VIRUS OUTBREAK_NORTH CAROLINA
Most North Carolina adults have now gotten a COVID-19 shot
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Most North Carolina adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. The state Department of Health and Human Services revealed the updated figures on Thursday. Elderly residents have overwhelmingly gotten the vaccine, with nearly three in four adults 65 years or older now fully vaccinated. Participation among younger residents, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24, is lagging behind. Those under 50 are also underrepresented in vaccine adoption rates. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials hope a message of a return to summer and easing of mask mandates as more people get vaccinated will provide a strong incentive for residents to come in for their shot.
NORTH CAROLINA-DEPUTY SHOOTING
Elizabeth City curfews lifted 2 weeks after deputy shooting
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County have lifted curfews that were implemented after county sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man in the city. Websites for the city and county stated that the 8 p.m. curfews were lifted on Thursday. The curfews were implemented April 26 in the wake of protests against the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. outside his Elizabeth City home on April 21. Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were serving drug-related search and arrest warrants when Brown was shot. Brown, who was Black, was behind the wheel of his car. An independent autopsy commissioned by the family said that he was shot five times, including in the back of the head.
N. Carolina abortion ban after 20 weeks before appeals court
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The constitutionality of North Carolina’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy is being weighed by a federal appeals court. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled remote arguments Thursday by attorneys for abortion providers who sued to overturn the ban and for the local prosecutors and state officials who are defendants. A federal trial judge declared in 2019 the law was unconstitutional because the 20-week limit prohibited some abortions before a fetus could live outside the womb. Issues of legal standing and the ban’s lack of enforcement by prosecutors have entered court briefs.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-HOSPITAL VISITS
NC bills seeking to preserve patient visitation advance
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Legislators are pressing to ensure patients at North Carolina health care facilities can count on receiving visitors and clergy, especially during future emergencies. The state Senate and House approved separate measures Wednesday designed to address situations where patients lacked access to a minister or visits from family during last year’s COVID-19 restrictions and later died. The Senate’s “No Patient Left Behind” bill directs regulators to fine hospitals and other facilities at least $500 per day if they don’t comply with federal visitation rules. The House measure tells state-licensed hospitals to allow a clergy member to visit any patient requesting one.
House OKs doing away with purchase permits to buy handgun
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s long practice of county sheriffs granting permits to local residents before they can buy a handgun would end under legislation approved by the state House. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association backed the pistol purchase permit repeal idea approved on Wednesday. It says the permit system is now obsolete thanks to a robust national background check database. Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to perform instant checks before someone can buy a gun. Sheriffs would still issue concealed weapons permits. Repeal opponents say the permit process works well and saves lives. The bill now goes to the Senate.
House GOP takes different tack in NC absentee deadline bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Some North Carolina Republicans are taking a different tack on legislative efforts to move up mail-in absentee balloting deadlines by also giving citizens more time to vote on the front end. But Democrats say the idea still treats voters unequally. The House elections committee voted along party lines on Wednesday for a GOP measure that requires traditional absentee ballots be received by county officials by Election Day in order to be counted. A Senate bill makes the same deadline change. But the House measure also would direct county boards to send absentee ballots to applicants three days earlier than currently required.
N.C. bill banning Down syndrome abortions nears floor vote
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina bill prohibiting pregnant women from seeking abortions on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 453 was approved by a House judiciary committee on Wednesday afternoon and is set to make one more stop later in the day in another House committee before reaching the chamber floor for debate as early as Thursday. In order to be considered this legislative session, it must be approved in the House by May 13. It is unlikely to be signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINE REFUSAL
N.C. lawmakers advance bill barring mandatory COVID-19 shots
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a bill through a committee that would prevent state and local governments from punishing workers who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. State Rep. Jake Johnson says his proposal is necessary to protect state and local workers from being fired or retaliated against for their health choices. State health officials worry the proposal would conflict with federal rules and create staffing shortfalls if outbreaks occur at state-operated health facilities. House Bill 686 will need approval in two additional committees before it can go to a full House vote.
Major South Carolina bridge closing, just 17 days projected
ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — A massive bridge repair project on one of South Carolina’s busiest highways begins Thursday night. The project will close the southbound Interstate 77 bridge over the Catawba River near Rock Hill and will likely cause commuting headaches. Southbound traffic will share the northbound bridge, and what is typically four lanes of traffic each way will be cut down to two lanes. An average of 120,000 vehicles use that stretch of I-77 daily. The bridge will remain closed for 17 days. State Department of Transportation officials say the if the bridge isn’t reopened by 5 a.m. May 24, the contractor will be fined $10,000 for each hour after the missed deadline.
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