NC SEES RECORD DAILY POSITIVES, OVER 312,000 HAVE BEEN INFECTED: At least 312,235 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 4,806 have died, according to health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 3,117 new COVID-19 cases, down from 3,885 reported the day before and the third-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. Saturday’s case count set a single-day record in North Carolina. Previously the record was 3,119 cases, reported on Wednesday. At least 1,395 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday. About 7.9% of tests were reported positive as of Friday, the latest day for which data are available.
WAKE SCHOOLS ARE BRINGING STUDENTS BACK TO CLASS AS VIRUS RAGES: Tens of thousands of Wake County students return to in-person learning on Monday as coronavirus cases in the state hit records highs. Students in kindergarten through 3rd grade who didn't opt to stay in Virtual Academy and all regional programs will resume full-time, in-person learning Monday. They’ll be joined by some 4th and 5th graders who will be back on campus for the first time on a 3-week rotation mixing in-person and online classes. On Friday, the district emailed parents about the increase in students as many schools move to full-time in-person learning. Due to the increase, students in K-3 classrooms are no longer expected to maintain 6 feet of social distance, although other safety protocols will continue. Last week, nearly 30 people in the Wake County district tested positive for the coronavirus. School board chair Keith Sutton said officials are monitoring the numbers and acting accordingly. "We know that, as long as there is COVID-19 in the community, there is going to be COVID-19 in schools," Sutton said. "Our main focus is to minimize the spread once we determine there has been a positive case in a particular group."
PRISONER ADVOCATES ATTEND DAILY VIGIL OUTSIDE NC GOVERNOR'S MANSION: Demonstrators gathered outside the Executive Mansion on Sunday to demand that Gov. Roy Cooper use his powers of pardon and clemency to protect people who are incarcerated during the pandemic. Members of Decarcerate Now NC, a coalition of organizations which say they’re working to end to mass incarceration, have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion since Election Day and plan to continue through Jan. 1, when Cooper begins his second term. That’s a total of 58 days. The vigil was initially set up on the corner of Jones Street and Person Street, right outside the Executive Mansion. But they were asked to move and have now set up in the parking lot across the street. At least 17 people in state prisons have died due to COVID-19 and more than 10% of the prison population tested has already been infected with COVID-19, the letter said. Several facilities have seen far higher rates: 32% have been infected at Lumberton Correctional and 62% at Neuse Correctional.
JUDGE RULES CHAD WOLF'S APPOINTMENT WAS NOT LEGAL, SO HIS CHANGES TO DACA WEREN'T EITHER: A federal judge in New York has ruled that acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf lacked the authority to limit the work permits of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children because his appointment to the top position in the department did not appear to be lawful. U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis — one of the first judges to block President Trump from phasing out the work permits the government issues via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — said in an unusual Saturday ruling that the “plain text” of the department’s order of succession showed that Wolf’s ascension to acting secretary did not follow established law and was part of several hastily crafted administration moves designed to get people into the top DHS position outside of standard procedures. As a result, Garaufis said, Wolf’s memo in July limiting the validity of the DACA permits from two years to one year “was not an exercise of legal authority.” Immigrant advocates cheered the ruling and said they hoped it would lead to a faster restoration of the original program. Karen Tumlin, a lawyer for the immigrants in the case, said the judge also certified a class of about 1.1 million immigrants who could be affected by the program, many of whom are first-time applicants who were still in high school when courts froze DACA. The Government Accountability Office said in August that Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, were serving unlawfully in their roles, a knock against Trump’s penchant for installing “acting” leaders who lack Senate confirmation, partly because it is easier to fire them.
SUPREME COURT'S NEW 6-3 (IM)BALANCE WILL BE TESTED BY CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCHES: In recent months, churches in California and Nevada asked the Supreme Court to lift government restrictions on attendance at religious services meant to address the coronavirus pandemic. The churches lost. The vote in both cases was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing. One of those liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died in September. Her successor, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, joined the court last month. It will not take long to assess the significance of that switch. On Thursday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to lift restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York. The case is broadly similar to the earlier ones. The outcome, even as the pandemic is worsening, may be quite different. A few hours after the diocese filed its application, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. delivered a slashing speech to a conservative legal group that expressed the opposite view. He had dissented in both of the earlier cases, and his speech echoed points he had made in the one from Nevada. “Whenever fundamental rights are restricted, the Supreme Court and other courts cannot close their eyes,” Justice Alito said on Thursday, rejecting the view that “whenever there is an emergency, executive officials have unlimited, unreviewable discretion.” The court is likely to rule on the dispute from Brooklyn in the next week or so. The case may be the first in which Justice Barrett’s vote changes the court’s direction.