GOVERNOR REQUIRES FACE COVERINGS TO SLOW VIRUS SPREAD: A concerned North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday the state will remain in Phase Two for another three weeks while making face coverings mandatory in public. The order that moved the state into Phase 2 on May 22 was scheduled to expire on Friday. It has been extended until July 17. The mask requirement takes effect Friday at 5 p.m. “We know next week we’ve got another important announcement about schools and how we’ll open those up,” Cooper said during a press briefing. “We are hopeful that July 17 we can move even further on restrictions and we can have our kids in school this fall.” Cooper said the state needs to stay in Phase Two for three more weeks to give experts enough time to analyze data and trends.
ART POPE SELECTED FOR SEAT ON UNC BOARD OF GOVERNORS: Senate Republicans plan to name Art Pope, a key player in the GOP's ascendency in North Carolina politics a decade ago, to the state university system's Board of Governors on Thursday. A slot on the board opened up late last week when former Sen. Bob Rucho resigned. Pope was a state budget director under former Gov. Pat McCrory and he owns Variety Wholesalers, a chain of discount stores. He is one of the state's biggest conservative donors and a founding member of Americans for Prosperity. He has long been the focus of left-wing ire in North Carolina politics. "Among all hypothetical scenarios, this is the most controversial pick I could imagine," Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, tweeted late Wednesday. "One of the central challenges with the Board of Governors over the last few years has been the overwhelming perception that its decisions are partisan," Jackson tweeted. "To put it mildly, there is no way that this pick would improve that perception."
JUDGE RULES AGAINST ACE SPEEDWAY OWNERS AFTER RECKLESS REOPENING: A North Carolina stock car racetrack must remain closed and propose a new social distancing plan after a judge sided with health officials in an effort to curb the coronavirus spread. Superior Court Judge D. Thomas Lambeth Jr. agreed with health officials who said large gatherings at the Ace Speedway could contribute to an increase spread of COVID-19, news outlets reported. The Wednesday ruling continues to put an injunction on Ace, which requires the track to close and stop operations. Ace attorney Chuck Kitchen said the speedway will seek an appeal. The initial injunction, from June 11, came after the speedway defied restrictions on large crowds implemented to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 restrictions caps outdoor crowds at 25 people.
THREE WILMINGTON POLICE OFFICERS FIRED AFTER VIOLENT RACIAL SLURS CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Sitting in his patrol car in Wilmington, N.C., Officer Michael “Kevin” Piner predicted Black Lives Matter protests would soon lead to civil war. “I’m ready,” Piner told another officer, adding that he planned to buy an assault rifle. “We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them f------ n------,” he said. The shocking threat came amid extended, openly racist conversations between Piner, 44, and two other police officers, 50-year-old Cpl. Jesse E. Moore II, and 48-year-old Officer James “Brian” Gilmore. In the discussions, taped by accident on a patrol car camera and released Wednesday by the department, the men freely drop racial slurs, suggest killing black residents and deride protesters. “Wipe 'em off the f------ map,” Piner said of African Americans. “That’ll put 'em back about four or five generations.” Piner soon left to check out an alarm, investigators found. Later, Moore, who also was hired in 1997, called him to describe a recent arrest of a black woman, repeatedly calling her a racial slur. “She needed a bullet in the head right then and move on,” Moore said of the woman. “Let’s move the body out of the way and keep going.” Later, while complaining about a black judge whom Moore called a “f------ negro magistrate,” Moore added, “It’s bad man because not all black people are like that.” “Most of 'em,” Piner responded.
NEW YORK WILL QUARANTINE VISITORS FROM OTHER STATES AS U.S. OUTBREAKS SURGE: The United States reported 36,880 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day total since the start of the pandemic and more than two months after the previous high. The number of infections indicated that the country was not only failing to contain the virus, but also that the caseload was worsening — a path at odds with many other nations that have seen steady declines after an earlier peak. Cases in the United States had been on a downward trajectory after the previous high of 36,739 cases on April 24, but they have roared back in recent weeks. The resurgence is concentrated largely in the South and West. Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas reported their highest single-day totals on Wednesday, but case numbers have been rising in 29 states. The tally of new cases, based on a New York Times database, showed that the outbreak was stronger than ever. Some states, including New York, which at one point had the most daily virus cases, have brought their numbers under control. Hoping to keep it that way, New York — along with Connecticut and New Jersey — said it would institute a quarantine for some out-of-state travelers. As of Wednesday, more than 2.3 million Americans have been infected and about 122,000 have died. The World Health Organization warned Wednesday that if the Americas were not able to stop the spread of the virus, there may be a need to impose — or reimpose — general lockdowns.