expanded Medicaid, with the biggest declines among African Americans. The study did not convince Senate Republicans who oppose Medicaid expansion. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Kernersville Republican, noted that the steepest drops in death rates in the years referenced in the study were between 2010 and 2014, before states started implementing Medicaid expansion. “It’s misleading to tie it to Medicaid expansion,” she said. Sen. Ralph Hise, a Spruce Pine Republican, asked if “putting someone on Medicaid would make them more healthy.” Zolotor said it’s important for women to be healthy before they get pregnant, but did not have information to show people who have Medicaid are healthier than people who don’t have it.


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