First, an update on potential Tropical Cyclone Nine, presently off to the southeast of Puerto Rico, from the National Weather Service in Wilmington:

Image

Stay tuned for more information as the system’s track becomes more clear and we determine if it is likely to impact North Carolina.

Here’s today’s COVID-19 update:

  • I joined Vice President Mike Pence for a tour of Thales Academy, a year round private school, in Apex today to talk about the importance of safely re-opening schools for in-person instruction.  Thales Academy has put an incredible amount of hard work and diligence (more than 40,000 man-hours) into being able to safely re-open.  The most moving part of the roundtable discussion was a parent who talked about how much happier her child was now that she has been able to go back to school.  When Vice President Pence asked the students what they thought about coming back to school, they told him how much they enjoyed being back with their friends.  We tend to think of school as all academic, but the emotional health and personal development of social skills should not be overlooked. 

    Today’s experience further proved to me that the consequences of students missing school would be far-ranging, well beyond what they miss out on academically.  From an academic perspective, the teachers shared that online instruction prevented them from observing their students and gauging their reactions to the instruction.  In-person instruction enables them to better adjust to the needs of the students.   

    We also visited NCBiotech, which is conducting Phase 3 clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine.  It’s part of the Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, and much of the initiative’s most important work is being done here in North Carolina.  Every scientist at the table talked about how remarkable it is the usual regulatory burdens have been lifted.  Now they are doing their research on parallel tracks rather than sequentially.  This saves years of time and it is the primary reason why effective therapeutics and a vaccine will be available in record speed.   

  • Yesterday, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 153, which temporarily ends the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries after 11 p.m. each night.  Bars that are currently closed will remain closed, and the order takes effect this Friday.  It will not apply to grocery stores or convenience stores.  More information from the Governor’s office here.

  • Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced that regrettably, the 2020 North Carolina State Fair has been cancelled.  The 2021 State Fair is scheduled for October 14-24th at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.  More information from Commissioner Troxler’s office about the factors that led to the decision is here.

  • The Southport-Fort Fisher ferry route will be resuming service at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 31st.  All commuter passes with an expiration date of January 5, 2020 or later will be given a 208 day automatic credit to compensate for the closure of the route.  More information, and schedules, are available from NCDOT here.

  • Dosher Memorial Hospital announced that it is still seeking cloth mask donations from the public.  The hospital says that it has adequate medical supplies but will still accept donations of cloth masks to ensure everyone who visits the hospital has adequate face coverings.  To schedule a donation or drop off, email marketing@dosher.org.

For today’s good news story, I’m highlighting Boys and Girls Homes, a non-profit in Columbus County that has been able to survive through the COVID-19 outbreak thanks to its PPP loan.  Because of its loan, it has been able to retain all 136 of its employees and maintain its services for children.  It’s one of so many entities – not just for-profit businesses – that have benefited from the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program.

As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ website for the latest on the outbreak.