News: Quick Takes

CJ politics week in review, March 30-April 3

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:

Prison pandemic response: The House continuity of state operations working group heard March 31 about the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to state prisons. DPS wants the legislature to allow security contractors with the Division of Prisons to use lethal force if necessary because several prisons have vacant security positions. Lethal force would be used as a last resort to stop an inmate from escaping, said Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons. A number of prisoners and prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19. DPS continues to monitor the situation.

Waived fees: The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is waiving most tuition and fees for a nurse refresher course. The UNC-Chapel Hill Friday Center for Continuing Education, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, and the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program are offering the condensed course. The Registered Nurse Refresher theory course includes a self-paced, online theory course and a clinical practicum. The $250 cost for the clinical practicum can’t be waived. “This pandemic underscores an urgent need for experienced healthcare professionals across our state,” said Nena Peragallo Montano, dean of the UNC School of Nursing in a news release.

Utilities order: Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order on March 31 prohibiting utility companies from discontinuing service to people who are unable to pay. Electric, gas, water, and wastewater services cannot be shut off for the next 60 days, Cooper said. Phone, cable, and internet providers are encouraged, but not required, to follow the same rules. Banks are also encouraged not to charge customers for late fees, overdraft fees, and other penalties for the next 60 days.

Fayetteville curfew: Fayetteville residents have a curfew after the city’s mayor amended the state of emergency order to include an order to keep people off the streets from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mitch Colvin, Fayetteville’s mayor, added the provision on March 31, but the curfew took effect April 1 at 9 p.m. All private and public gatherings are prohibited during curfew hours.

Legislative cafeteria: A legislative cafeteria worker has tested positive for coronavirus, Legislative Services Director Paul Coble announced April 1. The worker was sent home on March 26 and received confirmation of COVID-19 a few days later. “While this is troubling news, please know that we are taking aggressive action to contain the spread of the virus,” Coble said in an email obtained by WRAL. “As of today, the cafeteria will be closed indefinitely and undergo a thorough cleaning to ensure any trace of the virus is removed.” Even though Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order March 17 limiting restaurants and private clubs to takeout and delivery only, the legislative cafeteria continued to offer sit-down dining.