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:
Local health departments: The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services allocated $35 million in federal money for health departments responding to COVID-19. Counties can support testing and tracing, data sharing, infection control, and related expenses. The state will send each department $90,000. They could get more based on population and COVID-19 caseload. “Our local health departments are critical partners with the state as we fight this virus, and this funding will help them continue and expand their important work,” Gov. Roy Cooper says in a news release.
IT Secretary: Tracy Doaks, Department of Information Technology secretary, is leaving after just a few months on the job. Cooper appointed Doaks in February after then-Secretary Eric Boyette left to take over the Department of Transportation. Doaks will now lead a broadband accessibility nonprofit. “Secretary Doaks is a talented leader, and is passionate about connecting all corners of North Carolina to high-speed internet. I know she will continue to be a great partner and leader in her new position,” Cooper said in a news release. The governor hasn’t named a replacement.
More transparency please: Environmental and farm worker advocacy groups are pressing the governor to disclose more data on COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants. In a letter, the coalition says it’s concerned about how a lack of transparency, testing, and mandatory safety protocols threaten worker and public health safety. The letter, obtained by WRAL, includes a list of demands — from publicly disclosing all confirmed cases of COVID-19 to requiring meat processing plants to test all workers for the infectious disease.
Mask rules: Masks are a requirement in Raleigh starting 4 p.m. Friday, June 19. People will have to wear a mask if they visit a grocery store, pharmacy, or other retail businesses, as well as when using public transit or sidewalks. The new rules include some exemptions, including for religious beliefs and medical needs. Children younger than 12 are excluded, as are restaurant diners. Restaurant workers must wear masks. Violators won’t be fined or arrested, but the city encourages compliance. Durham and Orange counties, and Knightdale, require masks in public.
Rural aid: Three rural counties will get a financial boost from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority. The RIA approved three grant requests totaling $2,825,000 to help pay for infrastructure projects and rural economic development. Robeson County gets $350,000, Rockingham County gets $2.3 million, and the town of Mocksville in Davie County gets $175,000. “When we invest in rural communities, we are demonstrating that North Carolina is open for business with the tools and workforce to help companies compete on a global scale,” the governor says in a news release.