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Governor plans to disclose K-12 reopening plans Tuesday; 151 COVID-19 cases reported over weekend in Forsyth

Gov. Roy Cooper plans to unveil his strategy today for reopening K-12 schools, as well as provide an update on whether to extend limits on reopening certain businesses.

Cooper’s schedule calls for a 3 p.m. press conference.

Cooper said July 9 the decisions would rely on conversations with educators, health officials and businesses.

Cooper previously extended the Phase 2 reopening limitations from June 26 to at least 5 p.m. Friday. Governors from several states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Texas, have restored stay-at-home restrictions in the past two weeks.

Cooper said he believes his administration’s K-12 plans will require in-person and remote learning for students.

The current projection is starting school Aug. 17, although some districts could begin as early as Aug. 3.

The Cooper administration continues to weigh three options that were disclosed to school districts in June: Plan A — in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place; Plan B — same as Plan A, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time; Plan C — remote learning for all students.

According to state law, the first five school days are to be attended in-person. After that, local education boards can activate remote learning.

Over the past two weeks, Cooper has faced increasing pressure from Republican legislative leaders to disclose his strategy.

“We are well aware that parents, teachers and students are so anxious to know about school in the fall,” Cooper said July 1.

“We want to get our students back in the classroom, and we want to make sure we get this right.”

COVID-19 near record levels

Meanwhile, the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina declined slightly over the weekend, but are still at near-record levels.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported that as of 11:30 a.m. Monday, there have been 87,528 cases, 1,510 deaths and 1,070 hospitalized individuals.

DHHS said there are 67,124 North Carolinians considered as having recovered from the virus, or 76.7%. DHHS has said it typically takes 14 days to recover for those who were not hospitalized, and 28 days for those who were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health reported an increase of 151 cases and an additional COVID-19 related death over the weekend.

Forsyth had reported at least 3,731 cases and 40 deaths as of 12:30 p.m. Monday. The death was reported on Sunday.

The Forsyth health department reported 42 new cases Saturday, 53 on Sunday and 56 on Monday. Forsyth’s highest daily case increase remains 162 on June 1.

Forsyth health officials report 2,303 individuals who have recovered for an active case count of 1,388.

At least 11 cases in Forsyth are linked to staff members at the Forsyth County Jail, but no inmates have tested positive.

Forsyth health officials did not provide the weekly update on local hospitalizations or the ethnic and racial breakdown of cases.

County health officials will conduct their next testing event from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Carver School Road Library, 4915 Lansing Drive in Winston Salem.

There have been at least 14,207 cases in the 14-county Triad and Northwest North Carolina region with 269 reported deaths.

Public health officials list Forsyth among eight counties in the state running the greatest risk of rapid spread of the virus.

Statewide cases

The state experienced a day-over-day record of 2,462 cases from Friday to Saturday. The cases increased by 1,827 from Sunday to Monday.

The number of hospitalized North Carolinians dropped from a record 1,093 on Saturday to 1,040 on Monday. Hospitalizations have been above 800 for 28 consecutive days in North Carolina.

The number of deaths climbed by seven to 1,510.

The state’s positive testing rate has hovered between 9% and 10% since at least mid-May, including being at 10% as of 11:30 a.m. Monday. There have been 1.22 million North Carolinians tested.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state secretary of Health and Human Services, has said she would feel more comfortable with a 5% positive rate.

Cooper and Cohen cited the recent statewide increases in overall cases, deaths and hospitalizations for pausing Phase Two. Cooper also issued a statewide face-mask mandate while in public.

The Cooper administration is monitoring five public-health data points: number of hospitalizations; number of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators available; number of positive cases; percentage of positive cases; and number of individuals coming to hospital emergency rooms with COVID-19 symptoms.

Cohen has said the data is showing increasing community spread of the virus by individuals “when they feel completely fine and they don’t know they have it” and by workers in more high-risk jobs, such as meat-processing facilities and long-term care facilities.


Z-no-digital
Multiple people fire shots inside Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, authorities say. No injuries were reported.

Multiple people fired gunshots Monday afternoon inside Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

Officers arrested an alleged shooter at the nearby Carolina Ale House, two witnesses said.

The incident occurred about 4:30 p.m. in the mall’s lower level, a mall employee said.

Another worker, who asked not to be identified, said shoppers were running into stores, warning employees to hide.

Two people who heard the gunfire said that officers quickly responded with their guns drawn and chased the shooter from the mall through the south parking lot to the Carolina Ale House. The officers then arrested a man inside the restaurant, witnesses said.

Toney Thompson of Winston-Salem said he heard the shots as he was walking toward the food court on the mall’s second level.

“It was a real melee,” Thompson said. “It was really terrible out here.”

James Howie of Winston-Salem said he was eating in the food court when he saw a man below him on the mall’s lower level randomly shooting a handgun into the air. He said that the suspect then ran from the mall and to the bar/restaurant where officers arrested him.

When the shooting started, some people at the food court hit the floor while others ran from the gunfire, Howie said.

“People were hollering and screaming,” Howie said.

After the shooting, Winston-Salem police cars surrounded the mall’s south entrance and the Carolina Ale House.

Don Martin of Winston-Salem said he was walking into Bath & Body Works inside the mall when the shooting started.

Moments before he entered the store, a bullet struck a sign inside the business about 2 feet from where he had been walking, Martin said.

“I’m blessed,” Martin said. “I’m thankful that I didn’t get hit.”

Martin was among eight customers whom the manager escorted to her office for their safety immediately after the gunfire, he said.

“She kept checking on us,” Martin said.

Mario Falls, who lives in Forsyth County, said he was standing outside the mall’s south entrance when the gunfire erupted.

“It was quiet, then a few shots were fired,” Falls said. “It wasn’t good.”

Falls moved away from the entrance when the shots were fired, he said. Falls didn’t see the alleged shooter being chased by officers through the parking lot, he said.

Police closed the mall’s south entrance after the shots were fired.

The mall remained closed for the remainder of Monday, said Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for CBL Properties LLC of Chattanooga, Tenn., the owner of Hanes Mall,

Keating referred questions about the shooting to the Winston-Salem police.

Katherine Goldfaden, a spokeswoman for the Carolina Ale House, said that company officials are cooperating with Winston-Salem police in their investigation of the shooting.

Monday’s incident was the third shooting at Hanes Mall in the past year.

Martin Quiterio Avila was shot and wounded on Jan. 24 outside the Forever 21 store at Hanes Mall, authorities said. Avila was treated at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. Police didn’t publicly release Avila’s age becauwe he’s a juvenile.

Isaac Banos-Salazar, who was 18 at the time, was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling and other offenses, Winston-Salem police said. Banos-Salazar was released from custody after he posted a $50,000 bond, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said.

On Aug, 6, 2019, Julius Randolph Sampson Jr., 32, was shot and killed outside BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Hanes Mall. Robert Anthony Granato, 23, of Cloverhurst Court is charged with first-degree murder and carrying a concealed weapon in connection with Sampson’s death in a racially charged incident.

Sampson was Black. Granato, who is white, was being held Monday night in the Forsyth County Jail with his bond set at $503,000, the sheriff’s office said.


Z-no-digital
After 87 years, a franchise searches for a new identity

WASHINGTON — Washington, perhaps the nation’s most reviled city, needs a new nickname for its football team. What could possibly go wrong?

Naming opportunities are rife with ridicule, partisanship and humor: Washington Gridlock, Washington Swamp Monsters, Washington Bureaucrats, Washington Subpoenas, Washington Scandals or Washington Pardons. And then there’s the Capitol Indictments, Deep Staters or Deplorables if you really want to get partisan.

On the traditional and of course more likely side are Red Tails, Warriors, Generals, Monuments, Senators, Cherry Blossoms, Red Wolves or even Hogs, which pays tribute to an offensive line in the 1980s that included Greensboro’s Jeff Bostic.

After dumping its 87-year-old name, Redskins, which was considered racist, the team is said to be zeroing in on a new name but dealing with trademark issues, making it unclear when a new name can be chosen.

Since mid-June, 14 trademarks have been filed by people for a potential Washington football team, including Red Tails, Red Wolves, Monuments and a version of Hogs. Most are by the same person.

That means football team owner Dan Snyder will likely have to pay off someone to get the name he wants, said Alexandra Watkins, whose real title is chief executive boss lady of Eat My Words, a branding company. Rebranding with new names happens a lot in the corporate world and often involves a reluctant owner, like Snyder, she said.

“Most companies go through two or three name changes in the life of a company,” said Phil Davis, founder of Tungsten Branding in Brevard, N.C.

In the case of the Washington football team, where racism is an issue, both branding experts Davis and Watkins recommend a clean sweep, wiping away issues of racism and being more inclusive and embracing. So choosing a new name like Warriors, which can still be considered racist to some, would not be smart, Watkins said.

“Anything with any historic significance that’s negative they should just stay away from,” Watkins said.

She likes Red Tails, which is a hawk, sounds similar to the team’s original nickname and pays homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of African American fighter pilots who broke down racial stereotypes during World War II.

Stay away from politics, Watkins advised.

“People hate politics,” Watkins said. “Sports is a great uniter. Where politics is the great divider.”

However, David Litt, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama and former chief Washington writer for Funny or Die, says as a Washington resident: “I would like to bring back the Washington Senators. You know we deserve at least some senators here in D.C.”

The franchise announced Monday it was dropping the Redskins name and Indian head logo, bowing to pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

The move came less than two weeks after Snyder, a boyhood fan of the team who once declared he would never get rid of the name, launched a “thorough review” amid pressure from sponsors. FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America all lined up against the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.

The team said it is “retiring” the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new moniker and design. The announcement came on the old letterhead with the Redskins name because the team technically retains it until a new one is chosen and approved.


Local
Winston-Salem man accused of killing woman in 2011 declared incompetent to stand trial.

A Winston-Salem man accused of stabbing a woman to death in 2011 and dumping her body in a trash can is still not competent to stand trial for murder and will be sent to Central Regional Hospital until at least June, a Forsyth County judge ruled.

Cornelius Tucker Jr., 64, of Penner Street, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Constance Edwina Hall, 47. Hall’s body was found in a trash can on Nov. 24, 2011, in the 900 block of Manly Street near Cook Elementary School. Winston-Salem police arrested Tucker in April 2015 after his DNA was found on cloth tied around her knees.

Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court signed an order on Thursday involuntarily committing Tucker to Central Regional Hospital in Butner until at least June 1, 2021, where Tucker’s capacity to proceed could possibly be restored.

But the chances that Tucker will be prosecuted for Hall’s murder are slim because of his history of mental illness combined with a slew of physical medical issues, according to court documents.

In his motion, David Botchin, Tucker’s attorney, said Tucker has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder with psychotic features. Botchin said that even while on medication, Tucker’s mental condition can deteriorate. Tucker also has physical medical issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, peripheral artery disease, seizure disorder, hepatitis and other conditions, according to court documents.

Tucker has been evaluated several times over the past few years. A judge has declared twice that Tucker was incompetent to stand trial, the most recent being on March 26, 2019, by Judge Todd Burke of Forsyth Superior Court, according to court documents.

But in July 2019, he was returned to Forsyth County Jail after a doctor at Central Regional Hospital declared that Tucker’s capacity to proceed had been restored. Thursday’s hearing was the first time that Tucker had a capacity hearing in Forsyth Superior Court.

Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Shrader and Botchin agreed that Tucker was not capable to proceed to trial based on the most recent evaluation Tucker had on May 11.

“Defendant contends that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the Defendant should be returned to (Central Regional Hospital) for continued capacity treatment, long-term therapeutic treatment safekeeping,” Botchin writes in his motion. “... Furthermore, given the Defendant’s many physical medical problems, the need for total care warrants the need for the Defendant to remain at (Central Regional Hospital) long-term.”

In a previous report, Amy Leeper, a forensic psychologist at Central Regional Hospital, said Tucker believed he could communicate with other people through his jail jumpsuit and through his hair. Tucker also believed he was a wealthy man and received millions of dollars from the U.S. Justice Department, Leeper said in her report. Leeper said Tucker did not appear to have an accurate understanding of the charges against him and that he did not appear to be faking his symptoms.

A trial date for Tucker has not been set.