Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses several interesting, relevant stories you may have missed. Here’s this week’s review:
Virtual attendance: Enrollment in Wake County’s Virtual Academy continues to grow as schools prepare to reopen in the fall with increased safety measures to combat COVID-19. Nearly 20% of students in Wake County applied to the program, WRAL reported. The virtual academy offers full-time remote learning instead of the blended in-person, virtual plan the county’s public schools will offer this fall. Unlike virtual charter schools, Wake County’s Virtual Academy doesn’t cap enrollment. The deadline to register is 5 p.m. Monday, July 20.
Last call: Watering holes in Raleigh will stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. starting Monday, July 20. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced the order Friday, the News & Observer reported. “Some Glenwood South owners are going to voluntarily stop serving at 11 p.m. [Friday],” Baldwin said. “And we are looking at issuing an order Monday with an 11 p.m. stop time. There is still work to be done, so I don’t have more details at this time.” Several businesses in Glenwood South had welcomed large, late-night crowds with few wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Earlier, Charlotte and most Mecklenburg County cities along with Orange County cut off alcohol sales before midnight at restaurants and taverns.
No charges: Rev. Mark Harris, former Republican candidate in the 9th Congressional District, won’t face state charges in the absentee ballot fraud investigation over the 2018 election. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said her office was ending its investigation Wednesday, July 15, the Associated Press reported. The investigation began after suspicions arose over ballot irregularities after Harris’ victory in the 2018 election. Harris had hired McCrae Dowless, a political operative, to help his campaign. Dowless is accused of illegally harvesting absentee ballots and is facing federal and state charges. Harris has denied any knowledge of the activity.
Masks in courts: Face masks will become a familiar sight in N.C. courts. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced this week that face masks are now a requirement in all court buildings. Additionally, jury trials are delayed for another two months because of COVID-19, Beasley said. “The data we have available indicates that it is not yet safe to resume jury trials without robust and comprehensive safety plans in place,” the chief justice said. Dozens of court employees have tested positive for COVID-19, Beasley said, and several courts across the state have closed because of the virus.
Job search website: Gov. Roy Cooper has introduced a new career portal where people can find job openings, explore career training options, and take skills and interest tests, “North Carolinians need resources to navigate the quickly changing job market,” Cooper said in a news release. “The new NCcareers.org helps people research the education and training options that lead them to find good, high-paying jobs available right now across our state.”
Mask enforcement: Harris Teeter will start enforcing the state’s mask mandate. The grocery chain, based in Charlotte, initially said it wouldn’t force customers to leave if they didn’t wear masks. Reactions to the decision were mixed, with some customers threatening to boycott the store. HT reversed its decision Thursday, July 16, and will begin enforcing the mask requirement Wednesday, July 22. “We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country,” the company said in a news release.