North Carolina News – May 20, 2020

North Carolina News – May 20, 2020

N.C. health chief asks people to “hang in there” under order

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s chief health leader is asking residents to “hang in there” by continuing to comply with the state business restrictions mean to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper’s current stay-at-home order expires Friday. Cooper said this week he’s hopeful further easing of business restrictions could begin. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday that testing, tracing and hospitalization trends used to make decisions on stay-home orders continue to be stable. The state’s restaurant industry is preparing to open its dining rooms again under eased rules in time for the Memorial Day weekend.


Karen Pence speaks on health benefits of getting outdoors

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Second Lady Karen Pence visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park to talk about the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors as officials announced the second phase of a plan to reopen all park trails. The White House said Pence was accompanied on her visit Tuesday by Deputy Secretary of Interior Katharine MacGregor. Both took part in a ceremonial road reopening at the national park and hiked up a trail during their visit. News outlets report all park trails at the national park will now reopen on Saturday while campgrounds and visitor centers will remain closed.


Raleigh city budget proposal freezes hiring, no layoffs

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — City officials in Raleigh have proposed a budget that implements a city-wide hiring freeze and cuts costs without hiking taxes or eliminating staff during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal was made Tuesday by Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall. The News and Observer reports that the nearly $1 billion spending plan is 2.2 percent less than the current year’s budget. It recommends canceling the the city’s Fourth of July celebration, putting off construction projects, adding no new police and firefighters. Hall says the city is trying to limit the impact of the multimillion-dollar cuts on residents. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for June 2.


N. Carolina Senate Republicans unveil must-haves in downturn

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Senate Republicans have unveiled spending priorities for the next fiscal year they label as must-haves despite plummeting revenues due to the COVID-19 economic downturn. The chamber’s three leading budget-writers filed nearly 20 bills on Tuesday. The bills emphasized ensuring teachers and workers get paid, K-12 schools and higher education can instruct more students and key long-term projects are funded. The spending bills largely lack price tags because the senators are awaiting a new consensus revenue forecast. Their priorities will compete with those from the Republican-controlled House and from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper during the annual General Assembly session.


Report: Chemical firm Chemours won’t face federal charges

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal charges against a chemical company that for years discharged compounds with health risks that aren’t fully understood into a North Carolina river. Chemours Co. told shareholders in a quarterly report this month that prosecutors were closing the case without charges. News outlets report that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department were investigating potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act by the company, a spinoff of DuPont that has a plant near Fayetteville. In 2017, it was found that Chemours was releasing a little-researched compound called GenX into the air and water.


North Carolina appliance manufacturer closes due to COVID-19

NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina appliance manufacturer says it is shutting down until further notice after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. WCTI reports Lore McKenna, director of corporate communications for BSH Home Appliances Corporation North America, says the company was informed of the test connected with its New Bern plant on Monday and immediately contacted local authorities. Out of an abundance of caution, McKenna says the plant will remain closed until further notice. The plant, which employs more than 1,400, had previously closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 in March.


N. Carolina transportation department furloughs employees

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Department of Transportation has told its employees to take unpaid time off until the end of June to help the department save money as part of cost-cutting measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Transportation Secretary J. Eric Boyette wrote in an email to employees on Monday that they will have until June 26 to take 20 hours of unpaid time off. News outlets report the furloughs will also affect the department’s executive and senior leadership teams. An official told the News & Observer the furloughs will save the department about $7 million.


N.C. court orders new trial, says confession was involuntary

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina appeals court has ordered a new trial in a robbery-related murder because it says a suspect’s confession was involuntary. A state Court of Appeals panel ruled on Tuesday that the confession by Justin Lavone Lynch in the 2016 robbery and shooting at a bar that was wrongly obtained by Lenoir County sheriff’s officers when they offered the hope of leniency to him. Lynch has been serving life in prison without parole. Judge Chris Dillon says a new trial is needed because the testimony was quite damning to his case and it’s possible the jury wouldn’t have convicted him without it.