Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 1/5: Voting maps in high court, COVID spread continues, CMS students in person

Collin Cunningham

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North Carolina's new congressional map has 14 districts, one more than the last map. Voting groups say 10 of the districts favor Republicans(Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight)

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good morning, Charlotteans! Did you know that the term "Charlottean" is directly derived from the noun "charlatan," meaning a "quack" or " one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability"? Perhaps the name is deserved, as Charlotte recently ranked 54th on WalletHub's list of 2021's Most Sinful Cities, scoring high on the credit score website's "lust" and "vanity" indexes.

Also scoring high are North Carolina's congressional voting maps, which reached the state's Supreme Court as voting rights advocates argue about its constitutionality. COVID-19 continues to spread across North Carolina, with hospitals nearing capacity and outbreaks at over 100 nursing homes.

Despite rising cases, students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools returned to in-person classes yesterday and we'll tell you what parents have to say. And we know what local businesses have delayed their employees' return to the office.

It is Wednesday, Jan. 5, and here's what every resident of the Queen City needs to know until tomorrow.

1. Supreme Court to determine future of NC voting maps

What's happening: The North Carolina Supreme Court started hearing arguments about the state's voting maps on Monday. Voting rights groups Common Cause and the North Carolina League of Conservative Voters both filed lawsuits against the House and Senate elections committees, alleging that they unfairly grant 10 of 14 allotted seats to Republicans.

The court later decided to combine both filings into a single case and discussions will continue hearings through Thursday. North Carolina's five high court judges are expected to have their verdict by Jan. 11. WRAL is live streaming the discussions from Raleigh and his footage of Monday's and Tuesday's sessions below.

Why it matters: The state's General Assembly approved the Tar Heel State's first new maps since 2010 back in November of 2021, per Spectrum News. The maps will balance political power in North Carolina over the next decade, including the November 2024 gubernatorial election. Read more about the history of the 2021 redistricting process Below the Fold.

2. Gov. Cooper encourages boosters as state nears 30% COVID-19 positivity rate; almost 100 new outbreaks at NC nursing homes

What happened: As roughly one in every three North Carolinians tests positive for COVID-19, Gov. Roy Cooper renewed his call for eligible residents to get a vaccine and follow-up booster shot during a Tuesday press conference.

Cooper also announced the expansion of an executive order that would require all state employees to get booster shots once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes its guidelines on full vaccination. And new NCDHHS secretary Kody Kinsley said the omicron variant is responsible for 80% of recent cases.

Why it matters: “For people who have been vaccinated and especially for those who have gotten boosters, the new omicron variant has been less severe than previous surges,” Cooper told attendees, per WECT. “With these vaccines and boosters we have an amazing tool to save people’s lives and beat this pandemic – and we’ll keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting more shots and more boosters administered.”

Nursing homes: Almost 100 North Carolina nursing homes and 36 correctional facilities reported outbreaks of the coronavirus during the past two weeks, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reporting 243 active nursing home surges as of Tuesday. Outbreaks at such facilities are particularly worrisome because residents live close to one another and often have health conditions that put them at greater risk.

3. What are lawmakers and CMS parents saying about students' return to class amid omicron surge?

Parents and state officials have mixed feelings after over 140,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students returned to class on Tuesday wearing face masks and opaque backpacks. Signed in August of 2021, Senate Bill 654 prevents North Carolina school districts from offering fully remote instruction.

“Students do better when they are in school, and just recently we saw the statistics about students," said Sen. Joyce Waddell (D-Mecklenburg). "Many students [are] not doing well through Zoom and at home.”

Ashlee Carnes, the parent of a CMS third-grader, told WBTV she had expected cases to rise over the holidays and appreciated communication regarding the district's COVID-19 policies.

CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston sent a note to families on Sunday, reminding them that masks are required in all buildings, testing is available at some schools and staff will regularly be tested for the coronavirus.

4. Businesses delay office returns due to COVID-19

The following Charlotte businesses have delayed employees' return to offices as the COVID-19 pandemic continues:

  • Wells Fargo is keeping employees at bay from its Charlotte offices indefinitely and the company has stated it will reveal more concrete plans in 2022.
  • Bank of America employees are working remotely this week and the Bank will continue updating workers on a week-by-week basis.
  • Truist Financial will employ a hybrid model and employees will be required to don masks.
  • Ally Bank is allowing workers to return to the office at their discretion.

Below the Fold

Voting maps, continued: The lawsuits came into play shortly after North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature approved it, and FOX8 reports the NC Supreme Court followed suit by suspending candidate filing on Dec. 8, two days after the filing period had begun. The judicial branch also delayed the 2022 statewide primary election from March 8 to May 17 in preparation for the legal battle.

The Supreme Court's Jan. 11 decision will likely face appeal.

Gov. Cooper, continued: Tuesday's conference followed a day of heavy snow, rain and winds in parts of North Carolina, and Cooper advised residents to "stay off the road right now in many areas" via a Monday press release.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

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